Archive for August, 2012

Fashion Fundamentals: The Ten Underlying Principles For Men & Women

Preppy Handbook New

The first step in mastering the art of classic dress is learning the underlying principles behind the clothes. It took me quite a while to learn these principles. I learned through a lot observing, reading, and studying. It turns out that I could have saved myself a lot of time had I just referenced Lisa Birnbach’s list in “The Official Preppy Handbook.” Although the text is meant to be humorous it is quite accurate once you look beyond the tongue-in-cheek humor. In an effort to save you time if you are unfamiliar with these principles or just in case you need a quick refresher I have included the list below.

1. Conservatism – Preppies wear clothes for twenty-five years and no one can tell the difference. The fabrics, the cuts, and the colors are the same, year after year after year. A kilt from 1958, a ten-year-old tweed overcoat, a three-button suit bought in 1940 can all be worn until they fall apart.

2. Neatness – (Except for a brief period of rebellion during secondary school.) Shirts stay tucked in, through all kinds of strenuous exercise. Shoes are polished. Socks stay up. Sweaters are patched the moment holes appear in the elbow.

3. Attention To Detail – Subtleties of cut, weave, or color distinguish the merely good from the Prep. A small percentage of polyester in an oxford-cloth shirt or a lapel that’s a quarter of an inch too wide can make all the difference. Cuff buttons on a suit jacket that can actually be unbuttoned are the hallmark of a natty dresser. Everything matches – some Preppies go as far as to change their watchbands everyday.

4. Practicality – Prep clothes are sensible: rain clothes keep you dry; winter clothes keep you warm; collars are buttoned down so they don’t flap in your face when you’re playing polo. Layering is a natural response to varying weather conditions.

5. Quality – Everything in the wardrobe should be well made. Fine fabrics and sound construction are taken for granted., hand tailoring is not unusual. Preppy clothes are built to last, since they certainly won’t go out of style.

6. Natural Fibers – Wool, cotton, and the odd bits of silk and cashmere are the only acceptable materials for Prep clothes. They look  better. They require professional maintenance. They are more expensive. They are key.

7. Anglophilia – The British have a lot to answer for: Shetland sweaters, Harris tweeds, Burberrys, tartans, regimental ties.

8. Specific Color Blindness – Primary colors and brilliant pastels are worn indiscriminately by men and women alike, in preposterous combinations. In some subcultures hot pink on men might be considered a little peculiar; Preppies take it for granted.

9. The Sporting Look – Even if they’ve never been near a duck blind or gone beagling, Preppies are dressed for it. Rugged outerwear (snakeproof boots, jackets that will keep you warm at 60 below zero) and hearty innerwear (fisherman’s sweaters and flannel-lined khakis) are de rigueur in even the most sophisticated suburbs.

10. Androgyny – Men and women dress as much alike as possible and clothes for either gender should deny specifics of gender. The success of the Lanz nightgown is based on its ability to disguise secondary sexual characteristics, while the traditional fit for men’s khakis is one size too big.

 

 

Trad Like a Fox

BT17_fox_hunting_lrg

As I have stated before almost all traditional clothing has its origins in either war or sport. Critter imagery is no different as it is deeply rooted in the sport of hunting. Lots of animals are associated with trad, ivy, and preppy culture. There are ducks, pheasants, dogs (Retrievers, Labradors, Pointers), fish of all types (including whales) and numerous other woodland creatures, but by far my favorite of all the trad animals is the fox.

Fox Motif BeltMy Leather Man fox belt

Fox symbolism has existed in many cultures. Fox have been seen as guides, protectors from evil and even deliverers of messages from the afterlife. However, the trad fox is more symbolic of the people that hunt them than the fox itself. This fox conjures up images of the gentry hunting with their hounds on a country estate. I don’t think that this dream (I am kind of an anglophile at times) is the reason that I like them only because I am more familiar with the fox from Disney’s “the fox and the hound”, “Robin Hood”, or Wes Anderson’s very cool “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” The fox in these films are clever, cunning, and possess a natural wisdom. Whatever the case I do know that I adore the fox and I am always on the lookout for an accessory adorned with them. I searched the web and have rounded up a few cool fox accessories and a couple of misses as well.

 

1. Smathers and Branson

Smather and Branson Fox Needlepoint Credit Card Wallet

 

Smathers and Branson Fox and Hound Needlepoint

2. R. Hanauer

R. Hanauer Fox Bow Tie

3. Ralph Lauren Rugby

RL Rubgy Fox Bow Tie

RL Rugby Fox Slippers

4. Belted Cow – This belt is really close to a miss, but I really want to like it. Plus, the fox is done well.

Belted Cow Fox and Hound

And a few Misses

 

1. Knot Belt Co. – Great idea, but poor execution.Knot Belt Co.Fox Belt

2. Ralph Lauren Rubgy -They have some nice accessories decorated with foxes above, but I would hesitate to call this a fox.

 

Rugby Fox Cardholder

Loafers by Billax

Loafer rack full of shoes

This post is a reprinting of a post on AAAC’s Trad Forum by Billax. Billax is not only one of my style role models, but a friend and a man that was Trad back when it was called Ivy League.

The loafer is a slip-on shoe created from a soled and heeled Moccasin. It is a sub-set of slip-on shoes. Web searches show Spaulding to be the first producer in the USA of such a shoe, c. 1933. The MUCH more famous Bass Weejun didn’t show up until 4 years later – when G.H. Bass introduced the flat-strap penny loafer in 1937. The “Weejun” name is a corruption of Norwegian, in reference to the country of origin of the the original loafer. The term loafer, so Internet experts propose, comes from the “loafing sheds” on farms adjacent to their cattle barns. Apparently, Esquire Magazine spotted these slipper-like shoes on the feet of farmers working around the barns and loafing sheds of Norway and brought them to the attention of their then-vast readership. The link between Norwegian farmers, loafing sheds, Esquire, and slippers is, apparently, lost in the mists of time. Just as an aside, 1937 was a landmark year for iconic traditional apparel. Not only the year of the Weejun introduction, but also the year in which Baracuta introduced their G9 jacket. If you have both Weejuns and a G9, you’re pretty much approaching icon status yourself!

How does any of this relate to me? Well, from my escape from the womb in 1942 until late in High School, my Mom bought my shoes at Sears. Most folks today have no idea how dominant Sears was as a retailer in the late 40s through the 50s. There were very few specialty stores – of any kind – though we’d walk right past a Thom McAn shoe store on the way to buy shoes at Sears. How amazing Thom McAn was to me – a store that sold only shoes! Oh, Man, did I ever want to go inside! But, Sear’s it was. My Mom or Dad, though mostly my Mom, would ask the Sear’s shoe salesman to fit me with a pair of Oxfords,
Old Oxford Shoes
“with room to grow.” Out came the Brannock device.

BrannockMachine
After the measurement, the shoe guy brought out a pair of Oxfords – his choice of model as I recall – and put them on my dawgs. Then it was off to the fluoroscope.

FluoroscopebestI stood on the machine, put my feet into the slot, and the salesman, my Mom, and I all peered into our portals. The shoe guy would say, “Wiggle your toes,” and we’d all see a real-time, moving Xray of my feet within a vague outline of the shoe. The salesman would say, “Plenty of room to grow, Ma’am,” and my Mom would say, “We’ll take them.” That was the shoe buying experience for me until my Junior year in High School, when I no longer needed “room to grow” for my shoes.
Fluoroscopefootimage In the summer after my Junior year in High School, I asked the folks for a little cash to buy some Keds. Fifty cents a week for allowance wasn’t enough to allow me much autonomy. My Dad spoke up for me and gave me money enough to buy a pair of Keds. But a few months later, the college cousins came to my house for Thanksgiving, wearing identical Bass Weejuns. I was thunderstruck! They were the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen. Heck, other than ’57 Chevys, they were the most beautiful “things” I had ever seen.
1957-chevrolet The flat strap, the moccasin construction, the permanent sheen of the Brush-off leather – they were over the top to me. My Uncle Jack, Dad to the Northwestern cousin, saw me staring and studying. Although it’s a story for a different time, my Uncle Jack was a VERY sharp dresser. To close this sidebar, in the late 50’s he wore Florsheim Imperial Longwings, 3/2 Tweed sport coats, Amber-colored Peccary gloves (though I only came to know the word peccary a couple of years ago), and the most dramatic Black and White, Raglan sleeved, Wool Herringbone Top coat I have EVER seen.

But back on topic, my Uncle had a short, private, conversation with my Dad. After the guests had left, my Dad said he’d noticed my interest in the cousins’ shoes. He went on to say that, “I like those shoes myself, Son, so go get yourself a pair for college.” It was still ten months until I would enroll in college, but I’d been given the green light! They didn’t have Weejuns at Sears, or at Thom McAn, but I finally found them at a Department store. No fluoroscope machine was employed, but the “shoe guy” found me a great pair. I kept them – unused – in their box until the day I arrived at college.
flatstrap Weejun LOGAN I have had at least one pair of Weejun’s in my closet ever since. Life has mostly been good to me, and over the years, I’ve ended up with several pairs of loafers – in Shell Cordovan, in Sharkskin, and other exotica. But the shoes that most often have their trees removed are Weejuns.
Loafer Rack Full of ShoesDuring my college years, I wasn’t that sensible. Heck, I’m not that sensible now. I bought things that I didn’t need or even particularly like. I bought Hanover Venetian loafers and I never bought another pair of Venetians.

Vintage Hanover Venetians

  and I bought Bass tassel loafers, but didn’t wear them much
Bass Tassel Loafers  But I always kept going back to the Weejuns. I still do.  All loafers are not created equal!

  I find nothing wrong with Sebago Caymans and Sebago beefrolls.

Picture of Sebago beef Roll loafersHad my cousins’ worn those, I would have bought, and been loyal to, that brand. Of course, in the 50’s and 60’s nearly every shoe manufacturer made and sold flat strap Penny loafers. But the first ones I knew about and the ones with that evocative name, stayed my choice. I was – and I remain – a Weejuns guy.

The United States of Trad: George Bush

GHWB & Family at the White House

I have until this point and will continue to keep this blog apolitical. However, politics, in particular American politics is a great place to observe traditional dress. With that being said, I will begin to feature politicians from the past and present regardless of which side of the aisle they find themselves as long as they find themselves appropriately dressed.

For my first venture into politics I bring you George Herbert Walker Bush. It turns out that besides being the 41st President of the United States, 43rd Vice President, a congressman, ambassador and the Director of the CIA President Bush was and still is a faithful Trad.  This should come of no surprise as he was born in Massachusetts lived in Connecticut attended the Phillips Academy in Andover and is a well-known Yalie (and Skull & Bones member). I now present President Bush, perhaps the last president to grace the Oval Office in 3/2 sack suit.

GWHB as a childA very young Bush.

GHWB  & Family at the White HouseA Trad family.

GHWB YaleSkull & Bones 1947. Can you spot him?

GHWB on themoveOn the move.

GWBH on the campaignOn the campaign trail.

80's GHWB

President Bush and Colleagues 1990

GWHB in a poseNote the watchband.

GHWB hands in pocket poseLooking cool.

Elderly GHWB with familySporting light blue pants.

GHWB in motif belt playing golfSee the motif belt.