All posts in Historical Fashion

The Party Sport Coat: Batik

Party

Summer means vacation and that means it is time for fun. Clothing used to be one of the main ways that was used to communicate to others that you were not working. However, times have changed. With today’s dress codes being so relaxed the ability to distinguish office wear from casual wear is difficult. I am not going to go down that rabbit hole in this post, but instead focus on a classic piece of resort wear the Batik sport coat.

Batik sport coats were popular party jackets. They are loud. They are colorful. They are fun. They are not for the timid and no they will not work in the office not even on GTH Friday.

The exact origin of Batik fabric is unknown. What is known is that it is ancient art form has existed in Egypt, India, the Middle East, China, and West Africa for over 2,000 years. Traditional Batik is made using a wax resist dye process which gives it its distinct look and it has a very distinct look.
Club Monaco Batik                                    Club Monaco 3/2 Batik Sack Sport Coat (Southwick Cambridge Model?)

While the demand for Batik jackets is close to non-existent they are still being produced. The inspiration for this post was not a vintage image of a man on vacation, but rather the Batik jacket that I found on the site of the often overlooked (and under remembered) member of the Ralph Lauren family Club Monaco. It is a great looking jacket. They do offer pants, but I would not go whole hog. I would do one or the other.
O'Connell's batik-ish                                                    O’Connell’s Navy and White Batik-ish Sport Coat

Club Monaco was not the only brand with a Batik offering.  I also saw a great looking Batik-ish jacket offered on O’Connell’s website that was not new old stock. Last, but not least I spotted a Batik pocket square on Sid Mashburn’s site for those who aren’t ready to dive right into a sport coat.
Batik Pocket Square                                                                 Sid Mashburn Batik Pocket Square

Batik may never again experience the popularity that it did in its heyday, but it is not gone yet. It can still be comfortably worn in a party or vacation setting, but be warned that  it will draw attention. I have aspirations to wear one at some point. I think that I will wait until I reach senior citizen status and don’t have to worry about getting too much attention. At that point in my life I will be most likely be ignored by almost everyone and those that do notice my fancy jacket will just chalk it up as something that was popular back in my day.

Duck Head is Back…Again

Duck Head Website

It appears that someone has decided to relaunch the brand Duck Head. Duck Head reminds me (and apparently others) of  5th and 6th grade just like a pair of Eastland mocs. I bet Duck Head is as nostalgic of that time as I am.

Another Duck Head reference I found while researching the brand,

“After all, it was the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, God was making a comeback, and Duck Head khakis with heavily starched Polo shirts were the official uniform of campus life.”

 - Joe Scarborough
Extracted from Rome Wasn’t Burnt In A Day

The brand got its start in the early 20th century, but back then they were making work wear out of tent cloth. In the late 1980s they became a fashion brand creating the memorable Duck Head chinos that featured their signature mallard emblem. The chinos caught on in the south  (The Trad reflects here and here.). Bought out in ’85 the brand went national and continued to grow until the early nineties, but went bankrupt in 2005.
Duck Head Chinos                                                                           Picture from a College Trad.

They have been picked up and dropped again since then leaving me to wonder if that will be their destiny. It will be interesting to see what is in store for this once iconic southern chino company. According to the countdown clock on their homepage I won’t have to wait to find out as they are scheduled to launch on May 1st.

Spoiling a Good Walk

Fairway

I am excited to see temperatures finally breaking into the 60’s. I am especially excited, because I began going to the driving range with my stepdad at the end of last summer and I am eager to pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, where I left off was trying to consistently make contact with the ball using my driver. However, learning has been just as fun as it has been frustrating.
Chick Evans 1916 AmateurChick Evans                                                               Charles “Chick” Evans (Above)

I have already been to the driving range a handful of times over the last two months. Just like life, some days have been really good and others have been just plain awful. I plan on getting out on an actual course before too long which of course got me thinking about what I will wear.
bobby jones                                                                                    Bobby Jones
Jim Barnes                                                                                     Jim Barnes

I did a few searches on the internet for golf apparel. Like all sports it appears that golf clothing too is now primarily composed of synthetic technical fabrics. This lead me to the conclusion that all I really need is a pair of golf shoes. I think that my old chinos, OCBD’s, and polos will more than suffice. Plus, I have plenty of sweaters for the brisk mornings.

I spent the rest of my time on the internet looking at vintage pictures of golf which got me even more excited for warm weather and time spent outdoors. I wish everyone the best of luck on the course this year!

The Socioeconomics of Prep

Witt

I have been removed from the academic environment for quite a few years now, but I still enjoy reading a scholarly article especially when it deals with something that I am deeply interested in. I was recently directed to a an Honors thesis by a Senior in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology for Fiber Sciences and Apparel Design entitled, “The Origin and Evolution of “Prep” and its Socioeconomic Relevance.” Naturally, I was intrigued.
Origins of PrepThe title makes the intent of the article clear, but here is an expanded explanation:

“Thus, the aim of this paper is twofold. First, I seek to clarify and substantiate the origins of prep style, its relationship with American collegiate culture and the national class structure, and its evolution as a fashion subculture.”

And,

“Next, I strive to attain a clear understanding of the cultural and socioeconomic significance of preppy fashion at that time in history, its function as an essential arbiter of class for the American aristocracy.”

Origins of Prep 2The paper was an interesting read and one of the most comprehensive texts that I have read on the subject. However, one area that I think is overlooked in the paper is the co-opting of the preppy look by mainstream America that occurred prior to the 1980’s. The author states that,

“This gradual growth in the popularity of the preppy look was later punctuated in the 1980s with a boom of commercialization and public infatuation with this style.”

But there was a similar boom of commercialization that occurred in the 1960’s which created a generation of people from middle class origins that adopted this look which influenced later generations as well as the dress code of corporate America.

Although this co-opted look is a watered down version of what was termed “Ivy League Style” it can still be considered “Preppy.”  I only interject, because I believe that this earlier boom removed a lot of the socioeconomic status that was previously associated with this look by making it readily available to those of average means.

Origins of Prep 3Nonetheless, this is an excellent piece and I encourage everyone to read the full text (You can find it here: http://ecommons.library.cornell.edu/handle/1813/33212) For those of you who are not interested in reading the dense 55 page text I will cut to the chase for you. The author concludes that,

““Preppy” continues to possess a sense of cultural capital that provides implications relating to the lifestyles, attitudes, and aspirations of individuals who choose to don this look.”

I will let the reader evaluate the validity of this conclusion for themselves. However, I applaud the author for taking on this topic and doing such a thorough job at it. A great follow-up read is Christian Chensvold’s The Rise and Fall of the Ivy League Look.

Cuff, No Break by Billax

Shetland Herringbone Tweed with AE loafers

This post is a reprinting of a post on a forum that is frequented 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.

A few days ago, I responded to a member of the Talk Ivy forum, who asked about the details he should seek in a pair of trousers. I Whipcords with AE loafersthought I’d cross-post it here,

I’m on a fairly steep learning curve regarding the finer details of Ivy garb and am struggling to find information regarding trousers (of the slightly more formal variety such as flannels, tweeds, gabardines etc. as opposed to khakis or jeans).

Thanks.

The poster continued, noting that he knew flat front trousers were a requirement, then asked for the next most important feature. I responded as follows:

A friend, who is an Architecture Professor, asserted that the most important class he taught to Architecture students was Joints, Intersections, and Edges. When things go awry in those areas, the building fails – both functionally and aesthetically. In mens apparel, the two areas most likely to fail are at the top and at the bottom.

I believe the importance of joints, intersections, and edges at the top is pretty well understood: the importance of the relationships between shirt, tie, jacket, lapel, notch shape, gorge height, and collar roll is a focal point of men who care about their appearance. It is, after all, what they see in the mirror every morning.

Not one man in a thousand has a mirror to see the equally important bottom of one’s outfit. Yet, those bottom elements – trouser length, crease, cuff, socks, and shoes – are easily seen by everyone who looks at you. It’s often said – and it’s true for me – that when one business or professional man is introduced to another, the first thing looked at is the other man’s shoes. Style, condition, edge dressed, polished – check, check, check, check. But if the joints, intersections, and edges of the bottom aren’t “right,” well, that’s noted and filed away. In the Ivy League Look, the gold standard has remained unchanged for a long, long time. To wit:

In 1954, Life Magazine had an article about the Ivy League Look sweeping the country. The following photograph appeared therein:

Salesman at J.Press New HavenThis picture is of a Salesman at J. Press New Haven.

 When I went to college (Fall of 1959 to Winter of 1964), I was lucky enough to work part-time in the Campus Ivy shop at my Midwestern University. Mr. Ross, the proprietor, was as fastidious a dresser as I’ve ever met – and he wanted me to represent the same style and values he had. Though I didn’t wear braces –then or now – when he saw me come in to work, he’d give me a once over, particularly checking to see that I had no break in my trousers. If he spotted anything other than a knife blade crease, he’d gently say, “Adjust your braces, Bill,” knowing full well I wore a belt. I must have disappointed him one time too many, for he once said to me, “It is better to endure the occasional flood than to live in a perpetual puddle.” It was then that I took the words of this diminutive and dapper Scotsman to heart!

A little more than a year ago, my youngest son entered college. I went with him for a couple of days to help him move into his dorm and to buy him a few items of clothing I thought he was missing. We stopped at J. Press, where Tony, the alterations tailor who has worked there since 1968, fitted him for a couple of pairs of trousers. As he bent down to chalk the hems, he asked, “Cuff, no break?” While posed as a question, it was really a suggestion. I smiled slightly, then nodded. The words were so familiar, it seemed as though I was back in college.

So, for sixty years now, there has been a set of men who are keepers of that flame. I am content to live in the flickering light of that flame. Plenty of others will disagree….

Thanks for asking!

I have included a few examples below of “Cuff, no break.”
White Linens with Rancourt buckle loafers

Poplins with AE loafers Covert cloth with AE CaptoesDonegal odd trousers with AE loafersFine donegal with AE CaptoesFlannel Chalk Stripe with AE whole cuts