All posts in Historical Fashion

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

Wittenberg University 1963 & 1965

wittenberg2

It is time for another installment of pictures from vintage Wittenberg University yearbooks. It has been very cold out this weekend which made spending a few hours in the library with a cup of coffee even more appealing. Flipping through these old yearbooks always invokes a feeling of nostalgia in me for a time that I never lived. While I would never want to return to these times I do romanticize the days when men took more pride in their appearance, when everyday life was deserving of a tie and jacket, and when youth chased adulthood and not the other way around (I did include some college shenanigans to balance it out!). In order to provide plenty of eye candy for my readers (and food for Tumblr) during this holiday week I have combined pictures from both 1963 & 1965’s yearbooks. Enjoy!

Witt Faculty Color 1963-65

Sport Coats 1963-65

Wittenberg Track Coach 1963Witt Students #1

 

Witt Faculty 1963-65 #9Witt 1963Cord Sport Cut 1963-65

Man in suit 1963

Tennis Player 1963Intramurals 1963

Witt Student 1963-65 #5Witt Student 1963-65 #3Witt Faculty #7Frisby 1963-65Witt Faculty 1963-65 #7 CoachWitt Student CoupleCoat and Tie

Witt Faculty 1963-65 #6_Intramurals 1963-65 #2Witt Faculty #2Bug JokesWitt Student 1963-65 #4Witt Student 1963-65 #10Witt Faculty #3

Moving in 1963Witt Students #3Pep band

Investigating Vests

Featured Image

My uniform has expanded greatly over the past year. It used to consist of blue OCBDs, khaki chinos and penny loafers, but now it includes ties, blazers, sport coats, and corduroys. These additions have made getting dressed much more interesting and life in general more enjoyable. This got me thinking about what I could add next. If you read the title of my post then you already know that the answer is a vest.

Navy Vest 1961Navy Vest 1961

The vest has long been a part of classic American style. It is also a look that illustrates the British influence (They call them waistcoats) on American style. However, it is the image featured at the top of this post from the Deerfield academy in 1961 that piqued my curiosity. This picture from the “Hey Day” of the Ivy League look shows young men sporting vests in a truly casual and fun way. While I am not nearly as young as those pictured it made me think that I should not be intimidated by the vest.
Red Vest 1961                                   Red Vest 1961 (Red vests are more common than one would think.)

There are a lot of things that I like about the idea of adding an odd vest to my wardrobe. A vest can dress up a blazer or sport coat and at the same time they do not have to look “dressy.” In fact, when they are paired with cords and a tweed sport coat the look is more country mouse than city mouse. Plus, since it is not often that I get to wear a suit the addition of a vest allows me to add a level of formality to the flannel trousers and blazer look that I am more likely to wear. Not only can it dress up or down an outfit, but they are great for adding texture, color and patterns to an outfit especially, because they available in so many materials, patterns, and colors.

Roycur in Tan Vest 1968Roycru in tan vest then

Roycru Tan VestRoycru in tan vest todayTan VestEnsiferous in tan vest

I started looking for vests on my own, but I quickly turned to a few people who wear the vest well for advice. Luckily for me they were more than happy to help me and they gave me a few tips on what I should be looking for in a vest that fits into the TNSIL cannon. I will pass these tips along. They also allowed me to use a few of their pictures for this post for which I am very grateful (Billax, Roycru, and Ensiferous thank you!).

Navy Vest Navy VestVest Variety 3

Above are all examples from the Ivy master Billax of how vests can add texture and color to an outfit.

So, what does the Ivy League vest look like? This vest has 6, not 5 buttons and the bottom button is left undone, the vest should be long enough to cover your belt, it has 4, not 2 pockets, and one of the most important things to remember is that when you are wearing your vest with a blazer of sport coat you are not to remove the jacket in public.

Where do you find this vest? If you are interested in a vest I would recommend looking at Orvis and to my own surprise J.Crew whose vests almost all fit the description above.

Tartan Vest ThenTartan vest thenTartan Vest TodayTartan vest today from Ensiferous

I can’t wait to add the option of a vest to my growing closet.  I have decided to pursue a tan wool vest, because I think that it will work well with both my navy blazer and my brown tweeds. I have already lost out on one on Ebay, but I will not let that discourage me, because I know that while patience itself is bitter its fruit is sweet.