All posts in Historical Fashion

Terrible Weather & Horrible Protestant Hats

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I started this week off having lots of ideas for this today’s post, but it seems that Mother Nature had her own ideas. A combination of single digit temperatures, me not being ready to brave such temps yet, and being sick for the last two days resulted in me taking zero pictures (On a positive note, I did get to wear cords ad a Shetland every day.) this week. One morning this week as I was gearing up to face the morning’s frigid air with my hat, gloves, and scarf I thought back to P.J. O’Rourke’s essay “Horrible Protestant Hats.” I have included the essay below. I hope that you enjoy it.

 Horrible Protestant Hats by P.J. O’Rourke

Getting ready to go outdoors on a drizzly afternoon, I donned a trench coat, picked up an umbrella and deposited a canvas rain hat on my head. My girlfriend, a Roman Catholic, began to laugh and point. “Oh!” she said. “What a horrible Protestant hat!” I looked in the mirror. True, the porkpie-style Brooks Brothers rain hat with the brim turned down on all sides does give one the look of . . . well, a poorly matched part sticking out of a recalled American car. It set me thinking.

Protestants do wear terrible hats, especially well-off, adult male Protestants whom we usually call WASPs. They wear woven-vegetable-matter summer hats with madras hatbands. These look like hospital gifts that died at the florist’s. They wear “Irish” tweed hats no self-respecting Irishman would put on his plow horse. They wear herringbone wool caps that can give a bank president the semblance of a rioting English coal miner. Old artsy WASPs wear embarrassing berets. Middle-aged WASPs who’ve just gotten a divorce and a sports car wear dopey suede touring caps with a snap on the brim. Then there are the fur astrakhans worn by lawyers who, I guess, want their clients to think they run a gulag on the side.

Beyond city limits the situation is worse. Where I live in New England, the summer people give evidence that slouch hats cause feeblemindedness in adults. Panama hats produce a different effect — imbecility combined with moral turpitude. And there is no polite phrase in English for what a vacationing executive from Boston looks like in a Greek fisherman’s cap.

Getting anywhere near the water seems to produce WASP hat lunacy. Fly fishermen wear astonishing things on their heads and always decorate them with dozens of dry flies as though at any minute they might dip their very skulls into the torrent and land giant trout with their necks. It’s hard to look more stupid than a deep-sea fisherman does in his swordbill cap. Hard, but not impossible. This is accomplished by the ordinary Kennebunk cruiser hat, which is nothing but the cap from a child’s sailor suit with its brim yanked down over eyes, ears and sometimes nose. Worn thus it resembles nothing so much as a white cotton condom for the brain. Boat hats, indeed, run the gamut of foolery starting with the simple watch cap, making its wearers seem only unlettered, and winding up with the enormous yellow rubber sou’wester foul-weather chapeau, in which even George Bush would look like a drunk cartoon character doing a tuna-fish ad.

Snow and other frozen forms of water produce no improvement. If there is anything — vassalage, Bolshevism, purdah — more deleterious to the spirit of human dignity than the knit ski cap, I have not heard of it. Professional circus clowns, medieval court jesters, Trans-Carpathian village idiots, any one of them would balk at wearing a five-foot-long purple, green, red, pink and orange cranial sock with a pom-pon on the end. And even this is not so bad as what a WASP will wear in the winter when not on the ski slopes. Then, he shovels the walk in a vinyl-brimmed plaid cap with earflaps that tie up over the head — what must be the worst hat on earth.

I am only half Protestant, but my closet shelf reveals a disgusting Moose River canoeing hat, an idiotic Florida Keys bonefishing hat with brims at both ends, several crownless tennis visors that make me look like an Olympic contestant in double-entry bookkeeping and a plethora of the ubiquitous ad-emblazoned baseball caps that show I have been renting out frontal lobe space to Purolator, Firestone and the Kittery, Maine, 1978 Jubilee Days. And let’s not discuss the International Signal orange dunce cap I wear to go bird shooting.

Now it’s true, other ethnic groups also wear unusual headgear. Blacks, Orthodox Jews, Irish archbishops and Italian steelworkers are just a few. But the Stetsons of Harlem’s 125th Street are intentionally outrageous, yarmulkes are items of religious faith, and so forth. WASPs wear their hats in all seriousness, without spiritual reasons or historical traditions for doing so, and not a single one of their bizarre toppers would be any help if an I-beam fell on it. Nonetheless, a WASP will tell you his hat is functional. I believe that whenever anyone uses the word “functional” he’s in the first sentence of a lame excuse. The real reason WASPs wear goofy hats is that goofy-hat wearing satisfies a deep-seated need. In gin-and-tonic veritas, give a WASP six drinks and he’ll always put something silly on his head — a lamp shade, ladies’ underwear, an L.L. Bean dog bed, you name it. In more sober and inhibited moments he’ll make do with an Australian bush hat, a tam-o’-shanter or the Texan monstrosity all WASPs affect when they get within telexing distance of a cow.

Until the end of the Eisenhower era, WASPs wore wonderful haberdashery. They went about in perfectly blocked and creased homburgs, jaunty straw boaters, majestic opera hats and substantial bowlers. A gentleman would sooner wear two-tone shoes to a diplomatic reception than appear in public without a proper hat. Then something happened.

Adult male Protestants of the better-off kind are a prominent social group. They make up a large percentage of our business executives, politicians and educators. Maybe it’s no accident that the rise of the silly hat has coincided with the decline of business ethics, the rise of functional illiteracy and the general decline of the U.S. as a world power. The head is symbolic of reason, discipline, good sense and self-mastery. Putting on the back of it a fuzzy green Tyrolean hat decorated with a tuft of deer means trouble. Our native aristocracy, those among us with greatest advantages, the best resources and the broadest opportunities to do good have decided to abrogate all civilized responsibilities, give free play to the id and run around acting like a bunch of. . . .

Wait a minute! Down by the dock — I just saw a WASP with a pitcher of martinis trying to put a fedora on his dog!

Ending Summer

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It’s Labor Day weekend, the kids are back in school, and inevitably focus is shifting from madras to Shetland as summer is beginning to fade. There is no need to worry. There is still plenty of time to get out there and enjoy summer before it becomes a blip in the past. Take a cue from the pictures below of young Manhattanites enjoying the Hamptons in the 1960s courtesy of the NY Daily News. Also, enjoy all shots of the madras, loafers, surcingle belts, and popovers!
Hampton VacaIona College SweatshirtMadras
Girls in CarsDancingKissing in CarsMore DancingOn the porch

United States of Trad: John R. Bolton

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It is time to put our political differences aside and celebrate the fact that “the look” is still alive (, but not well) in US politics. This edition of the United States of Trad pays tribute to one man that is keeping the trad flame burning. His name is John R. Bolton.

The son of a fireman, born in Baltimore, Maryland Bolton went on to attend Yale University. He has since spent his career in public service as well as working for prestigious law firms, think tanks, but is probably most well known for being the 25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations (or perhaps for being a Fox News Channel Commentator).
John Bolton Repp TieIt is not Mr. Bolton’s accomplishments in the world of politics that has earned him a spot here, but rather his dress. I have never seen Bolton without an OCBD on (Yes, even when wearing a suit.), his selection of ties stays well within traditional guidelines (He primarily sports striped ties with the occasional neat or paisley mixed in.), and he often wears a 3/2 sack suit.
John Bolton Sack SuitJohn Bolton Sack Suit 2John Bolton tan SuitI do agree with that he would benefit from a few small wardrobe tweaks. The roll of his collar could be improved and his ties would look a lot better with a dimple, and we would all love to see him move to wearing exclusively 3/2 sack suits, but I think that this is just nitpicking.
John Bolton Crew Neck

There are very few politicians that continue to dress in this traditional  American manner. Mr. Bolton, however not only carries on this tradition on the national level, but on an international level working with leaders of the world wearing an OCBD with a suit and a repp tie and for that we salute him.

The Party Sport Coat: Batik

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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.