Tuesday, December 29, 2009

State of the Blog and a Contest

As a special Christmas gift the Houndstooth Kid hit the 100,000th visitor mark (the 100,000th visitor was from Denmark). This website has had visitors from every state in the Union as well as 140 countries out of 195 in the world. As of this writing there are 49 followers. I consider that quite an achievement.

Of course there could be improvements, both in the quality of the postings and the variety of medium used. I've discussed with a couple influential folks about the use of video in this blog and they have been positive toward the idea. Video, of course, means more time and effort to plan, set up, film and edit and therefore possibly means even more time from post to post. But video utilizes both visuals and speech to convey a message. In this way a moving picture is worth well more the 1,000 words.

Another area of improvement is drawing you the reader into the discussion. While getting and responding to comments beneath each post is good, I'd like to do a post every so often that comes directly from the readers. One way to do this is to answer questions from readers.
So, please use the email link on the right side of the window to send me questions you'd like to see answered in a post. Or if you want to see something of interest. Or want something researched. Any number of things would work, so let me know!

A few other things.
Like any good capitalist I wanted to make a little money off of this blog project of mine. This can be done by adding advertisments to the blog that somehow relate to the topics about which are being posted. However, with commercialism slowly creeping further into our lives (as Christmas so blindingly displays each year) I've decided not to go this route. I've decided to keep the Houndstooth Kid uncluttered, so you don't have to worry about flashing ads and confusing layouts for as long as I can foresee. Rest assured.

The appearance of the blog might change though, we'll see.

And now, onto the main event.
As a 'thank you' for getting us up to 100,000 visitors in roughly two years, I'm having a contest.

To enter merely email me using the link on the right side of this window and tell me:

What is style? Is style timeless? Does style change? What is your personal style? Does vintage play a role in your personal style and how?

You can answer these questions however you want: via a written essay, photos with commentary and/or a video, etc. The length and content is up to you. Send your entry via email by January 15th and we'll pick and announce the winner by January 22nd.

What good is a contest without some loot?
The winner will have their essay/photo commentary/video posted on this very blog as well as receive several very nice vintage ties dating from the 1930s-1950s, free of charge or shipping costs. Contestants must live in the Continental United States, sorry, no entries from out of country.

May the most stylish and well spoken man win!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yuletide Greetings

Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope it's a safe and happy one.

I have some special news coming up after Christmas so keep an eye in here!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Winter has not officially begun but those of us in the colder climates know that he's already arrived, unofficially. The foot of snow, 50 MPH winds and freezing rain we got in parts of the Midwest is testament to his arrival.

Winter can be a bleak season when you might not want to venture out of doors, understandably so. But with the drop in temperatures and that fluffy white stuff covering the ground comes the overcoats, tweed suits, scarves and heavy weight fedoras. It is a high point in the style year just like the summer, though on the opposite end of the spectrum. The yearly cycle of sartorialistic yin and yang, winter and summer, respectively. Both are equally important but completely different in fabrics, colors and cut.

In celebration of winter, take a look at these Esquire and Apparel Arts illustrations from the 1930s. Notice the multiple different styles of overcoats and the varieties in colors, hat choices and suits.

Let's start off with a couple items that are often overlooked but are immensely important to tie a look together: socks and shoes for winter.

Click all photos to enlarge.

Argyle is a favorite sock pattern of mine and goes very well with casual looks. Argyle socks are also easily found at your nearest GAP, J.C. Penney , Younkers and other popular clothing outlets. I prefer the GAP socks because their patterns and styles change with each season, they're priced fairly and are good quality.

Notice the green Tartan socks on the right side:

Notice the large variety of overcoats pictured, from a regular wool overcoat with a nice windowpane pattern to an overcoat with a fur collar and another made entirely out of fur in the background. The Golden Era was truly an age of variety.
The man in the fur overcoat is also wearing a black Derby with a brown/tan coat. Black and brown can work together.

Another fur-collared overcoat. They weren't squeamish about the use of fur. I consider that a good thing.

The ingrediants for the collegiate winter look.

Winter offers a plethora of hats to keep our heads and ears warm. Notice the article at the bottom of the page states that only one "snap brim hat is neccessary" as well as some sort of country hat, but every other hat on the page is absolutely needed. Goes to show that one can have even a hat wardrobe.

A nice formal overcoat with an Astrakhan fur collar.

Scarves are a wonderful accessory that can help mature and liven up even the dullest outfit. Mix and match colors and textures depending upon the occasion and create an individual style for yourself. Scarves are the winter brother of the summer ascot.

Nothing says style like skiing in a suit, preferably a sport suit with a belted back, bi-swing back and/or a center gusset.

Try variety this winter.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Color of Life

For me, at least at the moment, color is perhaps one of the most important aspects of an attractive 'kit' or outfit. Color can be dull or exciting, colors can match or clash, express the good and bad of life. It is our tool with which we can paint the story of living.

The thing about the Golden Era is that we are most exposed to it through photographs and old movies that are nearly all in black and white. Just like the photo below of the stereotypical Sunday school class, we have to guess what the colors were in most Golden Era photos (click all photos to enlarge):

But as a collector of vintage clothing I know the Golden Era was a colorful time, perhaps more colorful than today and I'm able to see firsthand what the colors were like. It's an exprience that few people ever knowingly have.

Having these pieces of color history in hand is a connection to the people who wore them. The folks in those black and white photos can seem so different, so far away from what we are today. But holding and wearing the very pieces and colors that they did offers us the ability to see that they were regular people just like us who liked a little color in life. Sometimes that color was deep and mature, other times it was wild and crazy.

Click on the article below from the Feb. 21st, 1929 issue of the "National Retail Clothier Magazine" and pay close attention to the paragraph at the lower right entitled "Attractive Outfit in Brown":

Even the wild use of color today cannot match what this outfit must have looked like. It was something to behold not only because of the unusual combinations, but because vintage color, at least to me, seems better than color today. There were more varieties and while they were often crazy the colors were used moderately, maturely and in a handsome manner.

At times it can seem that the colors of the Golden Era are exaggerated.
Take a look at the colors and styles described in The Great Gatsby:

"He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher—shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.”

While writers of that period were well known for their use of colors to describe certain characters and moods, it seems that the colors described in Gatsby were not too far off from the truth.

To prove my point, examine these quotes pulled from advertisements from the 1929 National Retail Clothier Magazine mentioned above:

"Fancy colors that make the rainbow pale."

"...this years colorings are cream, silver, bottle, biscuit, sunburn and nutria."

"Pearl and Cedar will be the best shades, it is believed."

"Some of these ties are in bright colors."

This sounds like something Gatsby might have worn (from the scan above):
"An attractive ensemble noted in New York City included: Suit of dark brown, with diagonal stripe, rather pronounced, in white, the jacket double breasted with three buttons...demi-bosom shirt in very fine cross stripes, in peach color; tie of black ground with orange polka dots; hat a cocoa brown Homburg; yellow gloves; socks in vertical stripes of orange and black..."

"Just the right weight, in new Algerian tans, Stone greys and Lovat."

This ad speaks volumes:

"The Era of Color Enthusiasm".
A fantastic rainbow available to the common man, some colors that most of us have never even heard of until now. Much more variety than today.

Nowadays there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for the use of color; perhaps merely to shock the eye or cause the viewer convulsions. Though, the Golden Era did have its moments like the deadstock '30s tie below shows:

As a side note, it's interesting to compare the similarities of the patterns in the tie pictured above with the digital alphabet and number set below. This tie is a precursor to the Bold Look, but is it also a precursor to the digital age?

What was it that allowed men of the past to coordinate so many colors so well while looking mature when men of today struggle with a few basic colors? Is it a lack of manly creativity or merely a lack of good colors today?

As I close let me say that color is like a fine wine: with age it will become more flavorful and more mature. Like my vintage clothing that have years and history in their pockets and buttons, I like my colors well aged. That way I stand out in a crowd, like a twinkle of kodachrome in a black and white photograph.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Meet the Fuzzies

'Fuzzy' hats, also known as "long hairs", "velvours" and "kitten finish hats" were quite popular during the Golden Era, particularly during the 'teens, '20s and into the '30s. They even soldiered on through to the 1950s, though the form and style had changed significantly.

Check out these two scans from a 1922 Mont. Ward catalog (click photos to enlarge):

Notice that the crowns were very tall, over 5" while the brims remained medium to narrow width. This was fairly common during this period and into the 1930s.

The Turgis fedora below is from the late 1920s or early 1930s. Note that is has the same tall crown (5") and narrow brim (2 1/8") as the hats pictured above. The fuzziness of this hat is on the long end of the fur length spectrum, thus making it very soft and fluffy. The fur of this hat could easily be combed.

Long haired hats are made a little differently from regular fedoras. While the fur used in regular fedoras is cut short and densely compacted, the fur used in long hair fedoras is cut longer and allowed to stand up, making for the fluffy appearance and soft feel.

Next is a 1940s Royal Stetson long hair with a rather crazy ribbon. Note that this hat falls into the medium area of hair length on the fuzziness spectrum: not as long as the Turgis above but still fairly long.

Interestingly this hat is meant for warmer weather, as the lack of a liner and the company tag attached to the inside top of the crown indicates:

Last but not least, this 1950s Stevens hat is on the very short end of the fuzziness spectrum. It is still a very soft fur hat and fuzzier than regular fedoras of the time but not as soft or fuzzy as either of the two previous hats.

As a side note, Adolf Hitler favored very long haired hats similar to the Turgis pictured above. That being said, long haired hats were a very popular style in Germany during the 1930s, especially in the Bavarian region so to associate the fuzzy fedora primarily with Hitler would be a great disservice to millinery history.

And while the fuzzy fedora is thankfully not usually associated with Hitler, the 1970s turned it into something for pimps and gansters.

What a shame.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Duke, Take Two

On December 8th two of the Duke of Windsor's suits as well as some of his shirts will be up for auction. Now is your chance to own a piece of style history.

Click to enlarge:

An Audrey Hepburn collection is also up for auction the same day.

Start saving up your pennies!

Hat tip to Will.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Beginning in 1929 and ending in 1930, the Crofut and Knapp hat company published a year-long series of ads, one new ad each month. Below are three original ads from the Saturday Evening Post.

Study the artwork and style wisdom of yesteryear and enjoy.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

WIW: Oddly Warm

I've been absent from posting for a while. My job and an important test kept me away. And sometimes we all need a short break. But now we're back.

What goofy weather we've had. The temperature has been in the 70s this weekend so I busted out the linen and gabardine one last time for the year.

I tried a look that Ive seen in old Apparel Arts and Esquire illustrations and enjoyed immensely but had never tried for myself even though I've possessed the ingredients to create it for some time now. It is the quintessential 1930s American warm weather look.

I didn't wear a hat because it looks sleeker without one.
Other than the sunglasses, there is only one vintage piece in this look. Can you guess what it is?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Put This On- Denim

Visit Put This On and watch the interesting video about denim, both vintage and modern.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WIW Sunday

Went late '40s/early '50s again. The air was cool again but the sky was blue.

I wore a show-stealing "leisure coat" from the mid- to late 1950s. Unfortunately the 1970s pretty much ruined that name so whenever 'leisure' is used we most often picture this polyester abomination:

click to enlarge

Fortunately my jacket is 100% wool.
The leisure jacket shown is a later 'backwoods' cousin of the two-tone Hollywood Jacket of the late 1930s-early 1950s.

And my use of green was purposeful since it is a much under appreciated color when it comes to men's style.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Back to the Basics: Fit and Silhouette

If Fabric is the soul of the suit, then Fit and Silhouette are most assuredly a suit's mind and body, respectively. For without a mind a body is useless and without a body the mind is unable to express itself.

What does all that mumbo jumbo mean?
Fit and silhouette, while seemingly the same thing are two completely different ideas.

Fit describes the way a suit (or any garment for that matter) has been tailored, molded to the wearer's body. Simply put, Fit is the way a suit fits. A suit should ideally fit or wear like a second skin; if it doesn't then the suit has a poor Fit. One major thing that affects Fit are those pesky armholes, for if the armholes are not shaped and sized correctly to the specific customer then no amount of tailoring will help the rest of the suit fit right. A suit should fit the wearer in the shoulders, armholes, waist and hips.

Below is an example of a poorly fitted suit, courtesy of Thom Browne:

click to enlarge

Silhouette describes the outward appearance of a suit. This, unlike Fit, can vary from suit to suit according to the wearer's preferences. We see great variance of Silhouette throughout the Golden Era: from the slim and trim of the 1920s, the natural and trim of the 1930s and the big and bulky of the 1940s and early 1950s to the slim and trim of the 1960s, full circle.

Silhouette is affected by the amount of padding in the shoulders, the amount of waist suppression (or lack thereof) and the length of the jacket just to name a few. And, while a suit can be made to fit nearly any body shape, certain silhouettes can only go with certain body shapes.

For example, a heavy man cannot have a well fitted suit with the same amount of waist suppression as a skinny tall man can. The physics of it just will not allow it to happen.

click to enlarge

So, which is more important? Fit or Silhouette? I would have to say Fit. A well fitted suit with poor silhouette is still well fitted and will be comfortable for the owner to wear, even if it makes him look like a blimp. A poorly fitted suit with great silhouette will be too uncomfortable for a man to wear and it will become a hated thing, a uniform. That is the problem with suits today: they are poorly fitted and so uncomfortable that most men hate them and wear them only when they must.

Suits shouldn't be uniforms. They should have both Fit and Silhouette.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WIW: Iconic '50s

It's getting cold out there! Way too early...

I went for the iconic 1950s look Sunday by combining three '50s items that more or less were only popular during the 1950s.

-Early '50s "Bailey of Hollywood" fedora with a pugree and brim stitching (interestingly, Bailey is still around though, like most mainstream hat companies today, their quality has suffered since the 1950s).
-Mid-'50s Pleated tie (pleated ties became popular in the late 1940s and died off before the 1960s as ties became too narrow to hold the pleats).
-1950s 'Ricky' jacket made of long-hair wool.

click to enlarge
This fedora is fairly rare and has that casual Hollywood/western look about it.
It has a 5" crown and a 2 3/4" brim. Pretty large diameters, though common during the early 1950s.
These pleated ties are also fairly rare. This is my only one.

Monday, October 5, 2009

WIW: From the Grave

The suit below was shown several posts ago in What Suits You. It's a great, high quality suit from the late 1930s but had been retired to a vintage shop where it collected dust for who knows how long, maybe a decade, perhaps longer. I first saw it 2 years ago but, like everyone else, passed it by because of a long series of holes on its right arm. Unrepairable, no doubt. Or was it?

It would be a good fit for me with a few alterations. And with a reweave, those holes would pretty much disappear. So, this last summer I took a chance and woke it from its slumber.

My alterations lady let down the arms and also told me she could do a reweaving job on the sleeve holes, so I gave her a chance. It's far from perfect but I can't complain now that the holes are darn hard to spot and she threw in the reweave for free.

I sacrificed the cuffs on the trousers and added faux cuffs, 2" deep like the originals. I squeezed all the length I could out of those trousers and they're still about 1"-2" short for proper wear with the vest (no shirt showing between vest and trousers).

Don't know if I'll wear the vest underneath the jacket again since it's rarely seen. Though even if I do, I never open the jacket so the shirt poking out will never be seen. Win/win either way.

I'm very happy with this suit, the silhouette is perfection to my eye. The broad shoulders and nipped waist of the jacket along with the full cut of the trousers really balance out well.

click photos to enlarge

Saturday, October 3, 2009

About Those Gloves...

...that I showcased in the collage from my last post.

They are deadstock vintage deerskin dress gloves in a relatively large size. Never been worn, found in the original box.

They have wonderful texture to them and the leather is just the way it was the day these were made. And who really knows when that day was; could be anywhere from the 1920s through the 1940s, most likely somewhere in the middle as glove wearing eventually tapered off as the decades clicked by.

click photos to enlarge

Vintage gloves like these are quite rare nowadays and these examples let's us see something that few have a chance to savor anymore, for times have changed and quality leather dress gloves are no longer in vogue. But they have permanent style.


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