They say a woman first looks at a man's shoes and is able to tell a lot about him from his footwear. I don't know if this is true or not but I like to assume that it is. Better safe than sorry, right?
Maybe that's part of the reason I like shoes so much. Or maybe it has more to do with the idea of encasing one's feet, not really the prettiest part of the body, in something that's enjoyable to look at.
But it seems nowadays fewer men enjoy shoes; shoes are more or less utilitarian in this day and age. Men: if you're wearing shoes right now or have a pair laying around nearby, take a look at them. Are they pleasing to the eye? Do they make you happy (or as happy as shoes can make someone)? Are they stylish and classy? Hopefully you answered 'yes' to these questions.
If you did, you are one of the lucky few who get a small amount of joy out of wearing good quality, stylish footwear. Why the joy? Because stylish, comfortable, quality-made shoes are so hard to come by anymore. They can stand out from a crowd, if anyone's looking. And that's the point: the things that make nice shoes nice are in the details and will be lost on the average observer. Part of enjoying good footwear is the secret knowledge that your shoes are better than those worn by everyone else. Smug feet.
Check out the pair of shoes below. They're vintage Stetson (no ties to the hat company) shoes made of alligator leather.
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Very rare, very well made and a perfect fit for my large feet.
The patterns, colors and textures are something to behold. And they shined up like no other pair of shoes I've seen before, even better than true patent leather. You should have seen them when I first bought them: tossed away, scuffed, horribly creased, dusty, dirty, a price tag stapled through the side. Discarded.
I consider the shoes above to be wearable works of art. They were constructed decades ago by a skilled craftsman using some of the best materials and techniques available. Time, experience, sweat and maybe even some blood went into making them. That is something worth valuing and maintaining. If a famous piece of artwork like "The Starry Night" is stolen, damaged or lost people around the world would rightfully be aghast. It's the same way with me when a pair of shoes like these are thrown out, left to rot or not cared for.
These aren't shoes you just wear. These are shoes you wear. You don't wear alligator shoes to go to Wal-Mart, you don't throw them on for a trip to the laundromat. You probably don't even want to wear them to church very often. These are special shoes mainly for the special occassions. Like that dinner suit in your closet or those special cufflinks in your drawer: you only break them out to celebrate. The occasion makes the shoes special and the shoes help make the occasion even more special.
It's also Autumn, therefore I decided to wear my red plaid jacket for the first time.
I've been contemplating what to wear with this jacket for quite some time. It's a mid-1960s wool jacket that was most likely half of a suit at one point in time. It's very well made and fits me like a glove but the wild plaid pattern to it doesn't lend itself to coordinating very easily with other pieces. For that reason it's been in my possession for at least a year now and hadn't been worn until today.
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Paired with gray flannel trousers, brown suede shoes, a pale green shirt, vintage blue and yellow ascot and vintage Hollywood-style fedora, I'm pretty happy with the results.
In the past loud plaid patterns have routinely fallen in and out of favor through the years. The Duke of Windsor, for example, often enjoyed a loud plaid suit as his tartan lounge suit below illustrates (in America tartan is one form of plaid).
And to further emphasize plaid's waxing and waning popularity throughout recent sartorial history, the Duke's tartan lounge suit was originally made in 1897 for his father, George V and then slightly altered for the Duke, who wore it with such success that is helped create a plaid craze in America during the 1950s.
There's nothing wrong with wearing loud plaids as long as the accoutrements compliment without adding to the loudness. At times this can be difficult but if done well it is very rewarding.
When I first bought that jacket I assumed it was either a sports coat or an orphaned suit jacket, the trousers having been worn out and thrown away long ago. Finding vintage orphaned suit jackets is quite common.
Roughly a month ago I returned to that same local vintage shop and found, you guessed it, the matching pair of trousers. And three years later, a miracle! Both the jacket and trousers are made of the same blue worsted wool material with an unusual and rare woven plaid pattern.
So, after 3 long years the two pieces were reunited once again when I wore them yesterday.
While the jacket itself is amazing, the trousers step the entire outfit up a notch. Though flat-front, they have cuffs that are nearly 2" deep. Not only that, but the extremely wide and straight, full-cut legs measure a whopping 21" in circumference at the hem. Talk about wide-legged trousers!
Such wide, straight-legged trousers were common back during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Here's another suit of mine with such trousers, this one dating from the late 1920s:
Here's a pair of trousers with 22 inch in circumference legs from a 1932 Sears, Roebuck catalog. Also note the strange and unusual "trouser vest":
20 inch circumference trouser legs were still being advertised into the 1940s, the below ad being from the Spring/Summer 1940 edition of the Mont. Ward catalog:
It's very unusual to find the trousers to an orphaned vintage jacket, even more so after three years. I was quite lucky to find them especially since they add another layer of excellence to an already great jacket.
It was the most influential suit style of the Golden Era yet it is perhaps the least understood. Today it is (usually badly) imitated in what is known as "Neapolitan Tailoring" which is just as difficult to understand, is highly controversial and something I will not go into here.
The Drape Suit, quite simply, is a soft tailored style of suit that was first introduced in England during the 1930s, hence the name so often used to describe the style: English Drape. Other names for the Drape Suit include the "Blade Suit" or "Lounge Suit".
The Drape Suit has a few specific characteristics that seperates it from the other styles of the time. These characteristics include a full, soft chest often with vertical wrinkles or puckers; a gathered sleevehead; a well-tapered waist and padded shoulders. While a jacket may have some or all of these characteristics, the full chest is a must. Take a look at the late-1930s Drape sports coat below:
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Although the above jacket lacks the 1gathered sleevehead, notice that it does have the 2well padded shoulders; the 3 full, soft chest with a vertical 'wave' and the 4highly suppressed waist. These are the vital characteristics of the vintage Drape Suit. To quote "Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashion" from 1973, the Drape Suit had a "...soft front, full across the chest and shoulder blades. Tapered sleeves with full sleevehead finished with tiny tucks at the shoulder. A decided suppression at the waist and close fitted at the hips...American interpretations eliminate the tiny tucks or pleats found at the top of the sleeveheads of the British models."
Trousers, though not as vital to the Drape Suit as the jacket, were cut very full and straight-legged, usually with pleats and generous cuffs.
Now remember that these are rules of thumb and may not apply to every Drape Suit. Just as the above Drape sports coat lacks the gathered sleevehead, another jacket may lack a different characteristic. The important thing is that the jacket has a full-cut chest and a fitted waist, giving the wearer an athletic appearance.
Here are some more examples of Drape Suits, all dating from the very early 1940s.
This is a 1941-dated tweed American suit. Notice, again, the full, soft-tailored chest with vertical waves in it. The jacket also has a small number of tucks at the sleevehead:
A 1940-dated American example of a Drape Suit. While difficult to see, the full-cut chest does have vertical waves.
This suit has well defined sleevehead tucks along with a lot of 'pooching' where the chest meets the armhole (indicating a full-cut chest) as the below image shows. Again, while the sleevehead tucks are not necessary, they often will be present.
Here is another example of a Drape Suit, this time from an ad found in an April, 1936 edition of the "New York Times". Take a look at the suit on the left and notice how the chest bows out: a full-cut chest. The top of the sleeve just below the sleevehead also has vertical waves, indicating tucks at the sleevehead. While these waves may appear to be a flaw to the untrained eye, they have been carefully and purposefully placed there by the tailor. "...our new 'Contour' model, emphasizing the broader-shoulder effect, fuller chest and slenderized hips."
Compared to the previous close-cut, body-hugging, well-structured suits of the 1920s, the Drape Suit is a more casual, soft-tailored style that was born out of the rough times of the 1930s and influenced men's suit styles through to the 1950s and even today. Because of this fact the Drape Suit needs to be better examined under the microscope of sartorial history.
The next time we look at the Drape Suit we'll do just that.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, Fall has officially fallen upon you. While our cousins in the lower half of the globe are gearing up for summer with linen, panama hats and spectators, we lucky folks are putting those things away and pulling out the big guns.
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Not that there's anything wrong with those summer articles. But Autumn is my favorite season, though every season has its own special characteristics and holidays to offer. It's just that after a long, hot summer it's nice to be able to snuggle up under a blanket and just relax with a cup of hot chocolate while watching a movie. Sure you're wasting the day but it's not like it's warm enough outside to do anything anyways...
And there's nothing like donning a suit that weighs 8 pounds, has great colors/textures and drapes so wonderfully.
This Autumn and winter take a cue from nature and use not only colors but also textures found out of doors. Pretty much every color imaginable can be found once the air starts turning cold but the warm burnt colors like orange, yellow red and brown are most prevelant. Use them to your advantage.
You can do this by either complimenting those natural colors, which is easiest and most popular, or contrasting them with cooler colors.
Take a few minutes to look over the following illustrations from the 1930s. Notice the color combinations and textures and be inspired to experiment with your wardrobe as the air turns cold.
Saturday I took my lovely new fiancée Cassie on a special date. We dressed to the nines, had dinner, I popped the question during a walk around town (she said yes) and then I took her to a surprise concert featuring Andre Rieu and his orchestra before heading to the Cheesecake Factory with some friends. I highly recommend going to Andre Rieu's concert, btw.
Enjoy the following photos with the WIW rundown towards the bottom.
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Heading out on the town:
At the Cheesecake Factory:
Cassie's new accessory:
On to the WIW portion of this post. I don't have any good full length shots of Cassie because of the surprise nature of the date but here's what she was wearing: -modern elegant, silky striped dress -vintage pearl earrings -modern cream-colored high heels -vintage long gloves -retro navy handbag -modern cashmere shawl -new diamond ring
Simple rundown of my outfit: -1940s dinner suit -1930s 5th Avenue homburg -modern Allen Edmond patent leather shoes -modern formal shirt (with a collar that's a tad large) -modern gloves
Cassie and I had a great time and are looking forward to a life together.