Monday, December 29, 2008

What I Wore Yesterday

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, if a bit crazy.

Yesterday I went for a 1930s "working casual"
*1930s Adams fedora (Christmas)
*GAP leather jacket
*modern "fitted" Van Heusen shirt
*1930s wool tie
*Ralph Lauren trousers
*GAP socks (Christmas)
*AE shoes

click to enlarge

I'm playing with four patterns here. ;)

The trousers are amazingly long and high-waisted.

The shirt has small horizontal ribs throughout. A truly marvelous thing to behold. From a distance the shirt looks like a regular white one, but up close the ribbing pops out at the viewer and plays with the light.

This shot shows the sock and trouser patterns to good effect.

There's something about pairing a handsome '30s/'40s (style) jacket with trousers and a fedora that looks ruggedly manly yet elegant at the same time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Five Things

There are five things (well, there are more but we'll stick with five) that I'd really like to see come back from obscurity. These five items were commonplace a mere 60 years ago but have disappeared because of changing trends: a move toward the casual and away from anything formal or considered snobbish.

1. Suspenders
Or braces, if you will. And I don't mean the cheesy clip-on suspenders either, though those did exist back in the day. I also don't mean boring black or tan button suspenders (though they have their place when the right occasion calls for them).
I'm talking about colorful button suspenders we never see today apart from the occasional eccentric dandy. Like many of the other items on my list, these bright pant-holders appear too 'costume-ish' to the modern eye.

2. Walking Stick
Not your grandpa's cane nor that of the inner city pimp. A bamboo walking stick is great for walking downtown on a warm summer night, just as long as you are dressed accordingly. But again, society has rejected this once common article as something for the snob with his nose high in the air.
Of course, a walking stick with a sword is preferred since a gentleman needs a stylish form of personal protection. Also comes in handy if you feel like breaking into a dance number.

3. The Boater
Also known as the "42nd Street Skimmer". A difficult hat to pull off, it was a summer favorite of the common man as well as the FBI for a short time. Long stares and open mouths follow this hat wherever it is worn, so be prepared for the fanfare.
And while Jeeves disapprovingly points out that "gentlemen do not wear straw hats in the metropolis, sir", at times I can find him a bit stuffy. Wear it wherever you wish in the warm months.

4. Spats
Need I say more?

5. The Ascot
Or as our English friends like to refer to it, the Cravat. This article, above all else, is considered today to be the sure sign of a foolhardy snob with more money than brains. However, this casual look was popular with men of the middle and high classes back in vintage times, especially in the 1930s. While still a necktie, the loose and flowing ascot provided a flowing cascade of cloth that added a dash of adventurism to any safari jacket or partially open button-down shirt.
A favorite of Fred Astaire who often wore it with a scarf tied around his waist as a belt. Now that is style.

Let's hear what obscure and now scorned items you would like to see make a return.

Monday, December 15, 2008

WIW yesterday

Yesterday was strange. Warm early in the morning, no need for a jacket. Then after church it was snowing and the weather turned nasty.

Went for an early 1950s 'hepcat' look today. Not wearing a tie for once was a little strange but I kinda liked it, just so I don't like it too much.

-green Whippet
-early '50s 'atomic fleck' jacket
-'40s flannel trousers
-modern Florsheim shoes
-vintage lighter

click to enlarge
As you can see, the jacket is not form fitting like some jackets from the '30s and '40s. Remember, this was the time of the "Bold Look" when things were a little baggy and loose. However, even while things were loose, guys still wore their trousers up around their waists and in general did not look like slobs.
This is how dress casual should look today. Rather than pairing low-riding jeans with a jacket and tie (for that ironic look) why not wear classic garments (jacket, shirt, dress trousers) that are tastefully loose and comfortable but still sit up where they are supposed to, giving the wearer that stylish 'devil may care' attitude?

No, I don't smoke. I just needed a reason to show off my 'new' lighter. Yogi?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tommy Udo and the Joker

I watched an old movie called "Kiss of Death" (1947) a couple months ago and saw many parallels between the performance by Richard Widmark as deranged killer Tommy Udo in "Kiss of Death" and Heath Ledger's Joker in the recent "The Dark Knight".

Tommy Udo's black shirt and suit foretold of villainy in "Kiss of Death" and Widmark made the most of it, smiling and chuckling all the way as he left a path of death and destruction. Pushing a wheelchair-bound old woman down the stairs? Brutal.

After doing some research I discovered that Richard Widmark was a big fan of the Batman comics and was actually inspired by the Joker for his role as Tommy Udo.

With the release of "The Dark Knight" and Ledger's great performance in it as the Joker, I would not be surprised if Widmark's performance was examined in the development of Ledger's performance as the Joker.
Watch these two clips from "Kiss of Death" and you will see the similarities between the characters of Tommy Udo and the Joker.
clip 1

So, did Widmark's Joker-inspired portrayal of Tommy Udo help inspire Ledger's Joker? I like to think so.
Richard Widmark was ahead of his time and probably would have made an excellent Joker today, similar to Ledger's portrayal I would think. Both are great movies and make for interesting character studies.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Touch of Crash



July 28, 2008
The duds say it all - and it's depressing.

Taking a cue from the grim economy, this fall's fashions at Banana Republic, Gap and H&M are featuring a distinctly Depression-era trend of cloche hats, pencil skirts, conductor caps and baggy, vintage-style dresses.

One of the most popular styles appears to hark back to the impish, newsboy getup of the 1930s: baggy trousers, caps, pinstriped vests, oxford lace-up shoes and utilitarian handbags.

"We associate the newsboy look with urban poverty - street kids of the 1930s," said Daniel James Cole, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

"Given that we're in an unstable economy and an uncertain political landscape, it's possible that a retro style has come back as a way to connect with our heritage."

Fashion historian Heather Vaughan of the Western Region Costume Society of America said the new look may make economic sense, too.

"Even though we're in a recession, people still want interesting clothing," she said. "They're looking for more classic styles and subdued tones that will last a few seasons instead of one."

One newsboy-style outfit from The Gap drew mixed reviews from Wall Streeters last week.
"It looks manly," said Philipp Sielfeld, 29, of Goldman Sachs. "It reminds me of the little guys selling the newspapers during the Great Depression."

Adrien Vanderlinden, 41, loved the look-as-social-commentary.

"It's totally appropriate given the pessimistic mood of the economy," the Upper West Side project manager said. "The vest references the three-piece Wall Street suit, the loose pants are like the dropped hemlines of the late '30s, and there's no bling."

Al Thompson, 40, a senior employee at a recruiting company, hates the look - it covers far too much for his taste. He also predicts it won't last.

"Everything in fashion and economics is cyclical," he said. "This fashion has returned just as we're hitting a point in our economy much like what we faced in the '30s."

"Everything goes away and comes back."
While this article mainly deals with female fashion, it can also cross over into the area of male fashion.

It was nice being ahead of the trend for once. I welcome this swing toward the 'depression chic' look as long as it is done well: no low rise trousers worn with short vests, no 'pimpish' Wal-Mart newsboy caps or fedoras and please, no cheaply made clothing that fits badly and will fall apart the first time it is worn.

Though, that last wish is a little too high a standard for modern manufacturers, it would seem...

Monday, December 1, 2008


Had company yesterday so I wanted to look nice. I was leaning toward an early 1950s 'hepcat' look but decided on this late-1930s/early-1940s look instead.
A nice, gentle snow Saturday and Sunday. Perfect tweed and overcoat weather.

*broke out the brown overcoat for the first time this winter
*1940s Dobbs fedora
*1930s tie
*September 1940-dated Kaufmann suit
*AE shoes

click to enlarge photos

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Black Friday reminds me of why I'm glad I collect vintage: while the hoards of 'sheeple' trample and shoot each other in their desire for crap that will be thrown out after a year, I look for long forgotten things of high quality in which few others are interested.

Today, the (deadly) national holiday to consumerism. How sad.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GQ Designer of the Year

No surprise, really. Thom Browne is considered by many to be the groundbreaking designer of our time. And considering his style, you either love it or you don't. It seems that GQ fits into the former.

I don't know how I feel about the choice. On one hand I appreciate the clean, simplified lines of his more traditional 'everyman' wardrobe (his horrid runway outfits are another story). On the other I despise the 'too short, too small' look he has going. It's like the 1960s all over again, but shrunk to undesirable levels.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Precisely American

The English view of the Bold Look, circa 1951:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What I Wore Today

Went for a casual late-1940s/early-1950s look.

*green 1940s Stetson Whippet
*late-'40s/early-'50s jacket
*'40s tie
*vintage Swank tie bar
*modernGeorge trousers
*modern AE shoes
click photos to enlarge
This is a great green tie.

I have several new hats to show, including this Whippet but those will have to wait for later. Instead, let's take a look at the jacket.
I picked this up last Monday for a song. Great character with its short length, side knits and bellows on the front.
click photos to enlarge

Detailed shot of the bellows.

Another neat detail is the original "Campus" zipper pull. Whodda thunk it would still be attached?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sharp Dressed Man

May Cary Grant continue to be an inspiration to every sharp dressed man.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Yesterday I wore my mid-1940s flannel suit (again). It fits too well not to wear.

I need your opinion. My choice of footwear yesterday was questionable at best. What are your thoughts? Too big? Too loud? Do they go well with this suit?

click to enlarge photos
Boy, I look creepy in that photo.
All joking aside, this is my favorite suit. It must have been made for me in a former life; it just fits too well. It's scary in a good way. It'll take a masterpiece of vintage tailoring to knock this on off its pedestal.

Here's a look at the tie. It's new to me and wonderfully 1940s.

The hat is new to me as well. It's a 1940s Dobbs fedora with a pleated bow. Wonderful.

Also new to both you and I, here is a late-1930s overcoat. Fits me beautifully, just like the suit.

click photos to enlarge

If you detected an interesting texture on the overcoat, you have good eyes. Here's a closeup of the curly mystery fabric.
Made in northeastern Iowa, where I obtained it.
The only tag would have you believe the curly mystery fabric is alpaca, but I'm sceptical.
Anyone know what "Chetelham fabric" is exacly (other than a curly mystery fabric)?
I thoroughly enjoy overcoat weather, just as long as I'm not without an overcoat.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

What About Hats? Part 2

It's been far too long since I posted the first part of my hat tutorial. Now is as good a time as any to continue.

Last time we looked at the fedora in general, learning a bit of its history and characteristics of each time period. Now we dig into specific characteristics of the fedora, beginning with the crown crease.

When I say crown crease, I'm talking about the shape of the top of the crown. There are multitudes of different shapes the crown could be creased in but we are only going to glance at the three most popular ones for the fedora.

First is the Center Crease.
The center crease is a single large crease that runs down the center of the crown (hence its name) from front to back. This creased is most often and successfully used on hats with tall crowns to avoid the crease from coming into contact with the wearer's head and avoiding any misshaping of the crease.
This crease can also give the hat a nice straight or even reverse taper when viewed from the side.
click on all photos to enlarge
This center crease was very popular from the 'teens through the 1930s when it started to lose popularity in favor of the creases below. It came back for a short time in the 1960s.

The next crease is the Teardrop Crease.
Also known as the C-Crease, much of the crown is pushed down inside itself to form a smooth rounded crease that looks like a teardrop. The center of the crease bulges back out to make room for the wearer's head.
This crease became popular during the 1930s, the same time the crease below also became popular.

Last but definitely not least is the Diamond Crease.
Similar to the Teardrop Crease, the Diamond has four corners to the crease as opposed to one in the Teardrop. This crease can give a tall hat some reverse taper when viewed from the front.
Like the Teardrop Crease, the Diamond Crease became popular during the 1930s and continued through into the 1950s.

Ribbons and bows are mainly just decorative and help cover up stitching from the sweatband that would otherwise be visible. Like crown creases, bows can change the attitude of the hat and give it life. The bow has a simple rule: for men's hats the bow is on the left, for women it's on the right. Let's look at several more popular styles of bows.

This is the traditional bow that is most often seen on semi-formal fedoras. These are seen from the 1920s through to today.

Next, an earlier and more simple form of the traditional bow. These simple, boxy bows were common during the 'teens and twenties. If a hat has one of these bows, there's a good chance that it's pretty old.

The western-style thin ribbon and bow give any hat a dash of ruggedness and a casual feeling. This type of bow and ribbon are seen on cowboy hats as well as western fedoras like the desirable Stetson "Open Road" and "Stratoliner".
Note the 'wind trolley' button below the bow.
The back bow is harder to find than the traditional and thin bows. Originally popular in France during the 1930s, the back bow made a comeback in the United States in the mid-1950s. The hat below is a 1950s Royal Stetson.
The pleated bow, like the back bow, can be difficult to find nowadays. Popular back in the 1920s through to the 1940s, the pleated bow eventually faded from the limelight. Like all of the other bows pictured, the pleated bow can come in many different styles and the one pictured is just one of many variations.

Lastly, the tapered ribbon is perhaps the most difficult ribbon/bow style to find. This type of ribbon/bow is most often found on summer Panama hats, though the one shown below is on a late-1920s or early-1930s felt fedora.

The last thing we'll look at is brim treatment. The brims below are shown from least to most formal for fedoras.

First and least formal is the Raw Edge. As can be seen, the raw cut felt is left unaltered.

Next up is the Welt Edge. The raw cut edge is folded onto itself, either on the top of bottom of the brim, and stitched down. The brim below has three rows of stitching.

Below is the Self-Welt Edge, also known as the Cavanagh Edge, named after its inventor. Like the Welt edge above, the brim if folded over onto itself. But, rather then using rows of stitching to keep it folded, extreme pressure is used to meld the folded felt into the brim. This process turns the two pieces of brim into one smooth, brim edge.
This brim treatment is rare nowadays and has become a lost art. No modern hat company makes the Self-Welt Edge because it would be too expensive, especially when the simple and cheap Welt Edge can do the job.

The Bound Edge.
There are two main style of the Bound Edge. The first uses a thin strip of grosgrain ribbon...
...while the second utilizes a thick grosgrain ribbon. This is my favorite brim treatment.
We'll continue to look at the fedora and eventually the homburg with upcoming posts. Hopefully you are getting a feel for vintage fedoras and what to look for.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Late-1940s Anson tie clip.


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