Friday, August 7, 2009

The Bad and the Ugly

Let's not fool ourselves: while the Golden Era was just that for men's clothing, things were not perfect. Not everything was elegant, quality made or well thought out.

Let's examine some of those less than perfect looks.

1. The Fish Net Shirt
From Esquire we see the "fish net shirt" on the right (while I don't mind the striped sports coat on the left, the matching 'muffler' is just too much and the two would only be worn in combination together by someone willing to be seen with someone wearing a fish net shirt).

click photo to enlarge
Quite frankly, don't do the fish net and don't be seen with anyone wearing one. Avoid anything fish net, especially if it is a shirt. Of note is the commentary stating that in some areas "shirtless bathing is still prohibited". How things have changed.

2. The White Dress Jacket
While I actually like the look of the mess jacket and it was a rather popular style for a short time in the mid-1930s, it was eventually put aside by most well dressed folks in favor of the traditional dinner jacket and tails.
If you tried to pull the mess jacket off today you'd either be mistaken for a waiter or a member of the military (which, surprisingly, has kept the mess jacket for formal wear).
click photo to enlarge
Too bad Jeeves disapproves of it (starting at the 27 second mark). I think it quite snappy and athletic looking, enhancing the length of the wearer's legs and making him appear taller.

3. Oxford Bags
click photo to enlarge
While the original Oxford Bags (example shown above) were not horrendously bad (originating at Oxford in the 1920s, hence the name, these wide-legged trousers were worn over plus-fours and similar sport trousers after such 'immature' garments were banned by the school for in-class wear), the later mainstream and more extreme cousin of the Oxford Bags did reach a high level of insanity.
While the original Oxford Bags measured no more than 48" in circumference at the cuff, the extreme Bags measured much more, upwards of 56" or more in circumference. Below are examples of such extreme Bags.
click photos to enlarge
The French were the most radical in their use of Oxford Bags. Below is one such example of a French dandy sporting extreme Oxford Bags.
Oxford Bags were popular with the youth and some musicians during the mid- to late 1920s and even into the 1930s before (thankfully) dying out.

These are just a few stinkers of the Golden Era; we'll look at some more at another time.


tom said...

Those pants are just plain funny. I can't believe that people really wore those. I would probably trip over all that extra material at the bottom.

Charles H. said...

The first oxford bags photo looks straight out of a John Held Jr. cartoon.

Horatio said...

Egads! Monumentally hideous, especially the first illustration. To paraphrase Dave Barry, a dog would be hesitant to relieve himself on some of those clothes.

Like you, the only thing I like is the mess jacket, which I believe was introduced in 1933 and had a brief run of popularity. I would have looked good in one 20 pounds ago.

Turling said...

Ah, the fishnet shirt has never been the same since Right Said Fred featured it in their "I'm Too Sexy" video. Sad, really, that I know that.

Phil Friedman said...

The mess jacket is an odd duck. It requires the tailoring of a tailcoat, while having none of its advantages. Natty, yes--practical, no.

Laurence John said...

there is much confusion about how wide the original English Oxford bag was. this seems to be because people have taken the circumference and doubled it.

they were usually 11" to 13" front to back (11" is a fairly common 'wide' trouser of the early 30s. 13" is much wider and will cover the average man's shoe) ...equating to 22" to 26" circumference.

this figure has been taken as the front to back measurement and doubled, resulting in the grossly exaggerated measurements mistakenly talked of today. i'm not referring to the faddishly huge off-shoots that appeared subsequently in America and France... those really were that huge, as your photos demonstrate.

if you look at pages 109 and 112 of 'Dressing the Man' you will see photos of the original Oxford bags. in each case they look around 22" to 26" circumference. Jack Buchanan's are shoe-hiders but nowhere near 48".

TinTrunk said...

I agree that there's much confusion about the actuality of Oxford bags, and many of the pictures that are used as examples of the style were probably publicity stunts and/or gag photos - quite possibly mocking the trend!

Your 'Frenchman' is not actually French, but an Englishman who wore those particularly exagerrated Oxford bags for a bet. I have the original picture in a book published in 1938, and discuss it here.


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