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.


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