Thursday, December 23, 2010

Looking at the Past: Denim

Looking through the wonderful photos from the early 1940s over at the Denver Post is great fun. The color photos help bring the war era alive in a way black and white photos cannot.

One thing that I noticed is the prevalence of denim in work and very casual environments.

click image to enlarge

Unlike today, denim was meant purely to be worn when the wearer was going to get down to the nitty gritty. Rarely was denim ever 'dressed up' with more formal accoutrements (sports coat, nice shoes, dressy shirt, etc.) like it often is today. One unusual exception to this were farmers who liked to wear worn out suit jackets over their denim overalls, though I doubt they were trying to 'dress up' by wearing this combo.

I like to keep denim where it was originally meant to be: at work and extreme play.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

WIW: Penney's Overcoat

The recent cool weather called for wearing an overcoat today. While it was fairly cold, it wasn't cold enough yet for my heavy overcoats.

Therefore, I broke out and for the first time wore my light-weight 1930s belted overcoat.

click images to enlarge

I've had this for roughly a year but it needed some alterations, including the replacement of the buttons. Even so, the arms are still a tad short but I'm not too worried about that, it's a normal situation for me.

Belted overcoats were pretty common over in Europe during the 1930s but was not as common over in the states. It's interesting that while a majority of American trench coats (both vintage and modern) are fully belted, very few American overcoats (both vintage and modern) have belts. Who really knows why, perhaps just different societies favoring different styles: a geographic and cultural thing. A plain buttoned belt-less front was enough for most American men, though you can see a belted overcoat in the 1936 New York City photograph below:

My overcoat is somewhat lightweight and unconstructed, almost like a robe. It has lazy peaked lapels that slightly slope downward along with patch pockets but lacks a breast pocket.

The back of the coat is as interesting as the front: a full-length center gusset runs down the back ending with pleats in the skirt. This helps the well-fitted overcoat move with the wearer.

The pleated 'vent' (though not a true vent) is very similar to the Paddock Coat in the 1935 Apparel Arts illustration below:

Despite the short arms I'm happy with this piece. Vintage American belted overcoats are difficult to find and this is a fine example of one.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


The 1930s was a decade of sartorial oddities, at least in our eyes. Belted backs, bi-swing backs, pleated pockets, back gussets. Very unique and complex treatments that are rarely if ever seen today. But it was the norm back then.

Several months ago during some of my travels I stumbled upon the late 1930s sports coat below.

click images to enlarge

This jacket has a couple odd characteristics. First, it has two breast pockets. While this was not unheard of on leisure jackets, it was a little less common on regular sports coats.

Another example of a dual breast-pocketed jacket is shown below. These images are from the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" and show Jimmy Stewart's fantastic jacket with lazy peaked lapels to go with the dual breast pockets.

It should be noted that Stewart provided his own wardrobe for "Wonderful Life". The dual breast pocket feature was more of a Hollywood/dandy/higher class trend and most likely would not have been picked up by the lowly and poor small town clerk character that Stewart played in the movie.

Secondly and most unusually: all of the patch pockets are pleated with vertical 'shark gills'.

Definitely an unusual and sophisticated tailoring feature that added another layer of character to an already unique jacket. The material is also interesting, kind of a smooth yet slightly nubby tweed:

With such unusual treatments on the front of the jacket you'd expect even more craziness on the backside: a belted back at least, maybe with pleats if we're lucky. But you'd be wrong.

Just a plain, ventless back. It's a party up front, all business in back. What a combo.

This unusual jacket is a perfect example of the oddities spawned during the 1930s and has a well deserved place in my personal collection.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

WIW: At a Wedding

Several weekends ago I escorted my lovely lady friend to a wedding where she was the Maid of Honour.

Here are some pics from it.
click images to enlarge

We had a good time.

Friday, October 1, 2010

More Fuzzies

Two new 'velvours' for me, both purchased within roughly the last month.

This first one is from the 1920s and seen better days but definitely has a lot of life left. The liner is gone.

click images to enlarge

This Borsalino "Angora" imported into the U.S. from Italy dates from the 1930s. It's in excellent condition and even has a trolley cord. Plus is a gorgeous pinkish-gray:

And they're both my size.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quality in the Details

Yesterday I wore my plaid "Style Mart" suit to a wedding (photos soon).

While dressing I noticed a neat little detail I hadn't seen before even though I've worn the suit in the past: the belt loops.

click images to enlarge

While it looks like a normal belt loop from the outside, there is actually a smaller loop beneath. This small loop is for narrow belts like the one I'm wearing in the photo.

All of the belt loops on this suit have an extra one underneath. The suit is from the late '40s/early '50s and was off-the-rack.

These belt loops are just a sign of quality that we don't see on too many modern suits, especially off-the-rack.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WIW: The Conversion

The conversion from Summer to Fall is always an interesting time, especially when it's fairly quick.

Sunday was very cool and drizzly; the kind of weather I love. Good for staying inside and being a bum. And for sweaters.

Everything I'm wearing was thrifted and only the jacket is vintage: a 1940s suede leather jacket with a belted back. A very rugged, easy-wearing jacket.

I love a sweater with a large collar. And is it ever so itchy even with a long-sleeved shirt underneath, being 100% wool!

Combine elements (classic sweater with rugged leather jacket) to create a unique and simple yet attractive kit.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hat Etiquette in the Post-modern Age

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article discussing hat etiquette in today's world. If you think about it, guys nowadays either don't know hat etiquette at all or have an outdated view of hat etiquette. Let's face it, hat etiquette hasn't changed since the Golden Era but the rest of the world has.


Discovering Hats, a New Generation Brims With Anxiety Over Etiquette
Old Rules Flummox Young Hipsters; 'I'm Wearing an $80 Fedora!'


Hector Ramirez sort of knows, from watching old movies, that men are supposed to take off their hats when indoors. But the 19-year-old Brown University student wears fedoras in class—with jeans—anyway.

"If I'm wearing a hat and it's part of my look, I don't think I should have to take it off," he says. On a recent trip to New York, an usher at a church had to remind him to take off his fedora. "I was wearing it all day and I guess I kind of just forgot I had it on."

Inspired by designer runway shows, celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and even, in some cases, old pictures of Frank Sinatra, more young men are going mad for hats. But the hat renaissance is creating a quandary for a generation of men and boys who grew up without learning hat-wearing etiquette from their fathers. Many are making up their own rules about when and where to take them off.

The trend may be old hat to hipsters in areas like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who started wearing fedoras, rounded derby hats and, in warmer weather, straw hats, more than two years ago. But now hats are starting to catch on among some men in suburbs, the Midwest and beyond. Gap and J. Crew say they have witnessed strong hat sales this spring and summer while department stores like Barneys New York have been expanding their assortments after years of general indifference to hats. Sales of designer-brand "blocked" hats such as fedoras and straw hats in particular "are definitely robust," says Jay Bell, a vice president at Barneys.

It's a bittersweet turn of events for hatmakers, who witnessed their business fall off a cliff in the 1960s, when legions of men abandoned wearing hats.

Many companies are no longer around to see the current revival. The number of manufacturers of fur-felt hats, wool-felt hats and hat forms in the U.S. totaled 185 in 1947, according to the Census Bureau. Now there are only three big hatmakers in the U.S. making fur-felt hats and wool-felt hats, says Jack Lambert, a former vice president of the Headwear Association.

Just 20% of hats sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S versus 90% in the 1940s, estimates Mr. Lambert, who is vice president of headwear company Dorfman Pacific.
In the 1930s, '40s, and parts of the '50s, a man wasn't considered fully dressed unless he had a hat on. But by the 1960s, hat wearing fell off, partly as a result of longer hairstyles, cars with lower roofs and resistance from some World War II vets who didn't want to wear things on their heads after wearing helmets for so long.

John F. Kennedy's habit of not wearing a hat was seen as the final blow for hat wearing.

Today, confusion over the rules of hat wearing is leading to some awkward situations.
Eric Soler of Hackensack, N.J., took offense when he tried to enter a bar in Hoboken recently with a fedora atop his head, only to be told there was a no-hat policy.
"It just floored me," says the 38-year-old. "I said 'I'm not wearing a baseball cap or a ski hat, I'm wearing an $80 fedora!' He grudgingly obliged and held the hat in his hand all night.

The fashion trend has prompted some rethinking of indoor hat etiquette at the Emily Post Institute. Spokeswoman Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, says it is now OK if a man is wearing a hat at a bar or nightclub as part of his style. "In that kind of situation, I'd feel cool with it," she says.

But when being introduced to someone, "that's when I'd remove the hat or maybe tilt it back a little so the brim isn't in your eyes and the person can see your face," she says. "It really comes down to people like making eye contact during an introduction and a hat can sometimes block that."

Several students at Lycee International de Los Angeles in Los Angeles started wearing pageboy hats and fedoras to school in the past year. When reminded of the school's dress code barring hats in the building, some students became defensive about why they should be allowed to keep them on.

"Responses range from complaints that their hair is messed up, that it is part of their outfit, it doesn't affect their work, et cetera…" says Sarah Davis-Weyman, an elementary English teacher at the school's Los Feliz campus. "Most of the time, the kids rush to put their hats back on for recess and lunch."

Sometimes, students are in too much of a rush. Harper Rubin recalls getting into a little "incident" with Ms. Davis-Weyman, who reprimanded him when he put on his hat in the hall as students were lining up to go outside.

"I didn't totally agree with that," says the 11-year-old, who admits he made a big deal out of it. "I know you take your hat off inside but I didn't think it went that far," he says.

Other guys base decisions on whether to remove their hats on how classy a joint is. Luis Quaresma, of San Jose, Calif., who likes wearing fedoras, says "If I'm going for fast food, I'll leave it on. If I'm having a nice sit-down dinner, I'll take it off." When out at a party or club, the 30-year-old says, "I don't take my hat off unless girls want me to take it off."

Some younger men do follow the traditional rules of indoor hat etiquette but it isn't always appreciated. "It came back crushed," recalls 30-year-old Vasabjit Banerjee, of the fedora he turned over to the coat check at a restaurant a little over a year ago.

The general decline in hat wearing led to the demise of proper hat racks in restaurants and bars. Mr. Banerjee, who lives in Bloomington, Ind., says he now puts his hats on a chair beside him or on the table when in restaurants.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

"It's gone, Jim."

Early last year on a clear, freezing February night and morning a fire raged in the center of Boone, my hometown. It consumed two buildings and damaged another. One person was killed in their upstairs apartment, where the fire started.

News story and video

The buildings were beyond repair.

Destruction of the buildings began on July 5 of this year. The two fire damaged buildings were destroyed first. While from the early 20th century, they were not of architectural importance: they were somewhat rundown and been changed so much that I considered them to be a bit of an eyesore.

However, today they tore down the important Mason/Meyers building. The photo below is from the very early 20th century, the Meyers building standing on the left side with the tower and cupola:

It housed businesses throughout the building (including a bank, jewelers and men's clothing store) until about the 1950s/1960s when the upper floors were made into apartments.

There's some family history in this building; my great-grandpa owned it from the early 1940s to the 1960s. During WW2 he donated the cupola to the war effort. Meyers was a men's clothing store in the middle of the century and I own a fedora and tie that were originally from Meyers.

Unfortunately the latest owner pretty much abondoned the building and let it rot, unbeknownst to the city and most folks who live here. Had he kept it up it probably would not have to have been torn down as the fire didn't do any real damage to the structure, though there was some smoke damage.

Here are some photos from today. Note the pink granite.

Unhappy me:

Here is a short news story and photos from inside a few months before it was torn down.

Thankfully my great-great grandpa's old haberdashery a couple buildings down the block survived untouched and is still standing. Boone has had bad luck when it comes to losing historical architecture, both to fires and the desire of the city. It lost it's big fancy downtown hotel to fire back in the '60s and several businesses were lost to fire some time ago on the same block as the Meyers building. At least three major fires within the last 100 years, talk about a streak of bad luck.

The turn of the century railroad station as well as the fancy old post office were both torn down by the city in favor of more modern construction. We're kicking ourselves now.

Hate to see good architecture go down the drain.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Stacy Adams "Kingsman"- Modern Twist on a Classic

Classics can be updated while still remaining classic. But there is a fine line that, if crossed, turns a classic into trendy garbage.

You may have noticed the shoes I was wearing in my last WIW post. They were a great match with the suit and added a bit of flair to an otherwise conservative kit (a little too conservative for my taste). It adds a touch of uniqueness without being too over the top.

click images to enlarge

But what are those shoes? What is the quality? From where did they come?
Read on.

The shoes are modern Stacy Adams, the "Kingsman" model. And while the Kingsman comes in attractive solid brown and solid black, it was the two-tone black and white version that caught my eye.
A solid brown or black shoe is the foundation upon which every good shoe wardrobe should be built, but once the bedrock is in place a sturdy wardrobe of non-conventional shoes can be created: shoes that are meant more for fun and dandyism than for work or conservative dress.
That is why I was drawn to the two-tone Kingsman: my conventional shoe wardrobe has been well filled, allowing me to concentrate on more eye-catching purchases.

Why the Kingsman? First, they are made by Stacy Adams. Stacy Adams is known as a producer of good quality shoes for a decent price. I would call them a high mid-range shoe company, a step under Allen Edmond and the like.

Looking at the shoes, you can see that they are in fact well made. The uppers are made fully of leather. The leather itself is fairly thick but soft and these shoes require a very short period of time to break in, though the shoe did rub my lateral malleolus 'bumps' raw at first.

The soles are made of man made materials (read rubber) but are sturdy and lack ugly lugs.

The heels are in a casual dark brown/brown/dark brown combination, continuing the two-tone trend throughout the shoe.

Along with the two-tone sole and leather uppers, the white stitching also contrasts the 'black' leather section of the upper. This white stitching adds a bit of a casual feeling to the shoe, allowing it to be worn like saddle shoes in combination with casual kits (jeans, casual button-down shirts, slacks, t-shirts, etc.). Even with the casual feeling of the shoes, they are still able to be worn with a suit as the top photo of this post demonstrates.

Here's where Stacy Adams put a slight twist on the classic spectator.
On the toecap of each shoe is a laser etched design much like the flames often painted on the nose of a vintage hot rod.

That subtle design adds a touch of 'rockabilly' or hepcat feel to the shoes, something desired by many these days.

Another interesting decision by Stacy Adams was the use of burn brown waxed shoelaces like those found on vintage athletic shoes. Just another piece of the puzzle that adds to the casual look of the shoe, one that I like very much.

You'll also notice that the 'black' leather isn't really black, it's a dark navy blue. Stacy Adams states that the Kingsman is 'weathered', giving it a bit of a vintage look. It is done quite well and the blue stands out nicely when compared to true black and white spectators, making it more versatile for use with both jeans and suits.

The general shape is pleasing to the eye and keeps with a more basic design when compared to modern shoes with their long pointed toes that may or may not curl upward at the end. Though it does not possess the desirable spade sole shape sometimes found on higher class shoes, the Kingsman has a classic wingtip design that is somewhere between 'sleek' and 'gunboat': an indicator pointing toward the casual.

Other than the initial rawness on my lateral malleolus 'bumps', the shoes are very comfortable with moderate arch support. An insole would only add to the already comfortable fit. They appear to be true to size.

I purchased my Kingsman shoes for $85 shipped from Shipping was quick and communication was good (there are also other very nice and well priced shoes on Zappos). You can also find the same shoes on other websites for a similar price.

I give these shoes two thumbs up. Stacy Adams walked the tightrope between classic and trendy with the Kingsman but did not fall off. If you are looking for a less dressy spectator that can be worn with either jeans or a suit, I would recommend the Stacy Adams "Kingsman".

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Another WIW, one right after the other. Aren't you lucky.

Wasn't real hot today, just warm. And that kind of weather calls for a 3-piece suit.

click images to enlarge

The suit is a 1940-dated 'Fashion Park' 3-piece with a very subtle plaid pattern that's nearly impossible to see. Nicely fitted with a nipped waist, flat front trousers and full-cut legs. I'm not usually a fan of flat front trousers but these are nice. The fabric drapes wonderfully.

The hat is a late '40s Royal Deluxe Stetson.

As for the shoes, well, you'll have to wait until the next post to find out about those.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

'Vintage' WIW

I wore the following several weeks ago while on vacation and never got around to posting it.

click images to enlarge

It's an early 1950s "Style Mart" suit. The tie is early '50s as well.
Hard to see in this photo, the suit fabric pattern is an astounding red and blue plaid. The hat is a 1930s Dobbs "Cross Country", a lightweight summer hat that lacks a liner.

Here's an image from earlier this year showing the plaid to full effect.

The material is worsted wool, a good fabric for a warm day like that one several weeks ago...

Monday, July 5, 2010

For the Ladies

Going off the beaten track, here's something for you ladies out there.

I know nothing about make-up but I do enjoy the short-hair 'Audrey Hepburn' 1950s look in a woman.

Embedding has been disabled on this video so you can visit it by clicking here.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Storm Rider

It's a manly name that evokes images of stonefaced cowboys hustling cattle in a sudden downpour of the Southwestern mesa lands...

The smell of cool rain on the hot red soil warns of a looming storm on the horizon. A gust of wind from the direction of the storm tells him it'll be a gully washer. His horse acts timid as sheets of rain rush towards him.
Thankfully the cowboy is wearing his "Storm Rider" jacket. The denim shell and wool blanket lining will keep him both warm and dry. The cowboy pops his corderoy collar as raindrops begin to fall.

The Storm Rider is a manly jacket born out of the necessity of protection on the range. Most examples found today date from the 1960s and 1970s but have that great Golden Era look about them. The Storm Rider came in two styles: lined with a blanket and unlined. The tag even shows a cowboy weathering a storm. It can't get more manly than that.

Or can it?
Steve McQueen...

...and Clint Eastwood think it can...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day For Fathers, Day For Ties

With Father's Day upon us we often debate what to get the man who has everything. The simple answer is "get him a tie".

I can hear you groan in agony. "A tie? Everyone does that, it's a bad joke. I'll get him an ugly tie and he'll never wear it. Might as well burn my money."

The thing is, we're not kids anymore. We adults should be able to pick out attractive ties for our dads. No more Bugs Bunny ties, get rid of the sports ties, nix the desire to give him that holiday tie. No one likes them, especially dad.

Encourage his desire to dress up and look nice by getting him a colorful and fun yet conservative tie. Even grown men like color and zest, just as long as it's done in a grown-up way. Try some regimental stripes. Maybe a herringbone. Or houndstooth. Get creative with it.

Heck, ties are cheap, get him two or three. And while you're at it, get him a nice dress shirt. See where it goes; he might actually catch some interest and build a nice wardrobe of his own.

Get dad a tie this year. Again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Devil Bug

I recently picked up an early '50s leisure/lounge jacket that was so commonly seen throughout the 1940s and 1950s:

It has a great 'atomic fleck' fabric pattern.

click images to enlarge

Unfortunately the devil bug got to it before I did:

A good reweaver could do wonders with this jacket but the question is, would it be worth the price and effort?


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