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iGent Myths Busted!


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#1 Sator

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 03:20 AM

On the internet today there are a number of men's clothing fora that have invented numerous Eternal Rules of Permanent Style that have no historical basis to support the claims that strict Rules exist which are very ancient, hallowed, and traditional. Most of these Rules are in fact probably scarcely older than the internet, or represent personal preferences which have been elevated to the Mythological Status of Eternal Rules.

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Let's go through and bust a few of them today.

1. Gentlemen Never Wear Black Lounge Suits

No published sources back this claim up as being an "Eternal Rule for Gentlemen". I have gone through countless older guides to dressing, but none mention any such a Rule. Black lounge suits were popular at the start of the 20th century but the all-black look goes out of fashion mid-century, perhaps a result of its association with fascism, but also due to its association with the stuffy formalism of the Victorian era, although the black jacket with striped trousers remained popular mid-century.

From Minister's Gazette of Fashion, August, London, 1914: "A black vicuña lounge cut shorter and closer fitting":

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I draw your attention to the remark "there is no striking novelty in the matter of style..." suggesting that there was nothing unusual or novel about a black lounge suit.

Today, the all-black look has lost enough of its former social and political stigma that it has now swung back in to become all the rage - just like in the Victorian era. The colour of suits is something dictated more by fashion than by Permanent Rules of Dress. Of course, black remains problematic in that it washes many complexions out, and can look a bit lifeless or funereal when everyone turns out dressed in the same dreary black. Still, that's quite a different matter to proclaiming it a Violation of the Eternal Rules of Permanent Style. The ubiquity of ugly-as-sin black and ill fitting fused suits is enough that I wish such an Eternal Rule of Permanent Style did exist - but that is wishful thinking! Then again a well cut and made black suit can look very nice worn by the right person.

More on this subject:

http://www.cutterand...hp?showtopic=84

2. Gentlemen Always Show 1/2" of Shirt Cuff

That is, when the coat is worn, the coat sleeves should be short enough to allow precisely 1/2" of shirt cuff to show. Again, most tailoring books published over the last couple of centuries mention nothing of this. One American author in the 1950s suggested showing 1/4" of sleeve, but most say that how much shirt sleeve shows - or whether it shows at all - is entirely a matter of personal taste. Fashion seems to play a role here because in the 1960s, when coats and trouser hems became shorter so too did coat sleeves. Yet this photo is from the 1960s - the tailor won top prize in a competition for this suit:

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3. Gentlemen Never Wear Dinner Jackets with Single Breasted/Step Lapels (Notched Lapels in American English)

Dinner jackets have been made with SB revers for almost as long as the garment has been worn. Whether single breasted dinner jackets take roll collars, DB or SB lapels is dictated more by fashion. However, some feel that an SB dinner jacket with DB lapels looks dressier and less like a regular lounge jacket for daywear. This is entirely a matter of personal taste - there is no evidence that this was ever considered an Eternal Rule of Permanent Style. In any case, nobody bothered to warn James Bond:

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More on this subject:

http://www.cutterand...p?showtopic=143

4. No Brown in Town

Brown has been a colour that has come into fashion for city coats worn as business or formal wear on and off over the last couple of centuries. It has never been as persistently fashionable as blues, greys or at times, black, but I have never come across a publication from the last two centuries that expressly stated a Rule forbidding it. Brown, like black, doesn't suit as wide a range of complexions as blue or grey.

This comes from Bacharach, New York, 1955:

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5. No Brown After Six

Again, I've never seen this one formally in print. In the 19th century, brown coats were sometimes worn in the evening eg to the opera. The following plate comes from the April 1st, 1830 edition of The Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion with a caption saying "Morning and Evening Dresses":

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Accompanying text:

At a ball given by a dashing Countess, the greater part of the gentlemen wore brown or blue coats...


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However, through much of the 20th century black was a much more fashionable colour for evening dress, but this has become less widespread today. It is difficult to assert that a mid-20th century fashion somehow has more validity as a Permanent Style Rule than either a 19th or 21st century fashion.

6. Gentlemen Always Leave the Bottom Waistcoat Button Undone

It is claimed that this tradition dates back to Edward VII, who grew too fat to do up the bottom button. This too is a myth. Edward VII was an obsessively fastidious dresser who could afford to get Henry Poole to make up a whole new wardrobe if he could no longer fit his old clothes. Waistcoats with bottom show buttons that could not be done up pre-date Edward VII. Edward Sexton says that this fashion of undoing the bottom waistcoat button was relevant to when brace trousers with a very high rise were fashionable enabling waistcoats to be cut a bit longer, but since today the rise on belt trousers is always lower it is harder to cut the waistcoat long enough to be able to readily wear with the bottom button undone without the belt showing or the waistcoat looking too long. This is clearly something that is dictated more by fashion than by the Eternal Rules of Permanent Style.

7. Gentlemen Never Wear Double-Breasted Coats with Single Breasted Revers

Again, this is a matter of taste and preference. There are plenty of 19th century fashion plates showing DB coats with SB revers and they have come in and out of fashion ever since. They were last seen in the 1980s, and may be due to reappear soon. Perhaps you could argue that gentlemen never wear things that are out of fashion. Here Bernhard Weatherill looks quite smart wearing just this type of coat (complete with cloth covered buttons - iGents avert your eyes!):

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Hardy Amies even had a pet peeve about how single breasted coats should never take DB revers:

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Yet, SB dinner jackets and morning coats often have DB lapels!

8. Gentlemen Prefer Grey Suits: Navy Lounge Suits Risk Looking Fast or Outré

I really don't know where this one comes from. I can't find any references suggesting that this was considered a steadfast Eternal Rule of Permanent Style anywhere. Here are a couple of typical mid-century dress guides:

http://www.cutterand...p?showtopic=776

http://www.cutterand...indpost&p=19304

As with other texts I have looked at there is nothing to say that greys are more conservative, formal or proper than blues. If they didn't have a problem with navy in the 1950s, I can't understand the Angst over it being "too fast, too outré" in this day and age. Beau Brummell used to wear a dark blue dress coat in town.
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): "Tradition ist die Weitergabe des Feuers und nicht die Anbetung der Asche."

"Tradition is about passing on the flame, and not the worshipping of ashes"

#2 NOBD

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 04:08 AM

Interesting, Sator. Keep busting.

#3 GeorgeB

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 05:16 AM

Myth buster, Sator the revelator. Interesting reading!

#4 hymo

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 05:23 AM

Found this in an iGent hive. True Blood, HBO.

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#5 hymo

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 05:26 AM

BTW, is that DB too soft? One of the shoulders appears to be collapsing. Some jackets have an extra piece of chest canvas in that area to prevent just that.

Edited by hymo, 01 September 2011 - 05:27 AM.


#6 Torry Kratch

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 06:11 AM

Myth buster, Sator the revelator. Interesting reading!

+1

#7 Digby Snaffles

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 08:21 AM

The 'Never Brown in Town' "rule" has always seemed rather ambiguous to me anyway. When people cite it do they mean the City of London (this is going to be all Anglo-centric I'm afraid) or would they include Westminster as well? What of Boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea, or smaller more rural cities like Oxford? I had presumed that maybe it just applied to workers in the City, having heard that some of the old boys can be rather fastidious*. Nothing that overly concerns me anyhow.

p.s. *I believe there may also be one about wearing brown shoes with a blue suit?

#8 Sator

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 11:19 AM

p.s. *I believe there may also be one about wearing brown shoes with a blue suit?


I have published references that discuss this one.

1. Clothes and the Man by Sydney D. Barney published by The Tailor & Cutter Ltd London, 1962:

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In brackets he writes "brown shoes with dark blue suit are undesirable". So far this Rule may appear to have been confirmed.

2. International Wool Secretariat, Regent St, London circa 1950s:

http://www.cutterand...p?showtopic=776

For the section clearly titled Lounge Suit for Town Wear they write:

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They tell you that not only should you avoid brown shoes with blue suits but also with dark grey suits.

But, wait, note the talk about wearing a brown suit as town wear! :ike: They even list a black suit as an option for town wear. =@

3. Man About Town (Spring 1953 issue) Published by The Tailor & Cutter:

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Full text:

http://www.cutterand...indpost&p=19304

It just totally contradicts what the previous writers have said about avoiding brown shoes with a dark blue suit - even though the publisher is the same. They even say it is fine to wear brown suede shoes with a city suit! They then add that if you are wearing brown shoes with a blue suit that your hat and gloves should match the brown colour of your shoes. So much for "no brown in town". Myth Busted. :Big Grin:

4. Bert Bacharach in his book Right Dress: Success Through Better Grooming (New York, 1955):

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So Bacharach too rejects the notion that you can't wear brown shoes with a blue suit as being dated.

I have researched all of these Rules and this sort of contradiction is typical. Clearly, the suggestion to avoid brown shoes with a blue suit is not an Eternal Rule of Permanent Style but just an expression of the author's personal preference in matters of taste and fashion - as it relates to the period.

Personally, I think that dark mahogany browns look quite nice with dark greys and blues. Like this pair of Edward Green Dovers in Dark Oak:

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Oh...yes, I'd forgotten about The Permanent Rule of Eternal Style about not wearing Derby type open laced shoes with a suit.

If you find Oxfords look sleeker and dressier this bespoke pair of Gaziano & Girlings (from the Leffot website) would be fine with a navy suit:

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Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): "Tradition ist die Weitergabe des Feuers und nicht die Anbetung der Asche."

"Tradition is about passing on the flame, and not the worshipping of ashes"

#9 Sator

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 01:48 PM

Another Look at the Rule About "No Brown in Town"

We've seen how 1950s texts openly talk about brown (and black!) suits as an option for town wear. Let's take another dip into the Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion, 1830. Yes, it's pretty damned ancient but Beau Brumell is frequently cited in discussions of these Eternal Rules, which are supposed to be based on old traditions.

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Those dandies were a pretty extravagant lot!

Figure 1 wears a "nut-brown frock coat" for morning dress - faced with "black (sic) Genoa velvet".
Figure 2 appears to wear brown to taupe coloured trousers.
Figrue 3 is shown wearing an "olive-brown dress cloak" as evening wear over the top of a dark blue coat.

They don't even seem to care in the slightest about the fact they are wearing black shoes and hats with their brown coats and cloaks. Nor do they hesitate to wear a brown cloak over a blue coat.

So much for Eternal Rules being grounded in Ancient Traditions. If you look at all of these texts from both the 20th and 19th century together you just have to admit this simple fact about the No Brown In Town Rule:

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Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): "Tradition ist die Weitergabe des Feuers und nicht die Anbetung der Asche."

"Tradition is about passing on the flame, and not the worshipping of ashes"

#10 Der Zuschneider

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 02:58 PM

Very nice, everything is possible, no excuses.
So: now we can concentrate on producing and practicing sample garment.

Schneidern heisst, viel Wissen, viel Arbeit und keine Kohle im Sack, dafuer aber viele Kunden, die alles besser wissen.  :Big Grin:


#11 Sator

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 03:03 PM

Next Eternal Rule of Permanent Style: Gentlemen Choose Eternal Style Over Fleeting Fashion.

Take a look at those texts from the 1830s from The Gentlemen's Magazine of Fashion. Note how often they talk about "fashion" without the slightest reference to any Eternal Rules of Permanent Style. Here's a little bit more:

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You almost lose count of the number of times they tell you what is "fashionable", or that this or that is no longer worn by "gentlemen of fashion". Fashion is a word that is used over and over again to mean something good.

Really, if there were such a thing as Permanent Style shouldn't we all totally reject modern fashion and be dressed in the Eternal Style of our Hessian boots, pantaloons and dark blue dress coats? - like Beau Brummell:

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Now this doesn't mean that there aren't good fashions and bad fashions. Many fashions do date too rapidly to make it worth following (often by the time the catwalk show is finished the fashion trend is over). Nor does it mean that you should dress in the silliest current fad that you can find:

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It just means that looking modern and contemporary remains a critical element of fine dressing. Most people try to decorate their houses to look pleasingly modern, and drive modern cars - so it makes sense to ensure that the way you dress looks modern and fashionable too. If you are going be a bit eccentric and drive a vintage car it had better be beautifully maintained, in a model that retains its aesthetic appeal to the modern eye - and you'd better not wear matching period costume with it or else you'd really look weird.

This is nothing new. Ties get wider and narrower. Lapels get wider and narrower. Trouser pleats or turn-ups (cuffs) go in and out. Certain colours and cloth pattern designs go in and out of fashion. Three piece and DB suits go in and out of fashion. It simply isn't possible to separate Style from Fashion or else you'd be in period costume.

A greatcoat made by Davide Taub for one of our forum members:

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The Military Look remains highly fashionable on the catwalk yet this coat harks back to the military fashions of the 1930-40s. It is at once highly fashionable and classically stylish. It's still possible to be a "gentleman of fashion".
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): "Tradition ist die Weitergabe des Feuers und nicht die Anbetung der Asche."

"Tradition is about passing on the flame, and not the worshipping of ashes"

#12 Sator

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 03:16 PM

Very nice, everything is possible, no excuses.


No, they're not! It would look bizarre if you wore those 1830s styles today. No excuses!

So: now we can concentrate on producing and practicing sample garment.


No way am I cutting samples of 19th century coats that look like that.

Nor would I waste my time cutting garments along 1950s fashion lines either - like pleated trousers with really wide hems, and boxy coats with huge amounts of chest ease:

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If you think these sorts of period costumes represent some sort of Eternal Style, you are only kidding yourself.
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): "Tradition ist die Weitergabe des Feuers und nicht die Anbetung der Asche."

"Tradition is about passing on the flame, and not the worshipping of ashes"

#13 Martin Stall

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 06:02 PM

In a sense, adhering to antiquated (or if you prefer, traditional) styles is no different to the steampunk classic style revelry.
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

http: under construction...

#14 Dirk

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 09:16 PM

iGents contradict themselves too, as many have noticed: they try to dress well, but they end up looking like they're wearing hand-me-downs that look like they've outgrown when they were 15, and wear old clothes when trying to look modern. Many too have have a terrible sense of coordination - such is when they so often seem to pair ridiculous things like red polka dot socks and blue trousers with cloth shoes.

Sator: That suit only looks like a costume because of how deep the cuffs are, how little it is fitted in the waist, and his shoes: the fashion back then was not usually that 'clowny' par se. In fact, after I look at it a bit more it looks almost like modern off the rack. Look at Italian tailoring - the spitting image of the mid 1930's.

Edited by Dirk, 02 September 2011 - 09:24 PM.


#15 culverwood

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 11:20 PM

Other iGent rules?

The tie must finish on the waistband of the trouser - a) waistbands go up and down with fashion, b) I have notice that different nations seem to have their own preferences UK shorter and Italy longer.

A cummerbund must always be worn with a DJ if you do not wear a waistcoat. I and all my friends may be philistines but a cummerbund is considered quite provincial.

Only wear cufflinks with a suit. I am afraid the clothes forums were the first place I heard that one.

Navy blazers and grey trousers make you look like a security guard. It does not a good blazer and grey flannels are a classic.

Ties must dimple. No.

And in case you missed it in Sator's earlier post. "Oh...yes, I'd forgotten about The Permanent Rule of Eternal Style about not wearing Derby type open laced shoes with a suit."

#16 Kim Pattern

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 01:04 AM

Beautiful busting.
Every so-called classic-maniac Korean should study English to read this.

Edited by Kim Pattern, 03 September 2011 - 01:05 AM.


#17 greger

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 05:29 AM

Must remember that tailors think different than customers.
One is taught, or should be, to make everything that comes down the bend.
The other wears what comes down the bend, and what comes down the bend is the rule of the time. In this day and age there are different peer groups.
And, of course, there are always those breaking a trend (rule) to start new rules (some of these take and some don't).
Tailors need an open mind and to step quickly. There are different groups of tailors with different rules for guide lines of 'best" looks.
But, customers fashions are not always about looks, but sometimes something else. So tailors guidlines don't always work.
A good rule for tailors is to learn the culture of the clothes one is about to make before making the pattern. And don't expect to understand it.

#18 Digby Snaffles

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 02:20 AM

Oh...yes, I'd forgotten about The Permanent Rule of Eternal Style about not wearing Derby type open laced shoes with a suit.


Boots surely? Aren't shoes sporting wear!?

Though no rule against it wasn't matching gloves with shoes, especially black leather, considered rather uninspired?

I've heard this 'cufflinks with a suit only' one before, though it generally seems to be flouted, no doubt to demonstrate that they do stylishly break some of the rules. The trailblazers!




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