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iGent Myths Busted!


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#19 NJS

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 02:50 AM

So far as men of a certain age and position in the City of London and the West End clubs are concerned (apart from the parks), and for certain professionals: brown clothes; brown shoes; tweeds; sporting blazers or reefers/polo jackets; suede and co-respondent shoes are regarded as inappropriate and you would feel your position turning up (certainly habitually turning up) in some places in anything other than a blue or grey suit and black leather shoes. This is a custom that is observed by certain men; although it is true that most people nowadays walk around looking as though they have either come off a stage show or out of the gym. I really don't know how old this custom is but it saw through the 20th Century and is still observed. It isn't (properly speaking) a 'rule' but a social custom or expectation.
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#20 Sator

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 04:50 PM

I really don't know how old this custom is but it saw through the 20th Century and is still observed. It isn't (properly speaking) a 'rule' but a social custom or expectation.


I doubt that you have experience with how men dressed for business in the West End of London over every decade of the 20th century eg 1930s, 40s and 50s. So if you are going to cite your own personal experience, it can only be considered valid for those decades in which you were in the City of London yourself.

I have cited three published British references which list brown shoes as a valid option with city lounge suits. I have other references, which are summarised as follows:

1. Bridgland A.S. The Modern Tailor Outfitter and Clother, 1949 Edition
2. Clothes and the Man 1st Ed by Sydney D. Barney published by The Tailor & Cutter Ltd London, 1951
3. Clothes and the Man 2nd Ed by Sydney D. Barney published by The Tailor & Cutter Ltd London, 1962
4. International Wool Secretariat, Regent St, London circa 1950s
5. Man About Town (Spring 1953 issue) Published by The Tailor & Cutter

Note that these are all 20th century texts and all London publications at that. Let nobody say that this is a selected list of citations. Rather let those who assert that black shoes were considered mandatory with a city suit throughout the 20th century find a list of citations to back it up. I for one have been struggling for years to find these texts without any luck at all. Instead, I keep finding things to the contrary, so I am forced to accept the evidence that I find.

The only published reference that I have been able to find that says no brown suits for business is Bernhard Roetzel Gentlemen 2004. Roetzel is silent on the issue of brown shoes with city/business suits.

As for personal anecdotes, these have their use too, but unless these can be corroborated in other ways they are in the format like "I know that pigs fly, and even though there is no other documented evidence of this, you have to trust me that they always do so when humans are not observing them". For example, I could say that "throughout the 20th century it has been considered a severe faux pas to wear purple ties". I could then say that it matters not one iota when not a single publications can be found to substantiate this, but I know better and that therefore "throughout the 20th century it was considered a severe faux pas to wear purple ties" - end of story!

In this way, you could raise any one of your personal pet peeves to the status of an Eternal Rule of Dress or at least one that "saw through the 20th Century and is still observed." Let's look again at Hardy Amies and his pet peeve about SB coats with DB revers:

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I refer you to the caption:

...double-breasted revers on a single-breasted coat. A sartorial crime.

Here we have caught out a felon red handed - on more than one occasion at that:

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All I need now is a picture of Sir Anthony Eden wearing a SB dinner jacket with DB revers. Eden's partner in sartorial crime in the first photo is Sir Samuel Hoare.

Amies harps on further about this in the same book:

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Here are some more examples of "very bad" coats that do not come from "good tailors". The first is from Emms, the second from Hawkes and Curtis, both on Savile Row:

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I have also come across a reference in The Tailor & Cutter about how the old guard in the early 20th century used to consider flannel grossly inappropriate for city wear. Flannel used to be considered to be a rough country cloth akin to tweed. I have seen a reference from Jane Austin's era saying something to the same effect.

As far as I am concerned any boss today who threatens to fire or demote a worker for being "improperly attired" after they wore a flannel suit, SB coat with DB lapels, navy suit, black suit, checked suits, a non-white shirt, brown shoes or similar pet peeve is just being a bully. In any case, it is probably a waste of time trying to please such a senior work colleague. You can be guaranteed he will simply invent yet another Eternal Rule of Permanent Style that you have violated, and will outright refuse to listen to you when you find that you cannot find an iota of evidence that any such an Eternal Rule ever existed.

#21 Sator

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 05:37 PM

So let's follow some of these old dress guides and match our brown suit with brown shoes. Here are some suggestions for cloth choice:

J&J Minnis brown flannel (pattern 0316):

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Thomas Fisher S100s 11 Oz Suitings Book - F1811 and F1810

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Harrison's Premier Cru

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All of these are a mixture of chocolate brown and black yarns yielding a black-brown colour that can still be distinguished as being a brown tone from close up. I would match them with something like this:

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#22 Sator

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 07:00 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."


There are a few things that demand a bit of research here.

1. Cufflinks to be Worn only with Suits
No references to substantiate this Eternal Rule. I can easily find references to brides wearing white - so why nothing about this "Rule"???

2. If not Wearing a Waistcoat you should wear a Cummerbund with Dinner Dress

This is what The Tailor & Cutter/Man About Town says:

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So they say you should wear a waistcoat with an SB dinner jacket but that one isn't needed with a DB jacket. Then they say that a cummerbund is sometimes worn.

Bacharach, New York 1955 suggests something similar (note formal means full dress, and semiformal means dinner dress):

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At least you could say that texts from 1900-1950s all discuss dinner dress being worn with a waistcoats but that after circa 1950 cummerbands become more accepted as an alternative for summer wear. Illustrations from the 1900s-1970s all show dinner dress being worn with a waistcoat or a cummerbund.

Does this make it binding and relevant today? That is another question altogether. Times and fashions change.

3. Derbies (Including Monk Straps) with a Suit

This is what Sydney Barnes says in 1951:

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Roetzel also writes that closed laces are for formal occasions. Admittedly, Derby shoes (with open laces) like this pair of Dovers from Edward Green are a bit heavier, less sleek and busier in their design:

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However, this is no worse than the fact that a flannel suit has a less than smooth "city" finish to it. The Dover is otherwise an elegant shoe, and while it may not be the dressiest of all shoes, it is elegant enough to match with a dark suit if you wish to. If you want a dressier derby here is the Wiltshire from Gaziano & Girling:

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My personal preference is to wear black Oxfords with most of my dark suits, but as I say, that is a preference. I find black looks simplest and dressiest. However, the last couple of days I have rather enjoyed wearing dark brown Chukka boots with my navy suits.

#23 NJS

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 12:05 AM

By Jove, Sator! Keep your hair on, old bean. I live on the beach and wear shorts and sandals. The only future occasions on which I shall probably wear a tie are weddings and funerals. I really see all this as a subject for a humorous approach. I don't have the time to provide you with citations to back me up as I am not trying to prove anything. Moreover, I have never referred to businessmen in the west End of London.

However, the archives of the institutions of which I speak and the photographs and portraits on the walls all tell me how their members dressed throughout the 20th Century and the portraits speak of long before that. These places have hardly got more formal and I have direct experience of them from the late 1970s - so that is for over twenty years. Daily. So I can say, from my own direct experience that grey and blue suits and black shoes are expected from members of top drawer professions and clubs in London. When off-duty or at home or shopping or in the park, it is otherwise. That is just the way it is.

This is backed up by tonnes of newspaper pictures and picture books (see, for example 'Diana Cooper's Scrap Book' or 'London - The Glamour Years'). it all demonstrates that in city occupations, politics, the professions and when going to their clubs, men wore dark city suits and black shoes throughout the 20th Century. From my knowledge of friends' current habits, they still do so. If they were shopping or going to the park, that is different. Indeed, if they were going riding in the Row, they would have been in riding gear. Trade journals just represent the tradesmen's point of view. The etiquette books and guides (and those appalling charts), were for the wannabees: the upwardly mobile lower middle classes.

I think that Hardy Amies' peeve over DB revers on SB coats was a bit of (sometimes missed) humour - and banker stripe flannel has been acceptable for at least 50 years.

NJS

Edited by NJS, 06 September 2011 - 12:24 AM.

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#24 NJS

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 02:28 AM

Here you go, sport: fairly recent event at the Carlton Club:

http://images.google...iw=1280&bih=633

NJS
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#25 greger

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 05:42 AM

Documentation is good for getting a college degree, beyond that what is it good for?

Peerage, business groups, clubs, cultural, etc. all have ever changing rules.
Bankers wear certain clothes in the 60s somewhat different than other business.
Bankers in NY City wouldn't wear bolo ties like they probably did in Dallas Texas or Montana and some other Western States.
Black shoes for certain types of business that some people live is a social rule and not a written rule.
Stanly Hostek showed me a picture of him wearing a brown suit (Magazine cover).
And yet, when I bought a brown pair of twill's for my dad for walking on a trail he refused to wear them for sometime. Mom thought it was horrible.
Oldest brother thought it was unbelievable to even think of brown, much more thinking of buying it.
Even corked logging boots are in black and rarely seen otherwise. For business shoes dad will only wear black.
From my granddad I learned there are different groups of tailors and they certainly don't agree with each other about how and what to dress, not to mention make.
Much of this is not written. Some of what is written is generalized, some is something that was pushed but rejected by the public. Nuances are left out or for a certain cultural area.
In the 60s who wore peaked lapels with sb? Wrong, wrong, wrong. But, 15 - 20 years earlier OK, Ok, Ok.
How many bankers today even know the rules of the 60s. Many don't even have a coat or tie today, and the shirts are totally wrong as are tousers and shoes.
White shirts were the only shirts if wearing a tie. Later in the 60s there was a breuhaus over blue shirts, which some were trying to push in as OK with tie and coat.
Cultural and peerage and business and childrens rules are always changing. Many of these rules are never written down.
You find out what the rules are when you are around the group.

So, again, Documentation is good for getting a college degree, beyond that what is it good for?

#26 greger

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 05:51 AM

Something else, I-gents are showing a mixed bag of rules, anyway. It depends on what they were taught, what they want to see, and, sometimes, what the tailors they go to recommend.
Further more, some of these people have worn out their rules and are looking for something different.
Rules never stop changing. Boredom is a problem, so change is a requirement.
In my childhood I noticed that those who didn't change were some old people who no longer cared. Really, is it any different today or ever?

#27 Sator

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 10:28 AM

So, again, Documentation is good for getting a college degree, beyond that what is it good for?


You are right, I am approaching it like it were an academic level publication with full citations.

What's the point? Well, unless someone tries to get it down in writing all of this rich information gets lost forever. The reason the Cunningtons eventually started the costume museum at Bath was because they found vintage garments they couldn't find any information on, so they started to collect books and garments. Nobody else seemed to care. That's why I carefully look at the development of style carefully over every decade of the twentieth century. People often talk about tradition in tailoring, and it's interesting to see what the origin of these tradition are.

I should add that people study history for different reasons. One is because they are stuck in the past. The other reason is because it tells us how we got to where we are now, and where we might be heading in the future. This sort of discussion of the historical development in the visual arts or architecture is pretty standard, so I see no reason why fashion and cutting should be considered too trivial to deal with in the same way.

#28 Sator

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 11:10 AM

It's probably gross academic overkill but here are two more references to brown shoes with city suits to throw on the growing pile. Again, these aren't selected texts - I'm not deliberately withholding another 100 texts that all say "no brown in town". It's just that whenever I find old dress guides like this, they all seem to all say "brown or black shoes" with lounge suits. So I have no choice but to conclude that either brown or black shoes were considered acceptable with business dress throughout the 20th century.

1. The Tailor & Cutter, London 1934:

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2. Selig Bros San Francisco 1928:

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#29 NJS

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 11:12 AM

Biography is the best history. Hats can also be great for talking through.
NJS

Edited by NJS, 06 September 2011 - 09:37 PM.

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#30 Sator

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 12:00 PM

One more Myth to bust. It comes courtesy of Hardy Amies. The term Permanent Style is used synonymously with Classic Style. Here Amies reveals what "classic" really means:

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Classic merely means out-of-date.

Yet this out-of-date styling is celebrated as being something eternally valid.

#31 Sator

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 01:28 PM

Another Myth to Bust

"Double breasted lapels are more formal than single breasted lapels"

DB and SB lapels have been around for centuries. Yet I have never come across even a single published reference from the last 200 years that states that one is more formal than the other. The choice of one or the other seems to be mostly dictated by fashion and personal taste rather by some Eternal Rule of Permanent Style. Perhaps someone felt that the points of DB lapels looked "sharper", and once again decided to elevate a personal preference into an Eternal Rule???

The Bangor sports jacket (single breasted with double breasted lapels) from The Tailor & Cutter, 1937:

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#32 NJS

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 09:39 PM

Bangor is in Wales. Very probably, architects and designers have always had a bit more room to manouevre than other professionals; moreover, the further away from London, the more room; until you get to the ends of the earth. :Talking Ear Off:
NJS

Edited by NJS, 06 September 2011 - 09:55 PM.

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#33 Digby Snaffles

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Posted 08 September 2011 - 08:43 AM

What NJS said harks back to my first post in this thread. It's certainly not an eternal rule and had no real historical precedent but that doesn't mean 'never brown in town' never was, at least amongst a few professionals such as bankers or officers in mufti wearing the archetypical pinstripe suit and bowler hat*.

I think if anything it's mostly an indicator of attitude. People have taken fashions from what they perceive as being the 'golden age' of dressing and turned them into infallible rules.

*Umbrellas aren't to be unfurled.

#34 NJS

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 01:07 AM

What NJS said harks back to my first post in this thread. It's certainly not an eternal rule and had no real historical precedent but that doesn't mean 'never brown in town' never was, at least amongst a few professionals such as bankers or officers in mufti wearing the archetypical pinstripe suit and bowler hat*.

I think if anything it's mostly an indicator of attitude. People have taken fashions from what they perceive as being the 'golden age' of dressing and turned them into infallible rules.

*Umbrellas aren't to be unfurled.


That's all that I have been saying, as well as the fact that some customs like this are still observed by a comparatively small number of men at the top end of the socio-economic spectrum. That, by the way, is just an observation, not a celebration (even though it should be celebrated).
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#35 Frog in Suit

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 09:44 AM

After perusing the above, I feel duty bound to offer the definitive, i.e., my, set of sartorial rules:

- I always wear a dark worsted suit with black shoes in London. If travelling and in daytime, I may wear brown/green tweeds with black or brown shoes, but only fleetingly and in shame.

-I will relax enough in Paris, where I live, to sometimes be seen with brown shoes and tweeds in the daytime, for informal occasions only (when it does not matter).

- I do not like plain navy worsted; I only wear striped navy suits.

- On the subject of stripes, I only like simple white (off-white?) stripes on grey or navy worsted. Coloured/complex stripes are de trop.

- Brown shoes with a navy suit make me ill.

- A brown suit, flannel or worsted (tweed is different), without or especially with, stripes, especially worn in town, will probably turn me into a homicidal maniac. Or I shall be rude and just not see the wearer.

- I have grave doubts about double-breasted waistcoats, except as part of a morning suit.

- A SB suit without a SB (– cf. supra –) waistcoat is incomplete. I prefer SB lapels on the waistcoat, except when the cloth is too thick to accommodate them.

- A DB suit with a waistcoat borders on the excessive.

- A black daytime suit without stripes would be boring/wrong unless one works for an undertaker. One should however be wary of the "organized-crime boss" look.

- Plain white shirts are boring, better left to my wedding (we just celebrated our twentieth) or funerals.

- A black shirt is unspeakable. So is a brown one.

- Men's shirts are striped on a white background (with stripes of blue – medium or dark, chiefly -- sometimes dark red, even blue and yellow, or blue and white and red mixed, sometimes BROAD and BOLD…), never green for some reason.

- I only wear shirt collars in the same pattern as the shirt, although I do have a few white ones.

- I favour (soft) detachable collars and tunic shirts.

- Cufflinks except when wearing jeans and work/flannel/button-down shirts, without a tie.

- I have only one DJ. It is double breasted, black, no vents, with thick ribbed silk lapels (there must be a technical name for the material). It has a deep scooped front waistcoat which very likely does not fit me anymore.

- I have several pairs of black calf oxfords, from just a simple line of stitching across the captoe to fully brogued. They are town shoes.

- I have one pair of black three-tie plain derby shoes, for less formal town wear.

- I find a DB navy reefer jacket with brass buttons (a "blazer") with dark grey trousers (worsted in my case) most useful, perhaps on the Continent or in the United States more than in England. It can be worn with a very BOLD and/or BROAD-STRIPED shirt.

- Ties are blue (usually dark) or red (dark or bright) with spots (polka dots, discreet little patterns). I do like bow ties but seldom wear them.

- A silk handkerchief in the breast pocket is nice, even in town (!). I have no idea how to fold them so keep things simple.

- It is unsporting to not even attempt to mix patterns: striped suit, striped shirt and spotted tie and handkerchief.

- I would rather wear blue jeans and a loud-checked flannel shirt with hiking boots than a suit without a tie.

-Socks are boring: mine are dark or mid grey and plain.



I think this is really all one needs to know. Follow the above principles and you shall not go far wrong. I would suggest that anyone attempting to argue differently is misguided and should seek professional help.



Frog in Suit.



P.S.: Anthony Eden was a notoriously fussy dresser; his opinion therefore matters little.




Frog in Suit

#36 posaune

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 07:02 PM

................left to my wedding (we just celebrated our twentieth) or funerals.................

oh well :rolleyes:
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