observer

There will always be Americans and Englishmen who find the other culture more appealing. You don’t have to look hard to find Anglophiles in the States, and “Downton Abbey” has relit the Anglomania torch that never really gets extinguished.

But while having English taste points your class arrow upward in the US, having American taste in England appears to steer you towards the bohemian. It’s hard to imagine someone muttering over a cup of tea, “What a model gentleman Lord Billardcue is, he absolutely adores American culture!”

This weekend The Observer ran an extract of a story from 50 years ago that reported on an Englishman who took his style cues from Madison Avenue. The timing of 1963 is especially interesting in the perennial give and take between the US and UK, since in the postwar years America’s global influence and exporting of popular culture was higher than ever, and yet the British Invasion, which would send fashion and culture back this way, was just around the corner.

According to the article:

Another acquaintance, in advertising, covets that American Ivy League look, patented by Brooks Brothers: the trousers are slim and without front pleats, the jacket unwaisted and with the minimum shoulder padding. Altogether, it can miraculously make an overfed Madison Avenue executive look like an ex-football quarterback. My friend, after a long search round Savile Row, eventually crossed over to Soho and found a tailor who togged out American embassy personnel. Now, in Berkeley Square, he has the look of a fast-rising Manhattan executive and keeps his English suits for his annual trip to New York.

The chap certainly sounds more exception than rule, as Ivy never really caught on in England as it did in Japan. But most noteworthy is the part about American embassy personnel stationed in London — what many would consider a dream job with the added bonus of being in the world’s sartorial capital — who wanted their suits cut American rather than take advantage of England’s legendary tailors, which reminds us that it’s still a small number that wants to ape the other guys. — CC