Big Picture: Rebounding From The Apogee Of Small

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As you’ve probably noticed over the past 60 years, the borders of that little menswear town we call Tradsville is not wholly secure from outside influence. After all, the companies, large and small, that clothe us are in business to make a living.

While not full-blown Ivy royalty like Richard Press (grandson of Jacobi) nor self-made aristocrat like Charlie Davidson, Nick Hilton (son of Norman) is certainly a prince among trad clothiers. He’s also a talented court scribe, to continue the metaphor. Every so often he produces a piece of prose that must bear the lowly title of blog post, but the pieces are superbly written and occasionally contentious.

At the dawn of summer Hilton wrote a piece about the current state of menswear, saying it was reaching peak shrunkenness, or what he called “the apogee of small.” Since its posting Brooks Brothers has since announced it will discontinue the Thom Browne-designed Black Fleece collection, pleated pants are gradually returning to store shelves, and there is talk in the menswear media about looser, easier fit. Since fashion teeter-totters from drapey to trim, wide to narrow, it follows the laws of nature that we are witnessing the twilight of the shrunken suit and will soon begin returning in the direction of the image above, which Hilton used to accompany his piece.

He writes:

Originally they called it “natural shoulder” tailoring. The Yankee sweater-sleeve slope is, after all, perfect for sport jackets. The soft, unpadded tailoring gives a feeling and look of sportswear and follows the soft drape of the tweed. In fact the shape derives from the cloth. By the mid-70s the “updated” natural shoulder style of Polo, Arthur Richards and such lines had reduced the chest and waist of the soft-shoulder jackets so much that they became literally uncomfortable; sort of like what the trendy dudes are putting on these days.

Hilton concludes by saying that the next big thing is bigness itself — relatively speaking, that is. Head over here for the full story, and prepare to get comfortable. — CC

12 Comments on "Big Picture: Rebounding From The Apogee Of Small"

  1. Nick Holton mentions Arthur Richards brand in his article. Does anyone know anything about Arthur Richards clothing? In the early 1970s, I had an Arthur Richards 3 piece flannel suit that I bought at Britches of Georgetown on Wisconsin Ave in Georgetown, which also was a Polo RL retailer, offering Polo for men and women.

  2. I meant Hilton.

  3. What I found most interesting about the article was his suggestion that a move away from small and tight will also be a move away from soft shoulders. Why is that so (or why does he believe it to be so)? The original sack suit is soft shouldered *and* roomy – or if it is shaped, it’s still at least comfortable.

  4. Yes, I noted the line you’re referring to. Obviously shoulder line and overall silhouette (shrunken, roomy, or in-between) are different things and not mutually exclusive.

  5. It might be useful to think about the history of men’s clothing in the 20th century.

    In the 20s, suit jackets were tight with high closures and narrow shoulders. The 30s saw the birth and popularity of the Drape cut, a much fuller, looser look than its predecessor, but not baggy. By the 50s, Drape had been transmogrified into a caricature of its former self, with exaggerated shoulders and too much fabric. Enter the late 50s and early 60s for another iteration of tight-n-skinny, followed by the Peacock excesses of the 60s and aircraft carrier lapels in the 70s. The 80s saw narrowing and tightening, until Armani lowered everything and bagginess came back. The 90s and aughts were more balanced, and then the late 00s saw a reshrinking.

    So expect a window of reasonable widths and shoulders, most probably followed by some sort of excess as the pendulum swings too far again.

  6. Back in the 1970s Frank Bober,had a collection of clothing fit for a Dandy called Arthur Richards,the fabics were beautiful. Honey colored tweeds,navy wool stretch wovens with claret colored piping on the lapel ,and black watch tartan suits.He brought excitement,I remember it being labeled Ivy Jivey. It was great.

  7. Hopefully we can find a happy medium. The picture that accompanies this article seems to avoid the excessive fabric of the 80s and 90s and the constricting suits from Browne.

  8. Jim Hunt – What is the background on Arthur Chapnik/Arthur Richards clothing & Frank Bober? Thanks

  9. “and will soon begin returning in the direction of the image above”…

    You bet?
    And if the fashion pendulum take us in the direction of 70s style very large ties and lapels,or in a neo-80s bold look?

  10. Take another look at the picture of the new Press-by-Southwick blazer–the lapel width and length. And the tie width. Certainly not Heyday narrowness.

  11. Which heyday?
    In 20s,30s and 40s lapels and ties were not very narrow as in the picture above.
    Same in early-mid 50s.

  12. We’ve always used the term heyday here to refer to the period of peak popularity, which most agree was from 1954-1967.

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