What Is The Origin Of The Two-Button Cuff?

Wed 8 Apr 2015 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s — Christian
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The Masters golf tournament gets underway tomorrow, and so in the interest of timeliness we present the above photo to fuel historic conjecture.

The photo is of Ernest Jones, one of the most famous early golf instructors and author of the classic tome “Swing The Clubhead.” Jones was an Englishman who lost a leg in World War I. But he found that he could still play top-notch golf balancing on one leg, if he allowed his body to sync with a natural swinging motion rather than use force or leverage that would upset his balance. He later came to New York where he gave thousands of lessons per year at an indoor space on Fifth Avenue.

Now, in the photo above you see that Jones wears a jacket with two sleeve buttons spaced apart, a distinguishing feature of heyday-era Ivy jackets. It also looks like there are working buttonholes on the sleeves. But when, how and why did this become the trademark cuff style at Brooks Brothers and many other Ivy clothiers?

After nearly 1,100 posts here, I’m starting to reach the point where I’m forgetting things, but if I recall correctly I’ve never come across an explanation for this. The unlined buttondown collar and natural shoulder are easier to speculate on. The collar came from the world of sport, and we have early historic documents revealing how it was prized by young men for its casualness and nonchalance. As for the natural shoulder, its lack of artificial pomp seems to perfectly complement the values system of the Northeastern WASPs who embraced its particular silhouette. It’s difficult to imagine a parallel universe in which WASP values and tastes are exactly the same, but the caste considers broad padded shoulders to be the proper look for American gentlemen.

I have no date for the photo above, but it would seem to be from the interwar years. I’d thought the matter would be further complicated by the fact that Jones could very well be wearing a Brooks Brothers jacket, as his studio was just a few blocks from the clothier. However, according to Wikipedia he did not come to New York until after the second World War, which I think would be too late for that photo (it is used, incidentally, for the cover of a reprint of a book on Jones’ teaching in which all the photos date from about 1920).

So is Jones’ jacket English or American? Probably English, but that still doesn’t answer the question how and why did the two-button become the standard Ivy sleeve cuff. Group speculation encouraged.

The Masters’ green jacket, incidentally, has a two-button cuff. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

Brooks Civvies: The New Yorker, 1945

Thu 19 Feb 2015 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Historic Images — Christian
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Perhaps the heyday of the Ivy League Look began not in the ’50s, but the moment after World War II’s detente.

In this 1945 New Yorker cartoon, a soldier returns home from the war and is told by his mother to immediately get himself some mufti at Brooks Brothers to show that everything is all right in the world. — CC


White Friday

Fri 28 Nov 2014 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s — Christian
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Stuff your stocking with stocking ties from White of New Haven.


Happy Thanksgiving From 1923

Thu 27 Nov 2014 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s — Christian
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Be thankful for then — and now.


What, Me Worry? Yale During The Great Depression

Wed 19 Nov 2014 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Historic Images,Historic Texts — Christian
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The 1930s was the time of the Great Depression, yet simultaneously it was also the golden age of Hollywood glamor and of masculine elegance. It was also the time when the Ivy League Look flourished, though within closed corridors, the aristocratic golden age versus the postwar, democratic silver age.

This article from the Yale Alumni Magazine details what life was like for New Haven students while others were fleeing the Dust Bowl. There was homework, but there was also football games, junior proms, and shopping for white bucks, as shown in the photo above.

Here’s an excerpt:

Life at Yale for wealthy undergraduates resembled escapist movies about the rich and carefree. They enjoyed their automobiles, weekends in New York, country club summers, sailing on Martha’s Vineyard, and trips to Europe. Spectator yachts lined the Thames when Yale rowed against Harvard at New London in June.

When the residential colleges opened in September 1933, undergraduates selected by the college masters (there was not room for all) lived in luxurious suites, ordered meals from printed menus and were served by uniformed waitresses, and after eating perhaps repaired to the squash courts for exercise fitting their station in life. Faculty fellows of the colleges delighted in weekly dinners followed by port, conversation, and sometimes bridge or poker. The residential faculty fellows (bachelors only) had large apartments. The masters lived with their families in mansions worthy of bank presidents before the fall.

Varsity football prospered. Games filled the Yale Bowl with cheering students and alumni. Gate receipts held up so well during the Depression that in 1931, the chair of President Herbert Hoover’s committee for unemployment relief asked Yale to hold a postseason benefit game with other elite schools. In 1937, Yale raised the salary of one part-time assistant football coach, law student Gerald R. Ford ’41LLB, from $3,000 to $3,500, more than that of an entering junior faculty instructor with a PhD.

Some alumni recalled afterwards that they were oblivious to conditions outside of Yale. Hear Senator William Proxmire ’38: “We lived in a kind of disembodied cocoon, a deliberate isolation from what we could see and smell and hear when we left the New Haven Campus. . . . Most of my classmates were wholly preoccupied with sports and girls and grades, and bull sessions about sports and girls and grades—in that order. If you wanted to be happy, it was a great time to be a Yalie. If you wanted to be serious—you had to wait.”

Surely this was the real heyday? — CC & CS


Last-Minute Halloween Costume Idea: 1930s Princeton Student

Fri 31 Oct 2014 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Historic Images — Christian
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Elegance Week and Halloween collide in this last-minute costume idea courtesy of this ad from a 1936 edition of The Daily Princetonian.

Just dust off your old tux, head off to that Halloween party, and say you’re dressed as an elite college kid from the thirties. Since no student dresses this way today, it qualifies as costume.

Don’t fall asleep without brushing your sugar-soaked teeth tonight. We’ll conclude our series on elegance tomorrow with a little show and tell from me. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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