Comfort And Neatness, 1949


From the September, 1949 issue of Esquire. Subscribe to the digital archives here.

From the University of Maine to UCLA, college men spend most of their time pounding the books in class, in the dorm, or in the library with Miss Distraction of 1949. Their keynote is comfort and neatness. The fellow in the window staring gloomily at the book and wishing the place were co-ed is wearing a diamond-patterned tweeed jacket with blue and yellow overchecked markings, illustrating the trend toward more subtle designs in sport tweeds. The perennial oxford shirt with a buttondown collar is still it, and college preference for cashmere or shetland pullover sweaters is still a toss-up. The new Gaucho socks show a bold cross stripe in brown against yellow at the ankle, and team up right with the universal favorite: leather-solded, moccasin loafers.

21 Comments on "Comfort And Neatness, 1949"

  1. The building though the lead glass window looks very much like Berkeley College at Yale. If it is, this poor 1949 dude is going to have to wait about 30 years before female students begin showing up outside his window.

  2. Correction to my last post … the dude will only have to wait 20 years. Yale began admitting women in 1969.

  3. “gaucho socks” is a new concept to me. doing a google image search brings up all sorts of random things, but horizontal stripes are a recurring motif.

  4. Señor Yuca | January 21, 2016 at 4:11 pm |

    Another great find!

  5. Completely unrelated. I recently acquired a lovely three piece suit at a thrift store. It is a suit of medium weight medium grey herringbone tweed with a 3/2 roll and natural shoulders complete with hook vent and is un-darted. The trousers are flat front standard. The vest has four pockets. I have worn the trousers with sweaters. I have even worn the coat with khakis and a white oxford and rep tie. I would value opinions on the subject of whether it would be proper to wear a white oxford, khakis, a blue blazer and the vest together.

    It is a Southwick suit made for a long out of business men’s store in Norfolk Va. from the late eighties and was had for $3. Looks like it was never worn.


  6. I recall when I was a young teen, in the 1960’s, my uncle gave me several of his sport coats bought after his WW2 service. He had gained weight, size of the coats had to be around a 40R. I recall a tweed like above, in addition, a yellow herringbone, and a medium blue coat. I could not wear them long, for I was a 44L by the time I was 16.

    I recall those coats were made of extremely heavy wool material, much heavier than anything I’ve owned since. I venture to say, my uncle’s coats were off the rack quality, which was probably equivalent to the better stuff sold today.

    I recall my late aunt referring to her husband as a “well dressed dude.” She also dressed well, she never owned a pair of ladies slacks, always wore dresses with her pearls and earrings.

  7. @ sacksuit

    I had the exact same suit, bought it on sale in 1979 for $169. A beautiful suit, I used to wear the coat and pants separately, but I don’t think the vest would go with a navy blazer.

    Go for it, though.

  8. Charlottesville | January 21, 2016 at 5:26 pm |

    I am filled with envy. Will – Your suit find sounds great, Wish I had your luck. And the picture of the1949 undergrad, I assure everyone, stands in stark contrast to the study wear of the students I see today. Or even the classroom wear 99% of the professors. I try to shine such tradly light as I can into the darkness, but it seems to be a losing battle. Actually, in all seriousness, it would be great to see more tweeds, ties, gray flannels, etc., but given the slovenly society at large, I will likely need to content myself with nostalgia and the occasional blue blazer, khakis and pennies that constitutes the dress wardrobe of the dressiest of the local 20-somethings on date night. Could be worse, of course. I could work at Walmart.

  9. @sacksuit

    Congrats on finding such a good suit for $3!

    I wouldn’t wear a vest with khakis. It would look strange, IMHO.

  10. Henry Contestwinner | January 21, 2016 at 6:39 pm |

    Will Sacksuit,

    Congratulations on such an incredible find!

    Solid light gray wool trousers might work, as might tan gabardine trousers.

  11. Further on the subject of second-hand/vintage finds, I recently got an old mid-century style Brooks Brothers blue blazer, I paid $40 not $3 🙁 , with gold buttons and am confused how many buttons should be on the sleeves? It has two, but I have seen it with three and four, what it is considered true ivy, or at least the classic Blue Blazer gold buttons amount?

  12. Jacob Marley | January 22, 2016 at 12:45 am |

    That sketch of the student in the window depicts the Princeton quad looking at the arch leading to Dillon Gym.

  13. Richard Meyer | January 22, 2016 at 6:21 am |

    the way students should still look. Timeless casual chic.

  14. @Brian,

    My vote is for two buttons on the cuff.

  15. @ Brian

    Two buttons on the sleeve. Back in the late 50-60’s, two buttons were the norm. The 70’s, three buttons. I always thought three or four buttons looked more classy.

    Just my opinion.

  16. I am a relative newcomer to this blog, and I have studied with delight much of CC’s excellent posts and well documented research. However, I must say that I am a tad confused by some of what I see as revisionist history concerning the actual fashion on campus during the hey day. My Dad was vice provost of Cornell in the late 1940’s and then at a similar position at Princeton for most of the 1950’s, where I also attended during that time. I spent most of my formative years in admiration of privileged and academic men I hoped to be. The chap in the advertising depicted here does not reflect what most Ivy Leaguers would have worn by my recollection, unless you include the few dandies about town (most of whom were not from respected families). Fashion advertisements from the period and the example of old Hollywood types does not jibe with the reality that I can recall. It’s like looking at GQ magazine of today or at what Kanye West is wearing and extrapolating that to reflect what the average college student is wearing in 2015.

    As I write this, I am wearing a pair of pebble brown Florsheim Imperials because, since I was a teen, I’ve thought that shoe epitomizes the Ivy Style. Everyone on Ivy campuses wore long wings in the hey day. The only exception being a few 16-year olds that wore Weejuns. Even among the privileged classes, the era of the depression through, say, 1960 was a very frugal and conformist time for most men on Ivy campuses. Especially after WW2, it was considered inappropriate to dress too well or too different. No one I ever saw wore gaucho socks nor would even consider doing so. This may have started to change in the early 1960’s, but that’s about when I left the orbit of the Ivy world.

  17. Thanks all, I snagged the jacket for $35 and it has two buttons and I’ll leave it like that. Also got a Southwick Tweed with two buttons for $50. Not bad they fit perfect in the shoulders, but my freakish arms require a little lengthening in the sleeves.

  18. Henry Contestwinner | January 23, 2016 at 1:37 am |

    Sleeves are an easy alteration, but shoulders are not. If the jacket doesn’t fit in the shoulders, put it back. I hope you get plenty of service out of your “new” jackets, Brian!

  19. +++ For Jerry’s comment. What a valuable insight from one who was actually on the ground in that environment.

    Especially pertinent IMO: ” Fashion advertisements from the period and the example of old Hollywood types does not jibe with the reality that I can recall. It’s like looking at GQ magazine of today or at what Kanye West is wearing and extrapolating that to reflect what the average college student is wearing in 2015.”

    In a similar vein, my recollection from somewhat later – which is often confirmed on this blog – is that from, say, the late-50s what is deemed Ivy style was just standard middle class men’s/student’s clothing which, in my experience in the South, was referred to as “collegiate” style.

  20. Apart “gaucho” socks i don’t see the guy in the advertisment particularly “dapper” or dressed in expensive way.
    He wear a sport coat off the rack,a sweater,shirt and tie,and flannel slacks.
    “Esquire magazine” issues of 40s have several pictures of the real thing from the campus,and collegiates are dressed in this way.
    Only difference, many saddle shoes or white bucks and few weejuns.

  21. Remember this is a fashion editorial, not an advertisement. Important distinction.

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