In our last post, we saw that Harvard in 1969 was already a sea of denim. But what did a small liberal arts school like Washington & Lee look like? It looked like this. Thanks to frequent comment-leaver “SE” for submitting these. — CC
72 Comments on "Jacket And Tie No Problem: Washington & Lee, 1969"
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There were, in fact, students at Harvard at that time who were civilized enough–and brave enough–to dress like that too.
Love these outfits, but let’s be real – all the “decline of civilization” talk and this desire for a return of “proper dress” stuff is bullshit. You guys love it that people don’t dress this way anymore, because if they did, you wouldn’t get to feel superior to the guy in sweats simply because you’re wearing a bowtie. Character and action is what makes a person civilized, not attire.
I agree that it’s disengenuous, like when guys say they dress up out of respect for others or the setting of an event, when clearly they’re dressing out of personal pride, and they shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
However, 400 years ago Shakespeare said clothes proclaim the man, and he was a smart guy who was probably on to something there.
Don’t confuse clothing with character
That might be true if one treated those who dress “poorly” with no personal respect. One of the top ten best dressed people I’ve ever personally known was a railroad engineer of a coal train, but obviously not at work. I personally wish folks dressed “better” so prices of my personal preferences would be more affordable.
My observance over the years is the mistake of believing a university degree bestows character to an individual.
While that may be true, those people were in the minority.
Mac I agree 100% and I would love to see a return of proper dress because I think that America has gone off the deep end in many ways, style of dress being one. I don’t dress well to feel superior in fact I would prefer that more people dress properly that way I don’t look out of place or get funny looks (not that I let them bother me).
Is realize denim is not part of the Ivy look, but is there a fabric more synonymous with American style?
@whiskeydent denim is a fabric synonymous with the American west, I can’t think of a fabric that is synonymous with America on the whole.
There will never be such a large number of well-dressed young men again as the price of well made suits and sport coats etc is now exorbitant as they are rarely worn. Damn shame.
@GC Bruce Springsteen has spent his whole career in jeans, and he has done pretty well for a Jersey boy.
@whiskeydent yes because of his image as an working class hero. Not so fitting now that he’s a multi-millionaire.
Okay, let’s agree that denim is identified with the working class on the East Coat and with Western iconography in the rest of the US. The point I’m trying to make is that looking down upon working class clothes — especially ones that are iconic — comes off snobbish.
I grew up in Lexington, in fact I was a ninth grader in high school at the time. I recognized many of those in the pictures having encountered them at Church, or in the local Young Republicans (a distinct minority in those days!) or knew them as the parents of friends or friends of my parents. Washington and Lee was not without it radical edge in fact there would be a sit in in the spring of that year over the invasion of Cambodia. In 1969 being well dressed was easy; you could choose from one of five mens stores, two departments stores that stocked good clothes. Of the five men stores only one still exist today and that is Alvin and Dennis. Even though I do live in Lexington any longer I buy my Blue Blazers and some suits from Alvin and Dennis. Recently I bought a great pair of khaki pants there that are beyond excellent. The others Davidson run by Tommy Baker, College Town Shop run by Red Patton and Charlie Scott and later Martha Lo Derrick, J. Ed. Deavers run by Charlie Reese with the assistance from Burton Deaver, Jimmy Willis, and one other gentleman whose name I forget are nothing more than memories to those who remember the past. I bought my first pair of Weejuns at J. Ed. Deavers at a cost of about $25 which was a lot of money in 1969. The other men’s shop in town was run by Art Silver, who was a former vaudeville actor. He had no purchased any new clothes in years but was a favorite of locals, W&L students, and VMI cadets because of his steady stream of corny jokes. I remember buying a really bad look madness jacket from him one year. Although I did not go to W&L I have a great deal of admiration for the school. The students still dress well, but coat and tie are a memory of bygone years. One note, one of the members of the Board of Trustee pictured in this post is no other than future Supreme Court Justice, Lewis Powell who attended W&L.
I meant to say “I do not live”
@whiskeydent I’m not looking down on a fabric or it’s history as the fabric of the working class. I disagree with you trying to claim that it is a fabric synonymous with this country because, iconic or not, historically it is the fabric of only one class of people in this country.
Actually I do not agree that denim is the fabric of the working class on the East Coast. I think that chino would be. My point in all this is that I’m not sure if there can be, or is, one true fabric that is synonymous with America, not snobbery.
@GS For the record, I was not aiming the snob question specifically at you. It was the royal you, for lack of a better phrase, from my original question. I should have been more specific.
Perhaps jeans are worn by one class in the Northeast; I don’t live there, haven’t visited it lately, and don’t care. Everywhere else, they are worn by people from all walks of life — some of whom have very, very old money, Ivy degrees, and a closetful of Trad. Of course, jeans are not worn in formal office settings, but they are seen away from banks, traditional corporations,law firms and the like.
People in the West and Southwest have a different outlook about these things. Perhaps it’s because our histories include events that have little significance to those in the Northeast but mean a lot out here. It gives us a different view of what is “traditional.”
@whiskeydent denim today has a much different usage from when it was first invented. It is now fashionable and in many cases expensive and “designer”, far removed from its original work-related origin. I’ve heard jeans being referred to as “dressy,” which sounds oxymoronic. In my opinion, jeans are fine when worn to do house work and whatnot, not in any formal or semi-formal setting as is now common. But the fact is that denim is not Ivy, no matter how many WASPs wear it. I understand that denim is a staple in your part of the country and that’s because denim originated there, but here on the East Coast denim has evolved and I much prefer it’s original usage as workwear. It was more modest at one time.
@GS Today’s expensive fashion jeans are usually “selvedge” denim, which is made using a different kind of loom. I too think they suck, especially the skinny ones.
I acknowledged in my original post that jeans are not part of the Ivy look. I was raising a different question. Ivy is a classic American style. Is denim, especially the denim style that draws it’s design from the originals? My answer is yes. Are jeans an iconic type of clothing synonymous with America? My answer is yes to that too. You obviously disagree.
BTW, I went to google and found that denim was invented in Genoa, Italy. It first appeared in the American West in 1850’s and became popular in 1873. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that before Brooks spied the button-down collars on the English polo players?
Note that the gentleman at the left in the triptych (second image from the bottom) is wearing one of the must-have accessories of the period: the fat watch strap. These were wider than the lug spacing (often wider than the watch case itself) and secured the timepiece via two leather tabs that snapped over the springbars.
“Denim” is from “de Nimes,” as I recall, a town in France.
It is probably America’s single greatest sartorial contribution to the world, as far as popularity goes.
It’s not “Ivy” in the sense of being canononical heyday, but that’s because the heyday was 54-67, and denim didn’t become popular until the heyday was over.
So the question, from a timeline perpsective, is whether it’s “preppy” or “trad.”
As the Japanese mags of the ’70s showed, etc. etc., it was plenty popular with guys who were wearing oxford, polos, crewneck sweaters and boat shoes with their jeans in the ’70s and ’80s.
Now we’re in 2016. Are jeans a defining item of “trad” style? No, the khaki is that. Do guys who dress trad sometimes wear jeans? Some do and some don’t, just like bit loafers, polo coats, ancient madder neckties and everything else that comes down to personal preference. And of course Brooks, Press, LL Bean and all sorts of other companies offer them.
I’ve been around so many sartorial types, including all the retro alternative hipster types and extreme fuddy-duddy reactionaries, and they all consider denim symbolic of mainstream culture blandness and/or the decline of civilization. It gets tedious when it’s extreme.
Does Flusser wear them? No, he prefers sweatpants. But he’s over 70. Boyer is over 70 and I think he occasionally wears them. If you’re younger and you’re fitter, you probably don’t hate them. If you’re older and they make your ass look fat, you probably don’t like them.
Yours truly has a couple pairs and they’re handy for wearing around the neighborhood in fall and winter and occasionally for jaunts into town, with loafers and cashmere crewneck.
As the hipsters in skinny jeans say, “I’m down with that.”
I have but a single pair of jeans; a pair of Levis I bought back in 1995. I probably wear them twice a year; and like Christian, only when it is quite cool outside. Denim is a heavy fabric and as far as retaining body heat, I put them right up there with corduroy.
Because I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Westchester I think I am a bit of a snob about clothing. I always observe a person’s attire. I might forget the color of your hair but I seldom forget what you’re wearing. On the other hand, we Croton kids believed we had such good taste and fashion-sense that no one dared comment about anything we chose to wear. Clothing was never discussed in polite society, or at least it wasn’t where I grew up. In the 90s, when I was a Sigma Chi House mom, I was most impressed by the way my boys always seemed to know what was appropriate and what was not for dozens of different occasions. Their wardrobe selections always suited the occasion and were appropriate whether they were “rushing,” cramming for finals, going to Fancy Dress or spending the weekend at Zollman’s. If they were smart enough to get into W&L, they were smart enough to select their own wardrobe.
@whiskeydent Ivy and denim are two different facets of American style, denim being the fabric of the west and Ivy being the style of the east. Both American, both different.
Yes that is before John Brooks discovered the polo collar that was already in existence by 1896, so it could have been invented earlier.
@junewbery I too am from Westchester, and I must say we are still a fairly well-dressed county.
I am not completely against denim but my personal distaste for jeans comes from having worn jeans for so long in my young life. Now that I pick my own clothing, I only have one pair which I use for work around the house. enjoy the fact that I am using jeans for something fairly close to their original purpose and not as a fashion statement as they are commonly worn today. Question: if denim is an iconic American fabric, why is wearing a jean jacket and jeans referred to as a “Canadian Tuxedo”?
How about donning a “Canadian Tuxedo” in complement with a “Full Cleveland”?
Men enjoying their pre-internet freedom to button their jackets any way they wanted.
Men Of Earth, regain your pre-internet freedom and button your jackets any way you want.
Ignore all the silly made up rules that some twits (who probably didn’t wear a jacket and tie at school and whose fathers and grandfathers probably didn’t wear a jacket and tie to work, in restaurants, hotels, and clubs, or when traveling) litter the internet with.
Thinking alike, Roycru. I noticed the top buttons fastened, too, and wore my herringbone like that today, in proud defiance!
Asked Boyer and Richard to comment on buttoning preferences during the heyday. Am planning a post on it and if you’re a proponent of top-button fastening, email me with any remarks and I’ll plug them in.
Ah, W&L! My brother and sister-in-law are both alumni (they met there), and I was accepted by and very nearly went to W&L myself.
I’ve got six pair of Levi 501s, but I ride motorcycles. I’m middle class and have wore both 501s and khakis my whole life, I’m 65. I remember when 501s were less than $6 and they were all “selvedge” denim.
It’s funny at my Kansas City high school in the mid to late 60s jeans were only worn on Thursdays. We had no idea why, it wasn’t an official rule just tradition. 😉
@Roycru I had a tailor tell me to only ever button the middle button on a three button jacket. Buttoning only the middle button creates a balanced look, buttoning the middle and top buttons looks like a mistake. When I see those two buttons on a suit or sport coat buttoned it reminds me of people who button polo shirts all the way up, looks ridiculous.
Oh and my father and grandfather, both of whom wore suits to work, and elsewhere when it was expected, only ever button the middle, or top in some cases, button of their suits and sport coats and aught me to do the same. My grandfather doesn’t even know how to use the internet.
Also interesting to note that these photos were taken just after the heyday ended, probably why their jackets are not properly buttoned, they were on the way out.
And to end my rant on how to properly button a jacket, buttoning the top button on a 3 button jacket throws off/ruins the lapel roll which, in turn, does not allow for a 3/2 roll to occur, one of the hallmarks of the Ivy League look.
You’re absolutely right. I should have said:
“There were, in fact, some students at Harvard at that time who were brave enough to dress like that too.”
As far as I remember, we didn’t button any of the buttons at all. My guess is that the photographer told those young gents to button up their jackets, and they automatically buttoned the top button without thinking.
Please permit a few observations from a 66 yr. old Southern boy. In 1950s-60s SE NC, khakis were, in general, work pants; worsted and blends were the norm. The top-buttoned coats were cut and pressed from the maker as a “3/3”, made to button up that way. Jeans were for work, motorcycling, or the “tough guy with a bad car” crowd, and their wannabes (that was pretty much nationwide).
I’m sure there were more variations than I was aware of, just as I’m fairly certain that not all NE “prep-types” were in what amounted to uniform. It would be interesting to find out if “Life” magazine or the like sent photogs onto Ivy and other NE campuses to shoot boys who were NOT dressed Ivy, but I am, as usual, too lazy to do so myself.
As a 75 year old LA boy, let me confirm what you remembered:
Khakis were usually work pants (and usually Dickies brand).
Sport coats were indeed cut and pressed for the top and middle buttons to be buttoned-up.
Khakis weren’t originally an East Coast phenomenon, nor were they strictly ivy. Khakis were created by British soldiers in India back before BB was born. They dyed their pale pants khaki (a Hindi term, I think) as desert camouflage. Teddy Roosevelt wore them extensively (a progressive pant?) on his adventures. Apparently, so did Jack Kerouac. He was the iconic imagic of Dockers in their 1990s adds. Levi-Strauss says they marketed khaki pants all across the West and were in their catalogs as early as 1912, well before ivy style got underway in New England.
Re: The Button Issue, I know that I’m not ‘supposed to’ button the top button, and most times I do not; but sometimes I do. Unlike one of the commenters above who opined that buttoning the top button throws things off, some of my jackets actually appear to fit me better with that top button buttoned. Not all, but some. Maybe I need a better tailor.
The US Navy first wore denim starting in 1901, Navy aviators in first wore khaki 1912 and submariners in 1931.
It’s interesting to note that even through the mod and psychedelic eras, suits, jackets and ties were pretty common, although admittedly not Ivy-approved suits and ties. Check out pictures of the Beatles from that era, or even long-forgotten American bands appearing on local teen dance shows.
The Beatles kept on wearing suits even when they abandoned the Brian Epstein matching numbers. It was all part of the British love of looking “flash”. On the front cover of Abbey Road, three of the four Beatles are wearing suits. (Paul is tie-less and shoeless, Ringo is wearing a tie, and you can’t tell with John.) George is wearing the denim uniform that became so common from 1970 on — but a year or so later, at the Concert for Bangla Desh, he appeared in a very spiffy white suit.
Let’s face it. Jeans were a sign of rebellion in the mid-century. I cannot help but refer to “Rebel Without a Cause” a culturally significant film revealing the decline in morals of the American youth. This began when undershirts were worn as outerwear (now referred to as a t-shirt) and jeans became the go-to item for the American youth’s everyday wear. The plague is widespread and there seems to be no turning back. Whenever I see a man wearing jeans and a t-shirt daily, I conclude his wife does his clothes shopping, and she buys whatever is on sale at Wal-Mart.
@Paul, I am not the only one who opines that buttoning only the middle button on a 3 button jacket is correct and balanced, many tailors and other sartorial professionals would agree.
@Front Porch Life I have a different perspective. My father served in Southeast Asia 1969-1970, and I started college in 1977. “Rebel Without A Cause” may have helped create the ant-hero, but the Vietnam War was the real spark of the rebellion.
The young men of the late 60’a and early 70’s — many of whom were JFK idealists — were forced to contemplate dying in a war that many considered immoral. The potential of death rendered other morals rather quaint, I think. They believed “authority” had betrayed them and America itself, so they rebelled against it.
Put yourself in their weejuns for a moment. This wasn’t WW II. Can you blame them? I don’t.
Things changed quickly after the war died down. Though free love and drugs remained, college campus politics became far more conservative. At my supposedly liberal university, the Young Conservatives outnumbered the Young Republicans, and together they dwarfed the Young Democrats. It wasn’t long after that the Preppy Handbook was published, and a fashion was born.
So in my mind, the very people who revered and enforced the old code of morality were the authors of its demise. I don’t blame the kids.
@Whiskydent, in fact, it wasn’t even when the war died down. It was when Nixon abolished the draft, one of the cleverer Machiavellian moves in US political history. He knew it would leave only the hardcore radicals worried about the war and he would get credit for calming down the campuses. Some liberals have belatedly come to see the abolition of the draft as a bad thing, because it completely disconnected suburban America from the military and what it might be doing around the world. Iraq changed that a bit, but not too much.
Clothing is obviously very important. However, I prefer to defer to playwright Benjamin Jonson, on the subject on which he states “[l]anguage most shows a man; speak that I may see thee.”
Glad to see the W&L photos, and read the reflections of Keydet1976 and Junewbery. By the time I went to W&L, jackets and ties were no longer required, or even standard for attending classes, but the 3/2 sack and repp stripe ties were trotted out for dances, dates or other dressier occasions. Khakis and OCBDs, were the rule for every day, worn with Weejuns, or LLB camp mocs. Only Alvin-Dennis and The College Town Shop remained as trad-style outposts by then. I still have a 3/2 hound’s-tooth sack jacket and a pair of corduroys from Alvin Dennis in my closet. As far as I can recall, the 3/3 buttoning was nonexistent in my tenure there, but I have seen it in photographs from the 50s and 60s. Jeans, however, were about as common in Lexington in my day as they are now, and I still wear a pair of 501s on occasion. Some wore them with penny loafers, but Tretorns, Topsiders and the like were more common.
@tmjm I agree. I was too lazy to look up the dates. BTW, I’m in a strange window in which I didn’t even have to register for the draft.
Regarding the draft, I’m torn about brining it back. I agree that ending the draft divorced large swaths of the population from the military and the price of war. On the other hand, I can’t imagine that bringing it back wouldn’t also reignite the corruption that allowed the children of the wealthy and powerful to escape service (or meaningful service).
I also wonder about effectiveness. Our forces today appear to perform at a very high level. In Vietnam, I know morale was an issue throughout. Would conscripts do as well as those who freely decide to join? I truly don’t know.
@GS: I’m not challenging you on it; that’s why I said I recognized that top-button-undone is how it is, apparently, “supposed” to be worn. And with some of my jackets it works perfectly. With others, it leaves things looking very “undone”, and buttoning the top button fixes things. (usually by giving the fit of the jacket more shape).
@whiskeydent I’m of two minds too. The draft was abolished shortly before I was of draft age, and in any event I’m Canadian, although I did live for part of those years in the US. I had a great horror of the idea of being forced to go fight in a war that you knew was wrong and that had a high body count on all sides. And I still think that’s a horrible thing for a country to demand of its young people. But I also think a citizen army is an important aspect of a functional democracy. I realize I’m open to the criticism that it’s an easier position to take once one is no longer of military age.
My grandfather died in the late 1990s and, so far as I know, never used the Internet. By the time he died at age 95, his senile dementia was so advanced that it would have been several years since he had the capacity even to use a computer. He taught me some rules about what he called the correct way to button a jacket. When buttoning a jacket, whether a 2-button or 3-button model, he said it was “correct” to leave the bottom button unfastened. The other thing he said was to respect the way a jacket was tailored and pressed. For this reason, always place a jacket on a hanger, and when traveling either wear it or carry it on a hanger in a garment bag–never folded and stuffed in with your other clothes. For the same reason, never carry a briefcase with a shoulder strap over the jacket shoulder. In his words, “there’s a lot of careful tailoring underneath and you’ll break all that down.” When buttoning a 3-button jacket, it should be obvious from how it’s tailored and pressed how it was intended to be worn, either with only the middle button fastened, or with the top two fastened. “Respect the tailor, and don’t force the jacket into a shape that wasn’t intended” was his rule, not “never button the top button on a 3-button jacket under any circumstances.”
On the button question: the first thing I noticed about those photos is that not only do they almost all seem to have their top button fastened, but most importantly, none of their jackets seem intended to have a 3/2 roll. Perhaps they were originally designed to have a 3/2 roll, but the dry cleaners in that area all re-pressed the jackets to eliminate the 3/2 fold. Or perhaps the local haberdashery scorned the Brooks Brothers-derived style and promoted only “true” three-button jackets.
My husband went to W&L (class of 1970), and knew many of the people in these photos. One of them was his swim coach. We lived in various places in the U.S. and retired in Lexington in 2009. The students now may dress better than those at other schools, but there are many who will walk around wearing flip-flops and shorts when it is 30 degrees. Alvin-Dennis is still going and is the place for both male and female students to purchase their Barbours. One unfortunate non-sartorial tradition than has deteriorated is the long-held “speaking tradition.” Before everyone became so attached to their phones, if you passed a student or faculty member on the campus, both parties would say hello. Now almost everyone is walking and texting, and those in a group will not even be talking to each other. I have seen skin art and piercings in greater numbers than when we first moved here.
Throughout ivy style history, one of the major issues we have faced is how to keep the dry cleaner from ruining the top button roll of a three button suit/blazer/sport coat. Right up there with the OCBD collar roll as things that keep us awake and drive us to drink!
Vern — After many years, and many conversations, my small town cleaner finally remembers to roll my lapels to the second button, at least most of the time. I have one J. Press jacket that seems to be made to roll to the top button, and I can live with that although it’s not my preference. A couple of jackets from Polo have lapels that naturally, if somewhat ambiguously, roll to a midpoint between the top and middle, and I actually heard another dry cleaner customer demand that his 3-button lapels be pressed flat to the top button, so I suppose there is a broad range of opinions out there. As for button down collars, I almost invariably need to touch up the efforts of my laundry. Even when I lived in Washington, a careful and knowledgeable cleaner was nearly impossible to find.
I’m Irish, my jeans..err.. genes drive me to drink, it just comes natural. 😉
Nixon ran on a promise to draw down troops, end the war in VN and end the Draft. That and the New Left’s civil disorder is why he won twice. By all accounts a volunteer professional military is a success and devastating.
Some 3-button jackets are meant to have the top button fastened, some are not. What is this expectation of rules? Are you all reading translations of Japanese magazines?
Regarding the draft: a free people should have their agreement to go to war against another sovereign people represented in Congress. And if the vote is to pay for and organize a war, the free people should choose individually if they will go to fight and die.
There’s millions of fighting-age Americans. No need for a draft.
For some lucky reason, I have no problem with the dry cleaners and my blazers and sport coats. I prefer to iron my shirts, though. I like a little starch to keep the wrinkles at bay. Unfortunately, the dry cleaner’s notion of light starch differs radically from mine. I actually don’t mind ironing the shirts. I enjoy the manual work. It’s often a welcomed break from smart phones, emails, texts and the rest of our rapidly changing world. It’s a good way to clear and ground the mind.
Mac – I have drinking jeans, too. In fact, more than one pair. They go well with my genes, which have a distinct taste for craft ales and well-made wines.
Nixon won his second term by a sizable landslide. It was remarkable that he threw away his presidency for no sensible reason. Maybe he should have ironed his own shirts.
As I revisit the pictures, it occurs to me that natural shoulder clothing just looked (looks) so damned good. The long lines, the sloping shoulders, collars and lapels that roll softly. The accessories speak to either sport (striped ties and soft “polo” collars buttoned down) or country (check out those glen check tweeds). The combination of formality and sport/country is just, well–it’s great. Woolen flannel and corduroy contribute.
About 99.5 % of the clothing being worn by professionals these days certainly doesn’t fall under this category.
It’s the double emphasis upon country and sport that combine to make it perfect for the campus.
Well said, and I think it’s worth a fresh waxing poetic essay, either from you or me!
What’s striking me now as fascinating is a new consideration of how these items went from young man’s clothing to old man’s — in the eye of most people, that is.
Those guys could have been dressed at J. Press in 2016, a place most in the mainstream would say is a clothier for old fuddy-duddies.
What was missed in the Ivy Trendwatch and Neo-Prep revivals of the past five years was how great real Ivy looks on a young guy. Relaxed, confident, youthful yet dignified.
Neo-Prep and “Mad Men” happened to occur at a time when proportions were getting shrunken. It was a missed opportunity to turn guys on to the relaxed cut of Ivy jackets.
That day will come!
So far, much of the evidence that any rules about buttoning your jacket existed before the invention of the internet might be considered as hearsay in many courts.
On the other hand, pictures on websites like Voxsartoria and the several blogs that post scans of pre-internet era Brooks Brothers catalogs show many variations of buttoning. These pictures are evidence of the pre-internet freedom men had to button their jackets (which, after all are their private property) any way they wanted.
Some comments may be coming from people who have never seen (or worn) a so-called Brooks Brothers 3/2 jacket from the real (pre-Allied Stores) Brooks Brothers.
It’s not their fault they’ve never seen or worn a real Brooks Brothers 3/2 jacket since some of them were born either in the wrong time, in the wrong place, or both.
I got almost all of my suits and jacket at Brooks Brothers in the sixties or early seventies. Almost all of them are 3/2 jackets.
I still wear them on a daily basis, on sometimes get comments like “Nice vintage jacket”, which always leads me to say, “Thank you. It wasn’t vintage when I got it”.
Jackets, when used as directed, are for protection from the elements. All 3 buttons on a properly fitted Brooks Brothers 3/2 jacket can be buttoned without the jacket pulling or looking unbalanced. Varying the number and location of the buttons you button keeps you either warmer or cooler when you are outside. That’s why jackets have buttons.
One of the best ways to preserve the 3/2 roll look is to keep the top two buttons buttoned when you hang the jacket on a coat hanger. A jacket that has lost it’s 3/2 roll can sometimes be restored by putting it on a coat hanger, buttoning the top two buttons, and hanging it in a (steamy) bathroom.
It’s the coverup not the crime and a misguided sense of loyalty.
I also iron my own shirts, it’s something to do when listening to the nightly news or watching sports on TV. I occasionally bullet proof starch them the old fashion way, cream of starch. But usually just a steam iron. If you want to save some time get a middle of the price range Rowenta steam iron.
Last posted 4 years ago, this might appeal to new readers:
From the May 1987 Lands’ End catalog:
THE PLEASURE OF IRONING A FINE COTTON SHIRT
by Roy Earnshaw
My wife is still asleep. I’ve exercised (quietly), showered, eaten breakfast. Now comes time for a familiar early morning ritual.
I take a cotton dress shirt from the closet, a wrinkled cotton dress shirt, shrug it off its hanger, and drape it over the ironing board.
Some men might smirk at the sight of me preparing to iron. “What? You iron your own shirts? John Wayne never would’ve!”
Well, call me a pantywaist, but I happen to enjoy it.
I plug in the iron, check the water level, turn the setting to — what else — cotton. Then pause for a few moments to let it get hot.
The room where I iron is a barren one. No furniture, just the ironing board. A “room we haven’t figured out what to do with yet,” having just recently bought this house. I suppose one day it will fill up with things, but right now I like it this way. Its spartan aspect seems well suited to the art of ironing.
I start with the left sleeve, first spritzing on water with a sprayer, then ironing it so flat, it almost looks as if I could pick it up and slice bread with it.
I turn it over, do the other side, then the cuff. Then on to the other sleeve, while the ironed one dangles just above the dusty wood floor.
(My wife tells me my technique is all wrong, but then so did my golf coach, my typing teacher, other authority figures. I take a perverse pleasure in doing things my own incorrect way.)
Now the back yoke, and a couple swipes at the collar. The easy parts. And then I sweep the shirt up off the board and down again, with its back spread out flat before me.
Sometimes I botch the back pleat, and have to do it two or three times. But no one is watching.
The ironing board cover bothers me. It’s a cheap one, full of childish flowers in jarring hues. Orange. Chartreuse. Purple. The colors of fast food restaurants. I miss the plain white one my mother used to have, with its humble dignity and burn smudges.
I press on. (No letters please — bad puns harm no one.) The cotton cloth is soft, sturdy in my fingers, and responsive to the iron. I swear, it enjoys being ironed! Almost seems to purr. It has a wonderful, tightly-woven texture to it, and glistens with the heat of the iron, and the soft light of the room.
Again I sweep the shirt up off the board, and down again, to do the right front, skating in and out around the buttons, then the left, using plenty of water and going over the stubborn placket again and again, bearing down, until it finally yields and becomes flat, neat. I am finished.
Now, the final pleasure of slipping into the toasty shirt. Especially keen now, in the February cool of the house. It almost crackles as I button it up, tuck it in.
The finches in the back room start to peep as first light looks in the windows. Time for me to go. But I leave with a sense of contentment, knowing that whatever large debacles or small frustrations await me, I have at least done one small piece of good work today.
Good essay, Old School, and a fun read. Funny how we might iron differently (I always start with the left front) but the effect is the same. Thanks for posting.
“Nixon won his second term by a sizable landslide. It was remarkable that he threw away his presidency for no sensible reason. Maybe he should have ironed his own shirts.”
Eddie Burke: As National Lampoon was fond of pointing out at the time when trying to think of good things to say about Nixon, he would never have worn brown shoes with a blue suit — an ironclad rule in those days that has now thankfully faded away.
Thanks for that Old School! Excellent, and thanks for the images S.E. That first image looks vaguely like my dad and his brothers.
This is an old post, but since I know a lot of these people who are in the class of 71, I thought I’d add a comment. Our freshman year, we were required to wear coats and ties (termed “conventional dress”) to class and we had classes on Saturday mornings. Saturday classes were dropped mid-way through the 1968-1969 year and I believe that “conventional dress” disappeared at about the same time. These pictures are from the 1969 annual, because the world changed in the summer of 1969 with Woodstock. Starting in the fall of 1969 the look of the student body was a whole lot different.
Pants called “denim jeans” derived their name from both Nimes, France and Genoa, Italy. The color is a close match of the blue used in the stained glass windows at the famed cathedral of Nimes; therefore called “de Nimes (from Nimes).” The cut of jeans is similar to the pantaloons which were worn by many of the dockworkers at the port of Genoa; therefore called “Genes.” Only the spelling changed. The rugged material was the same as was often used to make tents.