This weekend the New York Times Magazine ran a feature story entitled “The Esquire Man Is Dead; Long Live The Esquire Man.” It centers around the magazine’s new editor and its search for relevance in 2017. There’s a lot of interesting history in the piece, though one thing’s for certain: the magazine won’t be going backwards. Nothing ever really does. You can read the piece here.
In the meantime, here’s a glimpse at what entertained the Esquire Man of old. (You can see more by accessing the Esquire archives for a mere five bucks a month.)
The January, 1962 issue featured a cover story on the “well appointed wardrobe of JFK.” Among other things, it points out the differences between JFK’s suits and “the Ivy suit,” and claims his were made by Fenn-Feinstein, which at the time had merged with Frank Brothers. A lot of tailors say they made suits for JFK, and the truth is they probably all did.
Also from 1962 is this Esquire guide to the basic college wardrobe. Ponder it for a bit and try and not feel like a sartorial reactionary.
And finally from Esquire of 1962 is this fun graphic from the days before celebrity culture. It depicts the kinds of prominent people who would jockey for the best tables at swank New York restaurants like Sardi’s, 21, and El Morocco. It’s a delightfully varied mixture, and I’m sure the Esquire Man of old would have fit right in. — CC
Maybe Richard can translate that one for us. He speaks 1962 and also Yiddish.
Wow, “The Basic College Wardrobe” is really something to be admired (except the flap pockets on the tuxedo). I absolutely love the two-button cuffs on all of the jackets and can’t even begin to imagine if the staples shown here were mandatory in all mens closets today, not just those in the collegiate space.
That being said, given my affinity for menswear, the “Basic” wardrobe shown across that two-page spread would cost a bit much for your average 18-21 year-old. Let’s break it down conservatively from left to right and top to bottom:
Charcoal Overcoat: $700.00
Trench Raincoat (not Burberry): $500.00
Light Grey Suit: $700.00
Navy Suit: $700.00
Charcoal Suit: $700.00
Tweed Sportcoat: $300.00
Navy Blazer (Brooks): $450.00
Long Shearling Coat: $2,500.00
Blue Cashmere Sweater: $200.00
Tan Knit Cardigan: $150.00
Dark Slacks: $150.00
Charcoal Slacks with Cuff: $150.00
Paisley Tie: $70.00
Patent Shoes (American or Italian Made): $350.00
Black Shoes 1: $250.00
Black Shoes 2: $250.00
Paperboy hat; $100.00
Converse Jack Purcell: $100.00
9 Gant Button Down Shirts at $110~ each. $1000.00
4 regimental ties at $70.00 each. $280
2 knit Ties at $50 each. $100.00
2nd pair of charcoal pants: $100.00
In total, this adds up to $10,980.00, before sales tax and I was very conservative on things like the shearling.
If one were to acquire this entire wardrobe from Brooks Brothers, and didn’t even purchase anything Golden Fleece or 1818, the cost would still near $20,000.00.
Where shearling coats, even relative to inflation much more affordable back then?
This is another reminder of how Esquire was once so centered on New York and thus the Northeast climate. You’d melt in those clothes in the South and Southwest.
My brother, who started college in 1965 and embraced a Trad style, wore fabrics that were lighter in weight and color. I wore similar styles (though more casual in general) 12 years later. Why? The winters were milder and shorter while the Fall and Spring temperatures were often 85+ degrees.
Yes, I know the Ivy look was born up there. But by the early 60’s, the style had spread far and wide, yet Esquire still hadn’t left New York. Eventually, the magazine left the city only to get lost in conflicting and confusing mishmash of fashions from all over the place. Evolution or de-evolution? I’d say both.
I believe that all the 1962 items, with the exception of the “tan knit cardigan” are still readily available.
How fortunate we are!
Seemingly JFK’s infidelity knew no bounds, loyal to no one tailor either.
Yeah, what’s up with the “Schlepps” concept? With an image of a bow-tie, no less. Truly inscrutable. I wonder how many readers back in ’62 were scratching their heads over that one.
I’ve lived in NY most of my life, and am somewhat familiar with the more common Yiddishisms. The verb “to shlepp” is pretty common, and I can image what a noun based on it might mean. But in this context, and paired with the bow-tie image, I’m baffled.
Isn’t a schlepper a messy, ruffled guy who drags or “schlepps” things all over the city? It’s what you white people call a “working stiff.”
One of my favorite phrases is “think Yiddish, dress British.”
The “Schlepp” comment in context may have referred to the move away from the more formal double-breasted look worn by presidents, kings and business magnates before Kennedy. Also remember, this was the time when detachable collars also vanished. Finally, hats too. As any menwear history enthusiast should be able to tell you, Jack’s choice to forgo his top hat during his inaugural speech was considered by many to be the nail in the coffin for the formal hat in general (top, bowlers, fedoras etc).
One thing that stands out in the 1962 campus wardrobe is the recommended shoe ratio: four pair of leather-soled shoes vs. a single pair of rubber-soled sporting shoes. For the majority of men today, that ratio would be reversed.
@Benjamin – Most college students, who did not have trust funds, were never be able to drop $11K on a wardrobe. I think you would find many would have opted for respectable substitutes. A $2500 Shearling Coat? A $275 Peacoat is closer to reality… IMHO. Then again, fashion magazines are rarely about reality, and always more about fantasy for the fashionista.
@The Loafer Lawyer
Absolutely, my point was that wardrobe would cost $11,000 today. But in 1962, were things, even relative to inflation, cheaper? I.e Would a person have been able to purchase that entire wardrobe for less than $1384.39 in 1962 dollars? (I used a CPI calculator online to get that figure). From other posts made on this blog, it would seem that things were much cheaper relative to the average income back then.
The current $140.00 price tag on Brooks OCBDs is the prime example.
“Dinner clothes: 1 black year-round-weight dinner jacket with notched or shawl collar”
It’s impossible! It’s heresy! No one wore dinner jackets with notched lapels back in the day! It’s outrageous! It’s—it’s… (sound of head exploding)
I see that was the advice. I wonder how available dinner jackets with notched lapels were in 1962, and how popular they were. I bet Squeeze has memories on this topic.
Hats were already on the way out in the 1950s. My father, who attended college in the 50s, told me he wore hats in college only because his employer. a haberdasher, required him to. Once he graduated and got a full-time job in his field, he stopped wearing them. Sure, hat-wearing survived into the 1960s, but mostly on older guys—young men, even those wearing suits & ties, were eschewing them in droves (a little photographic evidence from 1965: http://blog.ricecracker.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/meyerowitz015.jpg).
Very true. But it is also interesting to note the the four pairs shown are all lace-ups. Weejuns were invented in the 30s, bit loafers in ’52 and tassels around ’57. By ’62 there should have been at least one of those pairs included.
Even today, driving mocs and other slip-ons are huge. Perhaps this, IMHO, is because traditional lace-ups don’t tend to look as good in more affordable options whereas loafers, albeit more casual,don’t need to be several hundred dollars. I hope that don’t make me sound snobby either.
My reading skills seem to be weakening.
I was unable to locate “schlepps” anywhere in the text.
Could someone help?
I spy long point (3.5″ or longer) button-downs and the famous five-bar stripe repp, a.k.a. the “Brooks #1 repp.” Still my favorite stripe for ties, after all these years.
Very true. But it is also interesting to note that the four pairs shown are all lace-ups. Weejuns were invented in the 30s, bit loafers in ’52 and tassels around ’57. So by 1962, you would thinking they would have included at least one of those type.
Even today, driving mocs and other slip-ons are hugely popular. Perhaps it is because cheaper traditional lace-ups don’t tend to look as good whereas for loafers, albeit more casual, you don’t need to spend as much for a sharp pair at the same time. I know that is purely opinion based and certainly hope it doesn’t make me sound snobby either; but I just have never found a pair of lace-ups less than your typical Allen Edmonds, to be anywhere near as attractive as a pair of Allen Edmonds. Cole Haan were less and used to be okay but really went down hill over the past ten years.
I wish men’s fashion spreads still looked like this. It looks more like my current wardrobe than my college wardrobe. However, my teen and college years were during the horrible time of transition from hippie to disco, when even J. Press offered wide lapels. In the 60s, I think my older brothers were more likely to have a single sport coat, a blazer and maybe a gray flannel suit and one pair each of loafers, wingtips, and tennis shoes. All would have been bought at department stores or college-town men’s shops, so maybe at the Ivies things were different. But, as mentioned above, I imagine that this article was more aspirational than mere reporting.
I don’t know how common they were in the wild, but my collection of 1960s Esquires and Playboys contain a number of examples of notched lapel dinner suits from brands like Lord West and After Six.
Old School, “Schlepps” is in the last graphic, far right column, middle row.
They say rules are meant to be broken, but notch lapels on a tuxedo are a tough pill to swallow. We like to pin 1967 as the bookend for trad, but many argue that are major changes to formal wear beyond the standards set in the 1930s are satorically incorrect.
Peak and shawl collars only, single button unless DB. Peaks for guys with rounder faces, shawls for narrow, however always shawl for off-white summer weight dinner jackets. Satin or Grosgrain lapels. Cummerbunds and/or vests a must, even if you don’t have to hide a gut. Try to stick to an actual black bowtie for black tie events unless the tuxedo is midnight blue and/or you are attending a holiday party and would like to support a tradition tartan or other understated pattern. Needlepoint designs on cummerbunds are reserved for the advanced among us.
Thank you for the input. I also recall this article from The Suits of James Bond, about his notched-lapel dinner jacket worn at a private dinner:
Incidentally, that was in Goldfinger, released in 1958 (book)/1964 (film).
It’s a myth that JFK somehow was the first to not wear a hat during his inauguration speech. All presidents since at least FDR to JFK wore top hats to and from their inaugurations, none worn them during their speeches that would be bad form. Simply Google JFK’s inauguration images.The LBJ and Nixon inaugurations ended the top hat thing, not JFK.
Disconcerting that all the shoes are black save the tennis shoes in the basic college wardrobe example.
Using Mad Men as the model, Bert Cooper fits within the Schlepps category.
The Goldfinger scene you mention contains one of my favorite examples of Bond repartee:
Colonel Smithers: Have a little more of this rather disappointing brandy?
M: What’s the matter with it?
Bond: I’d say it is a thirty-year old fine, indifferently blended, sir… with an abundance of bons-bois.
M: (scowling) Colonel Smithers is giving the lecture, 007…
The literal Yiddish translation of “schlep” is “to drag.” A “schlepper” is a blue collar worker, but a “schlep” is someone who is a “drag.” Basically the same meaning as in English.
Bow ties wearers have long been considered to be lacking in charisma. I don’t know how that connotation came about, as I’m more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
Just to clarify, I think the graphic is referring to boring “egghead” types like Arthur Schlesinger.
Thank you for posting this!
Benjamin, I’m with you: the traditional rules for black tie are the ones most likely to make a man look good and not like a tool. I go to three black tie events a year, and the further from the ideals a man strays, the worse he looks. What really raises my dander, though, is the slovenly who refuse to wear a tuxedo to black tie events!
I like your brother started on the basics in junior high and added the frosting over time. First a hopsack navy blazer, charcoal worsted pants, khakis, tan gab pants, assorted OCBDs and ties, Weejuns, oxfords and later a tweed jacket and charcoal flannel pants with baby cord sportcoat optional. Then come the Gloverall or better made peacoat. Then over time frosting, one builds a wardrobe, one does not buy one unless you’re rich, most aren’t. Suits are optional till you actually have to own one.
If you’re assuming that you buy that wardrobe all at once and all at full price then it would seem expensive; but that hardly ever is the case. If this is really a lifestyle and not a fad, then that wardrobe would have been accumulated over multiple years and almost due to necessity not just because “the cool preppy kids at school have tweed jackets too” (although I coughed up some major dough to buy a grey herringbone jacket just because I saw a guy looking pretty dapper in one).
Also, if you’re in college, you have 0 income: so that money has to come from some place right? Internship, parents, petty crimes, etc.
Years ago, I met a guy (architecture major) who only shopped at Paul Stuart. God bless his soul. He was wearing a splendid cobalt blue cashmere jacket with a white windowpane; I’ll never forget it. Said he spent 70% of all his income on his wardrobe, 20% on beer and 10% on everything else.
N.B.: I didn’t ask him what the source of his “income” was.
I know that JFK single-handedly killing the hat industry was a false rumor of the highest order, but the legend know doubt helped contribute to the overall decline of formal hats for men in the 1960s decade overall.
Question. Wing collar with black tie? Has certainly been out of fashion for a while but so has everything else we discuss on this blog. In the 90s, Frasier and other characters still wore that type of shirt collar with regular tuxedos. I personally never have, and think they should be regulated to the ever elusive “White Tie” event or historical costume, however, I’m not yet ready to make harsh, definitive statements against it either.
@Chewco L.P. (Cayman)
You’re absolutely right, rarely would there be someone who didn’t accrue their wardrobe over time. However, the changes in size most young men experience from high school (14-17) through college (18-21) can be drastic, especially when you arrive at the latter and the low income you spoke of inspires a diet consisting of highly processed and refined white carbohydrates, sugar and sodium.
I myself certainly did not fit in to any of the clothes I was bought when I was in high school by the time I finished University. Moreover, even though one wouldn’t purchase an entire wardrobe in a single shot, the gradual changes are relatively quick at that point in life, requiring fast turnover.
My question still hasn’t been answered though, was this clothing, jackets, OCBDs, flannel trousers, lace ups shoes, suiting, generally less expensive, even taking inflation into account, than these same items cost today?
For example, did the basic 3/2 Wool Sack Blue Blazer that Brooks Brothers sells for $648.00 plus tax right now sell for less than $81.54 in 1962?
Did the OCBD shirts Brooks sells today for $140.00 plus tax sell for less than $17.62 back then. (I used a CPI inflation calendar to get both 1962 dollar amounts)
I don’t want to say anything for sure but I have a feeling it did cost less than $81 for a blazer and $17 for the shirt back then respectively.
I must apologize for some of the awful grammatical errors I’ve made in my comments today. There is no excuse, especially for the “know doubt” comment.
I invite and deserve your criticism!
What are grammatical?
I remember when a Gant and Creighton shirts cost less than $14.50, Weejuns were about $15, selvedge Levi’s 501s were less than $6. In HS a good navy hopsack blazer cost about $100. I blame the US Government, but what do I know?
Wing collar shirts with black tie don’t look particularly good, especially with pleats (a 1920s aberration revived in the 70s and popularized through the 80s and 90s). For dinner jacket and black tie, turn-down collar superior, with shirt pleats wide and few in number. Wing collar shirt for white tie should be pique bib front to achieve maximum duende.
I hate clothes rules. But some rules are good. Only break them with purpose, skill and vigor.
You can find pages from a 1962 Brooks Brothers catalog if you search online.
Oxford cloth button down shirts in solid colors were $8.50 and with stripes were $9.00.
In the mid sixties, lightweight washable suits were $50.00 at Brooks Brothers.
Most of what I am still wearing I got at Brooks Brothers between 1962 and 1976.
There was a far larger selection of suits (and almost everything else) at Brooks Brothers in the sixties and seventies than there is now, and the prices now are much higher in relation to the quality than they were before the several changes of ownership.
@Benjamin it happens to the best of us. I wish that we were able to either delete or edit our comments.
I just perused a September (back to school!) newspaper from 1962. Here are some prices shown in display ads:
Freeman Classic Brogues $19.95
Botany 500 suit $49.95
Cashmere topcoat $69.95
Orlon Cardigan $7.99
And how about this Dress Shirt Special at JC Penney; OCBDs $2.00!
My memory may be wrong; but I recall paying $4.00 for solid shirts and $4.50 for stripe shirts at brooks brothers in Chicago in 1965.
In the mid 1960’s there was a pinch penny loafer available that was made by a company that I believe was called British Walker. The shoe was in tan scotch grain leather and cost few dollars more than bass penny loafers. Does anyone else recall these shoes.
Mr.Kraus, I agree that is a terrific scene in Goldfinger!
Trivia: The actor who plays Smithers also plays an annoyed commuter sharing a compartment with The Beattles in an early scene of A Hard Day’s Night.
I also see that in 1962, one could buy a “fifth” (750ml) of Calvert gin for $3.61.
Based on what you’re saying it would seem that suits and topcoats were roughly 40% cheaper than they are today relative to income and the value of the dollar including inflation. Shirts seemed to be less than half of what they are now.
However it is shoes that are the most impressive. Again from what you said, it sounds like they were a mere fraction of their relative cost today. Allen Edmonds lace-ups are $395.00 and even Weejuns are over $110.00 at full price. Meanwhile you guys are talking about $19.95 for brogues and Bass for $15, which then were all American-Made. Insane and no wonder they say many millennials will never be able to move from renting to home ownership. lol.
I recall buying a pair of Edward Green captoes at Nordstrom in Seattle for approximately $200 in 1990. Couldn’t touch those today for less than $1,200-$1,400.
Mike, I’d be surprised if Nordstrom even carried Edward Green anymore. Both have changed for the worse.
In those days prices were much lower and so was the average annual income of most people.
Thank you for confirming my beliefs. Wing-collared shirts with traditional black tie garb should be rendered faux pas by all accounts.
I’d also like to mention some other rules often overlooked in terms of wearing a wristwatch with a tuxedo. The first is kind of rigid and up to the individual, but you are actually supposed to refrain from wearing a watch altogether if you are the host, unless of course it is your wedding and your wife bought you one as a “day of” gift. Technically still wrong in the situation too but cant advocate unsettling the matrimony over it. The second and more important rule, and one place where even Bond films get it wrong, your wristwatch strap should be black leather for a dressy appeal. Not metal as all of the Omega’s have been during the Brosnan and Craig years.
Thank god strict rules only apply to evening dress and not our every day attire unlike many here would have us believe!!!!!!
Actually, H Korn, as Mr. Press points out in this video, even adjusted for inflation suits and ties were cheaper than they are today because most people wore them (and they were frequently on sale). The sad thing is they were also better made than today’s standard offerings: https://vimeo.com/73984580
GS, you are correct. Nordstrom carries Allen Edmonds but they also carry several pointy-toe elf shoes for the discerning hipster. In 1990 one could also buy a classic Norman Hilton suit at Nordstrom for about $500-$600. Got one on sale once for $245!
I don’t remember the British Walker, but Weejun made a scotch grain Logan and Cole Haan did a dress tassel loafer in scotch grain.
Mike, I forgot about them carrying AE. Probably one of the last classic menswear brands they carry. They had some Filson waxed jackets once but that’s only because the brand has become trendy among hipsters. I can’t believe Nordstrom ever carried Norman Hilton, hope you still have that suit.
GS, in the mid to late 80s and early 90s Hilton was probably their top of the line suit. Plus full lines of Talbot ties; Threadtex TTX shirts of various makers; and a full floor of Made in USA Polo clothing. But that Hilton suit went to charity about 10 years ago.
My grandmother told me that back in the 90’s, as you claim, the store was still selling classic, conservative clothes. Only recently has there been an unfortunate switch to the flashy and trendy. Then again, there really aren’t any department stores that still carry traditional menswear. Bloomingdales carries Polo but the brand hasn’t been too classic lately. Didn’t realize that Nordstrom ever sold Polo.
Benjamin & DCG,
Agreed that a wing collar with black tie is difficult to pull off, mostly because it has been done so poorly for so long.
As those of us who know our sartorial history are aware, the original black tie kit was identical to that of white tie, except for the black tie and the tuxedo jacket. That meant a white piqué vest and a shirt with a piqué bosom and a detachable wing collar. (Later, everybody’s favorite Duke-of-Windsor-to-be introduced turndown collar shirts with a soft bosom and French cuffs for black tie.)
This means it has always been correct to wear a wing collar shirt with a tuxedo, but it only looks good if certain other conditions are met:
1. It is a detachable wing collar, as tall as the wearer’s neck will allow.
2. The shirt has a piqué bosom.
3. It is worn with a peaked lapel single-breasted jacket.
4. It is worn with a black bow tie and a black vest.
Any other combination is strictly bush league. An attached wing collar; a shirt with pleats; a colored tie worn with a wing collar; a wing collar worn with a cream (or, worse yet, white) shawl lapel jacket—all awful.
Full disclosure: Sometimes, I wear my vintage 1930s, single breasted, peak lapel dinner jacket with a detachable wing collar shirt and a black vest. Even so, more often than not, I choose a turn-down collar shirt.
Fred Astaire wearing a wing collar shirt with his tuxedo—and dancing with Rita Hayworth!
Thank you for directing my attention to the relevant graphic.
The good stuff was expensive. Norman Hilton adverstising was directed toward adult men–many of the pictures featuring a gent well in to middle age. Which is to say: somebody who could appreciate and afford well tailored clothing. Not Joe College.
It’s doubtful that undergrads galore were keeping Langrock and Chipp alive. For all the connections to the campus, Haute Ivy Style (H.I.S.) was for a man of means. Maybe Mr. Press can shed light on how much J. Press relied upon well heeled alums.
The rise of the notch lapel two-button tuxedo was partly a result of clothing manufacturers adding satin and grosgrain facings to regular suit molds in order to cut costs rather than having completely separate tuxedo molds in their inventory altogether. Though Brooks, Press and other Ivy suppliers do offer shawl and peak lapel options in addition to their tuxedos with notch lapels, I find that most of them still contain other attributes that are improper, but have fallen over from regular suiting (Christian, sorry for the use of that word which I know you despise). For example, most if not all of them have flap pockets which they should not. Ralph Lauren’s tuxedos, even up to their Purple Label line, come with regular suit buttons instead of satin or grosgrain cloth covered ones by default.
Having the flaps removed and the proper buttons added may be less-than-$50 alterations, but it still is annoying that they are not standard features; especially since these brands are not exactly budget friendly or for the cost conscience.
I will give credit where it is due though and award brownie points to these brands for at least in my experience, tending to keep the waist line much higher than what is offered on their modern suits. Properly fitted, the waistline is typically high enough to prevent you from showing any white shirt below the single button. However, that still does not excuse the wearer from putting on a cummerbund or vest.
Lastly, I find that tuxedo pants from these brands alternate between having suspender buttons or side tabs. However, even in the event of the latter, I find it necessary for most men to spend $6 to have those buttons added if they are not already there. Number one, suspenders do a much better job holding up the pants, especially at BT events involving drinks and dancing. Number two, because suspenders are hidden completely by the dinner jacket, you are afforded the ability to add a touch of personality with some of the amazing options they have at Paul Stuart (Though I must admit I’m boring and still only opt for white). Number three, though there are guys who still wear them regularly, I find that in addition to the bowtie, facings, cummerbund, patent shoes, studs, and formal shirts, dress suspenders really do help contribute to the separation of your Black Tie Ensemble from your regular suits and business wear.
Henry – Very well stated. While I generally go with a shawl collar jacket. cummerbund and a shirt with wide pleats and an attached, turn-down collar, I enjoy wearing a detachable, high wing collar, piqué front shirt and lapelled vest (both Brooks) with a peak lapelled diner suit (Press). One of the most elegant black-tie rigs I have seen was at a party last year, where a fellow was wearing a fairly wide lapelled, 4-button DB dinner suit that had been made on Savile Row for his father in the 1940s. I don’t recall the name of the tailor, but it would not have raised any eyebrows if it had been spotted on the back of the Duke of Windsor or Mr. Astaire. Alas, my father bequeathed no such treasure to me.
Old School, you are most welcome.
Charlottesville, I’m beginning to suspect that we were separated at birth! (I failed to comment on the recent vest post, but I, too, have a red vest that I break out around Christmas, and a plaid one (Black Watch) that gets more wear.) Like you, I have not been bequeathed any tuxedos, but I do have my grandfather’s black tie studs & links, and they are in my favorite shape (octagonal) and material (smoke mother-of-pearl) for black tie jewelry.
Benjamin, while I believe you are absolutely correct about the recent rise in notched lapels on tuxedos, it seems that notched lapels have long been an option for dinner jackets. Take a gander at the history section of Black Tie Guide for historical ads & what-not, and you’ll see them. Regardless, notched lapels are just out of place on a tuxedo. If one wanted to be more casual with black tie, then why not wear a shawl lapel or a smoking jacket?
Incidentally, my 1930s dinner jacket has flaps on the hip pockets and no boutonniere, so it seems that even during the height of men’s clothing, there was variation, even within the classics.
I love The Black Tie Guide but must admit that I’m embarrassed about the fact that I can quote from it! lol
Whereas the college man of ’62 showed up with a trunk, the current version can probably get his wardrobe into a medium sized backpack. Even then, I wonder how many came with three suits, a dozen ties, and two hats.
Henry — I have a set of octagonal studs and cufflinks as well, but they are onyx and came with no family ties to bind me to them. However, I bought them at a shop on Royal Street in New Orleans some months after the flood when stores and restaurants were just beginning to re-open in the Quarter, so there is some sentimental connection. Alas, one of the links broke a couple of years ago. I need to check into having it repaired. On the vest front, I also have a Tattersall number that I haven’t worn yet this season. I really need to find an excuse to break it out with a tweed coat and flannels.
@NCJack (and others)
Not many. Don’t forget that magazine features like this were (and are today) aspirational. They really weren’t portraying reality for most people.
A related point: a lot of the advice back then and today, telling you what clothes to have, comes from people who SELL CLOTHES. Something for all of us to remember.
The 2017 Basic College Wardrobe:
4 T-shirts with pop music or sports team graphics
2 replica team jerseys
1 plain-black “Dress” T-shirt
3 pair baggy shorts
1 pair “Dress” long pants, black, minimum 4” excess length
1 sport coat, black, for “formal” occasions, sleeves 2” too long
1 pair multi-color athletic shoes
1 pair neon red/orange athletic shoes
1 pair black “Dress” athletic shoes
1 pair sunglasses with white or neon-color frames
Charlottesville, I’ve had cufflinks repaired by my jeweler. It should be an easy, inexpensive job.
I wish I had a Tattersall vest! I’ve been trawling for one on the ‘Bay, but have yet to find one that wasn’t overpriced. There’s a well-dressed gent who attends my church who has one—blue & yellow check on a cream ground, single-breasted with notch lapels—very nice.
Mr. Kraus, you’re on a roll today! I think the only item absent from your list is the obligatory pair of baggy, saggy jeans.
I think it’s time to dip into that Yamazaki single malt of yours. How about pouring a round for us…
I’d love to! Stop by anytime, and we’ll have a round or two. Of course, Charlottesville is invited, and we need to welcome our new friend Benjamin, too. Who’s bringing the cigars?
Even the term “black dress shirt” rattles me to the core.
Are you guys all in NYC? I was just there but live in Chicago and am originally from Toronto.
Chicago?! I spent the entire heyday years outside the Windy City. City of big shoulders, the Marina City Towers… ?My kind of town…
I am living in the City of Angels now. I just finished loading a box of Cubans in the old Gulfstream to head over to Henry’s place. If you’re coming, don’t forget your velvet smoking jacket.
Benjamin, I too detest black dress shirts. One should not own any black shirt.
Black is for weddings and funerals.
Another famous legend is that in addition to not be considered an appropriate color for the American workplace, Brooks Brothers apparently did not manufacture a black suit from 1865 until 1995 out of respect for Abraham Lincoln who was assassinated while wearing a black BB Frock coat.
But not ever in shirt form. EVER.
Black is for motorcycles, with an exception for dress shoes.
Even black motorcycles are a fairly recent phenomena. Back in the heyday BMW and Vincent had them, but if you had your heart set on a black Harley-Davidson, you would have had to make do with a black and white two-tone scheme. One of the most popular machines of the day, the Triumph 650 Bonneville, was similarly unavailable in black.
Another popular item, the black automotive interior, was also quite rare, not garnering widespread popularity until the late 1960s.
I wrote about The Ascent of Black a year ago: https://autouniversum.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/asa/
Reservoir Dogs, Armani and women seeking black’s slimming effect are surely part of why its use in today’s fashion is so pervasive. Personally, I think you look like an undertaker in it.
Henry, Benjamin and Mr. Kraus — Thank you so much for the invitation. Unfortunately, my Gulf stream is in the shop so I can’t make it to cocktail hour today, but I will raise a glass to you all at around 6:30. Also, Henry, I bought my Tattersall vest (black and yellow over cream flannel, no lapels) at an equestrian shop here in Virginia some years back. In the link below are some from the current line, but I bet eBay will come through for you eventually (I’ve found some amazing items on the ‘Bay). http://horsecountrycarrot.com/index.cfm?action=store&sub=category&cat=168 . I wore mine with a gray herringbone and flannels one Saturday in NY and got a complement from no less a sartorian (if that can be a word) than Lord Willy (aka, Alex Wilcox). I felt like Gig Young. O’Connell’s used to carry vests too, and I think my red one may have been one of theirs.
I am on the Leftist Coast, not too far north from Mr. Kraus. As Mr. Kraus intimated, it will be at-home black tie, so velvet slipper & smoking jackets are most welcome, though if your slippers are at the cobbler’s shop and your smoking jacket at the cleaners, you’re more than welcome to attend in your regular tuxedo.
Black is for accessories (shoes, belts, watch straps, ties, & hats, all at one’s discretion) and (semi-)formal wear.* The recent “all black, all the time” fad started in the 80s, and has never really gone away. Every time I see a man in a solid black suit, I can’t help but think “fashion victim.”
Charlottesville, thanks for the link. I’d love one in blue & navy on cream, but blue & yellow on cream would also be very nice. I actually have an active search on eBay for Tattersall vests, but I seldom get a hit, and most of those are in the wrong size. Some day, some day… Incidentally, both my red & my Black Watch vests are vintage Pendleton.
* Technically, the tuxedo is semi-formal, but formal wear, for both day and night, is well-nigh extinct in modern America. Semi-formal wear for the daytime is the stroller; I wear mine to church on Easter, and plan on wearing it to my children’s weddings (see if they can stop me!).
Henry — If I can get the jet fired up, perhaps I can make it to the left coast in time for cocktails. I have a Black Watch dinner jacket with a black grosgrain shawl collar, and black opera pumps with grosgrain bows if that would be acceptable. At St. Thomas Episcopal, where my wife and I attend services when in NY on a Sunday, the ushers wear strollers (not morning coats as I recall), but I have never been there on Easter to see whether civilians take the plunge. Might be worth it just to have the excuse for daytime (semi-) formal wear. Here in Charlottesville, I count myself fortunate to see a suit and tie in the next pew, although the odds go up on Easter.
Just before Christmas, I tried, in reality, to put together an evening amongst a few friends in Toronto where we would have a holiday dinner at a classic 1960s era Americanized-Chinese food restaurant dressed in Black Tie. The dinner would be followed up by a BT pub crawl inspired by one that the entire Jimmy Johns Company hosts in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day everyyear year. Unfortunately, my group abandoned the BT aspect because one of the guys didn’t own a tux and seemingly felt bad.
Since it didn’t happen, it’s still a goal….
(P.S. The Americanese restaurant should have the red vinyl booths, perfectly inauthentic egg rolls, great Lo mein, and waiters clad in vests and bowties too!)
Sounds like a capital idea!
I have often thought about the same sort of soirée, although set in a 1960s steakhouse or Italian red-sauce joint. Either preferably with red glass candleholders on the table surrounded by white plastic mesh. And a colored-plastic “cocktail monkey” hanging off my martini glass. And so dark I can hardly see.
Alas, some of my acquaintances are also lacking in the Black Tie department.
The BT soiree sounds like a great idea. Some friends and I (and wives) did this a few years ago at a Virginia resort called The Homestead, and it was great fun. We have a 60s era, red-leather boothed steakhouse here in town that would be great for a return engagement. I now have one black tie event annually, and it is coming up a week from tomorrow at a friend’s house. Should be fun.
For the old school restaurant guys, there is a steakhouse in downtown Phoenix — Durant’s — that checks all your boxes, from the red banquettes, red glass table lamps, waiters in short tuxes, and no precious “cuisine.” It has been many years since I’ve been there, but I recall that you enter through the kitchen into a dining room right out of 1965. Here’s the video proof:
@whiskeydent — Looks the part, alright. Here is a picture of our local contender:
It has been owned and operated by the same family since opening in 1965. It even has a piano bar. Perfect for a Mad Men evening.
Apparently I am not the only one here that enjoys vintage dining.
There is a great website Le Continental that seeks out and reviews old-school restaurants, not only across the U.S. but around the world, seeking out survivors that have remained basically unchanged in menu and decor. The publisher, Dean “The Jab” Curtis, looks and dresses the part too.
An extra plus: he downgrades establishments for the presence of TV screens.
Whiskeydent & Charlottesville:
Both look wonderful! Look like places where I might be able to tuck into a iceberg wedge or Caesar salad, followed by a medium-rare rib eye (side of sautéed mushrooms) parked next to a baked potato (topped with chives) and a broiled half-tomato topped with cheese and breadcrumbs, the plate garnished by a piece of curly parsley.
Followed by flaming Bananas Foster or cherries jubilee…
@charlottesville @James Kraus
My local, Austin Land & Cattle, doesn’t hit all the style marks, but the food, service and ambiance are great nonetheless.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe I am seeing a few posters of The Duke there, Pilgrim!
’tis the Duke
I am now both thirsty and hungry. As usual, the thirst comes first. A nectar from the Highlands is in my near future.
I too am a diehard. The upside of the smoking ban is that I now spend more time in the great outdoors (aka sidewalks).
Messers whiskeydent and Krause — I am getting hungry. Mr. Krause’s description of the food at my local old-school steakhouse is most accurate. As a sidebar confession, I wish smoking were still legal. It just goes with that kind of evening, but I recognize that it’s abolition will probably add years to my life. The Jab’s website is great. Thank you so much for telling us about it. Brennan’s in NOLA is an old favorite of mine as well, and I have heard about Caesar’s in Tijuana for years, but did not know it was still extant. Wonderful pictures. I have bookmarked the website for regular return visits. I’ll be off shortly to a martini by the fire followed, not by steak on this occasion, but red snapper, which sounds pretty good. Cheers to you both, and hope you each have a rare rib eye in your near future.
Here is a look at my local favorite, La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills:
Opened in 1966 it remains largely original today. Ol’ Blue Eyes himself dined there regularly up until he died and the walls are filled with black & white prints of The Rat Pack and other bygone regulars. When I last feasted there just a few days before Christmas (a holiday tradition), Tina Sinatra was sitting two booths away.
Ideally, I will someday pull up to the front in a Mercedes-Benz 230 SL or maybe a ’64 Imperial Convertible with a nice gal in a blonde beehive.
That would feed me for a day.
The black tie evening on the town sounds great! I’l have to look in to doing that locally.
Charlottesville, the evidence that we are twins separated at birth is only growing: I, too, wear opera pumps with a black grosgrain bow with my black tie kit. I’ve tried my wholecut Oxfords wth flat silk laces, but it just wasn’t the same. Opera pumps all the way for me!
Mr. Kraus – La Dolce Vita sounds and looks absolutely perfect. I rarely make it out west, but this will most definitely be on my list. I am dating my self merely by asking the question, but do Dan Tana’s and the Polo Lounge and its adjacent patio still retain their 50s/60s vibe? They were great in the 90s and early 2000s.
Henry — I have searched the family records, and there is no mention of anyone named Contestwinner in the Charlottesville clan, so the relationship must be merely spiritual. I note that the only problem with opera pumps arises in cold and wet conditions when they can be a bit insubstantial. Wholecuts are a good substitute, and in a pinch, cap toed oxfords in plain calf. I must admit to wearing the latter with black tie in a snow storm a year or two ago. In my defense, I believe that the practice has been blessed by Laurence Fellows, although they appear to be patent leather. http://houseofretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/1934_nov_esq_p128_cropped.jpg
Charlottesville – Excellent questions. Dan Tana’s is still unchanged and going strong. I haven’t been for a while, but am definitely planning on hitting it up this year, as it is their 50th anniversary. Time to dig into their Braciola.
There has been a big change for an old classic you might recall that used to be but a few doors down from Dan Tana’s. The Palm has pulled up stakes and moved to Canon Drive in Beverly Hills.
Unfortunately the Polo Lounge (and the B.H. Hotel itself) was extensively redecorated a few years ago – very different now. When I worked at the studios, I often had to meet people at one of the hotel bungalows, but I haven’t been there for some time.
I did recently dine at another old gem; Le Petit Château, where I enjoyed about the most old-school (and delicious) feast one could hope to find: Beef Wellington followed by flaming Cherries Jubilee prepared tableside. It’s most rare to find Beef Wellington on a menu these days.
Meanwhile, my search continues for an authentic, well-executed Chicken Kiev…
All this talk or formalwear has me recalling my parent’s black-tie soirées that were occasionally studded with military brass sporting their impressive full-dress Army, Navy and Marine “mess” uniforms.
I don’t own Opera Pumps, but I can tell you that weather is a major factor for similar shaped Black Velvet slippers. Although you’re technically only supposed to wear them when hosting, I made the mistake on NYE one year and spent the whole night trying to avoid snow, salt and puddles every time I had to go outside. Now the velvet aspect of course is a worst case scenario for the elements, but opera pumps have the same thin sole and are just as susceptible to salt damage.
As for the alternative, I love the way my patent leather lace-ups look and they are much more practical given the seasonality of most BT events. I will admit to going off-trad style though and opting for a pair made by Ferragamo, but that is mainly because my go-to Allen Edmonds don’t make true tux shoe anymore.
*AE does not make Tuxedo shoes
I wonder if you can special order patent leather from AE. Their special order people appear to have a great reputation.
With a nickname like that, it sounds like you have a liquor collection I’d like to put a dent in myself.
It’s a Texas term for the mysterious dent or scratch found on one’s car the morning after an evening of misbehavior. It also, as you might guess, works as a metaphor in all sorts of situations. Oddly enough, I don’t drink much at home; my local depends on me to keep them open.
Charlottesville, I guess our twinship is spiritual rather than genetic.
Where I live, I seldom have to worry about rain when I go to the black tie events I attend, but I do wear a pair of black slip-on clog-style shoes when walking from the house to the car, and while driving. If it were to rain on the night of a black tie event, I would definitely leave the opera pumps at home and wear my wholecuts instead.
Definitely opera pumps on the red-jacketed gent in the Fellows illustration, but hard to tell what the shotgun-holding man is wearing. They might be plain toes, and they might be cap toes. My guess is the former, but we can’t be sure. In any case, some might consider cap toes to be borderline OK for black tie, but I think everyone would agree that punch cap toes are out.
Henry — Agree on the punch cap toes. Too informal. Your wholecuts, or Benjamin’s plain patent lace-ups are better, but alas I have neither. I tried the BB patent balmorals once, but they were so stiff that I thought they would gouge chunks from my instep if I should attempt even a restrained fox trot. For me, the immediate question is academic, as the only BT event on my current calendar is this weekend. Locally, Saturday is predicted to be dry, and in the 60s, so the opera pumps will get an outing.
Mr. Krause — Le Petit Château is another old guard standby that, sadly, I have never visited. I recall seeing it referenced in an old magazine (Holiday, perhaps, or Gourmet) from roughly 50 years ago. Glad to know it is still going strong. So few of the older French or Continental places remain. I think of La Grenouille in NY as an exception. I recall a delightfully old-school place in or near Pasadena that my wife and I stumbled on in the 90s. We had Chateaubriand and finished with baked Alaska. It was old fashioned even then, and we loved it. Sorry about the Polo lounge. Do they still have the old Rolls Royce for guests to use? I think my favorite part of the old Beverly Hills Hotel was the coffee shop. Really wonderful corned beef hash and poached eggs for breakfast, and the best counter staff anywhere. Never stayed in a bungalow there, but my wife and I did once splurge on a few nights in a bungalow at the Bel Air with a small garden and a fireplace. Now that was living!
I don’t know if the B.H. Hotel still has their Rolls, but the Peninsula still maintains their fleet of green Rolls-Royce Phantoms for shuttling guests about.
Indeed, most of the French restaurants are gone, but two more still survive; Le Petit Bistro in Beverly Hills and Taix in Echo Park (current location since 1962)
A Continental restaurant sorely missed is the great Scandia on the Sunset Strip (1957-1989). In it’s heyday it was one of the town’s best temples of dining, located in a beautiful stone and glass Modernist building filled with wood paneling. The building cost $0.75 million – in 1957 that was real money. They offered classics like Lobster Thermador and Veal Oscar as well as their signature Swedish Meatballs and the immortal flaming “Viking Sword for Two.” The latter consisted of turkey breast, Chateaubriand, center cut smoked pork chop, tomatoes and mushrooms, all topped with a soupçon of béarnaise sauce.
Mr. Krause – All of the talk about Continental restaurants makes me so nostalgic. The old-school steak houses are probably the closest things remaining in most places. Never made it to Scandia, but I have heard of it. Of course Chasen’s and the Brown Derby, and Romanoff’s are all gone. No idea whether the food was good, but I would love to visit any of them in the 1950s if I had a time machine. Is Valentino still alive and well? My wife and I enjoyed that one and Spago as high-end Italian places in the 1990s. Time flies.
While Chasen’s is long gone, I regularly visit the Bristol Farms gourmet shop that took its place (the exterior is mostly unchanged and a few Chasen’s booths remain in the deli area; they also have the original Chasen’s Chili recipe posted on their website.)
Valentino is still around, although I have not been there since probably 1984; I’m too lazy to drive that far! I loved Spago when it was a tiny place on the Sunset Strip, but it seemed to lose some of its character when it moved to Beverly Hills.
James – If you think it’s a long drive to Valentino, remember it was roughly 3,000 air miles for me in 1990. But, admittedly, I had other business in the area. Never made it to the original Spago on the Strip. The BH version was much larger and perhaps more formal, but boy the food was good.
Next time you consider a 3000-mile westward journey in search of gustatory bliss, make sure to look me up. We can enjoy an aperitif in the rooftop lounge here atop the 1 Auto Universum Plaza tower, then head out to break some bread.
Thanks, James. I will do so.
I’d say that not all of the supposed rules “governing” a stand up collar with black tie are necessarily so hard and fast, except for one; stand up collars must be detachable, and it really is bad to wear them with a pleated shirt. Beyond the above, not all stand up collars are wing collars (though it is inarguable that wing collars look best worn in conjunction with a peak lapel jacket), there are also poke collars (what the point collar is to the wing collar, the club collar is to the poke collar – which looks quite elegant with a shawl lapel dinner jacket/suit though by its very nature, not appropriate with a white dinner jacket, not really), and of course the grand-father of the them all; the Imperial. An Imperial is essentially a tall cylinder of starched which cotton or linen with only a narrow gap, or nearly none, with no overlap, and no turn back, and the barest minimum of the corners where they meet at the top by your neck are either minimally mitered, or clubbed so as not to abrade your neck. I wear these with black tie, white tie, and of course with morning wear – though there’s hardly an opportunity in the great wilderness of Los Angeles (ditto that for white tie, honestly-sadly).
I also have a late fifties to early sixties era black label Brooks Brothers wash and wear in black. So I must dispel that rumor regarding no black at Brooks.