News Roundup: Sweatpants, Crew Cuts, Lug-Soled Weejuns, And Flusser Optimism

In my storybook “These Are Our Failures,” which was released in January, one of my characters argues that a change in mindset is necessary for the clothes-wearing men of today. We are fast becoming “retro-eccentrics,” relics and remnants of past standards, or, one could say, ghosts.

The situation of the coronavirus will surely reveal much over the course of the coming months. Stay-at-home orders could be lifted in the summer, the hottest and therefore most casual time of the year. If social distancing continues into the fall, with few if any public events for which to get dressed up, by the time the “new normal” dawns, it could mark the final nail in the coffin for formal dress.

As I wrote:

If ‘dressing up’ were a person, it would not be a boulevardier fawned over by the society pages. It would be an old man in a nursing home, sporting a boutonniere that foreshadows the flowers at his own impending funeral. And guys like us who love clothes are the cultish acolytes who come to visit the old geezer before he croaks.”

This is all by way of preamble to our news roundup, which includes several pieces on the effect the virus is having on our concept of clothing. In its May issue, The Atlantic argues that office dress codes should never come back and that “sweatpants might be here for good.” Keep in mind this is the same publication that recently praised Communist China for its deft and elegant stifling of free speech, which serves as an ideal model for the US going forward. Quote:

The seepage of work beyond the office is one of the defining experiences of modern employment—and from one perspective, the erasure of dress codes isn’t helping. In the past, you could come home and take off your uniform or office attire with the knowledge that you were totally free until the next day, mentally and physically. Now many people wear the same jeans they wore to work to cook dinner, cellphone and laptop never too far from reach, the mind and body never totally disconnected from labor.

Even the mass entertainments that have made the suit-and-tie look such an enduring shorthand for professionalism are beginning to fade, no doubt because the same young Americans who now constitute the majority of the broader labor pool have real influence in shaping what ends up on your screens. TV series such as Silicon Valley and Superstore depict occupational aesthetics as something closer to what they’ve been for millions of Americans for the past decade: people wearing the same clothes to their job that they’d wear to the movies or to lunch with a friend, sometimes complemented by a company-issued jacket or an ID-carrying lanyard.

Read the piece here.

Next, the following landed in my inbox today (along with a J. Press email blast about tees and sweats, which we’ll give them a pass on). It’s from a company called xSuit:

For many, lounging in sweatpants after a week of hard work is a dream come true. As many of us are fortunate enough to stay at home, what used to be a treat is now an everyday reality with many wearing loungewear for days on end with no plans to dress up in the near future.

As we’ve gotten accustomed to staying cozy, it can be difficult to think about dressing up. Luckily xSuit offers the most comfortable suit and shirting on the market with 4-way stretch (exterior, interior, lining and thread) to make that transition easier. xSuit blends smart design features and modern fabric technology with increased softness  to offer modern men a comfortable and stylish alternative to the traditional stiff suits that are prone to wrinkles, odors and stains.

On the positive side, trade paper WWD did a recent piece on suits that quotes Bruce Boyer and Alan Flusser, who is optimistic, as one would expect from someone who works in the industry, about the prospects for dressing up come the fall:

With many young people embracing a more-tailored aesthetic for fall, and so many unemployed men out in the market looking for jobs, Flusser believes there will be a “renaissance of suits” later this year. “That always happens after financial disasters.”

In addition to traditional suits, he believes the jacket will also be popular. Calling it the most flattering piece of apparel for a man, the jacket can highlight his shoulders, offer a slimming effect and even make a guy look taller. “There are lots of cult forces at work against the suit,” he said, “but there’s strength of a jacket for office work.” And younger guys are more skilled and comfortable putting together a sophisticated outfit with a jacket as the centerpiece.

But the traditional suit can offer men an option that is still unparalleled. In a recent blog post, Flusser wrote: “The classically cut suit will always offer a man a vision of himself that no other housing can. It’s hard to foresee a time when a man will not want to be reminded of his most debonair self. There’s a moment after putting on a fine suit appointed with the right finery when you turn to look in the mirror and flash back to a moment of discovery, like when you first saw Paris at night or had your first martini.

“So far the fashion world, after many, many decades in the making, has yet to come up with a credible alternative to the man peacocked in all his suit-silhouetted regalia. Call me a sartorial romantic, but I am prepared to bet the proverbial bankbook that they never will, and the world will be better for it.”

As for what to do with your unkempt hair, Esquire invokes Ivy with a piece on crew cuts.

But while it was first drafted during World War I, like many men’s classics, it was homogenised in the Ivy League universities of North America. Rowing or ‘crew’ (as the sport is often called in the States) teams at Harvard, Princeton and Yale sheared off the tousled scholarly curls that impeded vision out on the water. The crew cut then, was a style born out of function.

And finally for your feet, there’s the new Fred Perry x Bass Weejuns collaboration pictured above, which would probably look better with sweats and tees than a suit and tie.

Carry the torch, my friends. As Gustav Mahler said, tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire. — CC

24 Comments on "News Roundup: Sweatpants, Crew Cuts, Lug-Soled Weejuns, And Flusser Optimism"

  1. Also new is a recent email from Allen Edmonds showing an IS selfie that is featured on Allen Edmonds Instagram page. It is the man in the Leyendecker pose holding a laptop in what looks like a university library hall wearing penny loafers.

    It’s interesting to me that on their Instagram page no credit is given to Ivy Style. No matter; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, according to Oscar Wilde.

  2. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.

    Oscar Wilde

  3. I’ll risk being a ghost, thank you very much.

    Spectral Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  4. Just returned from a meeting with three attorneys. Boardroom of their firm. (There was social distancing). All three looked Old, Classic Brooks. One wore a blazer; another wore a navy wool v-neck; the third wore a teeed jacket. Button downs. All wore conservative ties. Gray pants and khakis. Loafers. For them, a dressed-down look.

    There are about half a dozen professions that will continue to carry the sartorial torch.

    1. Lawyers (the good ones, anyway). Related: judges
    2. Bankers
    3. Mainline Protestant Clergymen
    4. Physicians (office visits)
    5. Professors (more than you might think)

    In other words: The classic, centuries-old professions.
    They will continue to wear jackets, suits, and ties. Promise.

    One of the issues is that the 20th century allowed for an expansion of what constitutes the professions— so that sales (including ad) people, engineers (including computer/I.T. types), bookkeepers (accountants), journalists, and have been included. But do all of these “jobs” actually constitute professions? No. So why would we expect them to look like professionals? So why would we expect them to look like professionals?

    A few years ago I nearly threw up in my mouth upon catching a glimpse of a former president— wearing a suit sans tie. He’s repeated the practice since. Good Lord. If the occasion is ‘that’ casual, just put on a GD sweater.

  5. Mainline Protestant: Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist.
    A.K.A. The Protestant Establishment. A.K.A.: last remnant of WASPyness.

  6. Charlottesville | April 30, 2020 at 4:41 pm |

    S.E. – Where is the law firm? Are they hiring? Just joking, but that is more or less the way things were when I was with a large firm in Washington some years ago and I miss it (the clothing style, that is). Actually, except on Fridays or weekends, we would all have been in suits, but I would gladly accept blazers and tweeds today.

    My more recent experience, even in historically traditional Washington and New York as well as my home ground, indicates that coat and tie wearers are in the minority on most days, in most offices. My Episcopal Rector certainly dresses in Ivy style on occasion, and I know a few stockbrokers, lawyers and bankers who are often seen in coats (even suits!) and ties, but the norm on an average day is a fleece vest and open-collared shirt. Like you and Mr. Flusser, however, I hold out hope for a remnant that does not bow the knee to banal, if you will forgive a very poor pun.

  7. The crew cut was a style born out of function because scholarly curls impeded vision out on the water? I wonder if the person who wrote this has ever been on a rowing team. Mabye in a single or double scull, or a pair? Certainly not a coxed 4 or 8. There, the only person who needs vision out on the water is the coxswain. For the rest of us, it went more like this: “Eyes in the boat! Two man, you’re washing out! Eyes in the boat! In three, power ten! One! Two! Three! Power ten!” You were doing it right if you were staring at the back of the neck of the guy seated in front of you.

  8. Here at MSU, there are a few of us around who dress in the direction of trad., ivy, or whatever label you might want to call it. More often though it is male deans and others at the executive level who dress “professionally” in suits and ties. But even they don’t always sport decent footwear to complete their ensembles. Clark’s aren’t it. Shoes are invariably the “tell” as I may have mentioned some weeks back in a previous post. Most male professors here, as far as I can tell, dress somewhere on the continuum between tucked in shirt (belt optional), jeans, and white dad sneakers at one end to a look just this side of homeless wino on the other.

  9. The last suit Renaissance. Spearheaded by the 2008 recession or more by the popularity of Don Draper?

  10. Charlottesville-
    the attorneys I mentioned will almost certainly return to suits in a few weeks. This is the “virus attire,” as one of them put it.

    Again, we’re partially deceived by the expansion of the category “professional.” To repeat–the older, established professions (see above) will also invite (demand?) a suit and necktie. The church sanctuary, the courtroom, the doctor’s office–there are still places in the world that dictate a certain (higher) level of formality. Of seriousness of mind and purpose.

    I won’t be the least bit surprised to observe bookkeepers, salespeople, engineers, journalists, realtors, insurance brokers, computer programmers, and school teachers opting for casual clothing. Some among this lot will bother (and reap the benefits, by the way), but most won’t because there’s no expectation grounded in history/precedent.

  11. Covidius Undeviginti | April 30, 2020 at 9:35 pm |

    Perhaps the worst thing about the lockdown, besides the deaths, illness, fear abroad in the land, job losses, closed businesses, bankruptcies, suicides, and multi-trillion dollar destruction of the world economy, is the inability to get a professional haircut. One friend, a former navy aviator, appalled by what he was seeing in the mirror, bought some clippers and shaved his head. If this goes on much longer I may be forced to adopt a similar field expedient crewcut. Hard times my require stern measures.

  12. The writer said that rowing teams “sheared off the tousled scholarly curls that impeded vision out on the water.” I don’t see where the writer said anything about Jock Whitney, influential though he may have been.

  13. SE, I’d think twice before you take shots at journalists on a site that only exists because of a dedicated, freelance one. And if you think journalism just got started in the 20th century, please google the founding dates of the legacy newspapers and then ask yourself what Mark Twain was doing on that cruise ship in 1867. Thanks.

  14. “Pressing this particular panic button is one of the most annoying things about Ivy Style, which I enjoy reading most when it focuses on the substance of the style itself”. I really liked this quote as it perfectly corresponds with my own thoughts. Never came across another style forum where such pessimism is regularly cultivated. Also worth noting is that it was actually mid century “Ivy style” that in many ways contributed to the “casualization” of dress standards in America. Penny loafers instead of oxfords, soft button-down collars instead of spread collars, odd jackets and blazers instead of three piece suits, khakis instead of wool trousers, etc, etc. Look through the pages of “Take Ivy” and you won’t find many “formally dressed” students. I’m sure their grandfathers (raised in the late Victorian era) weren’t too happy with their grandchildren, running around college campuses in shorts and athletic socks. All that being said, yes, it’s true that standards of formal dress keep falling and falling. Just wanted to remind the author of this site that they started falling a long time ago. Thank you.

  15. sacksuit | May 1, 2020 at 8:58 am |

    What the hell is the matter with you guys?

    Will

  16. The comments are always more entertaining than the actual articles.

  17. MacMcConnell | May 1, 2020 at 10:59 am |

    Our Ivy style constantly changes within certain parameters, but everything recycles. If you are old like me you realize that. If your not old just look at any venerable Ivy men’s shop new old stock sales. I think WTF were the buyers thinking.

  18. Apologies for some comments over the past week. Trolls are already unstable, and the lockdown is pushing them to the edge.

    They could do pushups, meditate, read Stoic philosophy, and come out of this stronger, except they can’t.

  19. Indeed, a rower in the middle of a race or workout cannot take his hands off the oar to brush his hair out of his face. Hair in the face when rowing would be annoying, uncomfortable, and ultimately distracting from the task at hand, i.e. rowing. But that is different from impeding vision out on the water. The rower faces the stern, not the bow. It is for the coxswain to steer to the finish line and to announce how many seats we are ahead or behind the competition, or whether we have open water. I have no reason to doubt the conventional wisdom about Jock Whitney. I just think the Esquire writer slightly misunderstood what makes a crew cut practical for an oarsman.

  20. [So the racist and intellectually challenged have invaded the site. When moderators surely delete the comment between mine here and Rojo’s this won’t make sense, I suppose.] A recent piece in the WSJ expressed sentiments to those of The Atlantic, that after this Coronavirus unpleasantness “we” whoever “we” might be, certainly not I, will have to bid goodbye to sweatpants and struggle to get back into jeans for the office. . . JEANS. Gadzooks!

    As S.E. mentioned Protestant pastors, there is a favorite of mine who has a national profile. I often watch his sermons on youtube and notice how his attire has changed over the years. This fellow is in his mid 80s now, and continues to enlighten many to the biblical texts, regardless of what he wears. Nonetheless, in the 70s 80s and 90s, he wore a suit or sports jacket and tie in the pulpit; but all his videos of late show him in a sweater and open collar at best. But what shocked me was how I was actually distracted by the proper attire of yesteryear. I did not like that feeling at all.

    This reminds me of a somewhat related topic. I just turned 59. Old to some of you, young to others. But few things look more ridiculous than an older man on a platform, who either removes his tie or, worse, untucks his shirt, in order “fit in” and look hip with the younger sloppily dressed speakers around him. No one wants to see that open neck or that embarrassing attempt to comply. A second, are the throng of businessmen headed home through major airports on Friday afternoons who somehow trade their dress slacks for jeans, but wear pressed dress shirt and polished shoes as they walk through the airport. You men here remember walking through airports, I assume. Whenever I find myself in that situation, and plan to trade dress clothes for khakis, I include a rumpled button-down in the bag as well.

    In closing, to those lawyers in S. E.’s first paragraph, bravo.

  21. I think we’re all missing the beautiful sight of the xSuit “sport” suit model that features a HOOD. A HOOD. A hood that has ostensibly garnered positive reviews from purchasers. Oh, the spirit-cleansing laugh it all gave me!

  22. AtlantaPete | May 4, 2020 at 1:11 pm |

    JDV, your distraction by the attire of the Protestant pastor’s attire is the reason Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and other pastors in the reformed tradition wear black robes in the pulpit.

  23. Henry Contestwinner | May 5, 2020 at 12:53 pm |

    Poppies, that xSuit “suit” with a hood is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. Of course, the text accompanying the images is ridiculous, too: “perfect for both a formal and casual look.” I guess the writer of that drivel never learned the principle of non-contradiction, and that therefore something cannot be both one thing (“formal”) and its opposite (“casual”).

  24. CPA’s are much more of a profession than most listed because of a strong code of ethics.
    In these troubled times CPA’s are earning more than any of the listed professions except bankruptcy lawyers.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*