Five years ago today, a fresh-faced young pup, I left California for New York.
Now I’m a big-time big-city bigshot with a Chipp on my natural shoulder.
It’s a smelluva town. The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down. And people in cars run you into the ground. — CC
Martin Greenfield, the Brooklyn-based tailor who has, over his long career, made clothes for Brooks Brothers and J. Press, has just released his memoirs. Entitled “Measure Of A Man: From Auschwitz Survivor To President’s Tailor,” the book is available from Amazon for $16.79.
To learn more about Greenfield, check out this great video, which is full of information not only on the man, but how your clothing is made. Also, the New York Post ran a great excerpt from the book, with a typically sensational headline “The day a Holocaust survivor got revenge on his tormentor.” And finally, Breitbart has this interview with Greenfield discussing his memoirs. — CS & CC
Last week some of you may have heard on the news that a guy in Philadelphia is selling signs to small businesses that say “No Hoodies.” It created something of a stir, as some people complained it was unfairly biased against contestants of Jeopardy’s college tournament and Mark Zuckerberg.
Hoods are much better when attached to a duffel coat, as in this illustration from the latest issue of the Japanese magazine Men’s Precious. Just be sure it’s down when you enter a shop, whether a convenience store, or the one pictured. — CC
For your autumn touch-football games, or your holiday shopping for the man who has everything (which may very well be you), consider a traditional football wrapped in Harris Tweed. If ever there was a way to reconcile clotheshorse and jock, this is it.
I spied it a couple of weeks ago at the opening for The Lodge‘s new retail store in New York’s East Village. The shop carries a stylish array of men’s accessories, with everything made in the US.
Priced at $175, the football is made by Leather Head, which bills itself “The Official Football Of Collegiate Tailgating.” Enough said. — CC
In my junior year of college my dorm room was decorated in a retro manner. One day a salesman hocking fake Polo and other fragrances popped his head through my open doorway. He took a look at two pictures on the wall and said, trying to break the ice, “Are those your folks?”
Slightly annoyed by the intrusion, I glanced over to see that the salesman was referring to a pair of Chesterfield cigarette ads depicting Perry Como and Joe Stafford.
Thirty-five years before I even set foot on campus, brands such as Chesterfield, Lucky Strike, Philip Morris and Camel were already locked in struggle to win the hearts, minds and lung tissue of the college crowd. Recent discussion of smoking on the site got me looking at the advertising directed at the college and university students. Most of the images presented here are from 1950-54. They break down into celebrity endorsements, with college and university class affiliation noted, student taste-test endorsements, popularity via sales volume at the co-op or college tobacconist, and student survey and humor.
The Lucky Strike jingle-writing contest ran during this period also. College students got to be junior “Mad Men” with a $25 prize for winners. Princeton winner Richard Boeth, class of 1954, when asked by the Daily Princtonian how he planned to spend his prize money, said, “I’ve drunk it up already,” indicating cigarettes weren’t his only vice. The ads became a combination of cornball jingles and exploitive sweater girl drawings, which is probably why I like them.
Every time we visit this theme we get our fair share of abuse. Seems there is little empathy anymore for what fashion writer Paul Keers called “a generation who believed that a drink before and a cigarette afterwards, were the three best things in life.” — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
Yesterday on our Facebook group a young lad wondered where he could read the famous essay by George Frazier mentioned in our previous post. While it’s certainly googleable, we figured why not present it here. There is a section on New Haven and the natural-shoulder look, plus plenty of fine general observations on dressing. Also, you may consider this version a director’s cut; for a “theatrical” version, you may wish to view Maxminimus’ epic post illustrating each of the men mentioned. — CC
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The Art of Wearing Clothes: The history of this rare masculine art and of the men who practice it supremely well
By George Frazier
Esquire, September 1960
Many a vagrant vogue has prevailed and perished in the hundred-and-fifty-odd years since George Bryan (Beau) Brummell resigned from the tony Tenth Hussars upon being denied permission to wear a uniform of his own design, but the criterion by which men are adjudged either beautifully or badly dressed is still what it was in that dandified day when people cherished the belief that the Beau achieved the flawless fit of his gloves by having the fingers made by one man and the thumbs by another. Now, as then, an impeccably turned-out male is characterized by the same “certain exquisite propriety” of dress that Lord Byron admired so abundantly in Brummell. “If John Bull turns to look after you,” the Beau once observed, “you are not well-dressed, but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable.”
This was Brummell’s bequest — his irreproachably tasteful simplicity. What’s more, it is the one constant in the fickleness of fashion, nor has any mode, no matter how maniac, ever proved it spinach — neither the cult of pipe-stemmed perfection that caused any true Edwardian dandy to shudder at the thought of having, as Max Beerbohm put it, “the incomparable set of his trousers spoilt by the perching of any dear little child upon his knee;” nor the autograph-slickered, bell-bottomed callowness of the “cake-eaters” and “sheiks” who found their laureate in John Held, Jr.; nor the casual coolness of all the beer jackets of Princeton springtimes; nor the abortive and itinerant “Italian style;” nor, for that matter, even the natural-shouldered, pleatless-trousered look that is known as “Ivy League,” but that by any name at all would still be the Brooks Brothers No. 1 sack suit.
Prior to Brummell, men had dressed to almost freakish excess. Thus, according to Hayden’s Dictionary of Dates, Sir Walter Raleigh wore:
“. . . a white-satin-pinked vest close-sleeved to the wrist, and over the body a doublet finely flowered, and embroidered with pearls, and in the feather of his hat a large ruby and pearl drop at the bottom of the sprig in place of a button. His breeches, with his stockings and ribbon garters, fringed at the end, all white; and buff shoes, which, on great court days, were so gorgeously covered with precious stones as to have exceeded the value of 6,600 pounds; and he had a suit of armor of solid silver, with sword and hilt blazing with diamonds, rubies and pearls.”
Nor was Lord Buckingham, James I’s favorite, any shrinking violet either, for, as Hayden has it, he “had his diamonds tacked so loosely on [his robe] that when he chose to shake a few off on the ground, he obtained all the fame he desired from the pickers-up.” And then, too, there was Prince von Kaunitz, who achieved the desired shade of his wig by strolling back and forth while four lackeys sprayed it with different tints of scented powder. Indeed, in those pre-Brummell years, men were such peacocks that The Times of London used to describe their clothes in as minute and fascinated detail as it did women’s.
With the Beau’s arrival in London, however, restraint in male attire became the order of the day and, for that matter, of every debonair day thereafter. It is, in fact, almost impossible to exaggerate Brummell’s influence, for as Virginia Woolf has said, “Without a single noble, important, or valuable action to his credit, he cuts a figure; he stands for a symbol; his ghost walks among us still.” Indeed, because of him alone simplicity became the hallmark of the well-dressed man, whether he be a Victorian Prime Minister named Lord Melbourne, an American general named A. J. Drexel Biddle, a former Secretary of State named Dean Acheson, or a song-and-dance man out of Omaha named Fred Astaire.
But Brummell, far from being a prophet without honor, was a legend even in his own lifetime — a circumstance, incidentally, that he helped propagate by circulating rumors to the effect that, among other primping practices, he mixed champagne in his boot polish, employed three different coiffeurs to do his hair (one for the temples, another for the crown, and a third for the front), and had once jilted a rich and beautiful noblewoman because he couldn’t abide the way she ate cabbage. Nevertheless, his fussiness was genuine and it was a matter of record that he refused to take off his hat to ladies for fear that he might not be able to get it back on his head at the precisely rakish angle. Furthermore, his concern for himself was so rapt that he was able to identify his troop only because one of its members had “a very large blue nose.” Yet for all his affectations, he was possessed of a sense of beauty that bordered on genius. So flawless was the fit of Brummell’s coat that, according to Byron, “It seemed as if the body thought.”
Indeed, next to the Beau himself, Byron must have been Brummell’s most ardent admirer — a circumstance, by the way, that must seem a little incredible, for, as famous as he was, as handsome, as talented, as nobly-born, and as much a lion among the ladies, Byron, who achieved his own wind-blown “Byronic” look by putting his hair up in curlers at bedtime, spent sleepless nights tossing over his inability to tie a neckcloth with any of Brummell’s surpassing skill. (Continue)
We bring our series on elegance to a close with these thoughts from the founder.
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Take a look at this photo of former Esquire columnist George Frazier, author of “The Art Of Wearing Clothes.” There’s the Russell Plaid suit jacket, Churchill dot tie, and buttondown shirt — all pretty standard fare. But then there are the personal touches: the longish hair of the artiste, the boutonniere, and of course the cigarette with finger articulation straight out of Leyendecker’s sketchbook. If the sum total of the photo isn’t elegance, it’s at least sophistication, which is its first cousin.
Historic documents on the Ivy League Look reveal the breadth, quality and formality of the college student’s wardrobe in the aristocratic ’30s. But while neatness, correctness, quality and even panache within the boundaries of good taste were always virtues of the Ivy look, elegance is rarely mentioned. Indeed it was likely considered a vice in the deepest recesses of the preppy/Ivy tribe, smacking of outsiders and arrivistes. “Try For Elegance,” the 1959 novel based on author David Loovis’ experience at Brooks Brothers, sounds like a title his publisher chose.
In our lively comments section, some of the less broad-minded seem to insist that Ivy is a specific look. It’s easy to get that impression for the younger among us, those who’ve never seen first-hand the breadth of variety during the heyday at a legendary clothier such as Langrock. But I prefer to think of Ivy as a genre from which one can choose from a wider-than-you-think array of items to find one’s personal style. I can see the cool in the Ivy genre, and I can also see the elegance. But I suppose that’s because I can appreciate those qualities in other things as well, from the cool of Monk’s “In Walked Bud” to the elegance exhibited in the classicism and restraint of my favorite composer, Gabriel Fauré.
According to his biographer, George Frazier had practically an obsession with pink oxfords from Brooks Brothers. On a preppy kid with a green sweater draped over his shoulders, the shirt would create one kind of effect. On Frazier, with cigarette, martini and quick wit (not to mention, for a time, a home address at The Plaza Hotel), the effect would have been quite another. Elegance may not be an intrinsic quality of the Ivy League Look, but in the end what counts is always what you bring to your clothes, not what they give to you. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD