A reader recently left a comment saying that collar roll is a fetish of the Internet age and that didn’t exist in the analog decades. Assistant editor Chris Sharp tapped his photographic memory, rummaged through his archives, and immediately produced an article from the April, 1983 issue of Esquire in which John Berendt opined on buttondowns and collar roll. Here are the highlights. — CC & CS
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The mere thought of buttondown shirts reminds me of the late, dapper George Frazier, freewheeling columnist for The Boston Globe and a contributor to this magazine over a span of many years. George Frazier possessed a highly refined sense of style, and he could be moved to eloquence on the cut of a Huntsman suit, the precision of a hunting gun, the elegance of handmade Lobb shoes, or the shoeshine at Ralph Kaufman’s place at the Cleveland airport, which was, in George’s estimation, “an achievement of such matchless glossiness” that on more than one occasion he changes planes in Cleveland just to avail himself of its artistry. “The roll of the collar,” Geoerge used to say apropos of buttondown shirts, “that is the most important thing.”
And, of course, he was right. The roll is everything when it comes to buttondown shirts, the roll being that parabolic curve, described by the forward edges of the collar. The whole idea of the buttondown, historically, has been that it was a soft, unlined collar with long points that would flap in the breeze if they were not tethered. This was the case when John Brooks of Brooks Brothers first laid eyes on them at a polo match in England in 1900. Players had fastened their collars with buttons to keep them from snapping in their faces. Brooks brought the idea back to New York, and from that day to this the white oxford-cloth polo-collar shirt has been Brooks Brothers’ biggest-selling item. The Brooks polo collar has a full roll to it, which is the only contour that makes any sense. Buttondown shirts with short straight collars and no roll are an anomaly; they do not need buttons, they need collar stays.
In its 82 years, the Brooks buttondown has seen very few changes. Colors have been added to the line along the way, most notably pink… As always, the shirt’s heavy oxford fabric is woven exclusively for Brooks…. The body of the shirt is slimmer these days but still “generously” cut. Otherwise, the only news is that in the past decade Brooks has broken its long-standing tradition and put a pocket on the front of the shirt — a move that would have dismayed George Frazier. George kept his pens in his inside jacket pocket and condemned shirt pockets as gauche — something you don’t wear, he said, “not if you know the score.”
While researching the Harvard dorm rooms post for Masculine Interiors last week, I came across some student shots from the late ’40s up to 1960 or so. Note filthy sneakers in top image. — CC (Continue)
An extraordinarily witty and cleverly packaged new book by James Gulliver Hancock succinctly titled “The Bow Tie Book” addresses the idiosyncratic cravat style alternately viewed as eccentric, erratic, professorial, bohemian and Churchillian.
The book is loaded with a compendium of bow tie history from many eras in an uproarious agenda. Social Primer K. Cooper Ray claims, “Whenever I wear one, women smile,” a view hardly shared several pages later with a sober shot of the Duke of Windsor arrogantly knotting a flawless bow. Right wing pundit Tucker Carlson’s appraisal, “When you wear a bow tie, you have to turn the
part of the brain that cares about other people’s perceptions.” His neuropsychological diagnosis occurred prior his au courant long-tie conversion.
Russell Smith, observed in The London Globe and Mail, is quoted saying “Bow ties are tricky: They carry strong connotations: conservative, newspaperman, high-school principal. They are instant signs of nerd in Hollywood movies. They look fastidious but not exactly sexy. I like them.”
Hancock, an internationally noted illustrator, supplies the effort with more than 100 color and black-and-white photographs of bow tie-wearing men, along with quotes from bow tie wearers, designers and admirers. It also features a removable “How To Tie a Bow Tie” cheat sheet for beginners.
I must admit to being disappointed the book failed to include Harvard professor, JFK advisor, and J. Press customer Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who famously quipped, “It is impossible, or at least, it requires more agility, to spill anything on a bow tie.” Another J. Squeeze standby, New Haven pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, rationally favored them to protect spreading any germs that might attach themselves to a long tie.
My irrelevant complaint by no means diminishes the net worth of this great book for bow tie virgins or their hypersexual opposites. It is a worthy antidote to Windsor Knotters and the Every-Day-Is-Casual-Friday tieless. — RICHARD PRESS
Last week Bass unveiled some new models of Maine-made Weejuns. Priced at $295, they are made from Horween leather and come both with and without beefroll.
I’d attended a Bass spring preview back in October, but I don’t recall these shoes being ready then. But here’s what else caught my eye, which should be coming out about now. (Continue)
On another post discussion just broke out about quilted Barbour-style jackets. I’ll plead guilty to owning one.
Others expressed strong distaste, so I say we put it to a vote.
(Alas our polling software is glitching right now, so you’ll have to weigh in via the comments section). — CC
This morning at Masculine Interiors I put up a gallery of 14 Harvard student rooms circa 1899. No idea if the inhabitants were the turn-of-the-century equivalent of bros.
Head over here to see the full gallery. — CC