The Soft-Constructed Natural Shoulder Suit For Young Men Of All Ages


Here’s another great find by comment-leaver and Facebook group member “Carmelo,” from the Esquire archives. In this case, the March, 1950, issue, in the pre-dawn of the heyday. The copy reads:

Let the acrobats have hourglass waistlines. And leave the bulking shoulder pads on the football field. For city and campus alike, naturalness is the answer — no frills, nothing superficial. University men of all ages who dress correctly know that “be yourself” also means C yourself.

There have been big, serious changes in college boys since those Fitzgeraldian days of raccoon coats and bell-bottom trousers. Today the Unversity suit is a big favorite on campuses because it mirrors the restraind and good taste of the men who wear it. This, then, is correctness. Long lines are accentuated by the natural width of the trousers. Further elongation is achieved by the slight shaping in front and the soft-roll lapels buttoned at the middle button. High-rise trousers hang best with braces. The view of the back shows natural width of shoulders and correct straight-hanging lines. The pockets are more accessible because of the nine-inch center vent. Designed for the young American’s physique, the University suit is now available in all the new lighter-weight fabrics, clear-faced worsteds, and lightweight flannels.

And there you have it. Soft, natural shoulders without a single mention of Italy. Except, of course, for our friend Carmelo. — CC

birth of heyday


13 Comments on "The Soft-Constructed Natural Shoulder Suit For Young Men Of All Ages"

  1. 19 inch trouser bottom width featured in 1950 Esquire would have been considered “bell bottoms” by J.Press aficionados of the era. Standard measurements for 34 inch waist trousers came with 20 inch knee, 17 inch bottom.

  2. I seem to vaguely recall an ad that claimed that H. Freeman “invented” the natural shoulder suit. I think the model was the “Naturalaire”. Does this ring a bell with anyone?

  3. Bags' Groove | February 25, 2016 at 4:09 am |

    They were all slimmer in the 50s. Most looked good in a suit, which was just as well, because that’s all they wore. When I look at old photos of my dad, he always looked dapper, even though he had little money for clothes. I still find myself going for the soft check shirts and wool ties he habitually wore.

  4. @NCJack H. Freeman started in 1885. Ad copy places the Naturalaire shape to about 1931. Suit was popular in the 1950’s and 60’s.

  5. The dteails in the copy seem right, but the illustration really doesn’t look right to me.

  6. I just drove through the campus of Old Dominion University on my way to a client. Not a University suit to be seen except for yours truly. Ninety five percent of the student body that I saw appeared to be trying to look as much like a garbage man or a hooker. Sad sad sad.


  7. Charlottesville | February 25, 2016 at 1:41 pm |

    Will — Same here on this side of Virginia, for the most part, although the neo-preppy look (Country Club Prep, Southern Proper, Barbour, etc.) can be spotted pretty regularly. I was at Eljo’s (the primary trad clothier in town since 1950) this morning talking with the owner, and bemoaning the changes in dress and the loss of traditional men’s shops. While they continue to offer quality Southwick and Empire suits and sport coats with natural shoulders and undarted fronts, these days one must special order to get a 3/2 roll, hook vented version. He showed me his 25-year old tweed hacking jacket, which looked like new, and I was able to top him, at least for longevity, by showing him the sack suit I was wearing, which I bought at BB in 1986 or ’87 when I was starting out after law school.

  8. Gary Kuhlmann | February 25, 2016 at 5:23 pm |

    I’m trying to determine what part the illustrations play in creating a sense of what the natural fit should look like. The man in the full-length illustration is at least 10 head-lengths tall. As most students of life drawing would tell you, the average is more like 6 or 7 (check this on yourself). In other words, this is one very unnaturally tall man they’re using to illustrate the natural fit.

  9. Well,is an interesting article because is one of very few times between 1934 and 1950 that Esquire show “the collegiate style” outside of the college and university.
    Note,still none call it “Ivy League”,but is “university natural shoulder for men of all ages”.
    Esquire said that America search a new style in “comfort and correctness”,and this is the next big thing after the “bold look” of 1947-49.
    The trend is for a more trim,clean and comfortable look.
    Collegiate style seems perfect for this.
    This is the first light of the dawn of the so called “ivy league fashion trend”.

    Indeed in 50s natural shoulders was a great hit also in Italy (the so called “continental suit” was only a export thing expressly designed for the American market by Brioni).
    Obviously,In Italy the “ivy sack” was never in fashion ( and not even well know),and the double breasted suit was ever a king in the men’s wardrobe; but the italian silhouette of 50s contemplated a more clean and sharp apparence and natural (or light padded) shoulders.
    Was the esprit of the times in many countries; a more natural and trim silhouette for the man.

  10. Bravo Carmelo! La Dolce Vida. I would wear Mastroianni’s suits without hesitation! 1960 Ivy or not!

  11. Informative. Thank you.

    The lead is great–

    “Let the acrobats have hourglass waistlines”

    Check out the lapels–at least 3.5″. Closer to 4″?

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