The Masters golf tournament gets underway tomorrow, and so in the interest of timeliness we present the above photo to fuel historic conjecture.
The photo is of Ernest Jones, one of the most famous early golf instructors and author of the classic tome “Swing The Clubhead.” Jones was an Englishman who lost a leg in World War I. But he found that he could still play top-notch golf balancing on one leg, if he allowed his body to sync with a natural swinging motion rather than use force or leverage that would upset his balance. He later came to New York where he gave thousands of lessons per year at an indoor space on Fifth Avenue.
Now, in the photo above you see that Jones wears a jacket with two sleeve buttons spaced apart, a distinguishing feature of heyday-era Ivy jackets. It also looks like there are working buttonholes on the sleeves. But when, how and why did this become the trademark cuff style at Brooks Brothers and many other Ivy clothiers?
After nearly 1,100 posts here, I’m starting to reach the point where I’m forgetting things, but if I recall correctly I’ve never come across an explanation for this. The unlined buttondown collar and natural shoulder are easier to speculate on. The collar came from the world of sport, and we have early historic documents revealing how it was prized by young men for its casualness and nonchalance. As for the natural shoulder, its lack of artificial pomp seems to perfectly complement the values system of the Northeastern WASPs who embraced its particular silhouette. It’s difficult to imagine a parallel universe in which WASP values and tastes are exactly the same, but the caste considers broad padded shoulders to be the proper look for American gentlemen.
I have no date for the photo above, but it would seem to be from the interwar years. I’d thought the matter would be further complicated by the fact that Jones could very well be wearing a Brooks Brothers jacket, as his studio was just a few blocks from the clothier. However, according to Wikipedia he did not come to New York until after the second World War, which I think would be too late for that photo (it is used, incidentally, for the cover of a reprint of a book on Jones’ teaching in which all the photos date from about 1920).
So is Jones’ jacket English or American? Probably English, but that still doesn’t answer the question how and why did the two-button become the standard Ivy sleeve cuff. Group speculation encouraged.
The Masters’ green jacket, incidentally, has a two-button cuff. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD