Building A Wardrobe: Mid-Century Architect Style

Architects are generally an international type, the sort who work in minimalist offices with Scandinavian furniture. But during Ivy’s heyday, many of them wore soft-spoken and soft-shouldered suits, even while radically remaking urban skylines. Above, at the 1957 International Building Exhibition in Berlin, Hugh A. Stubbins relaxes while articulating his vision, the epitome of nerd-chic. Below, Architect Gordon Bunshaft, designer of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company building, enjoys a smoke while looking proud of a job well done:

Here is Edward D. Stone at his office, looking regal and composed. Note the pleated sack suit and the obligatory horn-rimmed spectacles, standard issue for modernist architects:

Max Abramovitz, designer of the Lincoln Center Philharmonic Hall, surveying his creation in oxford-cloth buttondown:

While discussing his design for the UN headquarters, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer shows an early iteration of the natural-shoulder look, circa 1947:

Hollywood architect and inventor of the concrete “bubble house,” Wallace Neff combines soft flannel with a hard gaze, circa 1941:

And finally, Le Corbusier caught in a burst of creative energy. — ZD

12 Comments on "Building A Wardrobe: Mid-Century Architect Style"

  1. Edward Aisthorpe | April 12, 2018 at 10:58 am |


  2. Vern Trotter | April 19, 2018 at 12:51 am |

    The architects I have known mostly wore bow ties. They do not obstruct their work. Only Le Corbusier is shown bowed.

  3. I was married to an architect for 20 years, the mother of my kids. All the guys in her firm were anything but trad. A lot of black and clothing much too small.

  4. Parker Jordan | September 12, 2018 at 11:47 pm |

    @john carlos

    Is there any profession in which the men now dress properly?

  5. Don’t know how I missed this the first time around, but bravo! This is an excellent piece. I’ve always loved the aesthetic of mid-Century architects. (CC, forgive my use of the verboten word!) Architects walk that wonderful line between artist and engineer, creator and maker, innovator and implementer. They must be both visionary and practical, whimsical and grounded all at the same time in order to be successful.

  6. Charlottesville | September 13, 2018 at 11:47 am |

    Congratulations to ZD on a wonderfully evocative photo essay. I always enjoy posts featuring real people from the heyday. It give a sense of time and place that can’t fully be gleaned from TV, movies, magazine ads and catalogs, as much fun as these can be to look at.

  7. @ Parker Jordan No. I’m an attorney and I see more and more in my profession dressing like Pee Wee Herman, especially the young ones.

  8. Perhaps add Australia’s Peter Corrigan (late 20th century). Architects are a classy bunch, although, as Carlos notes, more recently they toward minimalist monotone. And the Le Corbusier glasses tend to be overdone (Philip Johnson; IM Pei etc)

  9. I’ve known several architects who have a great sense of style. One of them especially–favored a sort of English Country vibe. Tweeds, wool challis ties, tattersall shirts, Barbour, etc. Only a few pockets in the country for “horsey trad,”; God bless them all.

  10. If I had to rank the best-dressed men by profession this would be my top five list:

    1. Fashion designers
    2. Fashion writers (like Mr. C. and G. Bruce Boyer)
    3. Literature professors
    4. A tie between lawyers and architects
    5. NBA coaches and players

  11. frederick johnson | September 29, 2018 at 12:26 pm |

    I am an architect and have always wanted and worn J Press.

  12. RWK’s description of the ideal aspects of an architects skill set is the best one I’ve read yet.

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