Clothes And The Man by Alan Flusser – A Technical Manual

I went to a Christian undergrad when Gospel Rock was starting, and it was so mediocre.  The spirit (small s) was right, but the execution was horrific.  All the good rock musicians were making real money.  But.  Because Christian Rock was a small niche, anything that anybody put out was immediately canonized (I did that on purpose).  We were so grateful just to have someone brave enough to say Jesus and plug in a guitar that we would accept high school garage band quality.

We who appreciate and practice Ivy and Trad styles must take heed.

There are a lot of people who say they used this book all the time, and still refer to it.  To you, I say…  page 26.

The sack suit… was the first mass produced suit and it looks it.  After all, it was not called the sack suit for nothing.  … For those seeking anonymity in their clothing or wishing to hide an ungainly figure, this may be an acceptable style.  But for anyone else, the sack-style suit is woefully inappropriate.

Still a fan?

It isn’t that Alan Flusser doesn’t know clothes.  He clearly does.  It is that he doesn’t know writing.  And I am not convinced he believes what he wrote.

 

Mr. Alan Flusser, on purpose.

There are books written about guitar by people who design guitars.  There are books written about guitars by people who sell guitars.  There are books written about guitars by people who play guitars.  Buy the books by the people who play them.

Clothes And The Man is comprehensive.  I will give it that.   And there are great illustrations.  Mostly pencil, I think.   And, if you read the book, you will know what everything is called.  Which is perhaps the book’s biggest contribution.   It labels EVERYTHING.   If True Style is the original text of dressing, Clothes and the Man is the technical manual.

 

It is a very good picture book.

I think the part that is missing is this.  There is an element of dressing well that is, just, fun.  You must take dressing seriously.  In fact, you must take living seriously.  But at the same time, you mustn’t.  Mr. Flusser has opinions, and in this business the opinions are the joy.  So put some in there.  The book is devoid of joy, or snark, or anything resembling a sense of humor.  I am not saying you have to punch up comedy scripts in your spare time to write about men’s clothes, but I am saying that unless you are the kind of person for whom the instructions were the best part of the Christmas present, you are gonna find this book dry.

Put another way.  Mr. Boyer teaches with a wink and a nod and peppers True Style with… good lines.  I read Clothes And The Man feeling like I was both getting yelled at and being talked down to the whole time.   If you want to know the name of everything, this is your book.  If you want to stay awake, it may not be.

JB

22 Comments on "Clothes And The Man by Alan Flusser – A Technical Manual"

  1. Interesting take. Funny enough I have a fitting at Flusser’s this pm. I think that you are spot on about Clothes and the Man being a manual – it is. While you may find the book devoid of joy (Roetzel’s “Gentleman: A classic style” is too, but also a manual) Flusser’s personal style shows abundant joy. His style is not my own, and that’s of course fine but has a nonchalance missing from so many rote ivy profiles.

    Absolutely. I am not saying HE has no joy, I am saying he is not a writer, and the book has no joy. Agreed too about the personal style. I wouldn’t be caught dead, but on him it suits! – JB

  2. As manuals go, is Flusser’s Clothes and the Man accepted by the experts, let’s say for the sake of conversation, Boyer and Roetzel et. al., as THE standard?

    We need a manual. If all were to agree to a common understanding of terminology, as well as American, British, and Italian terminology, we could have better conversations and ask smarter questions. Then, when one goes to a shop for example, and we in short order recognize that neither the “tailor” nor the salesman know what he’s talking about, it’s time to go somewhere else.

  3. I guess the word I was looking for is “definitive”. Shall we convene an ecumenical council?

  4. Rake,

    I’ve searched for Roetzel, Gentleman: A Classic Style. That exact title does not come up, but similar titles do.

  5. Prescott Forbes | April 12, 2022 at 10:43 am | Reply

    My appreciation of Mr. Boyer grows day-by-day.

  6. In ink, Flusser portrays himself as THE expert, but he becomes THE clown when I see a photo of him in one of his spectacularly awful get-ups such as the one shown here. I’ll never buy his book or give a damn about what he says as a result

  7. @Hardbopper, Gentleman: A Timeless Fashion is the book I am referring to.

  8. Old Bostonian | April 12, 2022 at 11:06 am | Reply

    @whiskeydent,
    You said what many of us are thinking.

  9. Thank you, Rake.

  10. Wholeheartedly agree – I have this book, and agree that it’s, well, too judgmental. Flusser is valuable as the technical encyclopedia, but not exactly as a style guide. Boyer’s Eminently Suitable and Elegance, contemporaneous to Clothes and the Man, are far more approachable and useful. Both of these Boyer books are out of print (I believe), but worth the investment if you can find them.

  11. JB, your Alan Flusser review is pure heresy!

    Mr. Flusser, AKA “The Godfather” according to Christian, is an authority on menswear and a talented writer as well.
    I find his style full of joy, humor, and panache. Apparently, Alan Flusser’s books are not your cup of tea, but to each, his own.

    The bible of men’s style is “The Elegant Man” by Villarosa and Angeli, published in 1990. The book covers ivy style, and is subtitled “How to Construct the Ideal Wardrobe.”

  12. I’ve got a used copy around here somewhere, but have not opened it in years after the first or maybe second casual thumb-through after it arrived. Frankly, there are more interesting books and writers on the subject out there. As you note.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

  13. Charlottesville | April 12, 2022 at 1:39 pm | Reply

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion, even me. So count me among the fans of Flusser, Boyer and Roetzel. While certainly not Ivy purists, all are enjoyable, knowledgeable writers on men’s clothing, each with his own perspective. I own and enjoy books by all three, and find myself returning to them from time to time to look up some bit of clothing lore, or simply to enjoy the illustrations. Most recently, I recalled that there was a photograph of a youthful Jack Buchannan in Clothes and the Man, and looked it up to compare with his 1953 appearance in The Band Wagon, with Fred Astaire, which my wife and I watched last weekend. If not for Mr. Flusser, I would probably not have known that Buchanan was a British film star and dancer in the era between the wars, or how outlandishly wide the Oxford bags of that time really were.

    One does not have to agree with every opinion in these books, or treat them as how-to manuals, and yet can still appreciate them as enjoyable reference works. My style is basically a slightly more contemporary version of heyday Brooks and Press with an affectionate nod to classic English clothing and late 20th century Polo. And yet these books are informative and enjoyable, as is the tongue-in-cheek OPHB, in a very different way. But none should be treated as gospel, any more than all of the opinions on this site, including this one.

    Also, not that Mr. Flusser needs my defense, he is correct that the 3/2, Brooks No. 1 sack (which along with the similar model from J. Press makes up 90% of my tailored wardrobe) can indeed look shapeless right off the rack. However, with a bit of tailoring magic on the side seams, it can achieve a flattering, waisted silhouette without darts to mar the front. It may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I like it.

  14. Flusser’s personal style has some flash to it, no doubt. He leans peacock, but in a way that, to my eye, has elegance and unfussy confidence (in sharp contrast to, say, the Pitti Uomo guys trying much too hard to catch the lens of street style photographers). Flusser isn’t Ivy-oriented, as his take on the sack suit makes clear. But this book, as I learned on this site a while back, is an earlier version of Dressing The Man, a book which had a huge impact on the way I understand clothes, their historical context, and how to work with colors, patterns, and complexions. He does have a sense of humor, a dry one perhaps, but it’s there.

  15. Charlottesville,

    I have two 3/2 sack suits, both MTM by H. Freeman for O’C’s, and although they are by far my favorite, best-fitting suits, they both have a little more waist suppression than I would prefer. I wonder how Southwick, O’Connell’s, Samuelsohn, and Press would compare? I’m thinking that if the canvassing is not too stiff, the coat will naturally conform a wee bit to the wearer? I agree “a bit of tailoring magic” can do that probably most often performed alteration.

    Concerning Oxford bags, I had to look it up. I wish I hadn’t.

  16. “It is that he doesn’t know writing. And I am not convinced he believes what he wrote.”

    Whoa. Interesting.

    There are plenty of men who know as much if not more than Flusser. To his credit, he seems willing to reference and acknowledge them, including Charlie Davidson, as mentors.

    Flusser’s thoughts about the sack coat aren’t entirely wrong, but they’re not totally 100% spot on. Firstly: there’s plenty of room for sport jackets that fit loosely and comfortably—with minimal shaping/tracing. They portray/convey a casual, nonchalant vibe that’s perfect (suitable, so to speak) for heavier cloth, including tweed, whipcord, covert, and flannel.

    An overly tapered odd/country jacket gives off a military (think Huntsman) vibe that seems way out of place for long strolls among the hills and fields — or, for that matter, 5:15 drinks on Sally’s Bay Head cottage porch. (What a great view).

    Secondly, a lot of the better sack coat makers, including Norman Hilton and Chipp, included just the right amount of tracing/shaping through the middle— while retaining the sloped, rounded shoulder, minimal padding throughout, and pronounced stitching.

    The Southwick Douglas, a longstanding and highly regarded sack model, featured some taper. As did its predecessor, the Warwick.

    Finally: the rumor that more taper has a ‘slendering’ effect is overstated. If you’re fat, an overly tapered jacket will actually accentuate your spare tire.

  17. @SE – a brilliant perspective
    @Rake – thank you for the link
    @Hardbopper – count me in, I’ll bring the Gin!

  18. “I am not saying you have to punch up comedy scripts in your spare time to write about men’s clothes, but I am saying that unless you are the kind of person for whom the instructions were the best part of the Christmas present, you are gonna find this book dry.”

    I enjoyed the entire review, but this line actually made me chuckle (guffaw?).

  19. Yup, still a fan.

  20. Charlottesville | April 13, 2022 at 12:46 pm | Reply

    Bopper — Most of my side-seam-waist-suppression was done by the store tailors at Brooks and, to a lesser extent, J. Press (both, in NY and DC, and mainly in the late 80s through early 2000s). I found at least some of the Press jackets to be made with a bit of taper right off the rack, whereas the BB suits of the era seemed to hang pretty straight from the shoulder until the tailor sculpted them. Southwick, alas, is no more, and I can’t opine one way or the other on Samuelsohn. Eljo’s, locally, is using Empire for its MTM sport coats and suits, and they can accommodate whatever shaping the customer wants, although I have not ordered one from them.

    I have also employed a local alterations tailor to work on suits and sport coats that needed to come in or out a bit here and there. Side seams are apparently relatively easy to adjust, at least within the limits of the available fabric, so you could probably have the MTM Freeman suits let out a half inch or so on each side to lessen the hourglass effect. O’Connell’s could do it if you are close by, but any competent alterations person should be up to the job.

  21. While I’m Team Flusser AND Team Boyer, the image Linkman shared sure made me laugh, along with a few lines from this article, including the one Tarik quotes. I do appreciate the sense of humor that comes through this site.

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