HSM Archives Finale: A Youthful Look of Slim Straightness

When I first moved to New York in late 2009 the Hartmarx Corporation gave me a couple of private views of their advertising archives. These are the last images I was able to grab. They date from the 1950s and document the trend in menswear to the natural-shouldered look. The final document has a nice breakdown of how the long, lean effect in the other images is achieved, beyond the svelte physique that nature (or in this case, the artist) has bestowed on the models.

The image above has an interesting collegiate theme: the homecoming reunion of the class of ’31 (making this presumably ’51 or ’56). With the collar roll, glasses and overall vibe, somehow the word that pops into my head to describe this image is “trad.” Also, those familiar with the identity of the blogger formerly known as Longwing might see a certain resemblance to the gentleman on the left.

Continuing the collegiate theme is this ad featuring a couple of coeds admiring their professor on his way to the faculty club, to the chagrin of their highwater pants-clad classmate:

This ad extolls “slim, trim lines and straightforward naturalness:”

Hartmarx had a date for this one. The ad ran in Time Magazine in 1956:

Finally, here’s an ad that breaks down how the elongated effect is achieved. The ad ran in LIFE in 1953, and explains the new trend in menswear, which includes a “trim, youthful appearance as opposed to V-shaped exaggeration,” and a “straight-line effect where the sleeve joins the shoulder.”

Moreover, “Shoulders have been given a more natural, not-so-wide look. Lapels have been slimmed down, buttons placed somewhat lower and virtually all suggestion of waistline eliminated, front and back.”

Take these instructions to your tailor, lose 10 pounds, and you too can achieve a youthful look of slim straightness. — CC

12 Comments on "HSM Archives Finale: A Youthful Look of Slim Straightness"

  1. Take Christian’s post here – and pin it up on the BB or faculty lounge (if those still exist) at our colleges and universities today, and see if anyone has the gumption to make a good change.

  2. This is the quintessential Ivy Style post. A unique mix of nostalgia, original reporting, and actual sartorial discussion of fit and proportion. Great work.

  3. Great post. My favorite suit is a charcoal gray Hart Schaffner & Marx number purchased new in 2000. It fits great and looks great. I could wear it every day.

    Wish I could afford more! Wish that they made them like what you found in the archives!

  4. Charlottesville | July 23, 2019 at 3:48 pm |

    Henry – I hope you still have that Hart Schaffner & Marx suit form 2000. I have quite a few suits and sport coats that age and older that are still going strong, including the gray pinstripe from J. Press that I am wearing today. Good clothes tend to last a long time if you take care of them.

  5. As the salesman told Henry Graham, “Hart, Schaffner and Marx, the best you can get in ready to wear.” (A New Leaf)

  6. Caustic Man | July 24, 2019 at 12:27 pm |

    These documents re-emphasize that, by the 1950s, the Ivy League look was fashion pure and simple. There is no mention of elite eastern universities whatever, though a non-distinct campus culture is constantly alluded to on these ads. It is as if, as the Ivy fashion grew, the association with elite colleges had to be replaced by an association with any college whatever. A graduate of “Podunk-U” (sorry for the stolen Richard Press-ism) could hardly have been persuaded to pay good money to affect the costume of a Princeton man. But with a careful recasting of the Ivy image he could be convinced that his own college experience put him in a category worthy of the best American clothes.

  7. whiskeydent | July 24, 2019 at 2:24 pm |

    It was probably a matter of economics. There were far more potential customers in public universities than in the Ivies.

  8. Henry Contestwinner | July 24, 2019 at 2:29 pm |

    Charlottesville, I do indeed still have that suit, and trot it out every now and again. I find myself wearing suits less and less, but am still going strong with a jacket & tie (six days a week, usually).

  9. Caustic Man | July 24, 2019 at 2:32 pm |

    That’s essentially what I’m saying.

  10. Charlottesville | July 24, 2019 at 3:06 pm |

    Henry – Glad to hear it. I too am usually in a coat and tie 6 (sometimes 7) days a week, at least for part of the day. I just like it. I would say roughly half of the time, I choose a suit, but now that suits are no longer expected at work (or in court or in church or pretty much anywhere else), I wear sport coats and blazers more than I used to and am still usually the most dressed up man in any given room. As Jay Walter recently remarked elsewhere on this site, “The world is changing, but that doesn’t mean [we] have to.”

  11. Henry Contestwinner | July 26, 2019 at 2:02 pm |

    I, too, wear what I wear (jacket & tie) because I like it. It’s good to know there’s at least one kindred soul out there.

    We’re going to change, regardless of how the world changes, but we don’t have to change in lockstep with those around us. The slovenly are free to wear their grimy T-shirts, cut-off sweatpants, and Crocs; I’ll still wear a jacket & tie (and hat!).

    I used to wear ties on Saturdays, too, but now almost never do. I suppose the main reason is that so many of my Saturdays are spent Scouting—both of my children are involved, and I’m a Den Leader and Assistant Scoutmaster for their pack & troop, respectively. But I do have an official tie that I wear with my uniform on special occasions!

  12. Who was the blogger formerly knows as Longwing?

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