Custom Tailors Mens
TAILORED CLOTHINGUp until the late eighteenth century, it was often the man who dressed more flamboyantly than the woman, his wardrobe filled with laces and bows as well as high-heeled shoes with shiny buckles. Even our presidents were not immune, as a sartorially splendid George Washington appeared at his first Inaugural wearing a brocade jacket, lace shirt, silver appointments, and high-heeled shoes with diamond buckles.
However, as the country changed, so did clothing styles. With the emphasis on democracy and the glorification of the common man, clothing became less ornate, less ostentatious. By the time Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated, he followed the fashion of his time by taking the oath wearing a plain blue coat, drab colored waistcoat, green velveteen breeches with pearl buttons, yarn stockings, and slippers.
At the turn of this century, menswear was still heavily influenced by the Victorian era, as reflected in suits which at times resembled an extension of the upholstered look of the Victorian furniture popular in American homes in the period.
And yet the first decade of this century saw the important introduction of the sack suit, a style characterized by any shapeless coat without a waist seam, the body and skirt having been cut in one piece, and the Ivy League - style clothing from England. It was also during this period that certain other fashion innovations began to appear, such as the polo coat (introduced from England by Brooks Brothers around 1910) and the button-down collar (also introduced by John Brooks, in 1900, after he´d discovered it being worn by polo players in England in order to prevent flapping during play).
The 1920s were a time of experimentation, as the suit silhouette turned to the natural-shoulder look, and the first sports jacket - the Norfolk, modeled after the hunting suit worn by the Duke of Norfolk in the early eighteenth century - was produced. This decade also saw the rise and fall of jazz clothing, which had little semblance of balance or respect for the human form, with its inordinately long, tight-fitting jackets and narrow trousers; the cake-eater suit, named for college students who wore this slightly exaggerated copy of the natural- shoulder suit; and the knicker suit, featuring plus - four knickers that fell four inches below the knee. The 1930s was undoubtedly the most elegant period for menswear, as men gravitated toward the English drape style and the sportswear industry exploded. The British drape suit made it safely into the 1940s, though it was then referred to as the British blade, British lounge, and, finally, as the "lounge suit," a fitting name for its casually elegant style.
World War II resulted in a marked austerity in dress, due in large part to the restrictions placed on the clothing industry by the War Production Board. After the war, men were ready for another change in their clothing styles, and in 1948 the "bold look" began to be seen.
The 1950s are best remembered for the "gray flannel suit" worn by the conservative businessman. Now men were back to the natural-shoulder silhouette. As reported in Apparel Arts ´75 Years of Fashion, "No style was ever so firmly resisted, so acrimoniously debated - or more enthusiastically received in various segments of the industry. Natural shoulder styling eventually became the major style influence. Brooks Bros., once a ´citadel of conservatism,´ became a font of fashion as the new ´Ivy Cult´ sought style direction. Charcoal and olive were the colors."
In addition to the introduction of man-made fibers, this period also saw the arrival of the Continental Look from France and Italy, featuring short jackets and broad shoulders, a shaped waistline, slanting besom pockets, sleeve cuffs, short side vents, and tapered, cuffless trousers. This "slick" look made little inroad on those who were staunch adherents of the more conservative Ivy League look, but it was a significant phenomenon nonetheless, as it moved Americans further away from the stylish elegance of the 1930s.
The sixties brought the Peacock Revolution - a phrase popularized in this country by George Frazier, a former columnist for Esquire magazine and the Boston Globe - which began on Carnaby Street in London and featured a whole array of new looks, including the Nehru jacket and the Edwardian suit. In contrast to the fifties, during which time choices were limited, a wide range of alternatives was now available as the focus moved to youth and protest. The designer Pierre Cardin even created an American version of the slim-lined European silhouette, which, along with the immense popularity of jeans, led to the acceptance of extreme fittedness in clothing - a far cry from the casual, comfortable elegance of preceding generations.
During this period, the American designer Ralph Lauren was attempting to convince the American male that there was a viable alternative to this high-style clothing. This alternative was a version of the two-button shaped suit with natural shoulders that had been introduced by Paul Stuart in 1954 and briefly popularized by John Kennedy during his presidency. Lauren updated the Stuart suit by using the kind of fabrics usually reserved for custom-made suits and dramatizing the silhouette by enlarging the lapel and giving more shape to the jacket. Lauren´s following remained small, however, as most men leaned toward the jazzier Cardin-style suit.
The seventies were the era of the designer. They were also a time of intense fashion experimentation, coming at a point when the largest growth in the number of people buying fashions occurred and manufacturers tried desperately to capture the one- third of the buying public that was spending two-thirds of the money. Toward the end of the decade, after years of following the fitted clothing styles of Milan and Paris, there was a dramatic turnaround as a number of European designers and manufacturers began biting off pieces of the American style of dress. Brooks Brothers´ baggy garments and button-down shirts, both indigenously American, began to be produced in European versions, for Europeans had suddenly become attracted to the looser, more comfortable style of dress and were eschewing the tight-fitting silhouette they´d embraced in the past.
While the European look still retained a foothold among American men (represented by designers such as Giorgio Armani, Basile, and Gianni Versace), the pendulum had begun to swing in the direction of a less stylized, more natural-fitting garment. A new generation of American designers joined Ralph Lauren in presenting an updated, purely American style of clothing.
Today, American men´s designers are continuing to rediscover the traditions of their past, exploring the American heritage in menswear. Of particular interest to most is the 1930s, the era of elegance, in which designers continue to find much to inspire them. Yet the experience of the last twenty years has taught them that men want not only quality, shape, and elegance but comfort as well. Clothes that lead the marketplace today are made of high-quality materials. They are soft and comfortable, but their designs still reflect the qualities of traditional Old World style.
For nearly two hundred years now, men in prominent positions have been going to work wearing proper business suits. Over the years, there have been occasional rebellions against this custom, and, in fact, a mere twenty years ago the future of business suits in this country looked bleak, as dire predictions of men appearing at work wearing jump suits and the like abounded. Yet today, perhaps more then ever before, the business suit is the accepted uniform of the successful entrepreneur.
Naturally, this brings to mind the following questions: Why has the business suit enjoyed this longevity? What purpose does it serve? Why should a man even bother wearing one when it seems to limit self-expression and stifle individuality?
Perhaps a starting point in responding to these questions appears in an advertisement placed by the pre-eminent men´s clothing store, Paul Stuart, which states that "a proper function of the business suit is to offer a man a decent privacy so that irrelevant reactions are not called into play to prejudice what should be purely business transactions."
While this is certainly true, there is no reason why a man in a business suit has to look bland. Even in a business situation, it is possible to dress within certain professional parameters while still managing to avoid the trap of looking as if one just walked off the assembly line. The business suit can and should at least offer the suggestion of character and a sense of individuality. If, for instance, one works in advertising as opposed to banking, one can get away with a bit more verve in a suit rather than adhering to the more conservative look required in the latter profession. But even a man working in banking should not exempt himself from thinking about dress, for whatever one wears says something about the wearer.
More than any other single item of clothing, it is the suit that ultimately determines the overall style of a man´s dress. Although the shirt, tie, and hose all have an important contribution to make to a man´s style, none plays nearly so major a role as the suit, which, since it covers 80 percent of the body, actually defines the general mood and impression of one´s appearance. Accessories should relate to the suit and not vice versa. To think otherwise would be tantamount to beginning the decoration of an empty apartment by first purchasing an ashtray.
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