I'll try Horace. I've hinted at it before but never really fleshed it out.
The 1930s are the easiest example. This was (in popular opinion, maybe there’s something I don’t know) the low point of American economic strength. Yet, the styles are held up as the high point of American tailoring and taste. There’s an intellectual clash here that gets brushed off all too easily. Men—common men that is, not movie stars and not the Rockefellers—may have worn suits, but probably didn’t own more than one, and certainly didn’t spend a month’s salary or more on it. Here’s a good picture from my home state (NJ)
The 1950s are trickier. There was unquestionably an Ivy League style, but it was equally unquestionably constrained to the Ivy League students (10,000 or so at any one time) and their families/social circles. This
thread has great examples of what the lower classes looked for in their style icons, mostly thanks to Get Smart’s efforts. The looks are closer to Ivy League style than many like to admit—short jackets and pants, short dual vents. The rockers just went more extreme in colors and cuts. I can’t find a good screenshot of Michael Pitt from The Dreamers
but he wore a lot of slim, flat-front chinos cut short (and white socks
) and short tweed jackets. When he was wearing clothes at all, that is
There’s just no evidence that the large majority of Americans had any interest in yellow pants with ducks or madras jackets.
It’s an interesting cultural phenomena, this desire to dress as people did in the past. I think it’s fairly new—the reason leisure suits became popular in the early parts of the 20th century was precisely that people didn’t want to dress as they had in the past, in frock coats and spats. There are some changing appeals to romantic and satiric authority here but I haven’t sat down and worked them out yet. It will end up looking something like, people are strengthening their identification with satiric authority (we were better in the past and are struggling to get back there, but never can) because of changes to public perception and values as presented in clothing choices.
I’m interested in the more intellectual stuff that Scott shoots. It’s asking, ‘what do unique individuals wear on the street,’ rather than who best follows the rules.