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Historical Clothing Reviews and Guides

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

This thread is to post historical review of firms and guides to style (1960s and older).  We'll start with a guide to Paris firms from Vogue, July 15, 1931.  Some fascinating finds: robes and handkerchiefs made of "sheer linen printed in the designs and colours of foulards."  We'll also discover that in the 1930s, cologne could smell like a "mixture of tobacco and Russian leather."  


A preview of coming attractions: next week we will have a review of Charvet from a newspaper in 1909.  Unlike shirts of today, they were predominantly made of linen, followed by silk.  


Now we leave the shoals of Sparta, sailing to the land of the Sybarites:


London still remains the stronghold of tailors, bootmakers, and hat makers, but the haberdashers of Paris are as famous as those of London, and, Paris being Paris, their things are often more interesting and novel.  Therefore, the American woman shopping in Paris may find everything she likes, and more, to take back to the men of her family and friends. And she’ll probably find something for herself.


The best-known men’s shops in Paris are Charvet, in the Place Vendôme, Doucet, in the rue de la Paix, Boivin and Sulka in the rue de Castiglione, HIlditch and Key in the rue de Rivoli, d’Ahetze in the Arcades des Champs-Élysées, and Knizé et Cie in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. In addition, there are numerous smaller shops, each with its own specialty. Even among the large shops, each one has some specialty or specialties, and it is from this point of view that the following items are suggested for the Paris shopper.


Charvet is famous the world over for luxurious dressing-gowns and bathrobes, but there are two articles in men’s apparel in this shop, particular suitable to the masculine taste, that are to be found nowhere else in Paris. One is the extremely large, extremely sheer, white batiste handkerchief for evening wear – the smartest of the kind I know – and the other, the washable printed linen neckties for summer wear.


Doucet has many novelties, but specializes in silk underwear, foulard handkerchiefs and ties to match, and novel leather belts. Silk shirts, initialed mufflers, and rich-looking crêpe de Chine handkerchiefs are features of Sulka; while Boivin is known everywhere for his pyjamas. Every season, he has a new model and always a great variety of colours and materials to choose from. His beach pyjamas, for such places as the Lido, are the last word in luxury and chic and are sufficiently different in cut from pyjamas for the bedroom to make them obviously for beach wear.


Hilditch and Key is a well-known London shop in Jermyn Street, with an equally popular branch in Paris. Their neckties, of course, are of English material and in the English taste, and, as women are notoriously bad choosers of neckties for a man, the suggestions and selections of the salesmen in this shop are extremely helpful. The sweaters, too, are excellent, and the flannel golf shirts, a novelty to replace “windbreakers,” are well worth considering as a present for the very difficult “man who has everything.”


Doing the des Champs-Élysées, one finds d’Ahetze in the Arcades, next to Claridge’s an amusing and very modern shop full of novelties. There are shirts with ties attached, novel bathing-suits, a great selection of washable ties, and materials to be made up into shirts, pyjamas, and dressing-gowns. This shop has a great deal of character, and the models are unlike those found anywhere else. Knizé, further up on the des Champs-Élysées, on the same side of the street, is a handsomely appointed shop on the second floor, full of interesting and luxurious things. There are English hats and sweaters, and particularly interesting are the golf jackets made up in English linens. Other novelties are handkerchiefs and dressing-gowns made of sheer linen printed in the designs and colours of foulards. Also, their scent for men, which is a mixture of tobacco and Russian leather.


As is the case everywhere, to-day, many of the smaller women’s shops now carry things for men, and among these are Annek, 14 rue de Marignan, and Hélène Yrande makes the famous “Train Bleu” set for men who travel in luxury. It consists of sheets, a dressing-gown, a travelling-rug, and slips to protect suits, hats, and other things from the dust of the train journey.


In mentioning the sources of presents for men, Hermès can not be omitted, for it is one of the most famous leather shops in the world. Lately, this shop has produced a model of combined pocketbook and billfolder, that is little short of genius. Where the pocketbook folds, the thickness of the leather has been cut away to make it less bulky than the average model, even when filled. It’s a perfect present.


At a smaller leather shop, Aux États-Unis, 229 rue Saint-Honoré, there is a “bottle bag” for toilet articles (not at all like the usual fitted bag), that has made this shop famous. It is a great find for the curious shopper, and, incidentally, will prove as useful to a woman as to a man.


Cartier, as every one knows, has many attractive things for men, but I think there is one article that stands out – a small, enameled, and gold-plated engagement book, with quarterly fillers and a pencil, which is exactly the right size put in the upper waistcoat pocket. It becomes quite indispensable to the man who has once used it.


And now – something of more feminine interest. If the glitter along the rue de Rivoli threatens to blind you, and you can’t choose your costume jewellery from the bewildering array, let Madame Tchounsky, 31 rue George Sand, show you her crystal lace necklaces. They encircle the base of the neck becomingly and shed a properly subdued brilliance over your aspect. “La Perle Assyria,” 13 rue Mandar, specializes in pearls, as you could guess. This shop combines pearls with coral and jade beads and makes up necklaces in those tripe and quadruple strands that now make the simple string of artificial pearls look a feeble, adolescent thing. Here, too, you will find the strands of chalky-white porcelain beads that are new and smart.

Edited by CrimsonSox - 2/25/14 at 12:40am
post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 

A detailed review of Charvet from the Chicago Daily Tribune, September 29, 1909. The article features not only shirts, but also tailored clothes from Charvet, including a sack coat with a suppressed waist and trim trousers without a break (the cycle of fashion turns 360 degrees).  The formal shirts for eveningwear are made of linen, as mentioned in this previous thread with a photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:


The monograms are placed in an unusual position: the upper sleeve arm close to the shoulder.  Nightshirts are made of linen, and fastened with gold or enamel studs instead of buttons.  






Paris Fashions Show Luxury in New Shirts for Men:


There is no greater authority on the subject of all the small details of men's dress than Charvet of Paris, so to that world famous establishment in the Rue de la Paix went the correspondent of The Tribune to learn of what is newest and choicest in that commonplace garment, the shirt. All sorts and kinds of information was needed as to soft fronts, stiff fronts, plaited bosoms, colored effects, or whatever might be the mode for the moment or for the day after tomorrow. What can be seen there might fill a volume, certainly could a column, for there were shirts of every variety and almost of every color. They went through all the range from grave to gay, from lively to severe, and the man who could not find what could suit his fancy would indeed be hard to please.


As to expense, well that might be the rub, for the cheap does not exist among the French creations, but if the prices are staggering, the articles themselves are fascinating, even if they be only shirts. Materials as fine as a dainty handkerchief that any woman might carry, others of silk, soft and pliable enough to be held within the palm of the hand. Combinations of colors that were artistic enough to make one long for them all, and each and every one most beautifully made.


Dress Shirt Conventional

The first looked at were the dress shirts which are thoroughly conventional in cut and style and only vary as regards the materials employed in their making. For the full dress coat and white waistcoat they were made of a linen that was fine, but that had a certain weight to enable them to take and hold starch readily. They were, of course, absolutely plain, but in shape they were somewhat wider than those of last season, as the waistcoats are if anything a trifle lower. On some of these shirts of fine linen the collars are attached, but not on all, and these were high, straight bands with no turnover at all, or with the smallest one to be imagined.


There were also stiff bosomed shirts for evening clothes made of pique in tiny diagonal stripes which looked scarcely more than a cord, a material that is quite new and smart. These were all finished with collars of the same, rather uncompromising looking, so stiff and high were they, but “the thing.”


For the Tuxedo


Much more attractive, at least to the feminine eye, were the shirts which were intended to be worn with a Tuxedo coat and any fancy waistcoat, but which The Tribune representative was told were not to be thought of with any other. They were sheer linen or batiste, as one preferred, the batiste being really the prettier. Some were laid in clusters of small tucks, two or three on a side, and from three to five tucks in each cluster. Others showed wide tucks, some nearly an inch, going toward a center plait, or they were arranged in box plaits, each pressed down as flat and firm as possible.  Of course with these no stiffening was used, and they were given a sort of dull finish, quite different to the glossy surface of the others. The collars of these comfortable looking garments were made of the small material many times interlined, or in some cases of a slightly heavier linen, but always they were fastened to the collar band, a distinguishing mark in regard to them.


Here’s a New Shirting


A perfectly new shirting which Charvet has recently brought out is a hand woven linen made of a round and heavy thread, which gives the fabric much the appearance of a grenadine. It is really too pretty to be hidden away under a coat and waistcoat, for it is intended for daytime wear, and therefore can be seen little. Shirts made of it are also of the soft boson style, which the single plait fastening down the front, or occasionally with that and one other on either side. The collar and cuffs as well as these are of the finely woven linen, and these make the contrast more pronounced and also more attractive. Besides white this new goods comes in a most charming shade of buff, in a lilac that has just a suggestion of pink in it, in two shades of blue, and in a soft, pale pink. The collars and cuffs are invariably white.


Silk Shirt is Fancied


There is another fancy just at present for the silk shirt in place of the linen one for ordinary wear, whether because they are wildly expensive garments and so appeal to the man who has everything he wants and more, too, or because they are much too good looking to be resisted. Nothing as common and ordinary as the Japanese or pongee silk is used in the making of these, but instead it is a cross between a charmeuse, that most delicate of silks that comes for feminine wear, and a heavy Indian silk of a quality that has hitherto been unknown.


It is claimed for these that absolutely nothing will launder so well and that the shirts will easily outlast two or possibly three sets of collars and cuffs, which, by the way, are of linen. This may be, and likely is true, but among all the luxuries in the line of shirts displayed by Charvet these require more capital for an investment.


Of striped shirts, and there were many to be seen, none were prettier than some of the new shades for which no names have as yet been found, but which are much too charming not to receive their christening and so be remembered.  A combination of pinkish gray on which were inch wide stripes of dull mauve and soft blue. Another of greens so faded and gone that they were almost colorless, but brightened with an occasional hair line of deep yellow, and still another of an odd drabbish hue on which were stripes of dull rose barred off with black. Any age and complexion of man could be suited unless his taste ran to the ultra loud, which these are not. The material is a batiste of a quality that is difficult to obtain outside of France, and they are warranted to wash like a piece of cotton cloth.


Stripes Run Crosswise


There are made up in two or three different styles, the smartest having a regular bosom put on in which the stripes run crosswise. As they are all of unusual width, it makes a pronounced affair of a garment that is the reverse of dressy. The others are more simple, some being quite plain with the single center plait, while others are laid in a series of tucks arranged to show whatever part of the stripe one wishes.


Like all the other colored shirts that Charvet makes, nothing but a white collar Is used on these, but unlike the others some of the stripes show cuffs of the same, the effect being excellent.


There are also being shown with these business shirts some ties especially designed to wear with them. They are either puff ties or four in hands, and are of soft silk all self-toned. Whatever is the predominating shade of the shirt appears again in the tie and in several tones forming vague and unobtrusive patterns. The colorings are the latest thing and most odd.


Monogram is Embroidered


One notable feature of all the shirts made in this establishment is that all are beautifully embroidered with a monogram, or with the initials, as one likes best. This year the craze is for the largest size that can be employed, and some are fully three inches in length. If smaller ones are used they are arranged in a lozenge of a darker shade, that is, if the marking is in a color as is often the case. The upper part of the left arm is the proper place now for monograms, initials, coats of arms, or any style of decorations, and they are put on as near to the line of the shoulder as will look well. Several colors are used for the embroidery, even on white shirts, and they are most artistic and decorative.


A few words must be said about the nightshirt, which many men still wear in preference to pajamas, and of which Charvet was showing some most luxurious ones. The material of which they were made was white linen fine and far from heavy. They were cut fairly long and on either side the opening of the bosom in front were three wide tucks giving the necessary fullness. Between the tucks the materials was embroidered in small dots in any pale shade, those of a sort of primrose color and one or two shades of pink being particularly effective.


Fancy Nightshirts


The necks were finished with rather high turnover collars, and turnback cuffs appeared on the sleeves, both being covered with embroidered dots, and as an additional trimming the edges of each were finished with narrow ruffles, buttonholed and embroidered. On the left arm more embroidery in the form of initials or a monogram appeared. Nothing more dainty in the shape of night attire for man can be imagined than these, for they had all the delicate look that is characteristic of women’s lingeries, especially that having the real Parisian touch.


There were other nightshirts, some of silk, the striped Japanese variety, which never seem to lose their popularity and which are durable and wash well. There was not much to change in these except that the colors are not so vivid as formerly and some of the stripes are wider. To give a little variety to these some have the collars and turnover cuffs edges with an inch band of plain colored silk stitched on.


There were also white cotton shirts intended for men who do not like either silk or linen. Some of these had quite an air given them by the collar and cuffs with which they were provided and which were of striped batiste as gay as possible. Others had a fine braiding done in a very small cotton, either all white or combined with a color.


In place of the ordinary pearl button nearly all the nightshirts were fastened with studs, some plain gold, some white enamel, or when embroidery was employed, in enamel of the same shade. Cuff links also were of the same, and many of these sets are not only pretty but distinctly costly. 



Edited by CrimsonSox - 3/3/14 at 11:56am
post #3 of 15
Three inches in length -- the Big Pony before the Big Pony.

Great thread. Thanks for doing it.
post #4 of 15
Yes great thread.

Next instalment please.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

The British poet and memoirist Siegfried Sassoon in a three-piece POW check suit (1920).  Note the natural shoulder and lovely lapel roll:


post #6 of 15
Hilditch and Key is a well-known London shop in Jermyn Street, with an equally popular branch in Paris. Their neckties, of course, are of English material and in the English taste, and, as women are notoriously bad choosers of neckties for a man, the suggestions and selections of the salesmen in this shop are extremely helpful.

Some things just don't change, do they? lol8[1].gif
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Vogue visits Charvet in February 1914, on the eve of World War 1.  The article features a tailcoat from Charvet, watered silk wallets, and rhinoceros horn canes.







There is in Paris one bit of international, neutral ground where men of all nations meet on friendly terms. It is Charvet’s shop. Men from all over the world drift in there in the course of the year to replenish their wardrobes, especially their supply of ties, and to get Charvet’s latest idea in styles. Likewise, those who have any fads of their own come to him to have them executed.


Charvet declares that he can tell the nationality of a man at a glance – by the way he wears his clothes. The German, it seems, wears his civilian clothes as he does his uniform, and is fitted into them with absolute exactness until every nook and cranny is filled out. The Italian follows the same style, and there is excuse for the graceful Latin’s wishing to display his supple figure. Upon the American, clothes sit as if they were nothing and he, everything, and the Englishman wears his with the proud, unconscious air of a conqueror, knowing that the whole world says his are the best. But the really perfectly dressed man, according to Charvet, is he who never changes his style, and thus is never conscious of his clothes. Charvet is also an enemy of padding in any shape, and advises a man, no matter what his defects may be, to let his clothes dutifully follow the lines of his body.


Recently Charvet has created a new tea-coat he calls it; it is really a tango-coat. It buttons with one button, higher over the chest than the old model, which prevents its becoming wrinkled or disarranged as the body of the wearer sways with the movement of the dance. It is black, and is worn with cuffed trousers, wide at the hips and narrower at the bottom. With this suit is worn a black vest, white, square- winged collar, and black bat-wing tie.


French Evening Dress


According to Charvet, evening coats this season should be cut shorter than usual over the hip. He curves them out with an upward line, as in the sketch at the bottom of page 40 – an effect which gives much greater apparent length to the leg. Trousers worn with this coat are of the peg-top variety with a strip of braid down the seam. The white waistcoat is of mechra leger and is bound at the edges. The style of men’s dress appears to be enduringly established along lines of severe moderation, on English authority, which in this case is based upon English habits and English climate, and they may be said to be equally unlikely to alter.


Some small leeway is, however, granted in such accessories as handkerchiefs, pocket cases, and sticks. A few examples of the great variety in which they appear are shown on this page. The sticks offered this season are particularly interesting, displaying some unusual materials and in design combining the square and round cut. The illustration at the bottom of page 70 shows, beginning at the left, a maple stick cut square for about one foot below the handle, then rounded off, with ivory trimmings; next, a square cane with gold-plated bands on the handle rounds off one foot from the end; comes another of bird’s-eye maple with ivory top; the fourth is of amourette in a shape much in vogue, with rhinoceros handle encircled by three bands of gold; the next is a stick of laurel wood with an all-spice handle and bands of gold at the joinings; a rhinocerous handle on a laurier wood cane is finished by a gold band; a stick of malacca wood has top of rhinocerous and band of gold; and the last cane is entirely of the very smart rhinoceros horn.


The five pocket accessories shown on page 70 are designed for use with evening dress, and in consequence are of very light construction. The black moire covering is hair-striped in white and lightly mounted with gold. The inside lining of fine yet durable silk is strengthened with leather. The white linen handkerchiefs illustrated show a discriminating use of color and unusual ways of presenting the monogram and crest.


This is just an excerpt; the rest of the article describes dressing in Europe.  Although the historically minded clothing enthusiast will be aware of this, it's still remarkable to read about the dominance of the English at the time:


“The universal acceptance of English fashion by king and commoner alike has replaced elegance by correctness, and individuality by strict conformity to rule.”


“In this present epoch . . . men of whatever nation follow one type of dress, the most virile and businesslike of all – the English.  In selecting their apparel they attempt to suppress all individual eccentricities, and they vie with each other in absolute ‘correctness.’”


“The Italian, German, American, and Frenchman in street or evening clothes appear almost exactly alike – that is, all appear like the Englishman.  The eastern nations, too, are falling into line in the universal brotherhood of dress, and the Japanese are fairly out-Englishing the English in severity of cloth and cut of costume.”

post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

A 1928 review of New York shirt-makers (with an appearance by D&J Anderson) from the New Yorker.  It's extraordinary to think that Charvet once had an outpost in New York, which was founded by the nephew of Edouard Charvet (  It's unclear, however, what the relation of Budd of New York was to Budd of Piccadilly. Budd (NY) was founded by Samuel Budd in 1860, while Budd (London) was founded by Harold Budd in 1910.  


I've included a guide to convert 1928 dollars approximately into today's dollars:


$7.50 = $101

$12 = $161

$16 = $214

$35 = $469

$50 = $670


 New Yorker, November 24, 1928

As to Men: Custom Shirts, Robes, and Pajamas


Several of the larger stores, in addition to those mentioned below, will make shirts to order, and offer a wide selection in pajamas and robes. Among them are Brooks Brothers, Saks-Fifth Avenue, F.R. Tripler & Co., Altman, Lord & Taylor, Franklin Simon, and Finchley. Don’t forget that anything which has to be made to measure should be ordered immediately [in time for Christmas]. This list, of course, cannot pretend to include every good shop.


BUDD, 572 Fifth Avenue: The usual line of shirts and robes, all of them excellent.


CHARVET & FILS, 660 Fifth Avenue: Amazing modern French haberdashery imported from the firm’s Paris store. Custom shirts which vary in price according to the material used.


DOYLE & BLACK, 45 West Forty-sixth Street: Very cheap and very good. Custom shirts for as low a $5.50. Madras and broadcloth at $7.50.


DUDLEY ELDRIDGE, 5 East Fifty-second Street: A fine selection of corded materials and batistes for shirts. Priced moderately from $7.50 up.


KASKEL & KASKEL, 567 Fifth Avenue: Noted for green haberdashery. Shirts in French materials from $8.50 up. New robes at $45; not bad at all.


KEEP SHIRT CO., 5 East Forty-Fourth Street: An old house. Makes shirts, priced up to $9.50, of the well known D. & J. Anderson madras.


MCCRORY’S, 32 West Forty-sixth Street: One of Adolphe Menjou’s shirtmakers. McCrory deals largely in French materials, priced around $16. Nice printed foulard robes here


MCLAUGHLIN, 697 Fifth Avenue: Good custom shirts. One that caught my eye was made with a hand-corded bosom in solid-color silk, Prince of Wales collar. Another had a dickey-bosom in a gray-and-black cross-bar design, price $16.


A. SULKA & CO., 512 Fifth Avenue: Very French. Shirts: all the way from $12 to $35 apiece. Printed batistes, solid-color jacquards, flannel hunting-shirts in checkerboard designs, Japan-silk jacquards with small embroidered figures in color. Pajamas: startling stripes in Roman silk, figured French crêpe, or satin broche. Robes: tailored of ready-made in flannel, silk, and velvet. From $50 up.


WASHINGTON TREMLETT, 51 East Forty-second Street, fifteenth floor: American agency of the English shirtmaker. Orders taken for shirts to be made abroad. Landed cost, $100 per dozen and up.

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

In the 1930s, Sulka New York offered a laundry service for its clients, washing its shirts in olive-oil soap, hand ironing, and mending any frayed collars or loose buttons.  The price was 10 cents ($4.80 in today's dollars).  The service was so popular that the average client had washed eleven shirts, five pajamas, and assorted socks and handkerchiefs each week, adding up to $10 ($160 in today's dollars).  Another laundry service offered to wash your white suit in the summer as many times as you wanted for $15 ($240).



New Yorker, July 17, 1937

As to Men

Private Laundry—for Swimmers and Sailors


So far as we know, the only haberdashery in town which operates its own laundry is A. Sulka & Company of 512 Fifth Avenue (43rd), which decided about a dozen years ago that the shirts and things it made in its shop weren’t being done up satisfactorily, and set about establishing a laundry of its own. Mr. Curran, who is now manager of the laundry, quit his job as head fitter at the Fifth Avenue store and worked for months in the Hotel Biltmore’s laundry to learn all about washing and ironing. After he got the new venture under way, he persuaded the Sulka people to accept their customers’ wash as well. Now he has a considerable number of patrons who wouldn’t dream of sending their shirts and collars anywhere else.


Clothes sent to the Sulka laundry, which is at 219 East 44th Street, are washed with olive-oil soap and ironed by hand. Periodically each shirt and collar is measured to see whether it has shrunk or stretched. It goes without saying that no garment leaves this laundry frayed or with buttons missing. Prices, naturally, are a bit high, and they may even go higher. At present, the laundry charges thirty-five cents for a soft shirt; fifty cents for a dress shirt or an ordinary suit of pajamas. Silk or flannel pajamas are seventy-five cents; dress waistcoats $1; socks, 10 cents a pair. The average customer sends in eleven shirts and five pairs of pajamas a week, which, with underwear, handkerchiefs, and socks, run his bill up to $10 or thereabouts. One man sends his laundry by air mail from Florida, the posting costing him $11 each way. The laundry’s busiest time, naturally enough, comes in midwinter. Last January it washed and ironed 7,500 dress shirts.


Sulka makes no effort to drum up trade; rather, the problem is to hold business down. Occasionally, someone sends in some shirts or collars which were brought at another store. The laundry does them up carefully and politely suggests that the customer restrict his wash to Sulka purchases.


Incidentally, the Cascade Laundry, which is in Brooklyn and doesn’t care where you buy your haberdashery, recently made a sporting offer. During July and August, it will dry-clean or laundry your white suit as many times as you wish for $15. Which seems fair enough. The laundry’s telephone number is Pulaski 5-4800.

Edited by CrimsonSox - 3/19/14 at 1:45pm
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 

A survey of spring fashions for men from Vogue April 16, 1908.  The review includes a lavender striped shirt from Sulka and an extraordinary tailored waistcoat for white tie from Kaskel & Kaskel, a top New York shirtmaker at the time that made shirts for President Theodore Roosevelt.


Readers with a historical interesting in style will note that the midnight blue tailcoat and dinner jacket, traditionally attributed to the Duke of Windsor, are already mentioned as fashions in 1908.  


Advice from the article that still holds true today includes the recommendation to avoid padding in suits, especially an exaggerated squareness in the shoulders.












So much space has been given up to detail of dress within the past month or two that it may be well to devote this article to a consideration of the generally prevailing fashions of the spring, and to begin at the top, the straw hat, which will soon make its appearance in the shop windows, is likely to show more change in shape than has been the case for several seasons. Of course, there is always the extreme both in width and narrowness of brim, but it seems practically certain that the wider brims will be the popularly fashionable style in all the models.


The Hat Styles


As for the models themselves, however, between the straight crown, straight brim shape and that with curling brim – whatever its exact design – there will be slight choice so far as its smartness is concerned. For the former the fairly rough, though flat pressed sennit straw, will undoubtedly be most in vogue among well dressed men, and on both colored bands will be as much used as ever, if one may judge from present inclinations.


Nothing can be added to what has been said in previous articles of the silk hat and derby shapes, but the opera hat, while of course still in fairly general use, is less than ever a style essential to correct form. With full evening dress the ‘silk’ is, in fact, nine times out of ten better, while with informal evening clothes the black derby is the only possible thing. I am not certain whether or not I have recently mentioned a derby of ribbed silk that has been more or less in evidence at one of the leading hatters for the past year or two, and that is intended for dinner coat dress. If not, let me say now that it is a style no man who knows anything whatever about good dress can wear. The brown, or rather tan, derby, while, strictly speaking, less good than the black for evening use, is, on the other hand, quite as correct with day clothes of informal character.


Sack Suits


With greys and browns somewhat predominating, and stripes or slender lines more generally popular than checks or overplaids, one need, however, pay little attention to the ‘kind’ of sack suit material so long as is good of its kind and intrinsically stylish and pretty. Indeed, the chief mistake men make is in selecting fabrics that look too much like those selected by everyone else – in other words, materials that lack character. As to cut of coats, avoid exaggerated squareness of shoulder – indeed, forbid any padding anywhere – do not have more than moderate spring in seams or moderate flare over hips, and above all, if you buy a ready-made suit, do not select one of the one or two button styles that one sometimes sees described in the wholesale clothing advertisements as ‘very swell.’ The front of the single-breasted jacket may be straight or decidedly rounded (the latter is now perhaps the more exclusive design), but there should be no sharply cut-away or angular effect. Double-breasted coats, although less generally in vogue, are perfectly right in point of style, but here, too, avoid the two-button designs, and bear in mind that for them plain fabrics – dark blue serge, etc. – are always better than light or mixed stuffs, with the possible exception of white or delicately striped flannels.


Afternoon Dress


The English walking coat of mixed materials is much less a general fashion this spring, but the morning coat of black or dark gray, with or without braiding, and made rather long in the skirts, remains in decided vogue for formal and informal afternoon dress. Indeed, while not exactly taking its place, with the morning coat one may nowadays never feel the need of the frock.


Evening Clothes


Other than that more ultra fashion permits the dark blue evening suit and dinner coat, there is little new to be said of either of these forms of dress; or, rather, there is little that comes within the limits of general fashion, for of the former I have seen one coat cut with the corners very much rounded below the lapels, which were faced with a coarse (in the sense of large) basket-woven silk, and of the latter a model with peculiarly cut lapels all the way to the bottom edge, where they were stitched back to the coat, and with silk faced cuffs, vertical pockets and no buttons or button-holes.


Top Coats for Spring


Among the top coats the Paddock and other waist fitting styles are conspicuously lacking, and while the short coat is about as much in vogue as usual, and there are various long coats for wet weather, motoring, etc., the Chesterfield model, full in back and skirts, either buttoning through or under a fly, and with ordinary flap or patched pockets, is the widely popular design. Most have a deep centre vent in back and some turned-back cuffs, but the velvet collar is little used, especially when the material is a mixed brown or gray cloth.


If anything, there is greater latitude than ever in this spring’s haberdashery for evening dress, an especially good example of more extreme fashion being illustrated by the accompanying photograph of white waistcoat, shirt, and tie, which it will be observed are each plaited to match, and which together give an unquestionably smart effect. The wing collar is also a newer shape, and the waistcoat buttons studs and cuff links of moonstones set in gold, further carry out the idea of harmony. The newest things in waistcoat buttons, etc., however, are those not set in gold or other metal, but cut right out of amethyst, topaz and other suitable stones, and merely backed up with gold.


Matching of materials and colors is still one of the means most often used by the leading makers to give distinctive character and may be seen in the shirt, bow tie, and handkerchief, as well as in the necktie, handkerchief, and hose illustrated herewith, the first in a lavender shade and the second in a dark green. Scarf pins to match the color of the neckties, and cuff links to match the shirts are also generally in vogue.


An extremely good model of a close-meeting high band collar is shown by the last illustration, which also shows a long folded four-in-hand tie of a delicate shade of silk, but it would be futile to attempt even the briefest mention of the infinite designs of collars and ties – not to mention waistcoats, shirts, etc. – of this season’s fashion. In knit or crocheted four-in-hands perhaps the newest are those in two-inch stripes or blocks of contrasting or harmonizing colors, and among the ascots and wide four-in-hands are many flower patterns in bright shades.


Gloves, Sticks, Shoes, and Belts


In gloves one sees the light chamois, the gray suede and the heavy tan “walking” styles; in sticks some three-sided shapes with gold or silver tops, some very heavy round shapes and some light woods with natural handles and little metal ornamentation. The tan lace shoe is more popular than ever this season, and the belt is still very narrow and quite simple in make and fashion.

Edited by CrimsonSox - 4/2/14 at 6:29am
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

Why has the price of John Lobb shoes increased by 10-fold in constant dollars since 1958?  I'm asking as a purely factual matter, setting aside the moral issue of how much people should spend or be paid.  In 1958 bespoke Lobb shoes were the equivalent of $564 in 2013 dollars, less than Alden RTW today (Lobbs were only $70 before adjusting for inflation).  I charted the increasing cost using archival newspaper reports that quoted John Lobb representatives.  The prices are for Americans and exclude VAT.



New York Times article from 1965, the year that Peal closed its bespoke operations, offers an interesting explanation.  The author, Lawrence Fellows, is distinct from Laurence, the famous Apparel Arts illustrator.


New York Times
January 8, 1965
pg. 24
Number of Bootmakers is Dwindling in Britain
by Lawrence Fellows
At Harry Hall's on Regent Street, where the smell of leather is pervasive and conversations are thick with the clipped accents of horsy aristocrats, Douglas Bedford, who manages the store, ran his finger over an elegant black riding boot fashioned for a foreign duchess.
"Who has a pair of boots made today?" he asked.
The answer, which he provided himself, was that relatively few do, as relatively few order custom-made shoes or custom-made riding habits or hunting outfits.
The reason, according to Mr. Bedford and others in the trade, is competition from machine production at lower prices and high pay for craftsmen.
Because craftsmen are disappearing, Peal's, the firm of bootmakers, founded in 1791, will close its "Bespoke," or custom department on Wigmore Street next month and after that sell only factory-made shoes.
"We're flooded with orders," Rodney Peal said.  "With us, it is just a matter of stopping on a high note, so to say. Our craftsmen have been dropping by the wayside for years, through age and retirement. We're left with a few old men, over-aged men, overdue for retirement. It was time to stop."
The disappearance of Peal's as a custom bootmaker will disappoint such aristocratic customers as the Dukes of Windsor, Buccleuch and Beauford, among others.
Humphrey Bogart and Douglas Fairbanks had had shoes made there, and Tom Mix once hitched his white horse outside while he was being fitted with boots. Sir Winston Churchill once sent a 30-year-old pair of shoes back to have them resoled.
"We just cannot get good apprentices," Mr. Peal said. "The youth of today wants to make good money immediately on leaving school."
The pinch is being felt by Maxwell's, a venerable firm of custom bootmakers that was established originally in 1750 as spur-makers in Soho.
"If we had the apprentices, we couldn't take the time now to train them," said Maxwell Dalson, who represents the family's sixth generation in the business.
Make Boots for Queen
It is not that Maxwell's is in need of customers with the ability to pay. They make riding boots for Queen Elizabeth II, as they did for King George VI before her and King George V before him.
Among the 10,000 wooden shoe lasts hanging on the walls of the shop on Dover Street are indscribed such names as Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Bernard Baruch, and Paul Mellon.  Old lasts are removed about once in 20 years.
They would now pay the equivalent of at least $70 for a pair of shoes, plus tax, and plus extras for broguing or any fancy work. Boots cost upwards of $115.
"We have a couple of craftsmen on the premises, and they're getting on," Mr. Dalston said. "Altogether we have a dozen left, but the others are journeymen working in their own homes, mostly holding 'other jobs.'"
"At the utmost limit, a good shoemaker can produce three and a half pairs a week," he added. "It's not much, and training an apprentice would merely reduce a man's output. It's a vicious circle, really."      

Edited by CrimsonSox - 8/26/14 at 1:51am
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Looking at the bold sections of the Times 1965 article, we can explain why the cost of Lobb shoes has increased ten-fold in inflation adjusted dollars since the late 50s.


Mr. Peal points to the problem of aging craftsmen.  In earlier years, it was much easier to attract young people for training.  But what had changed since then?  Young people are now expected to be paid more upon entering the workforce.  So the real issue is that after World War II, wages for bootmakers fell behind workers in other jobs.  When the wages were similar, it was easy to attract apprentices, but now prospective bootmakers had other options that would pay more.


The other jobs paid more because they were in industries that were greatly increasing their productivity after the war.  New machinery and technology meant that each worker could produce more, and thus be paid more for his or her work.  But hand-made bootmaking saw no increase in productivity.  The limit as Peal said has always been 3.5 hand-made pairs per worker a week.


For bootmakers to stay in business, they had to either switch to machine-made shoes like Peal, or increase their prices to pay workers more like Lobb.  The price of the hand-made shoes increased more than inflation, because the greater pay for workers could not be offset by increases in productivity, in the absence of machinery.  This is an example of Baumol's cost disease:'s_cost_disease  The prices of goods and services rise faster than inflation in busineses that cannot improve their productivity because of the limits of handwork (like bootmaking) or in person performance (like ochestral music, medicine, or education). 

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

Samuel Harris was a famous New York tailor who made clothes for President Kennedy, until he revealed to Life Magazine JFK's size and wardrobe in 1961, becoming Kennedy's ex-tailor.  It turns out that it was not the first time Harris was indiscreet.  In a New Yorker article in 1948, he talked even more candidly about another client, Governor Dewey, who was running against Truman.


New Yorker
January 10, 1948
The Merchant Tailors and Designers Association of America chose Governor Dewey as one of the ten best-dressed men in the country a few years ago, and this somewhat astonished Mr. Samuel Harris, his tailor, who rates him high, as a man who knows what he wants, but not that high.  For one thing, there is -- with the exception of a small, non-visible feature -- nothing unusual about the Governor's suits and topcoats, and as for quantity he's hardly what you'd call a clotheshorse.  We have had a talk with Mr. Harris, whose shop is on the second floor of 43 East Fifty-ninth Street, about his distinguished customer.  He told us that the business was founded by his grandfather in 1859 and that Dewey has been a customer since 1927, when he came in on the recommendation of a friend, whose name Harris doesn't recall.  At that time, Dewey was practicing law at 120 Broadway and was strictly a single-breasted man. Six or seven years ago, Harris got him to switch to double-breasted suits, and, except in summer, Dewey has stuck to double-breasted ever since. Save for this change, Harris said, the Governor has stood pat, except that he went along with the herd when wider  trouser bottoms came in.  "The Governor is what I call a clothes conscious man," Harris said, and paused to allow the observation time to sink in.  "He knows exactly what he wants and what to wear at the right time, with my advice.  He is a conservative dresser -- not ultra, but some style.  He likes the darker clothes -- blues, grays, and an occasional brown.  He likes to wear tails."
Harris told us that Dewey's shoulders are exactly the same distance from the ground, and that his hips are, too, and that this is true of only one man in ten.  His chest has expanded from thirty-eight inches, in 1927, to a current forty-one inches, and his waist from twenty-nine inches to thirty-five and a half.  Harris considers this normal development.  "When he first came in to me, he was in fine condition," he said.  "A wonderful squash player.  He is still in fine condition."  There's little or no padding in Dewey's suits, which are of a two-button design with extended lapels.  The minor oddity that we spoke about earlier is that the Governor has his jackets made with three inside pockets -- or that Harris makes them that way.  There's one on the right, where an inside pocket always is; one on the left, directly opposite; and a third just below this left one.  Such an arrangement is common in England, and Harris recommends it to important customers, who presumably carry around a lot of papers.  He calls the lower left-hand pocket a ticket pocket, but we're told by someone close to the Governor that he uses for a thin notebook and that he doesn't use the upper left pocket at all.  Dewey has a particular pocket for everything he carries. 
As nearly as Mr. Harris could figure out, the Governor has seventeen business suits (twelve for winter and five for summer), two sets of tails, two regular dinner jackets, a cutaway, a morning suit, three sports coats, numerous flannel slacks, two topcoats, and two chesterfields.  He wears the chesterfields only in extremely cold weather.  Mrs. Dewey, who often accompanies the Governor to Harris's and helps him pick out materials, keeps his clothes in excellent shape and sees to it that he changes his suit every day.  He orders four suits a year and gives them away as soon as they begin to show wear.  "Last week," Harris told us, "he gave an old worsted to a man at the Roosevelt.  He's good about that.  He'll give a suit to anybody with a hard-luck story, or who he thinks needs it."  Harris had two orders of the Governor's in the works at the time of our call -- a double-breasted blue-gray sharkskin suit with a half-inch blue stripe, and an oxford-gray cheviot topcoat.  As to price, these were in what Mr. Harris calls the medium field -- $110 to $150 [$1,060 to $1,450 in 2013 dollars].  "I happen to make clothes for the Honorable Anthony Biddle, John Davis, Winthrop Aldrich, and a lot of other people who dress for dinner," Harris said.  "I must say the Governor doesn't dress for dinner, but he never makes a mistake.  Saw a picture in the papers a while back of him and some other dignitaries greeting a cardinal.  Forrestal, who's also one of my customers, was wearing a tuxedo.  All wrong.  The Governor was wearing tails.  Proper."
post #14 of 15

I can help in this thread thanks at November 1932 issue of "Fortune magazine".

In 1932 the most important New York bespoke tailors were in the fifth avenue,and were:Processed By eBay with ImageMagick, z1.1.0. ||B2



Patterson & Twyeffort



Duranr,Piqual & Cozy

Gray & Lampel





Processed By eBay with ImageMagick, z1.1.0. ||B2

post #15 of 15
Originally Posted by CrimsonSox View Post

As to price, these were in what Mr. Harris calls the medium field -- $110 to $150 [$1,060 to $1,450 in 2013 dollars]. 


$1,060 to $1,450 for bespoke from a one of finest tailors of New York !!!

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