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Vintage Gentlemen at home question - newbie

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi all. 

 

I read a lot about "golden age" mens clothes and the function behind it.   After lots of searching, I didn't find anything on what happened at home. Here looks like a good place to ask.

One thing I never understand is back in the day, what did men wear at home?  From what I read, they dress up in the three piece suit and hat before going out.   Then coming back home, take the jacket off and keep the waistcoat on because there was no central heating back then.

Then what?  Reading the paper or listening to the radio on the couch will wrinkle the suit.   Smoking jackets where popular after dinner in a smoking room so men can protect the clothes and leave the jackets in the room so they don't smell smoky coming out.  But men didn't smoke like that all the time.

What about doing yard-work or housework? Not all gentlemen had house keepers and I'm sure a good husband will give the housewife a helping hand - especially for very heavy or dirty jobs (correct me if I'm completely wrong!).  Jeans and Sweatshirts didn't become popular until the 1950's.

 

My only guess is men had a special suit & tie intended for activities at home and an apron for the occasionally dirty jobs.  But I didn't read anything to support this idea.

 

Also, this applies today, while driving a car, keep the jacket on or hang it someplace to keep the jacket form getting wrinkled?

 

Any ideas?

thanks!

 

post #2 of 6

First of all, define the period you are considering the "golden age"?

 

As to domestic staff, according to an economics book from a Cambridge University professor, in the UK before WW2 the percentage of people working as domestic staff was between 10-14%. Another source, dont know how reliable it is, has c20% of Chicargo homes having domestic staff in the same period. Clearly not everyone had live in staff but the percentage of middle class families with cleaners etc is probably higher than you are thinking it was and certainly if you had a "smoking room" you most likely had staff.

post #3 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by enewmen View Post

what did men wear at home?
Everything from 3-piece suits, to boxers and t-shirts.

You have to specify which men and which home. Because what a 19 year old gas station attendant wore in his rented room in rural Alabama, could differ from what a 53 year old bank president wore in his Main Line house in suburban Philadelphia.
Quote:
From what I read, they dress up in the three piece suit and hat before going out.
The three piece suit was far more common then, than it is today. True. And wearing a hat was almost mandatory in most non-casual situations. Also in many casual situations. You can easily dig up photos of the crowd at, say, Yankee stadium, from a few generations ago, which show that the vast majority of men watching the ballgame were wearing suits. And hats. And I don't mean ball caps, either.

I think I have a picture of the crowd at a NY Rangers hockey game, from 1957. Nearly everyone in the crowd was male, and most were wearing suits and ties. Some were wearing hats, although most appear to have removed their hats. (Hat-wearing was already in decline by 1957, although it'd still be a few years before it would become practically archaic. I recommend Neil Steinberg's book, "Hatless Jack," if you want to read about this sort of thing.) Anyway, this was the crowd at a hockey game. A hockey game. That's a pretty casual setting. (Yeah, found it. I'll attach the picture to this post.)
Quote:
keep the waistcoat on because there was no central heating back then.
Central heating was uncommon, although that doesn't mean that all homes, offices, stores, etc., were always cold. Various forms of heating were known. Nor did most places experience freezing weather 11 months a year.

Besides, if your premise is valid - men kept on their waistcoats against the cold, due to the lack of central heating - then shouldn't symmetry also dictate that men removed their waistcoats, due to the lack of central air conditioning?
Quote:
Reading the paper or listening to the radio on the couch will wrinkle the suit.
If the man removed his coat, what's to get wrinkled from sitting? His pants? Not a big deal. Besides, suits tended to be made of heavier weight material back then, which means they didn't wrinkle quite as badly as, say, today's S150 suits.
Quote:
Smoking jackets where popular after dinner in a smoking room so men can protect the clothes and leave the jackets in the room so they don't smell smoky coming out.
The typical man did not put on his smoking jacket and retire to his home's smoking room after dinner. Most men didn't own smoking jackets, and the vast and overwhelming majority of homes did not feature smoking rooms. (As I've sometimes heard it phrased, "Just because the Earl of Grantham did it, doesn't mean it's an accurate portrayal of how most people lived in early 20th century England.")
Quote:
My only guess is men had a special suit & tie intended for activities at home
No, typically not.
Quote:
Also, this applies today, while driving a car, keep the jacket on or hang it someplace to keep the jacket form getting wrinkled?
I usually lay my jacket across the back seat of the car, or drape it over the back of the front passenger seat, but not always. Particularly if it's a short drive, I may not bother. On the rare occasion when there's a passenger in the back seat, I won't bother. Heck, if there's anyone else with me, I probably won't remove my jacket. But yeah, if I'm going to be driving for any length of time, and I'm alone in the car, I'll typically remove my jacket.

If you're genuinely curious what men wore at home 60 or 70 years ago, it's pretty easy to find actual snapshots, taken of people back then. Not posed, formal portraits, but informal family photos.
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the posts!

 

Quote:
 If you're genuinely curious what men wore at home 60 or 70 years ago, it's pretty easy to find actual snapshots, taken of people back then. Not posed, formal portraits, but informal family photos.

After searching I found LOTS of material on what to wear for any occasion.  But didn't find anything on what people wear at home.  Finding old informal family photos was also difficult - maybe I'm not using the best keywords.   Your posts helped a lot. 

 

Quote:
define the period you are considering the 'golden age' 

I was thinking of the first half of the 20th century, but I think people got that.

 

Quote:
 the percentage of middle class families with cleaners etc is probably higher than you are thinking

I think that's correct.

 

Quote:
 You have to specify which men and which home

I have old photos of my two grandfathers and they wore suits at all times even though both where typical factory workers in the Milwaukee area.  That made me think it didn't matter much at that time what the backgrounds where.  I'm probably wrong about this. 

 

The long story is I'll be turning 50 soon and for the first time in my life I started caring about my appearance and wearing a suit every day and losing weight to fit in a slim cut suit.  I'm not talking about just wearing a suit for a first date or the occasional wedding,  but rather at all times or at least a sport coat with a button-down shirt. I'm even contemplating a fedora!  In my 20s - 40s usually I just wore business casual with Khakis and a Polo shirt I'll slip on like a T-Shirt and black leather sports shoes.   I'm tired of being a slob my whole life and want to do something about it.  I thought people 60-100 years ago where always well dressed - watching a sports game in a suit & tie before it became T-Shirts and ketchup stains for example.  That make me think of what they wore and how to look well put-together while going out as well as at home.   


Edited by enewmen - 8/31/16 at 8:24pm
post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by enewmen View Post
 

I was thinking of the first half of the 20th century, but I think people got that.

 

 

If you are talking about 1900-1950 you are talking about a period of massive change, particularly in the family home

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Astaroth View Post
 

 

If you are talking about 1900-1950 you are talking about a period of massive change, particularly in the family home

Hi.  Please elaborate.

After some checking, the period between the  Victorian era and when central heating/air-conditioning was available betwen 1901 and the 1950s.

I remember reading hand fed coal furnaces was used at the turn of the 20th century.  There was also hand adjusted Radiators.  After WW1, automatic heating started appearing.

Ok,  So perhaps 1920 to mid 1950s is closer to what I had in mind.

 

I have an impression most people wanted to look well put-together while at home. But I may be completely wrong about this also - Then I don't know if this is worth understanding..

 

thanks for the help!


Edited by enewmen - 9/17/16 at 4:43am
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