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1930s Style

Film Noir Buff

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1930s style

We all like to look at those Apparel Arts plates of well dressed men from the 1930s. Well, those of us that knows about them. I am referring to the old issues of Esquire magazine and the Apparel Arts catalogs from the 1930s and 1940s which were a bounty of colored (and black and white) illustrations of all the options the well dressed man could possibly dream of for every time, place and manner.

Alan Flusser wrote that the 1930s is the classic period when all the ideas on what a man should wear were agreed on and set down, and maybe that's true. It was an elegant rich age. Of course most people were living in cardboard boxes during the Great Depression but at least the lucky ones had an amazing array of choices.

But as much as those clothes look good and as much as they promise us a portal to a more fabulous past, if a modern man were to try to wear most of those clothes he would find them uncomfortable. They would be too heavy and too stiff. The colors themselves would be ever so out of step with the colors of today. If a man were to outfit himself cap a pie in 1930s elegance, he would look very rigid and dated.

But why is this true if the look is timeless? Why is what Flusser wrote starting to erode? Why is it if you ape the 1930s you'll look like you're in a Broadway revival?

I think it's because when Flusser wrote these things he was very near the end of a time when tailored clothes were compulsory for men. Propriety was in command and men needed to learn a set of rules someone else set down. However, for better or for worse, the almost ten years of "Casual Friday" being applied throughout the week has removed the talons of propriety which made men feel inadequate or common if they did not wear tailored clothes. Basically, the horse has left the barn.

That's the sad part. The good part is that men are starting to realize that they don't look good in khakis and golf shirts and now choose to wear suits and sports jackets again.

However, even though men now elect to wear tailored clothes they are in command and dictate their own needs of comfort and style. Thus the old rules no longer apply. Of course some of the physical rules of tailoring do apply and although being improved and updated; you cannot just eliminate everything. But true talent as a designer is having the ability to edit what is useful with what is useless.

There's a difference between referring to the 1930s and wearing the actual artifacts, colors styles etc... I love the old movies (The domain name might be a giveaway)but I don't want to wear the actual clothes they wore. That is too literal and unimaginative. The sorts of fantasies Walter Mitty might have had which may be a pleasant daydream but not a look for the serious man to spend money on looking like. Instead, I want to wear my new and modern clothes the WAY they wore theirs, with style, nonchalance, panache and daring. We refer, we salute and we admire the past...but we refresh, always-just like they did.

We are in a period of transition and I think this might be true globally. Milan, Naples, Paris, Tokyo, London and NYC are all using colors and fabrics for men's clothes that would have been thought unacceptable a few years ago. Likewise, old standards are being relegated to the curmudgeon.

I think we're living in a new 1930s where the lucky ones have a lot of elegant choices to mark themselves out as individuals even if most men are still dressing down.

Leaf through those alluring Apparel Arts color plates of gentlemen wearing elegant clothes. Stay up bleary eyed and wonder at those old abstract movies with their superb character actors in their natty, individualistic clothes. Wonder at the tilt of their fedoras and the spring in their spectators for they will never be reproduced. However, they will always exist to give us guidelines, if not rules, about how it used to be and how it can be better still again.

When you buy clothes, buy the updated ones which let you be comfortable in your modern life and leave the 18oz suits to stars for they are the stuff that dreams are made of.
 

Cary Grant

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Along with the 40's and the changes that WWII wrought on fashion, my favorite era for men's clothing.

I recently had a lead on a complete set of 1935-38 Esquires... sadly they turned out to be in dismal, rotting condition.

Still looking.
 

Film Noir Buff

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Originally Posted by Cary Grant
Along with the 40's and the changes that WWII wrought on fashion, my favorite era for men's clothing. I recently had a lead on a complete set of 1935-38 Esquires... sadly they turned out to be in dismal, rotting condition. Still looking.
Tough luck, that. I bought a couple off of ebay but I confess Im not much of a collector. I think nowadays people are referring more to the 1960s. The 1930s are a little distant.
 

Tuesday

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As the global market conditions deteriorate, people are certainly thinking more about the 30s. Maybe we'll see Eric Glennie on the corner selling apples with slices taken out of them.
 

voxsartoria

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A lot of the tailored items that Ralph Lauren put out in the first three years of Purple Label, made by Chester Barrie, were cut almost exactly like AA cartoons, but in modern fabrics. I know because I bought quite a few at the time. I wore them with pleasure as RL tried to lead a charge for faux Row and 1930s elegance.

Here's Mr. Lifshitz in that look...he doesn't accessorize like the Golden Age, but you get the point:



Wide padded shoulders, nipped waists, full, high-waisted trousers...more similar to the cartoons themselves than the living styles that the cartoons exaggerated for editorial effect.

In my last round of closet cleaning two summers ago, I got rid of my last example of the most extreme RLPL cuts from this period. A navy blazer with blue plastic buttons in a marvelous fine hopsacking.

And Romulan shoulders.


- B
 

bluemagic

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Manton will find something wrong with this post, but what?
 

Manton

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Originally Posted by bluemagic
Manton will find something wrong with this post, but what?

Where do I start? The awful prose? The banality of the "insights"? The platoon of strawmen? The sheer, dead-horse-beating pointlessness of it?
 

Jeff Naylor

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Originally Posted by Film Noir Buff
When you buy clothes, buy the updated ones which let you be comfortable in your modern life and leave the 18oz suits to stars for they are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Sator just had an aneurism.
 

Manton

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Originally Posted by Film Noir Buff
Who cares?

You, more than anyone. You make it obvious with almost every post.
 

Film Noir Buff

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Originally Posted by voxsartoria
A lot of the tailored items that Ralph Lauren put out in the first three years of Purple Label, made by Chester Barrie, were cut almost exactly like AA cartoons, but in modern fabrics. I know because I bought quite a few at the time. I wore them with pleasure as RL tried to lead a charge for faux Row and 1930s elegance. Here's Mr. Lifshitz in that look...he doesn't accessorize like the Golden Age, but you get the point:
Wide padded shoulders, nipped waists, full, high-waisted trousers...more similar to the cartoons themselves than the living styles that the cartoons exaggerated for editorial effect. In my last round of closet cleaning two summers ago, I got rid of my last example of the most extreme RLPL cuts from this period. A navy blazer with blue plastic buttons in a marvelous fine hopsacking. And Romulan shoulders. - B

I think the Romulans belong on the 1970s thread which it seems Ive inspired: http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=82919
 

tlmusic

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Originally Posted by Film Noir Buff
When you buy clothes, buy the updated ones which let you be comfortable in your modern life and leave the 18oz suits to stars for they are the stuff that dreams are made of.
The 1930's AA and Esquire articles stress how important it is to wear appropriate clothes for the surroundings. I think they took into account most reasonable scenarios. The Summer tropical outfits pictured in AA and Esquire look pretty comfortable to me, with sandals, shorts and open necked shirts. Most of the sharpest suits were intended for wear in the the colder months in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. They were copied from designs developed in England, a place with a mild, cool climate, where air conditioning is still considered unnecessary in many places. Before the advent of strong forced-air central heating, most of those outfits make perfect sense. If one were to leave the thermostat on 60 degrees for Fall, Winter and Spring, nothing would be more comfortable in your house than a 18oz vested tweed suit--try it sometime. In reality, possibly only the rich could afford to be always stylish and comfortable in the 1930's. They were the ones who could bespeak tweed seersucker suits for the summer months. Poorer people were stuck with wearing a 22oz suit all year 'round.
 

Lawman

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That's actually quite beautifully written. I agree with everything stated (and maybe therein lies the purpose of my praise), but I think there might be a broader audience for writing of that caliber and insight!
 

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