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Evelyn Waugh BEAU BRUMMELLS on £60 A YEAR.

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Archivist, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. Pennyfeather

    Pennyfeather Member

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    I'd tend to think that, if anything, there are fewer different dress codes today than there were 80 years ago. Formal wear is a relic for all but an extremely small group of people and if you have a few suits, an odd jacket or two and some casual clothes, you can dress appropriately for pretty much any situation.

    I agree with you about there being less degrees of formality in modern life. But I've lately found myself struggling with my collection of "some casual clothes". More and more I find that in order to hit just the right note at any given casual occasion requires more and more casual clothing options. Naked and Famous selvedge jeans for the Saturday-night get together at the new trendy bistro down the street? Or maybe I should take it up a notch and wow them with my Walt slim fit Epaulet flannels in pewter tweed. Or will that push me over the thin line that divides the casually well-dressed, bistro-going man from the total prat? Two weeks ago I was at a downtown cocktail party attended largely by University academics and their friends. To not have been in a slim-fitting, Mad-Men inspired suit would have been embarrassing (needless to say -- dressed according to my wife like a weird cross between Ted Baxter and Mrs. Miniver -- I felt embarrassed). Last week I was at a neighbor's birthday party. He's a fund manager. To not have been in a pair of well-fitting, expensive jeans would have been embarrassing. Loafers didn't quite cut it. Sneakers only for the sad sack, no hopers. Damn, I should have bought the C+J Brecons when I had the chance...

    Also, Waugh's list of purchases doesn't seem very austere to me at all. 2 suits a year, if you keep your suits for 5 years (many will last much longer), will leave you with a 10-suit rotation. The same reasoning applies to shoes and everything else. You could even cut out the formal wear and get some designer pieces for going out instead. I think someone today could loosely base their purchases on his guidelines and have a great wardrobe.

    You could be right (although a quick perusal of A Suitable Wardrobe could, to the untutored eye, suggest otherwise). But I'd definitely need to front-end load some of my purchases in the first year. Am I really supposed to walk the dog in my cordovan oxfords? Surely dog walking screams out for something a little more country brogueish (perhaps with a danite sole and full storm welt)?
     
  2. Agatha Crusty

    Agatha Crusty Senior member

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    I agree with you about there being less degrees of formality in modern life. But I've lately found myself struggling with my collection of "some casual clothes". More and more I find that in order to hit just the right note at any given casual occasion requires more and more casual clothing options. Naked and Famous selvedge jeans for the Saturday-night get together at the new trendy bistro down the street? Or maybe I should take it up a notch and wow them with my Walt slim fit Epaulet flannels in pewter tweed. Or will that push me over the thin line that divides the casually well-dressed, bistro-going man from the total prat? Two weeks ago I was at a downtown cocktail party attended largely by University academics and their friends. To not have been in a slim-fitting, Mad-Men inspired suit would have been embarrassing (needless to say -- dressed according to my wife like a weird cross between Ted Baxter and Mrs. Miniver -- I felt embarrassed). Last week I was at a neighbor's birthday party. He's a fund manager. To not have been in a pair of well-fitting, expensive jeans would have been embarrassing. Loafers didn't quite cut it. Sneakers only for the sad sack, no hopers. Damn, I should have bought the C+J Brecons when I had the chance...

    This modern outlook is somewhat removed from Waugh's time and the experience of the ordinary man in the '30s, '40s or '50s. I think it's fair to say that choices were narrower and "fashion" was more about cut and colour fads than about items like jeans by [add disgustingly-priced clever-sounding brand name here].
    My own grandfather had a tight wardrobe of functional suits and odd-clothes that served his needs and probably fitted into his position in society in many ways.

    I'm interested in classic style, so I don't worry too much about who makes the jeans (if I wear them), but how good they fit at a reasonable price. You're making a mistake if you dress solely for other people's impressions, you should be dressing according to what works for you, and that has to involve building a few trusted and limited models. This is what Waugh's era did.
     
  3. mic

    mic Senior member

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    I agree with you about there being less degrees of formality in modern life. But I've lately found myself struggling with my collection of "some casual clothes". More and more I find that in order to hit just the right note at any given casual occasion requires more and more casual clothing options. Naked and Famous selvedge jeans for the Saturday-night get together at the new trendy bistro down the street? Or maybe I should take it up a notch and wow them with my Walt slim fit Epaulet flannels in pewter tweed. Or will that push me over the thin line that divides the casually well-dressed, bistro-going man from the total prat? Two weeks ago I was at a downtown cocktail party attended largely by University academics and their friends. To not have been in a slim-fitting, Mad-Men inspired suit would have been embarrassing (needless to say -- dressed according to my wife like a weird cross between Ted Baxter and Mrs. Miniver -- I felt embarrassed). Last week I was at a neighbor's birthday party. He's a fund manager. To not have been in a pair of well-fitting, expensive jeans would have been embarrassing. Loafers didn't quite cut it. Sneakers only for the sad sack, no hopers. Damn, I should have bought the C+J Brecons when I had the chance...

    Wow, you are overthinking it, man. Do you really care whether your jeans are the right brand? I can't remember ever feeling badly because I was dressed less opulently than the people I was associating with.
    I move in similar circles (at times) and I like to look nice, but if I ever buy a pair of jeans other than Levis... God help me.
     
  4. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    I agree with you about there being less degrees of formality in modern life. But I've lately found myself struggling with my collection of "some casual clothes". More and more I find that in order to hit just the right note at any given casual occasion requires more and more casual clothing options. Naked and Famous selvedge jeans for the Saturday-night get together at the new trendy bistro down the street? Or maybe I should take it up a notch and wow them with my Walt slim fit Epaulet flannels in pewter tweed. Or will that push me over the thin line that divides the casually well-dressed, bistro-going man from the total prat? Two weeks ago I was at a downtown cocktail party attended largely by University academics and their friends. To not have been in a slim-fitting, Mad-Men inspired suit would have been embarrassing (needless to say -- dressed according to my wife like a weird cross between Ted Baxter and Mrs. Miniver -- I felt embarrassed). Last week I was at a neighbor's birthday party. He's a fund manager. To not have been in a pair of well-fitting, expensive jeans would have been embarrassing. Loafers didn't quite cut it. Sneakers only for the sad sack, no hopers. Damn, I should have bought the C+J Brecons when I had the chance...



    You could be right (although a quick perusal of A Suitable Wardrobe could, to the untutored eye, suggest otherwise). But I'd definitely need to front-end load some of my purchases in the first year. Am I really supposed to walk the dog in my cordovan oxfords? Surely dog walking screams out for something a little more country brogueish (perhaps with a danite sole and full storm welt)?


    sorry - I really think that part of being a man is having no more than 3 types of clothes - suits, casual, gym stuff. when you have levels of formality of your jeans, you need to re-think how you are living your life.
     
  5. mic

    mic Senior member

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    sorry - I really think that part of being a man is having no more than 3 types of clothes - suits, casual, gym stuff. when you have levels of formality of your jeans, you need to re-think how you are living your life.

    You only left out work clothes. For fixing the car or gardening or making a mess in the workshop.

    Although I guess Waugh prolly didn't work on his own car.
     
  6. koolhistorian

    koolhistorian Senior member

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    To join the debate, in the '20 and '30 people tended to be more frugal than we are! Mostly because "consumer pressure" was lower, and there was not such a difference between "formal and casual" as we have now.
    The typical wardrobe (if I remember correctly form my grandfather's generation) would had been 2-3 day suits (normally grey), 1-2 afternoon (navy) and one dinner (tuxedo) per season - S/S and F/W plus one half to one dozen white shirts. Informal would had been some 1-2 sport coats (maybe, in continental Europe that had been an "sportsman" or "anglophile" affectation. You add to that one trench coat, one overcoat and one great coat, plus 2-3 hats and 4-5 pairs of shoes.
    Look at the travel attire in the old GQ/Apparel Arts - and compare it with our travel necessities!
    On the other hand the difference between blue collar and white collar wages was a lot bigger than now - two different lifestyles!
     
  7. Will

    Will Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I'd be interested in knowing how many well-dressed men in 1929 managed on such a meager diet as Waugh lays out. One pair of shoes a year? Two suits? One overcoat every three years? If I could only buy one pair of shoes a year, I think I'd start to feel a little shabby no matter how well made the shoes. I wonder if dressing well in 1929 was widely practiced (amongst the class of people who dressed like Waugh) in such a thoroughly practical way, or if Waugh's advice really was targeted at the unfortunate few who couldn't afford the clothes they longed to wear.

    Once you have a shoe wardrobe, a pair every other year is plenty. Three suits is a bit tight but manageable, particularly since men of Waugh's class didn't go to offices every day and their entire wardrobe needed only to be appropriate for lunching at one's club and staying in someone else's home for the weekend.
     
  8. sellahi22

    sellahi22 Senior member

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    Once you have a shoe wardrobe, a pair every other year is plenty. Three suits is a bit tight but manageable, particularly since men of Waugh's class didn't go to offices every day and their entire wardrobe needed only to be appropriate for lunching at one's club and staying in someone else's home for the weekend.

    I don't think Waugh was quite as rich and idle as Bertie Wooster [​IMG]

    As the original post suggests, he was a journalist, and he had already finished Decline and Fall and was working on his next novel.
     
  9. PhiloVance

    PhiloVance Senior member

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    Waugh's article is dated 2/29. If the market crash that ushered in the Great Depression in the Fall of '29 had any effect on the UK, this article was probably woefully out-dated within 7-8 months for most citizens. I wonder if he did a follow-up when everyone started frequenting the 3rd rate tailors?
     
  10. KObalto

    KObalto Senior member

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    You add to that one trench coat, one overcoat and one great coat, plus 2-3 hats and 4-5 pairs of shoes.

    I'm late to the party but I'd love to hear a discussion of the difference between a great coat and an overcoat. I just purchased a thick BB camel polo which I think may qualify as the former.
     
  11. Will

    Will Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I don't think Waugh was quite as rich and idle as Bertie Wooster [​IMG]

    As the original post suggests, he was a journalist, and he had already finished Decline and Fall and was working on his next novel.


    What does that have to do with going to an office? He would have written while at home. He only needed the aforementioned clothing for appearances in public. Like most writers, he probably worked in a robe and ratty pajamas.
     
  12. greger

    greger Senior member

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    Here is a bit of truth instead of the timeless or your own style. "Another disadvantage of the small tailor is that he never knows what is fashionable. At least once every eighteen months you should spend fifteen guineas in getting a suit in Savile Row, which will serve as a model for him." Fashions are always changing. Savile Row walked away from what it was if they are pushing timeless today.
     
  13. Montauk

    Montauk Senior member

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    I'm late to the party but I'd love to hear a discussion of the difference between a great coat and an overcoat. I just purchased a thick BB camel polo which I think may qualify as the former.
    I think that in this context an "overcoat" probably refers to a lighter weight full length coat--what might also be called a "topcoat." A "greatcoat" would be for more full-on deep-winter wear.
     
  14. greger

    greger Senior member

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    We don't live in the horse and buggy days. My grandma would tell me of granddad riding off to market with a wagon load of wheat in the dead of winter. It was about 30 to 40 mile ride. A night in town and then a cold ride back. A great coat would be very handy when sitting upon a wagon bench. He probably sat on a folded blanket and had a couple of other blankets and some heated bricks or rocks to keep him warm for the first half mile. Today some of us, those who don't have a garage, dash out to the car and a couple of miles we are nice and warm and when we get there we dash inside some other warm building briefly feeling any cold on those cold days. How lucky we have it today. Few need a great coat anymore.

    Regular over coats is enough for so many, and some top coats is plenty for others.
     
  15. OTM

    OTM Senior member

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    All credit to OP:

    A friend found this in a book of essays and sent me a scanned copy. I've never seen it online. I have transcribed it here for your enjoyment. I apologize for any errors in transcription. -


    Archivist. Daily Express, 13 February 1929.

    Evelyn Waugh BEAU BRUMMELLS on £60 A YEAR.

    Of course, there is really only one way of being perfectly dressed - that is, to be grossly rich. You may have exquisite discrimination and the elegance of a gigolo, but you can never rival the millionaire if he has even the faintest inclination towards smartness. He orders suits as you order collars, by the dozen. His valet wears them for the first three days so that they never look new, and confiscates them after three months so that they never look old. He basks in a perpetual high noon of bland magnificence. It is useless to compete against him. If your object in choosing your clothes is to give an impression of wealth, you had far better adopt a pose of reckless dowdiness and spend your money in maintaining under a hat green and mildewed with age a cigar of fabulous proportions.

    If, however, you have no intention of deceit, but simply, for some reason, happen to like being well dressed, it is essential to have at least two tailors. There are about a dozen first-rate tailors in London whose names you may always see quoted by the purveyors of ‘mis-fit’ clothing. Below them are about a hundred rather expensive eminently respectable unobtrusive shops in fashionable streets, where your uncles have bought their clothes since undergraduate days. Below them are several hundreds of quite cheap very busy little shops in the City and business quarters.

    The secret of being well dressed on a moderate income is to choose one of the first-rate and and one of the third-rate tailors and maintain a happy balance between them. There are some things, an evening tail-coat for instance, which only a first-rate tailor can make. On the other hand, the difference between a pair of white flannel trousers costing five guineas in Savile Row or George Street and one costing two guineas in the Strand is practically negligible. The same applies to almost all country clothes. It is not necessary or particularly desirable that these, except of course the riding breeches, should be obtrusively well cut. The chief disadvantage of small tailors is that they usually have such a very depressing selection of patterns. It is a good plan to buy all your tweeds direct from the mills in Scotland and to have them made up.

    Another disadvantage of the small tailor is that he never knows what is fashionable. At least once every eighteen months you should spend fifteen guineas in getting a suit in Savile Row, which will serve as a model for him. It is never wise to allow any one except a first-rate tailor to attempt a double-breasted waistcoat; in some mysterious way this apparently simple garment is invariably a failure except in expert hands. But you can safely leave all trousers which are not part of a suit, even evening trousers, which ought, in any case, to be made of a rather heavier material than the coat, to our less expensive shop. The most magnificent-looking traveling coat I ever saw had been made up for four guineas from the owner’s own stuff by the second -best tailor in a cathedral town.

    It is usually an economy to buy your hosiery at an expensive shop. It is essential that evening shirts and waistcoats should be made to your measure; cheap ties betray their origin in a very short time. There is only one completely satisfactory sort of handkerchief - the thick squares of red and white cotton in which workmen carry their dinners. Socks wear out just as quickly whatever their quality, and are the one part of a man’s wardrobe which ought never to attract attention. Expensive shoes are a perfectly sound investment, particularly if you keep six or seven pairs and always put them on trees when they are not in use. By taking trouble in this way a young man should be able to be more than ordinarily well dressed for less than £60 a year.

    ______________________________________£ s. d.
    One suit (Savile Row) cash price___________ 13 13 6
    One-third evening suit (one every three years; Savile Row) cash price___________________ 6 6 0
    One suit (Strand)________________________ 7 7 0
    Country clothes: flannels, part of tweeds, etc. made in Stand from own materials__________ 10 0 0
    One pair of shoes (best quality)_____________ 3 10 0
    Hosiery, hats, etc________________________ 10 0 0
    One-third town overcoat (Savile Row)________ 6 6 0
    ______________________________________ £57 2 6
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2014

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