Category Archives: Men’s Sportswear

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1)

Thanks to reader kellycb for wondering about the brands of zippers sold through the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I thought I could do a quick search through the 1930’s Sears catalogs available through Ancestry.com. [All images in this post which are labeled “Sears” are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC. Please do not copy.]

Zipper brands available from Sears in 1939 included Talon, “Standard”, and Crown. Earlier catalogs also sold Koh-i-noor slide fasteners, snaps, and  hook and eye tape.

I was quickly able to find that Sears sold Talon Hookless Slide Fasteners, and “Crown” fasteners — possibly a house brand, since Sears also sold Crown fabrics. But that’s not what soaked up two days of my browsing time. It was the constant use of the word “Zip” to indicate a slide fastener.

Zip: Slide fasteners sold through the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Sears image via Ancestry.com

Technically, advertisers could not call a slide fastener for a garment a “zipper.” But the American public apparently did refer to them as zippers, so the word “zip” — not copyrighted — appears quite often.

The word “zipper” was owned by the B.F. Goodrich company.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-dec-p-67-500-zipper-boots-ad.jpg?w=378&h=500

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator magazine

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

The word “zip,” indicating speed or energy, was already popular slang.

These 1930 trousers for young men and boys had “zip and dash,” but they did not have what is now called a zipper. The fly closed with buttons. Sears image via Ancestry.com.

You could zip around town in your car or on a bike. “Zip” was also the name of a hair remover that had been in use since the twenties.

Zip hair remover ad from Delineator, November 1924. “Zip — It’s off because it’s out.” “You actually destroy the growth by gently lifting out the roots — painlessly and harmlessly.” [That’s what it says….]

In Akron, Ohio, where Goodrich “Zippers” were manufactured, a college football team is still called the Zips.

The speed with which the name of a trademarked product — the Zipper boot — became the standard American noun meaning “slide fastener” amazed me.

Anyone who is seriously interested in the history of the slide fastener, now usually called a zipper, should know about Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, which has been described brilliantly by The Vintage Traveler. (Click here for her “Currently Reading: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty“. The Vintage Traveler also showed many ads for  zippers in her “Zippers, Part II.”

As Friedel explains, early slide fasteners were put into production and sold before they were perfected [rather like some software today.]  One problem with the early slide fasteners was that they worked as long as they remained perfectly straight — but sitting usually causes the fabric in a skirt placket or trouser fly to bend. Twenty years later, people who had been publicly embarrassed by a broken slide fastener were not eager to try the improved versions in their clothes.

A Hookless Fastener is featured on this man’s suede jacket (called a blouse) in the Sears catalog for Fall, 1930. “Zip it’s on — Zip it’s off! — that’s the quick modern way to dress….”

Menswear quickly adopted slide fasteners in sports jackets and work shirts, but resistance to replacing button-fly trousers with zipped flies continued till the late 1930’s.

Sears offered many clutch bag models with zippered compartments, and handbags with concealed zip interior pockets. Fall, 1930. The Hookless Fastener Company was now better known as Talon.

Slide fasteners worked well on straight openings: clutch handbags, mail bags, boots and leggings, even sleeping bags.

A boy’s jacket from Sears, Fall, 1927, closes with a Hookless slide fastener. “Zip! — just a simple jerk on the patent hooker and it’s snug around your neck. No buttons to bother with and we guarantee it to work every time.” Judging from the need to explain, this really was “Something New” in 1927.

One brilliant approach to selling slide fasteners urged their use in children’s clothing to make children more self-reliant. (See “Zippers Are Good for Your Children.” A bonus: children didn’t remember those embarrassing old zippers!)

“Put in Zips so she can dress herself — Even tiniest tots manage them.” Sears catalog, Spring, 1939.

Regardless of B.F. Goodrich, the word zipper did get used by other sources:

Here, the Sears catalog for Fall, 1929, suggests making children’s winter leggings with a “zipper  side fastener.” (Leggings with dozens of buttons must have been a nightmare for Kindergarten teachers.)

These trousers — which did have a zipper fly — were aimed at young men with waists 26 to 32 inches:  “College Styles” “for youths.”

Sears offered these trousers “featuring the FLASH Slide Fastener” in Spring of 1935. The extremely wide legs — sometimes called “Oxford bags” — were a young man’s fashion.

Slide fasteners also made an early appearance in girdles and corsets.

“Zip! It’s Open!” The woman on the right is enjoying the ease of a zippered girdle; the woman on the left wears a corselet closed with hook and eye tape. Sears catalog, Spring 1932.

Slide fasteners were used in sports clothing and work clothing before 1936, but they seem to be most often used on relatively heavy fabrics, like leather, wool, corset coutil, and sturdy cottons.

This “Pic-Pon Cord” cotton dress from Sears has a “zip closing;” Sears catalog for Spring, 1935.

Also made from corduroy is this woman’s jacket from 1933.

Zipper neckline closing on a “Sporting Life” jacket for women from Sears, Spring 1933. Its “popular, practical zipper closing” uses a “Jiffy” Fastener.

According to the catalogs, this was Sears’ most popular work dress for women, and in 1935 it was offered in the traditional button front or (“More Style! More Comfort!”) with a zip- closed front.

From the Fall, 1935 Sears catalog: a sturdy work dress. The “new, improved” version with the zipper (right) cost more; zippers were relatively expensive.

The 1935 “Zip-Closed Front” work dress cost twenty cents (20%) more — a zipper cost about 20 cents.

By 1937, the “zip close” version was featured more prominently than the buttoned one.

In Sears’ Spring catalog for 1937, the work dress with a zipper was more prominent.

The zipper made a transition from sports and house dresses to dressier women’s clothing by 1937. Several Paris designers began showing dresses with visible zippers in 1935-36; Schiaparelli put visible plastic zippers right on the front of her dresses.  However,  I found a Vionnet design from 1929 that had a prominent zipper front closing. It was copied by Butterick as pattern 2526.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1929-march-p-27-couture-vionnet-zipper-e-skirt.jpg?w=318&h=500

A Vionnet ensemble sketched for Delineator magazine in 1929 has a prominent zipper on its front.

Butterick also offered a different dress pattern that was featured in advertisements for the Talon Hookless Fastener in 1928-29.

Here’s a closer look at Sears’ [rather limited] Slide Fastener selection from 1935:

“Zip;” slide fasteners available from the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Customers were assured that these stayed shut (“locks in any position.”) They were also washable and rustroof — unlike early hookless fasteners which had to be removed before washing your garment.

The concealed “Kover-Zip” slide fastener from Koh-i-noor was available in separating or non-separating versions. Its zipper teeth were completely concealed by a color-fast grosgrain cover. It was a luxury item, more than twice the price of a “Standard slide fastener.” Sears’ Zipper colors were limited to black, brown, tan or white.

In 1935, the zippers were recommended for “finishing sport-wear, blouses [like the man’s suede “blouse” shown above], children’s garments” (the Kover-Zip) or in “sturdy quality for sport coats, sweaters, children’s suits, dresses.” In other words, they were for casual and practical garments, usually made of heavy fabrics.

Men’s shirts with zip fronts; Sears catalog, Fall, 1937.

After the Paris collections of 1935-36, zippers were about to undergo a rapid change for the better. (See “Zip” Part 2, coming soon.)

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, handbags, Men's Sportswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

Fashion Plates (for Men and Women) from the Met Costume Institute

1921 fashion plate from the Metropolitan Museum collection. Click here to see it in larger versions.

1921 fashion plate from the Metropolitan Museum collection. Click here to see it in larger versions.

The Metropolitan Museum continues its generous policy of sharing images online; “Fashion plates from the collections of the Costume Institute and the Irene Lewisohn Costume Reference Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art” are now available (and searchable) at http://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15324coll12

Click here, and scroll down for a lengthy list of sub-collections of fashion plates: menswear, children, wedding, women, headgear, etc., organized by date or range of dates.

What really excited me is the large number of men’s fashion plates, many dated very precisely, like these tennis outfits from 1905-06.

Men's tennis outfits, 1905 1906; Metropolitan Museum Fashion Plates collection. Plate 029.

Men’s tennis outfits, 1905-1906; Metropolitan Museum Fashion Plates Collection. Plate 029. For full image, click here.

If you need to skim through a year or a decade of men’s fashion, this is a great place! It’s also going to be very helpful to collectors who are trying to date specific items of men’s clothing. Sometimes the date range given is very narrow (e.g., 1905-06) and sometimes it’s rather broad (e.g., 1896 to 1913) but menswear is neglected by many costume collections, so this is a terrific resource.

Vintage vests for men. Undated. Details like the lapels, the shape of the waist, the depth of the opening, the buttons, etc., will help to date them from reference materials

Vintage evening vests for men. Undated. Details like the lapels, the shape of the waist, the depth of the opening, the buttons, etc., will help the collector to date them from reference materials.

In addition to full outfits, like these evening clothes …

Evening dress for men, 1909-1910. Met Museum Costume Plate.

Evening dress for men, 1909-1910. Met Museum Costume Plate.

… individual items like vests can also be found:

Men's vests; fashion plate from the Met Museum fashion plate collection category "1900-1919 men"

Men’s vests; fashion plate from the Met Museum fashion plate collection category “1900-1919 men.” The vests on the left have five buttons.

Undated vintage vests. Both have high necklines, but one has seven buttons instead of six.

Undated vintage vests. Both have high necklines, but one has seven buttons and one has six. You could probably date them from the Met’s Fashion Plate Collection.

Men's vests 1896 to 1899. The red one reminds us that vests (aka weskits) sometimes had sleeves.

From “Men 1896 to 1899.” The red one reminds us that vests (aka weskits) sometimes had sleeves. The red one with vertical stripes may be a footman’s or other servant’s vest. This plate is dated February 1898.

Of course, fashion plates that have been separated from their descriptions in text are less useful than a complete magazine or catalog. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the chance to see these rare collections, especially because the men are not forgotten.

This delightful plate reminds me of an Edward Gorey vamp — like the ones dancing through the credits on Mystery on Public Television.

A long evening gown from the House of Worth, 1921. Met Museum Costume Collection Fashion Plate.

A long evening gown from the House of Worth, 1921. Met Museum Costume Institute Fashion Plate.

I’ll add a link to the collection to my “Sites with Great Information” sidebar. (There are other treasures to explore there….)

 

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s-1830s, 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Early Victorian fashions, Exhibitions & Museums, Late Victorian fashions, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Mid-Victorian fashions, Resources for Costumers, Suits for Men, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Wedding Clothes

Men’s Shoes in Color, from Esquire, 1933 and 1934

The very first issue of Esquire magazine, in Fall of 1933, included this full color illustration of a gentleman’s shoe wardrobe — the fall and winter version.

Men's shoe wardrobe, Esquire, Fall of 1933. age 112.

Man’s shoe and glove wardrobe, Esquire, Fall of 1933. Page 112.

For simplicity in identifying them, I have numbered the shoes in this closer view.

Shoes for men, Esquire. Fall, 1933.

Shoes for men, Esquire. Fall, 1933.

  1. “A pair of Norwegian ski boots, of the square toed hooked kind worn by experienced ski jumpers”
  2.  “Patent leather French pumps, designed … for being worn at home with dinner clothes… a lounge suit or dressing gown”
  3.  “Hard soled slippers of python skin”
  4.  “Brown wing tip shoe for informal town wear”
  5.  “Black town shoe with straight perforated tip, for slightly more ‘dressed up’ usage”
  6.  “The properly proportioned patent leather oxfords for evening wear.”
  7.  ” Norwegian calf brogues with blucher front, in the dark shade of briar brown that polishes to a reddish near-black”
  8.  “The correctly proportioned patent leather pumps for formal evening wear — that is, with the tailcoat.”

“The Norwegian calf brogues are really a sports and country item, but you can get by with them in town when your clothes are of the soft rough textured fabrics that have lately come into the town and business wardrobe.”

The brown wing tip and the black town shoe were the usual choices for business wear.

Left, a navy blue business suit, and right, a brown striped business suit. Esquire, March 1934, p. 106. The accompanying text tells us that the brown suit was much more informal than the navy one.

Left, a navy blue business suit, and right, a brown striped business suit. Esquire, March 1934, p. 106. The accompanying text tells us that the brown suit was much more informal than the navy one. Both are being worn with brown shoes.

450-shoes-1934-mar-p-106-color-business-dress-blue-suit-brown-suit-text

Shoes for summer were pictured in July of 1934, but the text was concerned with shoe care, polishes, brushes, etc.

Shoes and shoe care products for men, Esquire, July 1934, page 124.

Shoes and shoe care products for men, Esquire, July 1934, page 124.

Here is a closer view of the shoes. Several pairs are buck or buckskin, including “white bucks.” Shoes with rubber soles can also be seen.

Summer shoes for men, Esquire, July 1934.

Summer shoes for men, Esquire, July 1934.

Most of these “summer” shoes are for wear in the country, at sporting events, or on vacation.

Country clothes with an "old English' flavor. Esquire, Autumn 1933,, p. 100.

Country clothes with an “old English’ flavor. Esquire, Autumn 1933, p. 100.  The shoes look like brown buck with a thick rubber sole.

White buckskin shoes worn with white flannel slacks, resort wear for June 1934, Esquire, p. 121.

White buckskin shoes worn with light gray  flannel slacks, resort wear for June 1934, Esquire, p. 121.

450-shoes-white-buckskin1934-june-p-121-resort-tan-white

"Ahead of the crowd" spectator sport clothes, Esquire, Sept. 1934, p. 116.

“Ahead of the crowd” spectator sport clothes, worn with brown buck shoes. Esquire, Sept. 1934, p. 116.

I was surprised by how similar these “tan waxhide” 2016 shoes from Samuel Hubbard look.

A cotton sport jacket worn for tennis or spectator sports. Rubber soled shoes and white flannel trousers. Esquire, July 1934, p. 111.

A cotton sport jacket worn for tennis or spectator sports. Rubber soled spectator shoes and white flannel trousers. Esquire, July 1934, p. 111.

450-shoes-red-rubber-soles1934-july-p-111-cotton-jacket-sports-tennis-checks-resort-text

Two-toned shoes in black and white or brown and white were considered a bit too flashy in some circles. In England, they were sometimes called “co-respondent shoes;” when adultery was one of the only legal reasons for divorce, the “co-respondent” had to be named in the divorce court. Sometimes a gigolo was hired for this purpose — whether he actually wore two-toned shoes or not. Americans call them “Spectator shoes.” The Duke of Windsor wore them.

It’s a little surprising that Esquire was quite enthusiastic about brown shoes with gray or navy suits. Brown shoes could be polished every other day with a “deep red, like the famous Royal Navy Dressing,” to achieve a very dark red-brown, which was called “Oxblood” in the 1950s. This is an alternative to black with navy slacks.

Here, brown shoes are worn with a gray chalk striped suit, but the man wearing them is on vacation:

"The experienced traveler" is clearing customs in a chalk-striped suit worn with casual brown shoes. Esquire, July 1934.

“The experienced traveler” is clearing customs in a chalk-striped suit worn with casual brown shoes. Esquire, July 1934.

chalk-striped-suit-with-brown-shoes-esquire-july-1934-p-105

These Crosby Square shoes for men cost $6 to $7 dollars in 1934. Esquire, Sept. 1934, p. 162.

These Crosby Square shoes for men cost $6 to $7  in 1934. Esquire, Sept. 1934, p. 162.

This ad does not mention prices, but the Stetson Shoe company sold both formal dress men’s pumps and this brown wing tip brogue — for “college men.”

Ad for Stetson shoes for college men, Esquire, September 1934, p 160.

Ad for Stetson shoes for college men, Esquire, September 1934, p 160. Top, black leather pumps for formal evening wear; bottom, a brown, wing-tip brogue .

A “brogue” usually means that the shoe has decorative perforations. But the “Norwegian calf brogues” pictured at the top of this post seem to have much less perforated trim (if any) than the other “town shoes” in the same illustration. Maybe I will never master men’s shoe terminology….

Traditional perforated "town" or business shoes, and Norwegian brogues. Esquire, Autumn 1933.

Traditional perforated “town” or business shoes, and “Norwegian calf brogues with blucher front.” Esquire, Autumn 1933.

If you want an explanation of what “blucher” means, the Gentleman’s Gazette explains in a video. Click here. (Hint: it does not mean that straight line across the toe cap! Look at the laces.)

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Filed under 1930s, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Shoes for Men

Men Bare Their Chests at the Beach, 1933

One man has a bare chest and one wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustratioin from Woman's Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

One man has a bare chest and one man wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustration from Woman’s Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

Nude bathing for men was an accepted tradition in Victorian times. (A stretch of river called Parson’s Pleasure was reserved for this purpose at Oxford University until 1991.) But as “mixed” bathing became popular near the end of the 19th century, both men and women were expected to cover up from breastbone to knee.

Man's bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910.

Man’s bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910. Sleeveless swimming suits for men were also for sale.

1920’s bathing suits were clinging, but very similar for both sexes.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925. The swim suit worn by the seated man is not very different from the woman’s suit.

Practices varied from place to place but, at public beaches and pools in the U.S., men were usually required to wear suits that covered their nipples until the mid-nineteen thirties.

Men's swim suits from Sears, Spring 1935.

Men’s swimming suits from Sears, Spring 1935. Left, an elasticized “Speed Suit” suspended from the shoulders. Center, trunks with a separate tuck-in shirt. Right, a “two-purpose suit” whose top attaches with a zipper.

The “Speed Suit” (left) has attached trunks and “elastic-ribbed fabric.” The “High Waisted Trunks” at center are shown with a separate all-wool shirt which tucks into the suit at front and back. The “two-purpose” Zip Top Suit” at right has a zipper in front that allows you to remove the “shirt” part.

By 1934, it was becoming acceptable for men to swim bare-chested, but rules for public and private beaches and pools differed, so bringing an optional top would save embarrassment. (Speaking of embarrassment, I wonder: when the trunks were not suspended from the shoulders, was a belt necessary to support the weight of water-logged wool knit trunks?)

This vintage suit, from Macy’s, has a similar zipper front and a rather bare X back:

Man's swim suit from Macy's, circa 1930s, with slide closing detachable top.

Man’s swim suit from Macy’s, circa 1930s; the detachable top connects to the trunks with a large metal zipper.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/whc-april-1937-p-3-nmen-bathing-suits-tans-illus-cordrey-500.jpg?w=500

This illustration from Womans’ Home Companion, 1937, shows that some men — in this case, two out of three — continued to wear the top even when not required to do so.

Men's bathing suits with tops, WHC February 1936 illustration.

Men’s bathing suits with tops, WHC, February 1936 illustration.

The older man is wearing a more conservative, covered-up swimsuit.

According to Esquire magazine in 1934,

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

This implies that shirtless swimming was permitted on some public beaches in 1933, and earlier [1932] at some private beaches and pools.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men's swimming trunks without chest coverage.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men’s swimming trunks without chest coverage. The punning caption read: “Even the Public Beaches Embrace the Nude Deal.”

The man at left is wearing a shirt tucked into his trunks.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

In the same July 1934 issue, this ad for Mansco Sportswear shows several conservative looks:

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swiming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swimming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

However, this ad from Gantner and Mattern Co. shows much tighter-fitting trunks — and no top.

Ad for Gantner "Wikies" swim trunks, esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Gantner “Wikies” swim trunks, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner Wikies man's swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner “Wikies” man’s swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934. A “Snapper Shirt” top for Wikies was available separately, presumably to snap on at beaches where swimming with a bare chest was still not permitted.

The Wikies’ high waist reflects the high-waisted men’s trousers then in fashion. Wikies’ snug fit was probably possible because of the recent [1931] invention of Lastex yarn, which even appeared in men’s suit fabric in 1934 ads.

Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8.

From a Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8. “Lastex, the spun elastic yarn, is now weaving comfort into everything a man wears — into his business suit, Tuxedo, sportswear, bathing suit, riding clothes, shirt, …underwear, pyjamas….”

The Lastex company ran a series of advertisements in Esquire magazine showing men’s suits, tuxedos, etc. which were made with stretch fabrics — in 1934!

Beach and resort wear, including "pretty snug" men's swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133.

Beach and resort wear, including “pretty snug” men’s swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133. L. Fellows, illustrator.

1934 aug p 133 beach and resort wear swim text swim

This editorial illustration appeared in a women’s magazine in 1935:

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, May, 1935.

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, Woman’s Home Companion, May, 1935.

Perhaps the acceptance of bare chests had something to do with Hawaii:

A surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

A Hawaiian surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

I can’t help noticing that Esquire chose to use men “of a certain age” to model swimsuits in its editorial fashion articles. The women’s magazines, however, pictured younger, athletic-looking men wearing swimsuits in their illustrations, just as Esquire favored voluptuous women in its cartoons….

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bathing Suits, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Zippers

Clothes for Joe College, circa 1934

The expression “Joe College” in Esquire, January 1934, caught my eye.

Esquire, January 1934, p. 104.

Esquire, January 1934, p. 104. “On Every Campus Joe College Goes Nonchalant Again.”

I have a few other illustrations of “college life,” and will find more, no doubt. Perhaps it’s because the school year starts in September, but an autumnal color palette is common to them. Also, clothes for college men were more casual than business dress, and clothes for male country wear and sports traditionally echoed the colors of the landscape, favoring tweeds in browns and loden green over navy blue and charcoal gray.

Illustration for an article giving advice to College Freshman girls. Woman's Home Companion, October 1936.

Illustration for an article giving advice to College Freshman girls. Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936. “Freshmen are eager and thrilled with their new life.”

The article in WHC, supposedly written by a 23 year-old married sister, assumed that the Freshman girl would have attended an all-girls boarding school, and would therefore need social advice for a co-ed campus. (She reminded her sister to be as carefully dressed and well-groomed for class as she would be for a dance, since male students would see her all day long. This was in the bad old days, when any woman who attended college was suspected of “trying to get her M.R.S. degree.” No doubt, some were — college was a good place for intelligent and ambitious women to meet intelligent and ambitious men.)

“Nonchalant'” Joe College

The clothes featured in Esquire had an upper middle class, East Coast bias. Yale’s bulldog mascot appears at top left.

Joe College as drawn by L. Fellows for Esquire magazine, January 1934. Pg. 104.

Joe College as drawn by L. Fellows for Esquire magazine, January 1934. Pg. 104. A Yale bulldog is on the pillar behind his shoulder.

Belted jackets, like the greenish one in the background, evolved from country wear to urban sports jackets. The coat over that student’s is a large-scale plaid. The student in front wears a three-piece brown suit, a shirt with a button-down collar, and a knit tie under his reversible tan overcoat with cuffs that can be made tighter at the wrist with a button tab. Two out of three wear snap-brim hats or smoke pipes.

“… University clothes, at least for on-campus wear betray a studied carelessness… Rough cloths….From Princeton to California, the better dressed undergraduates are wearing shetlands, Harris tweeds, cashmeres and cheviot suitings…. This outfit, with its rough-textured suit, buttoned down collared shirt and crocheted tie, is almost a campus uniform.” — Esquire

Detail of suit , etc. College students. Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Detail of suit, coat, etc. Ivy League College students. Esquire, Jan. 1934.

“The reversible topcoat of tweed and gabardine, which swept the country after its introduction at Princeton almost two years ago, is another established favorite. College men… have resorted to an odd trick in the matter of headgear — the combining of a brown hat and a black hat band…. The new hats, by the way, have a lower crown and a slightly wider brim. The exact proportions are shown in the hat at the left.”

Cuffed trousers with a three piece suit: college undergraduate; Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Cuffed trousers on college undergraduates; Esquire, Jan. 1934. The neckties are described as “crocheted.”

Solid-colored shirts with matching cuffs and collars, Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Solid-colored, button-down shirts with matching cuffs and collars, Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Soft-collared shirts — button-down, in this case — were replacing shirts with detachable collars, in offices as well as on campus.

Other college trends were pictured in the Autumn, 1933 issue of the magazine.

Correct clothing for underclassmen, Esquire, Autumn 1933, pg. 58. Illustration by L. Fellows.

Correct clothing for underclassmen, Esquire, Autumn 1933, pg. 58. Illustration by L. Fellows.

Description from Esquire, Autumn, 1933, p. 58.

Description from Esquire, Autumn, 1933, p. 58.

Clothes for Underclassmen. Esquire, Autumn 1933.

Clothes for Underclassmen. Esquire, Autumn 1933. Bow tie or rep or wool tie, button-down shirt, camel-hair pull-over sweater, belted coat with raglan sleeves, snap-brim semi-homburg hat.

The text describes this as a “bat” tie:  “In the bat style, foulards and twills are preferred, while in the four-in-hand the first call goes to the heavier material, such as the silk and wool poplin in which the striped ties sketched at the right are made up.” The pull-over sweater” is described as a required item “in the college and prep school wardrobe.”

College students, from the April 1936 issue of Woman's Home Companion.

College students, from the April 1936 issue of Woman’s Home Companion.

Three of these men wear sweaters. The man at left wears a shirt with a collar pin under the tie knot, a V-neck sweater, a tweed sports jacket, and cuffed trousers in a darker shade than his jacket. (A decade later, this was the “uniform” of a college professor.)  All four male undergraduates wear neckties to class.

In Esquire, on the page facing the clothes for underclassmen, this outfit was recommended for upperclassmen and young, recent graduates.

Clothes for upperclass college men or recent graduates. Esquire, Autumn 1934, p. 59.

Clothes for upperclass college men or recent graduates according to Esquire, Autumn 1934, p. 59.

“The coat sketched here, with four patch pockets, is the type that has been made up by the better tailors, for some time, for [upperclassmen at Princeton and Yale] and for the recent graduates in the New York financial district…. Natural concomitants for the rougher clothing fabrics are crocheted ties in both horizontal and diagonal stripings as well as in rich dark solid colors and wool hose in the traditional Argyle plaid patterns.”

I would have thought that a gray coat would be recommended for graduates looking for a job on Wall Street, but perhaps trying to stretch your clothes budget was not considered a problem for Esquire readers. The coat’s hidden button placket is certainly a dressy touch.

The editors went on at length — and with disapproval — about Joe College’s insistence upon wearing “bruised” and “battered” dark brown snap brim hats, “pinched unmercifully at the front of the crown.” We “know that nothing can be done about it,” they admitted, although “right thinking citizens and hat makers” were offended.

Ah, the good old days — when college students could express a rebellious streak just by wearing a battered and sharply pinched brown felt hat with a black (instead of matching) hatband. The sight of an eighteen-year-old solemnly smoking a tobacco pipe must have amused — or outraged — a few adults.

College men wearing hats and smoking pipes. 1933-1934.

College students wearing hats and smoking pipes. 1933-1934. The little moustache on the lower right was not yet associated with Hitler, but why would a young man want to look like Oliver Hardy or Robert Benchley?

 

 

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