Reet? Neat.

This month’s GQ has an article about a former GQ staffer who relocates to Washington D.C. and discovers that he is dangerously fashionable, although he is a bit plain for NYC (“Mr. GQ Goes to Washington” by Greg Veis).

Or as he puts it: “Also: pleats. Lots of pants down here be pleated. It’s crazy.”

Which sort of raises the question: who is that GQ guy that the magazine seeks to influence? In high school, I was deemed “very GQ.” Makes sense, I was in high school, trying to look like a bit of an adult (as we did back in the stone ages.) But GQ is an acronym for “Gentleman’s Quarterly.” The mascot found on the spine of the magazine is a 1930’s sculpture that used to sit on the late Art Cooper’s desk (he was the editor.) It is of a well-dressed man.

So who is going to help that guy above?

In my opinion, most magazines, GQ included, have lost their way when it comes to what the real world man (by that I mean any man over 30) wants to wear and looks good in. Sure they show flashes of classic style influence. But then comes the fashionable stuff that sells magazines and advertisers.

For example, flat front trousers are great when you’re standing up at a cocktail party. Less comfortable for extended hours on the plane flying business class let alone coach. But trousers haven’t always been pleated. Trousers used to highlight a well-muscled leg and slim physique. They were tight… As a matter of fact, trousers came along around 1800. Before that we wore pantaloons. Yikes.

“Pleats,” the fashion maven will insist, ” still look sloppy.”

So what we have here is a failure to communicate. A disconnect, if you will, between the fashion industry and the business district. And even more so with the professional tailors.

Pleats, I assert, do not look sloppy. Improperly tailored and ill-worn trousers look sloppy. (See above.)

But how many men do you know who take the time to have clothing properly tailored — chalked up while they’re wearing it, pinned, measured and noted? I wonder.

Properly tailored trousers with pleats look neat when worn correctly. That is when they fall from the natural waist in a clean unbroken line and finish the line of a suit. That’s hard to pull off unless you are wearing braces (called “suspenders” here in America) and the trousers are cuffed to add some weight to the bottom.

Do most men wear braces these days? I suspect not. Which means that their trousers are slipping under their bellies to rest more or less at the hip. Which makes the pleats expand. And ruins the whole effect.

How did we get here?

The elegant 1930’s pleats and cuffs fell by the wayside around WWII when cloth rationing went into effect. All that extra gabardine and serge was needed to help defeat the Axis. Then came the space age, with its emphasis on modernity and streamlined silhouettes. Pleats were still around, not everywhere, but evident. They were just shallower. And sooner or later the pendulum swung again and morning in America revealed the power suit and the accompanying full cut, multi-pleated trousers. Designers really got into the swing of things putting out trousers of proportions unseen since the hep got gone with their zoot suits with the reet pleat.

Did we start to work more? Exercise less? Or just eat to expand to fit our newly voluminous clothing? Who knows? But it all started to get to be a bit much for some folks who craved “comfort.” Especially the newly minted techno-millionaire/start-up class who got the job done while wearing clothing more suitable to painting an apartment or doing yard work.

As Americans we worship success and hope to emulate the formula of those who have achieved it. So we were saddled with Casual Friday, then casual everyday. And tailors everywhere must have gone hungry. We forgot how clothes are supposed to look when confronted with the world wearing 36″ x 32″ khakis and golf shirts. Comfortable clothing, the rational stated, allowed us free range to work longer and be happier.

It was a short step to complete slovenliness.


(Image Land’s End)

But things are coming back around. That same issue of GQ has Scott Schuman a.k.a. The Sartorialist shooting the best suits under $500. Sure they’re on the slim side with low rises based on the way that we wear our ubiquitous jeans, making it unnecessary to wear braces (or a belt in some cases.) But at least there is an effort being made by some to have us look better. Will these looks play in Peoria? Maybe among the younger (toned and tan) set.

And eventually, in a season or two, you’ll begin to see full-cut pleated trousers again and men can breathe a sigh of relief while heading to their tailors.

For we have all learned that fit is most important when there is less material in which to hide one’s flaws.

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