Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Illustrating a Point.

“Al Herrmann, the fashion illustrator, airs a few gripes with: ‘Fads, gimmicks, ersatz ivy with its too narrow lapels, so-called continental with its too tight trousers have no place in the wardrobe of a truly well-dressed man and are as ridiculous as the Teddy boys and the Zoot-suiters of the Forties.’ ” (George Frazier, from his most famous article.)

How right he was. I had a delightful luncheon, not too long ago, with an E&EL reader and he shared with me a catalogue from the late 20’s featuring his family’s line of men’s suits. They were nicely designed.

“You could walk down the street in one of them today,” he said.

I couldn’t have agreed more. especially coming from New York this past weekend. I’ll leave it to the street style shooters to show you what they’re wearing, but suffice, to say, I saw it all — fashion-forward, classic style, preppy, lumberjack, Italian cuts and the shrunken look — for better or worse.

Timeless style is something to be praised — sought after, even. A correctly cut garment, beautifully tailored will serve faithfully whether hemlines rise or fall, lapels widen or narrow, or socks fall out of fashion. My trip through the Polo Flagship store in the Rhinelander Mansion drove home that point. I tried on a DB Purple Label garment ($2,300 on sale, reduced from $5,000), and was pleasantly surprised to find that the high syce, nipped waist, narrow sleeve and slightly wider lapel is a silhouette that Messrs. Herrmann, Biddle, Jr., and the pantheon of the best dressed would find perfectly in keeping with their aesthetics.

“One is prepared for most daytime and some evening occasions, if he has a navy-blue serge, and a charcoal-grey—and possibly a light-grey—flannel suit. Their number and weights depend upon one’s means, requirements, and the climate in which one lives—just as the choice between a single- or double-breasted jacket should be guided by one’s judgment as to which would prove the more appropriate to his build.

Then, too, to meet his basic requirements, one should have a dinner jacket. A navy-blue overcoat will satisfy both his daytime and evening requirements.

As to cut: I personally prefer a jacket to fit precisely around the neck and the shoulders, and under the arms. For accommodation of these requirements permits the jacket to be perceptibly but not exaggeratedly cut in at the waist, as well as to be draped on the back, and to end in a slight flair—and withal, to render the appearance of hanging loosely from the shoulders.

Then, of course, if one’s activities require it, a full evening dress suit would be indicated. Aside from the coat’s necessarily fitting snugly at the waist, care should be taken to see that the bottom of the white waistcoat is covered by the front of the coat.

I very much admire the beneficial nation-wide influence of the ready-made clothing industry upon the maintenance of good taste in masculine attire—and the industry’s capability of making clothes available at reasonable prices. The reason most of my clothes are custom-made is because, due to my measurements, I encounter considerable difficulty in the matter of sizes. If I find a ready-made jacket that fits me around the shoulders, there would be enough room in the trousers and in the rest of the jacket to accommodate several others besides myself. On the other hand, if I find a pair of trousers with a proper-fitting waistline, the shoulders of the jacket would be so snug as to preclude satisfactory alteration.”

—A. J. Drexel Biddle, who did it right.

I suppose the upshot of all this “randomalia”, as ADG would say, is that classic style hasn’t left us, it is still quietly asserting taste and comfort; if at a price.

Stay tuned as I take all this into account with the Icon Collection. I am encouraged to know that my garments will stand up to the scrutiny which they will incur, especially given their relatively inexpensive price.

In the meantime, keep fighting the good fight, in flannel and tweed this week.

( All quotations from this article which also mentions Richmond’s very own former publisher of the paper.)

2 thoughts on “Illustrating a Point.

  1. I agree with you about the classic proportions and details of the Purple Label suit you describe. One always feels a bit enticed by the new style and proportion, but as it filters to the mass market, one is always happiest with the classic mid proportions.

    I hear that Pee Wee Herman is making a big comeback on broadway…all the shrunken proportion suits now seen on 20 somethings will appear to be in reference to his style I suppose. Not a big fan of the look, nor is is practical. You know you’re in trouble when you reach up to close the garage door in the morning, and you can hear the seems ripping under the armpit.

    You are so right that a simple dark suit will take you anywhere. Why is it so few men opt for this simple choice? Amazing since most men hate shopping, and they could make life more stylish and less complicated at the same time with a single classic garment that has been the perfect choice for a least 8 decades.

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