Boyer quote: TNSIL emerged in late 30s

Harris

Elite Member
"It's quite natural that there should, under the circumstances, be a return to the classics. The term designates traditional British and American clothes of quality. The British part comes in the styling: suits have jackets with subtle shaping, smaller shoulders and details (ticket pockets, side vents, tapered sleeves and throat latches); trousers are trimmer, with quarter-top pockets and swelled seams. The American part comes in the construction. We've always liked our comfort. The classic American styling, which emerged in the late 1930s and came to be called Ivy League because it originated on campus, is our model: natural-shouldered and soft-chested coats, trousers with no pleats or cuffs, soft-rolled button-down shirts, loafers. American dress has always had a casual elegance. Look at Fred Astaire, compared with all those cardboard counts he used as foils in his early films: button-down shirts and suede oxfords versus celluloid collars and spats.

Today, men everywhere have rediscovered comfort. It's something, amusingly enough, that we have been taught most recently by the Italians. Armani and company have been insisting for the past two decades that fabrics should be lighter and more fluid, and construction should be softer. Cheap clothes achieved this by using crepe and oversizing. Better clothes called for the new super cloths and for hand-tailoring.

Accomplished men want their clothes soft and sophisticated. Forget the unyielding interlinings and inch-high shoulder pads, the porridge-thick tweed and iron-stiff serge. Soft construction and luxury fabrics are the order of the day. Less is definitely more in this case: it's taking things out of the garment that calls for expertise. Anyone can make a suit that has shape, if he doesn't care about weight and stiffness. And anyone can make a suit that's soft, if shape and line aren't important. The trick is to do both."

--G. Bruce Boyer


"Construction should be softer." Indeed.

I was interested in the "no cuffs" bit, since I've always thought of cuffs as part of the American Trad look. Interesting.

~Harris
 

Chris H

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Here's a picture of the man looking pretty stylish.

Bruce-Boyer-3.jpg
 

Harris

Elite Member
The genius of Boyer's insights is his observation that American Trad is marked by "casual elegance." Right on the mark. Dressed-up Trad is actually quite casual, from the OCBDs to the tassel loafers to the ribbon straps. On the other hand, casual Trad is rather "dressed up," especially compared to the masses who continue to prefer t-shirts, jeans, sandals, and running shoes. It has been my experience that Boomers tend to take this (sartorial) approach: dress-up means really, really "dressed up"...whereas "dressed down" means really, really "dressed down," as in tie-dyed tee, jean shorts, and Birkenstocks combo dressed down.

Dressed-up Trad looks kind of dressed down, and casual trad--the loafers, chinos, polo shirts, OCBDs--looks positively dressed up. Interesting. Certainly unique amidst a population of people who get really, really "dressed up" (spread collars, padded suits, lace-ups) for work and then, after work, backslide to an uber-casual (almost bohemian?) outfit that any Hell's Angel, construction worker, or aerobics instructor would find perfectly suitable.

To my way of thinking, this makes Trad the most unique look going today. An island of individuality amidst a sea of conformity.

~Harris
 
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familyman

Super Member
Harris said:
The genius of Boyer's insights is his observation that American Trad is marked by "casual elegance." Right on the mark. Dressed-up Trad is actually quite casual, from the OCBDs to the tassel loafers to the ribbon straps. On the other hand, casual Trad is rather "dressed up," especially compared to the masses who continue to prefer t-shirts, jeans, sandals, and running shoes.
~Harris

Thank you for putting this so clearly Harris, you've beautifully summarised beautiful writing. Well done.
 

archduke

Senior Member
In Boyer's book Astaire does look dashing but the clothes are fluid. I wonder, though, what weight of cloth he would have specified for his jackets and trousers. Some of the jackets look soft but of heavy cloth. I am not sure that one needs super this or that to achieve that look.
 

jcusey

Senior Moderator<br>Technical Support
archduke said:
In Boyer's book Astaire does look dashing but the clothes are fluid. I wonder, though, what weight of cloth he would have specified for his jackets and trousers. Some of the jackets look soft but of heavy cloth. I am not sure that one needs super this or that to achieve that look.

I'm sure that by the standards of today, the cloth that Astaire used for his clothes was exceptionally heavy: 14 oz., 16 oz., and more. The heaviness of the cloth makes it drape better (something that just about all of the modern Supers can't do as well), and the '30s was a draftier time.
 

jamgood

Elite Member
Dr James Ryan said:
As an aside, does anyone know of a source for a polo coat like the one Boyer is wearing in that photo? What a great coat!

I would almost bet that it was made by Invertere Coatwrights, Newton Abbot, Devonshire, England. Established in the early 20th century. In and out of business since the 80's. Apparently, currently out of business. Once a vendor to Ben Silver, Andover, Paul Stuart, Herzfelds, probably Brooks at one time, etc. Polo (Corneliani) sometimes does something similar in lambswool in the $1500 range, as does Paul Stuart. Could be anything from Harris tweed, lambswool, alpaca to cashmere.

Forgot, Oxxford. In the past has made similar tweed, raglan shouldered balmaccans. But the button looks like Invertere.
 
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Doctor Damage

Connoisseur
Harris said:
I was interested in the "no cuffs" bit, since I've always thought of cuffs as part of the American Trad look. Interesting.
The more old photos I run across, the more it appears the look did not always include cuffs, at least historically. But modern trad, as we use the term here, pretty much includes cuffs, in fact essentially so, in my view, since the "preppy revival" of the last year has notably not included cuffs on pants, and therefore this is one of the small details that separates trad from preppy revival.
 

Joe Tradly

Elite Member
The genius of Boyer's insights is his observation that American Trad is marked by "casual elegance." Right on the mark. Dressed-up Trad is actually quite casual, from the OCBDs to the tassel loafers to the ribbon straps. On the other hand, casual Trad is rather "dressed up," especially compared to the masses who continue to prefer t-shirts, jeans, sandals, and running shoes. It has been my experience that Boomers tend to take this (sartorial) approach: dress-up means really, really "dressed up"...whereas "dressed down" means really, really "dressed down," as in tie-dyed tee, jean shorts, and Birkenstocks combo dressed down.

~Harris


Right on the mark, Harris. This is a very interesting observation on Trad dressing. It's also interesting to note some dressed-up trad items carry over into casual-trad: ocbds (with tie, without tie), loafers (with socks, without socks), ribbon watch bands, plain front pants.

JB
 

EastVillageTrad

Super Member
I was interested in the "no cuffs" bit, since I've always thought of cuffs as part of the American Trad look. Interesting.

~Harris

Well Harris, if Boyer is looking at TNSIL w/ khakis, and in the WWII era, army issue khakis being the benchmark. The army doesn't cuff trousers. Maybe that's where it's coming from. So if you are looking for an authentic trad look on campus, maybe your khakis should go sans-cuff...
 

Laxplayer

Honors Member, <br>Varsity Captain
...Dressed-up Trad looks kind of dressed down, and casual trad--the loafers, chinos, polo shirts, OCBDs--looks positively dressed up. Interesting. Certainly unique amidst a population of people who get really, really "dressed up" (spread collars, padded suits, lace-ups) for work and then, after work, backslide to an uber-casual (almost bohemian?) outfit that any Hell's Angel, construction worker, or aerobics instructor would find perfectly suitable...

~Harris

Well, not every construction worker. Outside of his job, my carpenter neighbor is very well dressed. OCBDs, khakis and loafers most days, and blazers and sportcoats on Sundays.
 

Doctor Damage

Connoisseur
Harris said:
I was interested in the "no cuffs" bit, since I've always thought of cuffs as part of the American Trad look. Interesting.
It's worth noting that manton in his book has described Ivy League sacks suits as having no cuffs. Whether this is based on his own research, or whether he was using Boyer as a reference, I cannot say. But I think the no cuffs thing might have some weight, as least in terms of historical accuracy. Maybe cuffs appeared post-war, or maybe much later in the cycle.

DocD
 

Doctor Damage

Connoisseur
Things that make you go "hmmm..."

With some time off I've been reading back into out old posts, and other odds and ends. From a historical perspective, I think it is quite possible that "trad" and "Ivy" were quite different at one time, and I think it's possible that in the early days of this forum we were actually discussing "trad", not "Ivy". Of course much cross-pollination would have taken place, so rigid boundaries are kind of forced, but I think it's worth pondering a bit.

Boyer draws a possible distinction between the two, somewhat, in his article "A Curmudgeon's Lament":

It was a time when there were basically three types of clothing stores. There was of course the traditional store for the traditional American business look: conservatively cut suits, safe shirts (the majority of which were white, with one or two collar styles), and discreet foulard or striped neckwear.

Then there was the somewhat “sharper” store, a more courant version of the trad store, more upscale, hipper, more for the man who was known for caring about style. In the late ‘50s this store took on a bit of European flair. The clothing was called “Continental”, meaning Italian, to distinguish it from British. There had been a tradition of British clothing here, but the Italian thing was new.

Finally there was the Ivy League shop.


This view was echoed by our member bosthist (Charles) who made this interesting post, I think roughly Aug/Sept 2005 in the first "Trad vs. Preppy" thread:

Through these myriad threads on various aspects of trad dress and life, I've never been comfortable with the "trad" label, but I can't figure out a shorthand way of saying "mid 20th century urban style" which is what Harris' description of himself seems to indicate. To me, the epitome of that urban style is Cary Grant in North by Northwest. The picture of Joseph Mitchell brings this style to mind as well. Mitchell was from a farming town in North Carolina, yet transformed himself into one of those people indelibly associated with New York, both in subject matter and style. I doubt Mitchell made a conscious decision to dress as he did--the style he dressed in was the norm for thousands and thousands of American men, especially in urban areas across the country, who never attended prep school or came within a thousand miles of Nantucket or the Andover Shop. My father, who grew up in Iowa, dressed in the "trad" mode for all of his professional life. Southwick suits, striped Talbott ties, Alden shoes, Gitman shirts, etc. were the norm for him and were simply what a successful midwestern attorney wore.

I've always made this distinction: preps often dress in some version of trad for business, but very few trads dress like preps on the weekend. In addition, the people I know who qualify as preps carry over a lot of that weekend casualness into their overall appearance--hence Vineyard Vines ties with suits, which Harris (I think rightly) abhors. Trad isn't the adult version of preppy. Trad was the accepted mode of urban professional dress for many years and because of this has some influence on prep dress--after all, trad was the dominant culture. But prep school dress isn't the tail that wags the trad dog (I stayed out of that thread, so I'm not sure if the trad dog has a tail or not). The two shouldn't be conflated.


I'm wondering if we ever knew or agreed on a definition of "trad", or were we always in the dark (except for a few of us)? Were we always talking past each other, never quite refering to the same thing and not recognizing the differences? Maybe "trad" is such a general slang term that it can mean just about anything to anyone? Did we try to impose too rigid a definition on something that couldn't support the weight? Was "Ivy" actually the precursor to "preppy", while "trad" was always something separate? Did "trad" and "continental" merge at some point to become "boring American businessman", while "Ivy" evolved into "preppy-before-it-was-called-preppy" and later "OPH preppy"?

Maybe "meh" is the only possible answer (or "shutup Doc").

DocD
 

familyman

Super Member
Very interesting observations DD.
I've always seen trad as a version of conservative business dress that didn't change with the times, hence it's really a modern thing. Classical business dress in the US changes through time. There are periods of flat front pants and periods of pleats and once upon a time a sack cut was popular and now everything is darted, wingtips used to be a staple, not so much any more. Trad took a snapshot of one of those times, perhaps the 50's, and held it still. This isn't a retro style, it's just one that has stood still for 50 years. For some reason it seems to have been held by the eastern seaboard/prep school contingent. So you've got conservative business dress, trad (which is also predominately business dress) and preppy which is casual for either the young or older man just done differently. In my mind anyway. Lots of pondering to do.
 

FerrisBueller

New Member
Hello Doctor Damage,

Your post provides a lot to think about. I think we can all figure out the "Continental" shops. But I wonder what the differences were in the offerings between the "traditional" shops and the "Ivy" shops.

I like your assumption that the Ivy shops may have focused more on sportswear (which may have ultimately morphed into "preppy")? Were the suits cut differently? You had suggested that perhaps cuffs were not originally on ivy style suit pants. That would make sense to me.

Perhaps Brooks Bros. was traditional, and university shops were ivy??? Am I on the right track?

Ferris
 
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