Gray flannels that are TRUE replacements for cotton khakis

fred johnson

Senior Member
About 4 years ago I purchased 4 pairs of LLB COUNTRY FLANNELS
Just before they discontinued them, they are 100% wool and not the year round weight ones currently offered. With rotation they are all still going strong and actually all I need. If you live near one of their outlets they occasionally pop up there. Good luck finding anything better in your price range.
 

Billax

Super Member
TimF:
Thanks for your provocative post. I take it that, you, like I, were around in the Ivy Heyday – and thus you're speaking from personal experience.
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
TimF said:
Here's the issue. During the Ivy heyday, gray flannels were seen about as often as khakis. Given, they are a bit more formal, more likely to be worn with blazers than rugby shirts, but by-and-large they are interchangeable with cotton khakis. Students wore them on campus, playing sports, cavorting on dates...very comfortable to share their messy collegiate lives with a trusty pair of gray flannels (or two).
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– I like your personal memories from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s.

First, congrats on reaching your mid-seventies. I consider myself to be lucky to have made it that far myself, and I suspect you do, too!

Here's a classic picture from the Ivy League era that, I imagine, both of us recognize: 2ef34ec1b1405e7a85d494f011695112.jpg

Though I was a Varsity athlete in the Springtime, I played touch football on my Fraternities' intramural team in the Fall. I love the picture above, because it is EXACTLY the uniform worn by competitive intramural teams during the season – ALL of them. It does create a bit of cognitive dissonance from your assertions about wool flannels and cotton Khakis.

The reason I post this pic is because NO ONE in my University – during the Heyday of the Ivy League Look – wore Gray Flannels on the Intramural Football fields – EVER. They were too expensive to be ruined by irremovable grass stains or a fabric tear. Thus, the following sentences of yours surprised/shocked me:

1) During the Ivy heyday, gray flannels were seen about as often as khakis.

2) Given, they are a bit more formal, more likely to be worn with blazers than rugby shirts, but by-and-large they are interchangeable with cotton khakis.

3) Students wore them on campus, playing sports ...


I'm sure the dissonances that exist between my recollections and yours are resolvable. If I may, it would be useful to say when and where you went to college... and show us a picture or two or three pictures of yourself wearing gray wool flannels on the touch football field.

Thanks in advance. I'm looking forward to your pix!
 
Last edited:

Charles Dana

Honors Member
Billax, I agree with everything you wrote (as if I were going to argue with a man who was actually, you know, THERE). When I read the OP’s initial post, I thought, “Perhaps he’s thinking about pre-WW II Ivy rather than the Ivy of the 1950s-early 1960s. So I simply read his comments with the 1930s in mind (and disregarded the part about khakis being seen as often as flannels, since that wasn’t the case at that time).

Next topic: Let’s bring back the beer suit.
 
Last edited:

Peak and Pine

Connoisseur
Twenty years-old in '65, born and raised in New England, with my best chums going to Colby, Bates, Bowdoin or Harvard and I to a school I will not name in NYC and never once do I recall them or me or anyone I knew wearing gray flannel wool pants anywhere at anytime. Too much of this sort of stuff is often based on an errant snap of Buckley, Plimpton or you choose. You can still dress like you think they did in the 60s, but don't idealize it; it was ideal enough as it really was, and not for the clothes (nor Viet Nam come to think of it).
 

TimF

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
CD is much more on point. My old man was Class of '37, my mom 13 years his junior. Growing up I seem to recall an abundance of grey flannel, along with khakis. That certainly was the case for my school uniforms. I think that's all I want to share about myself for now.

It's an interesting point Bill and PP bring up, that perhaps by the 60s the grey flannel was on its last breath.
 

TimF

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I know that you are using this as a hypothetical example, but a $500 cashmere sweater ventures into precious territory, the antithesis of Ivy style. I think the ideal is to always be comfortable in your clothes.
I'd never consider myself the ideal anything... ever, but I don't think I let what I'm wearing affect my behavior. If I happened upon a neighborhood wiffle ball game on my way home from work (wishful thinking), I wouldn't let the fact that I was wearing my flannels stop me should the kids happen to need a middle aged, left handed pinch hitter (bats left throws right).

All very fair points. I can't do anything but reiterate the points in my OP. If your flannels cost 4x the price of your khakis, and a much bigger fuss to clean, then most people tend to grab their khakis more in the morning. I think a healthy attitude is an important thing (and myself I wear my "finer" clothing in plenty of situations that a more cautious individual would disapprove), but simple economics also can't be ignored.
 

mendozar

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I grew up with wearing khaki chinos, but since I've made more European friends, I've started shifting my chinos to dark grey and navy. I find it to be bit more formal looking than khaki or stone, but easier to care for than flannel. I reserve flannel for when I need something to pair with a heavy blazer, like when I'm going to drinks at the club.
 
Last edited:

Charles Dana

Honors Member
Tangentially (very tangentially) related:

An advertisement in the New York Times on September 20, 1951 reads as follows:

“In Wales, they call it GWLAN

“Hundreds of years ago, the Welsh invented the technique of weaving a comparatively light cloth and then napping the surface to give the fabric both softness and warmth. They called the fabric gwlan...and through the centuries it has attained world-wide usage and fame among well-dressed men.

“Here in America, we call it FLANNEL.

“The result is the Ivy League suit which is soft, silky, and luxurious to the touch...yielding to every movement you make...and among the most handsome any man can wear. It belongs in every well-rounded wardrobe.”

(I think the copywriter got a little carried away for a moment.)

The ad is for the “Ivy League” suit by John Jarrell Inc., 518 Fifth Avenue, NYC.

$85.00.

As the 1950s progressed (if you can associate the word “progress” with the 1950s), flannel odd trousers became less popular, khakis more popular. However, flannel trousers were still an obligatory part of the college man’s wardrobe in the early years of the decade. And for the businessman? The grey flannel suit was a staple throughout that decade and beyond.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
...(I think the copywriter got a little carried away for a moment.)....

Maybe a bit. At least the editor took out the part about Adam wearing flannels in the Garden of Eden (pre the apple "incident").

... The grey flannel suit was a staple throughout that decade and beyond.

I still think it should be - over the years, the two suit materials I've gotten the most compliments on are heavy flannel and nailhead/birdseye (both always in grey except for a navy flannel and just-lighter-than-navy nailhead I owned at one time).

...As the 1950s progressed (if you can associate the word “progress” with the 1950s)...

Well, cars' tail fins did get bigger.
 

TimF

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Tangentially (very tangentially) related:

An advertisement in the New York Times on September 20, 1951 reads as follows:



The ad is for the “Ivy League” suit by John Jarrell Inc., 518 Fifth Avenue, NYC.

$85.00.

$85 in 1951 is $814 today. Not bad for a presumably glue-free full canvas suit. (Don't know about the haberdashery, is it RTW or bespoke?)
 

mkrgk

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Bills Khakis used to sell a cotton/wool mix in flannel trousers, which I've found to be nice and heavy and casual in the style of chinos.
 

gevans

New Member
My feeling is that wanting to dress Ivy and still blend in sartorially does constitute the proverbial squaring of the circle. Because face it, you do stand out wearing blue OCBD, surcingle belt, khakis, and penny loafers in anywhere but an office building or fancy restaurant. I honestly don't see how swapping flannels for khakis in the above get-up moves the needle an appreciable amount in terms of formality or appropriateness. Perhaps it's a matter of acclimating oneself and one's social circle to the idea of casual wool trousers?
I think one can pull off grey flannels as casual wear but one could not do so by dressing Ivy. As you said wearing a blue OCBD, surcingle belt, khakis, and penny loafers are now considered dress clothes. So it seems paradoxical to try and wear something that is considered dress wear as casual wear. I would propose that one could capture the spirit of the casual grey flannel by bringing it into the 21st century. By that I mean a lighter shade of grey then charcoal, no pleats, no cuffs, no crease, and worn as the only piece of dressy clothing in the outfit.

While that is antithetical to everything Trad or Ivy stands for I think it would make the wearing of casual grey flannels less shocking to others and make the wear less self conscious about wearing dress pants.
 

TimF

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I think one can pull off grey flannels as casual wear but one could not do so by dressing Ivy. As you said wearing a blue OCBD, surcingle belt, khakis, and penny loafers are now considered dress clothes. So it seems paradoxical to try and wear something that is considered dress wear as casual wear. I would propose that one could capture the spirit of the casual grey flannel by bringing it into the 21st century. By that I mean a lighter shade of grey then charcoal, no pleats, no cuffs, no crease, and worn as the only piece of dressy clothing in the outfit.

While that is antithetical to everything Trad or Ivy stands for I think it would make the wearing of casual grey flannels less shocking to others and make the wear less self conscious about wearing dress pants.

Honestly I think it's mostly in the wearer's head. I still hold the view that a non-creased, lightly rumpled pair of flannels looks no more formal than khakis in a similar state.

Looking at this objectively, flannels and khakis are cut the same way. So they only differ visually by color and texture. Color: there are gray khakis and gray jeans, and while I personally cannot stomach either, I can't imagine anyone eschewing them because they look too "formal". Now, texture: flannels are fuzzy and khakis look smoother. If anything, the "textbooks" tell us smooth is formal. And to finish this train of thought, plenty of cotton fabrics have napped surfaces: moleskin, corduroy, and of course COTTON flannel. I'm sure there are gray versions of some of those fabrics, are people similarly shy about wearing them in informal settings?

I think it's useful to remember 95% of the population (and I'm probably being generous here) are completely color-blind to the nuances of menswear. So as long as your pants don't look like tuxedo pants, I think you're quite fine. (And for the minority of cognoscenti, I think gray flannels are more likely to impress than to turn off. That's just my $0.02)
 

gevans

New Member
Tim the more I think about it the more I see your point. The general populace would not attribute anything formal to the pants if they were worn casually. They might think the pants a little odd once they realize they are not khakis or jeans but that could be said for moleskin and corduroy as well. So the hangup lies with us.

It could be because we associate darker colors with being more formal. Personally I would like to see more mid to light grey wool flannels I think that the charcoal grey is a little too dark and formal.

It could also be that wool is thought of as a formal fabric, it is used for dress pants after all. Though there is no rational reason for that line of thinking. Yet I suspect many would be more likely to wear a mid grey cotton flannel pant casually then a wool flannel of the same color.

There is no reason to view gray wool flannels as formal yet myself and many others can just feel that wool flannels are more formal even if there is no rational reason behind it. I guess it is a learned view that we have internalized.
 

TimF

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
It could be because we associate darker colors with being more formal. Personally I would like to see more mid to light grey wool flannels I think that the charcoal grey is a little too dark and formal.

Agree that medium gray works much better than charcoal. I think the well-dressed of 70 years ago knew this fact as well.

Light gray also good, but there's a risk of it looking more white than gray (especially from a distance).
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
...I think it's useful to remember 95% of the population (and I'm probably being generous here) are completely color-blind to the nuances of menswear. So as long as your pants don't look like tuxedo pants, I think you're quite fine....

This is so true. We'll debate the nuances of chino vs. flannel or the good or bad of a beef roll on a penny or the quality of this leather vs that leather here at AAAC (and I feel right at home when we are doing it), but then, out in the real world, if the conversation of clothes comes up (I never start it as I don't want to be "that guy" who talks about the things that only he loves), you quickly realize that the general public's telescope is set much farther back and they don't even see the details we debate.
 

Charles Dana

Honors Member
So the hangup lies with us.

What gevans said above brilliantly captures the theme of this entire thread. And not just the theme, but the solution to Tim’s dilemma:

The way to wear wool flannel trousers casually is to wear wool flannel trousers casually.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are reluctant to wear
wool flannel trousers on the weekend.”

Many years ago, on television, there was a retrospective on President Kennedy. The program included a brief home movie of JFK at his new estate in Atoka, Virginia shortly before his assasination. In the clip, JFK is outdoors, sitting on the ground with his back against the wall of his house. He’s wearing a tan crewneck sweater and what appear to be gray flannel trousers. He’s feeding treats to Caroline’s horse; after each bite, the horse nudges Kennedy for more. He keeps sticking his nose down into Kennedy’s face. Meanwhile, JFK is ducking this way and that, and rolling on the ground, thoroughly enjoying the harassment.

When I first saw the home movie, I thought, among other things, “Why is JFK wearing dress pants when he’s sitting on the grass feeding a horse?” Now, years later, I get it. It was 1963; most adults generally did not wear jeans unless they had to for work; it was a cool day, given how everyone else in the clip is dressed—so cotton khakis would not have been the best choice. JFK was never a moleskins-and-corduroy kind of guy. Wool flannel trousers? Why not? They’re warm, practical, and—because they can be dressed up or dressed down—versatile.

In case you’re interested, the home movie of JFK feeding the horse is on You Tube. It can easily be found by putting the words “JFK home movie Atoka” in the search field (without the apostrophes). The movie is almost 15 minutes long, but the JFK-and-the-horse part begins at 11:45.

The new estate where the scene takes place? Jackie Kennedy, who was effectively in charge of purchasing the property and designing the house, named it “Wexford.” The Kennedys were able to spend only three weekends there before the President was killed. I read somewhere that JFK didn’t like the place—it was too remote for his taste. It was really Jackie’s project.

Other home movies of JFK are on You Tube. Like anybody’s home movies, they’re not that interesting. I like to watch them (with plenty of fast-forwarding) to see how JFK and his family members dressed casually in the early 1960s. There’s a clip, for example, of JFK hitting golf balls (and hitting them, and hitting them...) while wearing Nantucket reds.

And it isn’t just what President Kennedy wore that fits into the theme of this thread; it’s what he said as well. In a televised interview in the 1950s, then-Senator Kennedy was asked how people could get involved—perhaps seriously involved—in political campaigns. He replied, “The way to get started is to get started.” He suggested they begin by simply handing out leaflets door-to-door.

So get started. Put on those wool gray flannel trousers, regardless of what other people think.

Then buy an estate in the Virginia horse country.

Edit: I forgot that Tim himself said “I think it’s mostly in the wearer’s head.” So I also want to give Tim credit for working through to a resolution. Cassius would be proud.
 
Last edited:

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
...And it isn’t just what President Kennedy wore that fits into the theme of this thread; it’s what he said as well. In a televised interview in the 1950s, then-Senator Kennedy was asked how people could get involved—perhaps seriously involved—in political campaigns. He replied, “The way to get started is to get started.” He suggested they begin by simply handing out leaflets door-to-door.

So get started. Put on those wool gray flannel trousers, regardless of what other people think.

Then buy an estate in the Virginia horse country.

Edit: I forgot that Tim himself said “I think it’s mostly in the wearer’s head.” So I also want to give Tim credit for working through to a resolution. Cassius would be proud.

We think alike, when I read Kennedy's quote about getting started, I thought, sure, first get a dad who is one of the wealthiest men in the country with a passion to have his son made president. Oh, and then start that door-to-door thing.

Kidding aside, I agree, just do it. Wear the pants casually and decide after a bit if you are comfortable doing it or not. See how you feel, what comments they generate and, then, decide.
 

TimF

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Many years ago, on television, there was a retrospective on President Kennedy. The program included a brief home movie of JFK at his new estate in Atoka, Virginia shortly before his assasination. In the clip, JFK is outdoors, sitting on the ground with his back against the wall of his house. He’s wearing a tan crewneck sweater and what appear to be gray flannel trousers. He’s feeding treats to Caroline’s horse; after each bite, the horse nudges Kennedy for more. He keeps sticking his nose down into Kennedy’s face. Meanwhile, JFK is ducking this way and that, and rolling on the ground, thoroughly enjoying the harassment.

When I first saw the home movie, I thought, among other things, “Why is JFK wearing dress pants when he’s sitting on the grass feeding a horse?” Now, years later, I get it. It was 1963; most adults generally did not wear jeans unless they had to for work; it was a cool day, given how everyone else in the clip is dressed—so cotton khakis would not have been the best choice. JFK was never a moleskins-and-corduroy kind of guy. Wool flannel trousers? Why not? They’re warm, practical, and—because they can be dressed up or dressed down—versatile.

In case you’re interested, the home movie of JFK feeding the horse is on You Tube. It can easily be found by putting the words “JFK home movie Atoka” in the search field (without the apostrophes). The movie is almost 15 minutes long, but the JFK-and-the-horse part begins at 11:45.

Cottons die many times before their deaths;
The woollens never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that "Trads" should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come... But you do you.


I don't consider myself a JFK nut, but this was very interesting, and thank you for bringing it to my attention. Since 1963 many things have changed, such as the affordability and availability of thick flannels, and the accessibility to affordable yet competent cleaners. Hence the concomitant change in choice of “beater” trousers for contemporary Ivys. Of course you are the master of your own situation, and wearing pricy flannels hard may make the most sense for you, but to assign universalizability to that prescription is hasty.
 
Last edited:
Your email address will not be publicly visible. We will only use it to contact you to confirm your post.

IMPORTANT: BEFORE POSTING PLEASE CHECK THE DATE OF THE LAST POST OF THIS THREAD. IF IT'S VERY OLD, PLEASE CONSIDER REGISTERING FIRST, AND STARTING A NEW THREAD ABOUT THIS TOPIC.

Deals/Steals

Trad Store Exchange