Charles Dana

Honors Member
PART XI— A FEW STORIES FROM THE 1920s

What follows are excerpts from newspaper articles. Evidently khaki trousers in the 1920s were still enough of a novelty to warrant being mentioned when the subjects of the articles were wearing such garments.

(As I compiled the selections below, I was reminded that studying the history of a garment—in this case, khaki trousers—is a good way to learn about broader social history as well, because you also incidentally learn about the context in which the garment was worn.)

******

First, two articles with a Presidential theme, one of them with sad overtones.

March 23, 1923
From the New York Times:

“Titusville, a wee speck of a town to the south [of Daytona, Florida], was thrilled and amused today by the sight of President Harding,...riding through the streets in a new Ford. The President...was on a sightseeing tour....”

He was accompanied by one Secret Service agent.

The Times article explained that President Harding decided to go for a walk while his vacation houseboat was gassing up at a Titusville dock. But the warm weather caused the President to look for a car he could hire so that he could ride the rest of the way.

A car was hailed. “It happened to be a new Ford, driven by a young man wearing khaki trousers and a flannel shirt and no hat.”

President Harding and the Secret Service agent climbed into the back seat and off they went.

August 5, 1923
The New York Times:

[President Harding died unexpectedly in San Francisco on August 2, 1923. Vice President Calvin Coolidge then assumed the Presidency.]

“YOUNG ‘CAL’ COOLIDGE WORKS ON A FARM”

“Upon the tobacco farm of Dickinson & Day at Hatfield, Mass., Calvin Coolidge Jr., 14-year-old son of the President of the United States, is daily sweating away under the heat of the broiling Summer sun as he bundles up tobacco leaves and places them on laths to dry in the sheds. Khaki trousers, worn shoes and a collarless shirt are the clothes worn by the Coolidge heir, who is taciturn and silent, like his father....”

[Tragically, the junior Calvin Coolidge died at age sixteen on July 7,1924. A week previously, the boy had been playing tennis with his older brother. A blister formed on young Cal’s toe, which became infected. The resulting blood poisoning was fatal. (Penicillin treatments—which can cure such an illness today—were not yet available in 1924.)]

Here’s a link to an article about the death of Calvin Coolidge Jr., accompanied by a photo of the boy at work on the tobacco farm. He is wearing the type of shirt and khaki trousers mentioned in the New York Times article.

https://www.coolidgefoundation.org/blog/the-medical-context-of-calvin-jr-s-untimely-death/

******

In the 1920s, taking long, long summertime hikes seems to have been a thing with young women. Of course, they wore khaki attire, which was almost obligatory outing clobber by then.

July 4, 1921
The New York Times:

“2 TEACHERS ON LONG HIKE”

According to the article, the two teachers—from Yonkers, New York—wanted to spend their summer vacation in Utica, 240 miles away. They decided to walk there “just for the good of [their] health and the novelty.”

“The young women were clad in khaki and carried knapsacks. Some who saw them said one of them carried a big revolver in a holster.”

July 19, 1921
The New York Times:

“GIRL HIKERS HOME”

“Two attractive young women stepped off a train at the Grand Central Terminal...and their arrival here marked the completion of a 4,500-mile hike from San Francisco, during which, they said, they found the Western desert wastes far safer for young women than the Bronx or Brooklyn.”

The mother of one of the hikers said that they had “abandoned their khaki-trousers outfit at Syracuse and came home wearing skirts....”

August 12, 1925
From the Bakersfield Californian newspaper:

“With their only luggage on their backs, four girls, dressed in khaki hiking clothes prepared for whatever hardships they may endure, stopped at the El Capitan hotel [in Merced] en route to the Yosemite Valley by the ‘hitch-and-hike’ method of traveling.”

The girls were students at Hunter College in New York City, where their journey had begun. They had “hitched” and “hiked” clear across the United States, stopping to linger in various cities.

******

Something tells me that Harold, despite his khaki trousers, was no early version of a preppie:

January 28, 1923
The New York Times:

Agents of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Secret Service, as well as local police investigators in Louisiana, were on the hunt for one Harold Teegestrom. They believed that his testimony would prove valuable in a case against the Ku Klux Klan members who were accused of killing two men.

As of January 28, 1923, the authorities had been searching for Teegestrom for a month. A tip led them to Shrewsbury, Louisiana. Near that town, a “stranger wearing khaki trousers and walking with a limp and who in every way resembled photographs and the description of Teegestrom” flagged down a car and asked the driver for directions to the nearest northbound road. The article states that the man in khaki told the driver, “‘I want to get to Canada, but I’ve got to walk it.’”

Near Shrewsbury, residents reportedly saw “the stranger leave the highway and go into a thicket.” Authorities searched the vegetation but didn’t find anyone.

******

Khaki garments were popular “outing” attire by the 1920s, but so were corduroy trousers. Tweed, too, was still an option.

October 2, 1927
The Los Angeles Times:

An article about the Yosemite Valley by Lannie Haynes Martin begins as follows:

“If any one else, besides myself, has lived twenty-five years in California and has never seen the Yosemite Valley, let him put on the sack-cloth of repentance, some serviceable tweed, khaki or corduroy, and make a pilgrimage, afoot if he cannot make it otherwise, for the experience would be well worth the tedious, toilsome journey.“

******

Just as it was in the first decade of the 20th Century, khaki clothing was standard hunting attire by the 1920s:

August 1, 1928
The Los Angeles Times:

“DEER SEASON OPENS IN COAST COUNTIES TODAY”

“Thousands of huntsmen, attired in cow-hide boots and khaki, and equipped with the finest products of Messrs. Winchester, Remington and the Chicago hi-jackers [Prohibition was still in effect, with ramifications that, to put it mildly, touched the Windy City], leave the city this morning for the [coastal California] wilds of Ventura and Santa Barbara, where it’s open season on does and Auto Club signs.”

******

NEXT: Khaki in the 1930s
 
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Charles Dana

Honors Member
PART XII—KHAKI TROUSER ADVERTISEMENTS FROM THE 1930s

In the 1930s, newspaper advertisements for khaki trousers continued the trend of portraying them mainly as attire for work and for “outings” such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping. However, the decade also saw three new developments in the realm of khaki-related advertising:

(a) In a December 1937 ad, a sporting goods store in San Francisco referred to their line of khaki pants as “CHINO-KHAKI TROUSERS.” This is the earliest ad I’ve seen in which a retailer used the word “chino” to refer to the khakis that it was selling in the civilian market. Earlier ads may well have included the word, but if that was the case, I didn’t locate any of them. (Although “chino” appears often in early-1940s advertisements for military-related clothing, the word in relation to civilian cotton twill trousers didn’t gain popularity until the late 1940s.)

(b) In May 1938, Sears, Roebuck and Company stated that their “outing khakis” were also desirable as “knock about wear.” That marked the first instance (that I found) in which a merchant explicitly described khaki trousers in that manner. Serving as “knock about” clothing had been one of the pants’ roles for years, given how ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive they were. Still, khakis had mainly been portrayed as work and outing pants. Sears then turned a de facto use for khakis—knocking about—into an “official” one. (I can’t rule out the possibility that other retailers may have beaten Sears to the punch in referring to khakis as something like “knock about” pants.)

(c) Brooks Brothers, in a June 1938 advertisement in The Daily Princetonian, offered, among other things, warm-weather “Odd Trousers” in khaki-colored “cotton drill” (which is cotton twill, which is what khaki trousers are generally made of).

Until June 1938, khaki cotton drill pants had generally not been promoted as “Odd Trousers”—something to be worn with sport coats—for warm weather. Instead, white flannels or linen would have done the trick.

This BB ad represents an evolution in the marketing of khakis. It seems to be an early version of the “dress chinos” ads that are prevalent these days. Perhaps it was World War II, perhaps it was a matter of trying to market something before its time, but BB doesn’t seem to have pushed its cotton drill odd trousers too aggressively. The ad didn’t appear in The Daily Princetonian again.

(In the early 1940s, another retailer did advertise dressy cotton trousers to the Princeton kids, but I’m getting ahead of myself.) For the duration of the 1930s, the familiar gabardine, flannel, and cover cloth trousers, rather than dressy khakis, continued to be popular in the Ivy League.

******

Here’s a sampling of 1930s newspaper ads—including the three I mentioned above—related to khaki trousers:

From the New York Times
May 27, 1930

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said in an ad:

“The Sons of Sportsmen”
“It is not surprising that the sons of men who are our old customers should come here for all their sports clothes and equipment. Our boys’ clothing is made up along the same sturdy lines as the fathers’ both in tailoring and materials....”

Some of the goods available:

Blazers, beach robes, sweat shirts, riding breeches, boots and shoes, jodhpurs, linen knickers, flannel trousers, khaki trousers, camelhair polo coats, etc.

******

San Francisco Chronicle
February 19, 1932

The Ellery Arms Company, a sporting goods store in San Francisco, was having “A Sale of Importance.”

Ellery Arms made a distinction between “sports wear” and “athletes’ apparel.” For fun, I’ll show how they broke it down:

SPORTS WEAR
Riding breeches, golf suits, swimming suits, leather coats, golf sweaters, pullover and sweater sets, white flannel pants, duck pants, khaki pants, golf knickers, khaki breeches, flannel and sports shirts, golf hose, driving gloves, hunting coats, suede coats, Mackinaw coats, robes, hunting vests, and “other items in Sports Wear.”

ATHLETES’ APPAREL
Sweat shirts, gym pants, gym uppers, athletic jerseys, baseball uniforms, swimming trunks, tights, sweat pants, football pants

SHOES
Men’s, women’s, and boys’ “sport shoes,” Munson army shoes, golf oxfords, “Outing Boots of all kinds,” English walking shoes, “Ellery” no-leak boots, ski shoes, snow and ski moccasins, rancher boots, wading boots, leather leggings, elk boots, running shoes, baseball shoes, track shoes, jumping shoes, boxing shoes, spike shoes, cross-country shoes, wrestling shoes, gym shoes, bowling shoes, football shoes, soccer shoes, skate shoes, basketball shoes, acrobat shoes

******

June 10, 1932
Oakland Tribune

A store called “Money-Back Smith” in Oakland was offering these “vacation specials”:

“MEN’S KHAKI CLOTHES FOR SUMMER COMFORT-WEAR”
Men’s khaki outing shirts, $1.25
Men’s khaki hiking breeches, $2.50
Men’s khaki long pants, $1.65
Men’s whipcord breeches, $2.50
Men’s all-wool sleeveless sweaters, $1.95

******

June 17, 1932
The Woodland Daily Democrat (a Northern California newspaper) had this one from Gardiner’s Department Store (“THE STORE THAT SELLS THE BEST FOR LESS”):

“MEN’S KHAKI WORK TROUSERS“
“Levi Strauss and Crown made of heavy khaki cloth, with welted seams, and cuff bottoms.” Regularly $1.50, now $1.39

******

March 26, 1933
Los Angeles Times

A retailer called “The Famous Department Store” in Los Angeles was having a sale on Stronghold brand trousers, intended for rugged work and camping, and on Hendan brand semi-dress trousers. The difference?

Three types of Stronghold trousers were on sale: Overalls; black jeans (but “made like dress pants with side and watch pockets, 2 flapped hip pockets, and cuffs”); and “Khaki Pants” made of the “highest quality olive drab khaki twill tailored the Stronghold way, guaranteed not to rip. Cuffs, the usual pockets. For work, camping, etc.”

The overalls were on sale for 79¢; the jeans and khaki pants, 98¢.

The Hendan “semi-dress” trousers that were on sale were the “Sophomore Blue,” at $1.00 a pair (normally $6.00). “College men, especially sophomores, know all about these pants....Not only worn by college men, but unsurpassed for semi-dress and work. Heavy blue wool mixed fabric.” [The ad isn’t specific about the other components of the mixture.]

******

June 8, 1934
Spokane Daily Chronicle

Sears, Roebuck and Co.

WORK PANTS
Men’s khaki twill trousers of medium weight. Sizes 30-44. “Well tailored.” $1.00

KHAKI SLACKS
Boys’ play slacks with roomy pockets. Good for vacation wear. $1.00

******

July 26, 1935
The Oakland Tribune presented an ad for a store that was selling:

“Men’s Smart Outing Apparel”
Men’s khaki hiking pants, $2.15 and $2.65

...and men’s whipcord hiking and riding breeches, $2.65 and $3.65

Also all-wool “slacks” for $3.45

******

San Francisco Examiner
June 21, 1936

Weinstein Co. wanted the readers to know that they were offering:

Men’s pants, $1.69 to $2.45
Pre-shrunk in khaki, white duck, moleskin, and whipcord. Also wool knickers.

Men’s work shirts, 79¢ or two for $1.00
Pre-shrunk in khaki, blue, or gray
“Heavy quality shirts”

******

August 16, 1935
Reno Evening Gazette

National Dollar Stores—

MEN’S PANTS in all sizes
“Khaki pants—pants in Sanforized white duck, striped cottonmade, and hard-finished materials.” $1.29

BREECHES
“Whipcord khaki, reinforced at knee and seat. Well made. All sizes.” $1.79

******

December 15, 1937
San Francisco Examiner

Spiro’s sporting goods store:

Spiro’s, which billed itself as “the finest sporting goods store in the west,” was having a fire sale. Literally. “RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, with our counters and stockrooms fairly bulging with gorgeous gift merchandise, we experienced the stunning loss that only fire, smoke and water can bring....Fortunately, our main floor and our famous Ski Lodge remained intact; the damage having been confined to the basement section devoted to reserve stock....” Insurance settlements, which Spiro’s said were “fair and generous,” enabled the store to offer merchandise at “ridiculous prices.” Example:

“CHINO-KHAKI TROUSERS, $2.95 [regularly $4.45]”

******

May 26, 1938
Bakersfield Californian Newspaper

Sears, Roebuck and Co.

“Outing Khaki”
“Genuine Khaki drill. Just the trouser men will like for outings and knock about wear...They are Sanforized.” $1.49

******

June 1, 1938
The Daily Princetonian

From a Brooks Brothers advertisement:
“‘BROOKS WHITES’ are sensible warm weather clothes made of a great variety of materials, such as Seersucker, Linen Crash, Linen, Cotton-and-Mohair, etc....Odd Trousers may also be had in a variety of materials, including cotton drill in white, khaki or brown ($4.25 a pair); also Cotton Gabardine Tennis Shorts in either White or Tan ($4.50).”

[In March 1939, J. Press also advertised, in The Daily Princetonian, a variety of resort clothes. Among them were “mercerized twills” of unspecified colors. These would seem to be the well-off cousins of khakis and could also be regarded as an early father of “dress chinos.”]

******

NEXT: Stories from the 1930s
 
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drpeter

Super Member
Excellent as always, Charles.

Your mention of the various uses of khaki pants brought to mind one of the practices I knew about back in my old country. In the Indian Army as well as the Indian Police, khaki uniforms (trousers and shirts/jackets) were common. In the colder months in the north, especially, officers would wear a dress uniform jacket ( four pockets, four button closure, epaulets, flashes, ribbons and insignia) in the usual way, along with a white shirt and plain dark tie. And khaki trousers, of course. This meant that in the evening one could exchange the uniform jacket for a dark blue blazer, keep the rest of the uniform on, and be quite presentable at the officers club or the regimental mess hall for drinks and dinner. Yet another example of the versatility of khakis.
 

Charles Dana

Honors Member
Excellent as always, Charles.

Your mention of the various uses of khaki pants brought to mind one of the practices I knew about back in my old country. In the Indian Army as well as the Indian Police, khaki uniforms (trousers and shirts/jackets) were common. In the colder months in the north, especially, officers would wear a dress uniform jacket ( four pockets, four button closure, epaulets, flashes, ribbons and insignia) in the usual way, along with a white shirt and plain dark tie. And khaki trousers, of course. This meant that in the evening one could exchange the uniform jacket for a dark blue blazer, keep the rest of the uniform on, and be quite presentable at the officers club or the regimental mess hall for drinks and dinner. Yet another example of the versatility of khakis.
Thank you for the compliment, and for the first-hand insights regarding the sartorial legerdemain of the army and police officers in India. The details you related are just the kinds of stories I enjoy so much. I’d say the things you witnessed also show the versatility of the navy blue blazer.
 

drpeter

Super Member
Thank you for the compliment, and for the first-hand insights regarding the sartorial legerdemain of the army and police officers in India. The details you related are just the kinds of stories I enjoy so much. I’d say the things you witnessed also show the versatility of the navy blue blazer.
Agreed! I personally feel the navy blue blazer is perhaps the single most versatile garment in my wardrobe. It goes well with practically every other piece of clothing I own. So it's not surprising that I have close to ten of them, in various kinds of cloth -- from hopsack and worsted to cashmere and flannel. I like the gold buttons, but I am also very fond of the darker pewter, or perhaps antique silver, buttons. I do have blazers in other colours like dark maroon, dark green and grey, but they are nowhere near as versatile as the navy blue blazer.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
PART XII—KHAKI TROUSER ADVERTISEMENTS FROM THE 1930s

In the 1930s, newspaper advertisements for khaki trousers continued the trend of portraying them mainly as attire for work and for “outings” such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping. However, the decade also saw three new developments in the realm of khaki-related advertising:

(a) In a December 1937 ad, a sporting goods store in San Francisco referred to their line of khaki pants as “CHINO-KHAKI TROUSERS.” This is the earliest ad I’ve seen in which a retailer used the word “chino” to refer to the khakis that it was selling in the civilian market. Earlier ads may well have included the word, but if that was the case, I didn’t locate any of them. (Although “chino” appears often in early-1940s advertisements for military-related clothing, the word in relation to civilian cotton twill trousers didn’t gain popularity until the late 1940s.)

(b) In May 1938, Sears, Roebuck and Company stated that their “outing khakis” were also desirable as “knock about wear.” That marked the first instance (that I found) in which a merchant explicitly described khaki trousers in that manner. Serving as “knock about” clothing had been one of the pants’ roles for years, given how ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive they were. Still, khakis had mainly been portrayed as work and outing pants. Sears then turned a de facto use for khakis—knocking about—into an “official” one. (I can’t rule out the possibility that other retailers may have beaten Sears to the punch in referring to khakis as something like “knock about” pants.)

(c) Brooks Brothers, in a June 1938 advertisement in The Daily Princetonian, offered, among other things, warm-weather “Odd Trousers” in khaki-colored “cotton drill” (which is cotton twill, which is what khaki trousers are generally made of).

Until June 1938, khaki cotton drill pants had generally not been promoted as “Odd Trousers”—something to be worn with sport coats—for warm weather. Instead, white flannels or linen would have done the trick.

This BB ad represents an evolution in the marketing of khakis. It seems to be an early version of the “dress chinos” ads that are prevalent these days. Perhaps it was World War II, perhaps it was a matter of trying to market something before its time, but BB doesn’t seem to have pushed its cotton drill odd trousers too aggressively. The ad didn’t appear in The Daily Princetonian again.

(In the early 1940s, another retailer did advertise dressy cotton trousers to the Princeton kids, but I’m getting ahead of myself.) For the duration of the 1930s, the familiar gabardine, flannel, and cover cloth trousers, rather than dressy khakis, continued to be popular in the Ivy League.

******

Here’s a sampling of 1930s newspaper ads—including the three I mentioned above—related to khaki trousers:

From the New York Times
May 27, 1930

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said in an ad:

“The Sons of Sportsmen”
“It is not surprising that the sons of men who are our old customers should come here for all their sports clothes and equipment. Our boys’ clothing is made up along the same sturdy lines as the fathers’ both in tailoring and materials....”

Some of the goods available:

Blazers, beach robes, sweat shirts, riding breeches, boots and shoes, jodhpurs, linen knickers, flannel trousers, khaki trousers, camelhair polo coats, etc.

******

San Francisco Chronicle
February 19, 1932

The Ellery Arms Company, a sporting goods store in San Francisco, was having “A Sale of Importance.”

Ellery Arms made a distinction between “sports wear” and “athletes’ apparel.” For fun, I’ll show how they broke it down:

SPORTS WEAR
Riding breeches, golf suits, swimming suits, leather coats, golf sweaters, pullover and sweater sets, white flannel pants, duck pants, khaki pants, golf knickers, khaki breeches, flannel and sports shirts, golf hose, driving gloves, hunting coats, suede coats, Mackinaw coats, robes, hunting vests, and “other items in Sports Wear.”

ATHLETES’ APPAREL
Sweat shirts, gym pants, gym uppers, athletic jerseys, baseball uniforms, swimming trunks, tights, sweat pants, football pants

SHOES
Men’s, women’s, and boys’ “sport shoes,” Munson army shoes, golf oxfords, “Outing Boots of all kinds,” English walking shoes, “Ellery” no-leak boots, ski shoes, snow and ski moccasins, rancher boots, wading boots, leather leggings, elk boots, running shoes, baseball shoes, track shoes, jumping shoes, boxing shoes, spike shoes, cross-country shoes, wrestling shoes, gym shoes, bowling shoes, football shoes, soccer shoes, skate shoes, basketball shoes, acrobat shoes

******

June 10, 1932
Oakland Tribune

A store called “Money-Back Smith” in Oakland was offering these “vacation specials”:

“MEN’S KHAKI CLOTHES FOR SUMMER COMFORT-WEAR”
Men’s khaki outing shirts, $1.25
Men’s khaki hiking breeches, $2.50
Men’s khaki long pants, $1.65
Men’s whipcord breeches, $2.50
Men’s all-wool sleeveless sweaters, $1.95

******

June 17, 1932
The Woodland Daily Democrat (a Northern California newspaper) had this one from Gardiner’s Department Store (“THE STORE THAT SELLS THE BEST FOR LESS”):

“MEN’S KHAKI WORK TROUSERS“
“Levi Strauss and Crown made of heavy khaki cloth, with welted seams, and cuff bottoms.” Regularly $1.50, now $1.39

******

March 26, 1933
Los Angeles Times

A retailer called “The Famous Department Store” in Los Angeles was having a sale on Stronghold brand trousers, intended for rugged work and camping, and on Hendan brand semi-dress trousers. The difference?

Three types of Stronghold trousers were on sale: Overalls; black jeans (but “made like dress pants with side and watch pockets, 2 flapped hip pockets, and cuffs”); and “Khaki Pants” made of the “highest quality olive drab khaki twill tailored the Stronghold way, guaranteed not to rip. Cuffs, the usual pockets. For work, camping, etc.”

The overalls were on sale for 79¢; the jeans and khaki pants, 98¢.

The Hendan “semi-dress” trousers that were on sale were the “Sophomore Blue,” at $1.00 a pair (normally $6.00). “College men, especially sophomores, know all about these pants....Not only worn by college men, but unsurpassed for semi-dress and work. Heavy blue wool mixed fabric.” [The ad isn’t specific about the other components of the mixture.]

******

June 8, 1934
Spokane Daily Chronicle

Sears, Roebuck and Co.

WORK PANTS
Men’s khaki twill trousers of medium weight. Sizes 30-44. “Well tailored.” $1.00

KHAKI SLACKS
Boys’ play slacks with roomy pockets. Good for vacation wear. $1.00

******

July 26, 1935
The Oakland Tribune presented an ad for a store that was selling:

“Men’s Smart Outing Apparel”
Men’s khaki hiking pants, $2.15 and $2.65

...and men’s whipcord hiking and riding breeches, $2.65 and $3.65

Also all-wool “slacks” for $3.45

******

San Francisco Examiner
June 21, 1936

Weinstein Co. wanted the readers to know that they were offering:

Men’s pants, $1.69 to $2.45
Pre-shrunk in khaki, white duck, moleskin, and whipcord. Also wool knickers.

Men’s work shirts, 79¢ or two for $1.00
Pre-shrunk in khaki, blue, or gray
“Heavy quality shirts”

******

August 16, 1935
Reno Evening Gazette

National Dollar Stores—

MEN’S PANTS in all sizes
“Khaki pants—pants in Sanforized white duck, striped cottonmade, and hard-finished materials.” $1.29

BREECHES
“Whipcord khaki, reinforced at knee and seat. Well made. All sizes.” $1.79

******

December 15, 1937
San Francisco Examiner

Spiro’s sporting goods store:

Spiro’s, which billed itself as “the finest sporting goods store in the west,” was having a fire sale. Literally. “RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, with our counters and stockrooms fairly bulging with gorgeous gift merchandise, we experienced the stunning loss that only fire, smoke and water can bring....Fortunately, our main floor and our famous Ski Lodge remained intact; the damage having been confined to the basement section devoted to reserve stock....” Insurance settlements, which Spiro’s said were “fair and generous,” enabled the store to offer merchandise at “ridiculous prices.” Example:

“CHINO-KHAKI TROUSERS, $2.95 [regularly $4.45]”

******

May 26, 1938
Bakersfield Californian Newspaper

Sears, Roebuck and Co.

“Outing Khaki”
“Genuine Khaki drill. Just the trouser men will like for outings and knock about wear...They are Sanforized.” $1.49

******

June 1, 1938
The Daily Princetonian

From a Brooks Brothers advertisement:
“‘BROOKS WHITES’ are sensible warm weather clothes made of a great variety of materials, such as Seersucker, Linen Crash, Linen, Cotton-and-Mohair, etc....Odd Trousers may also be had in a variety of materials, including cotton drill in white, khaki or brown ($4.25 a pair); also Cotton Gabardine Tennis Shorts in either White or Tan ($4.50).”

[In March 1939, J. Press also advertised, in The Daily Princetonian, a variety of resort clothes. Among them were “mercerized twills” of unspecified colors. These would seem to be the well-off cousins of khakis and could also be regarded as an early father of “dress chinos.”]

******

NEXT: Stories from the 1930s
Really, really good stuff as always.

You seem to have captured some key moments in this post - (maybe) the first use of chino for civilian advertising, BB promoting khakis as "odd trousers" (to be paired with sport coats) and Sears advertising them as "knock about" pants.

As we know, today, the terms chinos and khakis are used interchangeably, they are often paired with sport coats and often used as "knock about" pants, so it is very cool to see the first, or very early, ads promoting them this way.

Great research work.
 
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Charles Dana

Honors Member
Fading Fast—

Oh—I got sidetracked looking at the khaki-trouser offerings in Sears Roebuck catalogues from around 1908 to the 1990s. (Images of all of the old Sears catalogues are available through the Ancestry dot com website.) I’ll write something about how Sears marketed khakis between 1900 and 1940 today, and then finish my report this weekend.

Also, there was plain old procrastination. I can begin a project on my own initiative, but I tend not to finish it unless I have a deadline.

Thanks for your patience! And for the nudge!
 
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Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Fading Fast—

Oh—I got sidetracked looking at the khaki-trouser offerings in Sears Roebuck catalogues from around 1908 to the 1990s. (Images of all of the old Sears catalogues are available through the Ancestry dot com website.) I’ll write something about how Sears marketed khakis between 1900 and 1940 today, and then finish my report this weekend.

Also, there was plain old procrastination. I can begin a project on my own initiative, but I tend not to finish it unless I have a deadline.

Thanks for your patience! And for the nudge!
All meant in fun and as a compliment as your own-initiative and unpaid impressive work is much appreciated.
 

Charles Dana

Honors Member
You seem to have captured some key moments in this post - (maybe) the first use of chino for civilian advertising, BB promoting khakis as "odd trousers" (to be paired with sport coats) and Sears advertising them as "knock about" pants.

As we know, today, the terms chinos and khakis are used interchangeably, they are often paired with sport coats and often used as "knock about" pants, so it is very cool to see the first, or very early, ads promoting them this way.
INTERLUDE

Sears Roebuck had a love affair with the adjective “knockabout” (or sometimes “knock about”). Their catalogues for much of the 20th Century applied that word to, among other merchandise:

Men’s Jackets
Watches
Slippers
Shoes
Saddles
Blankets
Ladies’ coats
Hats
Sweaters
Adirondack outdoor furniture
A doll (in 1919)

...And sometimes Sears Roebuck described its khaki trousers and khaki suits as being “knockabout”—but very inconsistently.

Here are some examples from old Sears Roebuck catalogues:

The earliest instance (that I could find) of Sears using “knockabout” to characterize khaki clothing is from their Spring 1912 catalogue:

“Khaki Clothes For Outdoor Sports”

“This clothing is specially designed for outing wear, motorcycling, fishing, camping, boating, tennis, golf and general knockabout purposes requiring serviceable and comfortable clothes. Uncle Sam has selected khaki for the summer uniforms of the army, a selection made after the most thorough tests. You certainly cannot do better than to follow his choice. Outside of the extremely low prices, the noticeable feature of our khaki clothing is the fine workmanship and neat finish that you find in it, something that you don’t find in the average khaki clothing on the market.”

The above paragraph pertains to these garments:

Tan khaki suit, $2.25
Olive tan khaki Norfolk suit, $3.25
Dark olive brown khaki suit, $4.85

Tan khaki “outing” pants are on the same page, but it seems as if the word “knockabout” doesn’t apply to them, just to the khaki suits. But Sears’ intention is ambiguous. Anyway, the pants are 95¢ (“Made in prevailing style with belt loops and cuff bottoms. Color is not guaranteed fast, but will give you all the satisfaction you can reasonably expect for the money.”)

******

The Spring 1914 catalogue offers:

“Khaki Cloth Outing Coat and Pants,” $2.50
“Inexpensive strong knockabout summer suit. Dark tan color. Single breasted sack coat, patch pockets....”

And:

“Young Men’s Outing Pants,” 75¢, made of khaki drill. (“Knockabout” does not appear in the description of the pants.)

******

Spring 1920 catalogue:

“Youths’ long trousers. Made of good quality khaki drill. Inexpensive and very durable trousers, suitable for general wear. Have cuff bottoms.” $2.95

Suit (Olive Drab Khaki Twill) “...A very practical and serviceable suit for general or knockabout use.” $8.95

******

Fall 1920 catalogue:

“Work trousers for boys” made of khaki drill— “$3.25. “Inexpensive trousers for boys that will look well and prove very durable. Suitable for general wear or for work purposes. While specially intended for work purposes, on account of their durability, they make excellent trousers for general wear.”

******

Spring 1921 catalogue:

“Strong khaki drill” trousers...“popular for Summer and vacation wear. Easily washable.” $1.95.

There’s no mention of the word “knockabout.”

******

Spring 1922:

“Long trousers for boys of high school age”

Extra fine olive drab khaki with belt to match. “Khaki trousers are appropriate for all sorts of outings, for general sport wear and for all around work purposes.” $1.58

The men’s khaki suits were described as being for “Hiking, Riding, Camping, Motorcycling, and General Outdoor Wear,” but the adjective “knockabout” is absent.

******

Spring 1923:

“Youths’ Long Trousers” in “Serges, cassimeres, tweeds, khakis and worsteds” were being offered.

The medium weight cotton worsted trousers were described as follows: “For all around wear. Think of it—only $1.48! A great buy! And best of all, you can wear them for school and after school. Wear them to work if you wish; they’re exceptionally tough and durable for this purpose.”

However, the khaki trousers—$1.59–were not described as being for school. Rather: “Slip them on when you come home from school and be free to knock about....[T]hey’re mighty fine for outings or general working purposes....Order at least two, so you’ll have one clean while the other is being laundered....”(This language is repeated in the Spring 1924 catalogue.)

******

Fall 1923:

For men:

“Heavy weight olive drab khaki pants. Cuff bottoms....Well made of a tough, long wearing khaki, and built large and roomy for comfort as well as for service. For knockabout outing purposes and for all around work.”$1.89

“Medium weight khaki work or outing pants....Specially adapted for all purposes where medium weight work or outing pants are desired....”$1.55


******

Spring 1930:

Hercules “Quality Work Pants”
“Our best 8-oz. khaki”
“A world of strength and wearability is sewed into the sturdy seams of these work pants.” $1.98

Nothing is said about the trousers’ being for “general” or “knockabout” purposes.

******

Spring 1932:

“Sears Biggest Selling Work Pants” were corduroy, whipcord, serge, and cotton khaki twill. $1.89

Again, there’s no mention of “knockabout.”

*****

Spring 1935:

“Heavyweight khaki cotton twill”
“Big, Roomy Dimensions All Over—No Binding at Any Point”
“Thousands of men who go up against the toughest kind of work save money on these giants....”$1.69

******

Fall 1935:

“Our Best Sanforized Khaki Cotton Twill”
“Wear them on your roughest, toughest jobs. Sturdy khaki cotton twill made for long, abusive wear. Strength woven right in....” $1.69

******

Sears Roebuck seems to have tossed the word “knockabout” into its descriptions of khaki trousers when it was in the mood. And if it wasn’t in the mood, no big deal. Their khakis were for “work” and “outings,” and sometimes for “knockabout” and for “knockabout outings,” (killing two birds with one stone there), and for “general wear.”

The pants were cheap, so wear them for whatever. But never for dressy occasions.

(Previously, I said that a May 1938 newspaper advertisement for Sears khaki trousers was the earliest instance in which I had seen the word “knockabout” used to describe such clothing. As a result of my perusal of old Sears catalogues, my understanding has changed. Sears was occasionally using the rather vague word to describe khaki clothing long before 1938.)
 
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Charles Dana

Honors Member
PART XIII—STORIES FROM THE 1930s INVOLVING KHAKIS

From the Los Angeles Times on October 19,1930:

“The University of Redlands [in Southern California, near San Bernardino] seems to be the Mecca...for all eds and coeds that want to hike to sunnier climes to get a college degree....[T]oday there arrived John Cardwell and Douglas Trost of Chicago, who had hiked 2500 miles to find an alma mater. [These] young men, dressed in boots and khaki, entered the office of President Duke....Finding themselves too late for registration this term they are continuing their hike to Mid Pines, Cal., where they plan to split and cord wood...and...to prospect for gold with an uncle of one of the boys....”

******

[Frank Wykoff won a gold medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at three consecutive Olympic Games: Amsterdam in 1928, Los Angeles in 1932, and Berlin in 1936. He was the first man to win three gold medals in that sport. Mr. Wykoff had a career as a teacher and administrator in the Los Angeles County school district until retiring in 1972. He died in 1980 at age 70.]

From the San Francisco Chronicle on September 20, 1931:

“Here comes the WORLD’S FASTEST HUMAN!

“By Tom Lewis

“CONTACTING Frank Wykoff, the world’s fastest human, is strangely like a re-dedication of faith. He is so intensely human, so vitally American. It is ridiculously easy to debunk California’s young speed-burner. He has surprisingly little bunk in the first place.

“The Glendale Greyhound makes a vivid impression at the very outset. He is eye-filling, a man who looks the part and lives it....

“I found the world’s fastest human cleaning a shotgun. He wore an old sweatshirt and a pair of khaki breeches. He was fairly jiggling in anticipation—soon to break active training after a hard year and then relax for his annual jaunt with rod and gun....”

******

On October 18, 1931, the San Francisco Chronicle presented an article about some of the grievances that wives had regarding their husbands. The headline was:

“How to Hold a Husband? Huh! How About Stirring Up Men to Find What Keeps a Wife in Disposition ‘A No. 1”.

And the sub-head was:

“Here’s a Snappy Lot of Comment From Some Housewives Who Can’t Convince Themselves That the Men Should Be Catered To All the Time”.

One wife was dissatisfied with, among other habits, his way of dressing on Sundays:

“Of course, my husband is always neatly dressed when he comes downstairs on a week-day morning. [However,] he sleeps to the last possible minute and has to rush through his shaving and bathing, eat his breakfast in a hurry and rush for the train....

“That failure to take time enough to be human in the morning is bad enough, but it’s his Sunday morning performance that, to be slangy, gets my goat. He likes to sleep late on Sunday morning; that’s all right; so do I. But when I do get up I dress just as carefully and fix my hair just as neatly as I do any time.

“...[His] Sunday clothes consist of an old pair of khaki pants about three inches too short, a worn-out sweater and a pair of rundown slippers. He hasn’t shaved on Sunday in the last fifteen years, except when we are going out or are having company; then he’ll take hours of dressing and trying to make himself look like John Barrymore....”

[The husband doesn’t sound so bad to me. His wife, on the other hand....]

[This article is an early portrayal of khaki trousers as schlubwear rather than the “outing” or “work” pants that advertisements of the day typically represented them as being.]

******

In her syndicated column for September 16, 1938, the show business gossip columnist Sheilah Graham wrote:

“Clark Gable, in khaki shirt and trousers, rushes out of the Myron Selznick agency on Wilshire boulevard, slap bang between two cars. There is a loud screeching of brakes. And Clark, whose life has just been saved by two quick-thinking drivers, dashes off unconcernedly in his station wagon....”

******

The San Francisco Chronicle, on December 15, 1939, had a story about the upcoming 1940 Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans. The contestants were going to be the Texas Aggies from The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now called Texas A&M University) and the Tulane Green Wave from Tulane University. Excerpts:

“12th Man To Go With Texas Ags!”

“Texas Aggies, ranked by experts as the Nation’s No. 1 football team, will barge into the sugar bowl against Tulane with [a] 210-piece band, [a] dog mascot, [a]nd a goodly part of the college’s 6,000 cadets. The cadets, the dog and the band long have been known as the Aggies’ ‘twelfth man.’ They couldn’t play without ‘em....It’s taken for granted that the ‘twelfth man’ will go along. Things wouldn’t be right if that massive band...didn’t precede the Aggies on the field. The throaty roar of thousands of khaki-clad ‘brothers,’ many of whom will spend days thumbing their way to New Orleans, is as much a part of the Aggie setup as a quarterback....”

[As “cadets,” the students would have been in uniform. In this thread, I’ve so far avoided writing about khaki military uniforms. However, I included this story because I like it. Anyway, the students were technically civilians.]

[The game was played on January 1, 1940. The undefeated Aggies beat the Green Wave, 14-13.]

[The “12th Man” is still a tradition at Texas A&M.]

******

NEXT—KHAKI TROUSERS IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 1940s
 
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Fading Fast

Connoisseur
PART XIII—STORIES FROM THE 1930s INVOLVING KHAKIS

From the Los Angeles Times on October 19,1930:

“The University of Redlands [in Southern California, near San Bernardino] seems to be the Mecca...for all eds and coeds that want to hike to sunnier climes to get a college degree....[T]oday there arrived John Cardwell and Douglas Trost of Chicago, who had hiked 2500 miles to find an alma mater. [These] young men, dressed in boots and khaki, entered the office of President Duke....Finding themselves too late for registration this term they are continuing their hike to Mid Pines, Cal., where they plan to split and cord wood...and...to prospect for gold with an uncle of one of the boys....”

******

[Frank Wykoff won a gold medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at three consecutive Olympic Games: Amsterdam in 1928, Los Angeles in 1932, and Berlin in 1936. He was the first man to win three gold medals in that sport. Mr. Wykoff had a career as a teacher and administrator in the Los Angeles County school district until retiring in 1972. He died in 1980 at age 70.]

From the San Francisco Chronicle on September 20, 1931:

“Here comes the WORLD’S FASTEST HUMAN!

“By Tom Lewis

“CONTACTING Frank Wykoff, the world’s fastest human, is strangely like a re-dedication of faith. He is so intensely human, so vitally American. It is ridiculously easy to debunk California’s young speed-burner. He has surprisingly little bunk in the first place.

“The Glendale Greyhound makes a vivid impression at the very outset. He is eye-filling, a man who looks the part and lives it....

“I found the world’s fastest human cleaning a shotgun. He wore an old sweatshirt and a pair of khaki breeches. He was fairly jiggling in anticipation—soon to break active training after a hard year and then relax for his annual jaunt with rod and gun....”

******

On October 18, 1931, the San Francisco Chronicle presented an article about some of the grievances that wives had regarding their husbands. The headline was:

“How to Hold a Husband? Huh! How About Stirring Up Men to Find What Keeps a Wife in Disposition ‘A No. 1”.

And the sub-head was:

“Here’s a Snappy Lot of Comment From Some Housewives Who Can’t Convince Themselves That the Men Should Be Catered To All the Time”.

One wife was dissatisfied with, among other habits, his way of dressing on Sundays:

“Of course, my husband is always neatly dressed when he comes downstairs on a week-day morning. [However,] he sleeps to the last possible minute and has to rush through his shaving and bathing, eat his breakfast in a hurry and rush for the train....

“That failure to take time enough to be human in the morning is bad enough, but it’s his Sunday morning performance that, to be slangy, gets my goat. He likes to sleep late on Sunday morning; that’s all right; so do I. But when I do get up I dress just as carefully and fix my hair just as neatly as I do any time.

“...[His] Sunday clothes consist of an old pair of khaki pants about three inches too short, a worn-out sweater and a pair of rundown slippers. He hasn’t shaved on Sunday in the last fifteen years, except when we are going out or are having company; then he’ll take hours of dressing and trying to make himself look like John Barrymore....”

[The husband doesn’t sound so bad to me. His wife, on the other hand....]

[This article is an early portrayal of khaki trousers as schlubwear rather than the “outing” or “work” pants that advertisements of the day typically represented them as being.]

******

In her syndicated column for September 16, 1938, the show business gossip columnist Sheilah Graham wrote:

“Clark Gable, in khaki shirt and trousers, rushes out of the Myron Selznick agency on Wilshire boulevard, slap bang between two cars. There is a loud screeching of brakes. And Clark, whose life has just been saved by two quick-thinking drivers, dashes off unconcernedly in his station wagon....”

******

The San Francisco Chronicle, on December 15, 1939, had a story about the upcoming 1940 Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans. The contestants were going to be the Texas Aggies from The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now called Texas A&M University) and the Tulane Green Wave from Tulane University. Excerpts:

“12th Man To Go With Texas Ags!”

“Texas Aggies, ranked by experts as the Nation’s No. 1 football team, will barge into the sugar bowl against Tulane with [a] 210-piece band, [a] dog mascot, [a]nd a goodly part of the college’s 6,000 cadets. The cadets, the dog and the band long have been known as the Aggies’ ‘twelfth man.’ They couldn’t play without ‘em....It’s taken for granted that the ‘twelfth man’ will go along. Things wouldn’t be right if that massive band...didn’t precede the Aggies on the field. The throaty roar of thousands of khaki-clad ‘brothers,’ many of whom will spend days thumbing their way to New Orleans, is as much a part of the Aggie setup as a quarterback....”

[As “cadets,” the students would have been in uniform. In this thread, I’ve so far avoided writing about khaki military uniforms. However, I included this story because I like it. Anyway, the students were technically civilians.]

[The game was played on January 1, 1940. The undefeated Aggies beat the Green Wave, 14-13.]

[The “12th Man” is still a tradition at Texas A&M.]

******

NEXT—KHAKI TROUSERS IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 1940s
Really good research as you can feel khakis now morphing from specific civilian clothes - hiking, etc. - to just being something someone throws on when not "dressing up." And, yes, the wife in the above seems, as you noted, a bit much.

It's funny, as even into the '90s, khakis/chinos were still pretty much thought of as casual clothes. Hence, they were part of the business "casual" wardrobe. And there was a clear distinction made between dress chinos/khakis (tailored like dress trousers and intended to hold a crease) versus casual chinos/khakis (intended to have a less-tailored look and to not hold their crease).

But now, in 2020, I see the newer men's brands - Everlane and Alex Mills, for example - refer to chinos that are on the casual side as "dress-up clothes for when you want to look sharp," etc. A hundred years from now, somebody looking back will be able to note the transition from 2000-2020.
 
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Charles Dana

Honors Member
It's funny, as even into the '90s, khakis/chinos were still pretty much thought of as casual clothes. Hence, they were part of the business "casual" wardrobe. And there was a clear distinction made between dress chinos/khakis (tailored like dress trousers and intended to hold a crease) versus casual chinos/khakis (intended to have a less-tailored look and to not hold their crease).

But now, in 2020, I see the newer men's brands - Everlane and Alex Mills, for example - refer to chinos that are on the casual side as "dress-up clothes for when you want to look sharp," etc. A hundred years from now, somebody looking back will be able to note the transition from 2000-2020.
Yes, everything’s relative. In a world where men of all ages seemingly default to blue jeans as their casual pants, chinos—with or without a crease—look comparatively dressy. And if you wear a shirt that has a collar—as opposed to a crew neck—people wonder why you are so “dressed up.”

The sartorial bar gets lower and lower.

Which is good for me. Less pressure to dress “just so.” Back in 1983—when I was still learning about how to put together a tailored outfit—I wondered if I would ever develop the taste and knowledge that I would need in order to dress as well as I wanted. I fretted over which sport coat would go with which trousers, and which shirt and tie to select. Then the shoes.

Nowadays, because tailored clothing is becoming ever more rare, the pressure is off. I can wear a navy blazer with chinos—something I never would have considered in the 1980s because only wool trousers would have been acceptable—and I don’t have to worry about being underdressed. I still make the effort to be put together, but there’s no stress because I do so out of choice rather than necessity.

Bonus information:

The first Sears Roebuck catalogue that mentioned the word “chino” was the one for Fall 1949. The catalogue advertised Sears’ “Hercules” brand of “matched outfits” (shirt and pants were of the same color, made of Hercules’ “best army twills”). These were workwear. The pants were made of “Chino cloth” that consisted of 2-ply yarns.

The Fall 1956 Sears catalogue was the first one to use the word “chinos.” It used this plural word only once in that catalogue. Again, it was in reference to Sears’ “Hercules” cotton twill workwear. Sears called the Hercules shirts and pants “Luster Chinos,” then went back to using the singular word “chino”—

“Mix or match colors to suit yourself for work in matching or contrasting shirts and pants of Hercules Luster Chino.” Customers could select a “Luster Chino Shirt” and a pair of “Luster Chino Pants.”
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Yes, everything’s relative. In a world where men of all ages seemingly default to blue jeans as their casual pants, chinos—with or without a crease—look comparatively dressy. And if you wear a shirt that has a collar—as opposed to a crew neck—people wonder why you are so “dressed up.”

The sartorial bar gets lower and lower.

Which is good for me. Less pressure to dress “just so.” Back in 1983—when I was still learning about how to put together a tailored outfit—I wondered if I would ever develop the taste and knowledge that I would need in order to dress as well as I wanted. I fretted over which sport coat would go with which trousers, and which shirt and tie to select. Then the shoes.

Nowadays, because tailored clothing is becoming ever more rare, the pressure is off. I can wear a navy blazer with chinos—something I never would have considered in the 1980s because only wool trousers would have been acceptable—and I don’t have to worry about being underdressed. I still make the effort to be put together, but there’s no stress because I do so out of choice rather than necessity.

Bonus information:

The first Sears Roebuck catalogue that mentioned the word “chino” was the one for Fall 1949. The catalogue advertised Sears’ “Hercules” brand of “matched outfits” (shirt and pants were of the same color, made of Hercules’ “best army twills”). These were workwear. The pants were made of “Chino cloth” that consisted of 2-ply yarns.

The Fall 1956 Sears catalogue was the first one to use the word “chinos.” It used this plural word only once in that catalogue. Again, it was in reference to Sears’ “Hercules” cotton twill workwear. Sears called the Hercules shirts and pants “Luster Chinos,” then went back to using the singular word “chino”—

“Mix or match colors to suit yourself for work in matching or contrasting shirts and pants of Hercules Luster Chino.” Customers could select a “Luster Chino Shirt” and a pair of “Luster Chino Pants.”
Like you, I was a young man learning how to dress in the '80s and it did seem a bit overwhelming. I asked a lot of questions, bought some books and did my best - and made a lot of mistakes. I really could have used an AAAC back then. I even embraced the first steps of business casual when that meant a sport coat, shirt, tie and dress trousers on a Friday, if you didn't have an important meeting.

If, like me on many of those Fridays, you wore grey wool dress trousers, with your sport coat off, the default setting on a trading desk, few even knew you didn't have a suit on, but it still felt "easier" or "lighter" or something "fun" for Friday. But who knew back then, it was the first step on the road to today - sweats (or, even, PJs) on airplanes and jeans and T-shirts at the office.

Heck, I get how unimportant this stuff is in the big picture, and do like that the effort I make - which is meaningfully less than it was in the '80s - puts me in the category of "well dressed" by today's standard, even though I'd have been looking pretty sloppy back in the '80s if dressed this way.

But I wonder, would it be better for our society and would I even enjoy it more if we returned to those older times when you really thought about how you had to dress for, not only work, but different social events? Would it be good if you wondered "what should I wear" to this restaurant, a friend's party, the rehearsal dinner? Would I enjoy it more when you had to bring more clothes on vacation?

Separately, neat information on the introduction and evolution of the word "chino" at Sears. I'm sure you've noticed it, but just as the term "blazer" is misunderstood today, even by clothing companies, "chino" seems to be morphing into any cotton not-jean pants. The company Gustin even uses it, sometimes, to describe a hybrid jean-chino where the pants are cut jean like but in colored cottons. From memory, I think Gustin has even called a wool version of those pants chinos.
 

drpeter

Super Member
I love these comments, especially for the sub-text. What FF is hinting at, in my humble opinion, is the context within which we dress, and how that context can influence what we wear. I believe that when we wear clothes that are in line with the context within which we wear those clothes, things are harmonious, and when our clothes are not in line with context, there is a clash.

The critical aspect, however, is how we perceive context, and whether we see our clothes as being in line with context. Our perceptions of the context in which vast numbers of people wear their clothes may not be the same as theirs. In fact, they may not even have any specific perceptions of that context. Let me try to provide some examples that might clarify this line of thought.

The best example of a person wearing clothes that are in harmony with context that I can think of is Mahatma Gandhi. I've mentioned this elsewhere in this forum, but when Gandhi began his law practice in Pretoria, he dressed in natty suits and ties. In the film about him, there is a great scene where he is sitting well-dressed in a first class compartment on a train, and he is then unceremoniously thrown out of that compartment onto the railway platform in Pietermaritzburg, a station on the way to Pretoria, because those seats are only for whites. There are other scenes as well where Gandhi is in a suit and tie, fitting well within the context of being a lawyer in South Africa. As his life moves forward, Gandhi's dress becomes perfectly harmonious with context. Working with Indian peasantry, he adopts their dress, and towards the end he wears just one or two pieces of rough homespun cloth. In my opinion, this is the height of elegance, for him in that particular context. As an Indian-American, I also find it extraordinarily moving.

Other examples: University professors like myself, dressing well in casual clothes -- tweed jackets and blazers, sweaters, khakis, and grey flannels, the occasional necktie. Electricians and plumbers wearing thick cotton workshirts and denim jeans. I could go on, but the idea is clear. Context is an important determiner of clothing and when the meaning of context changes, clothes will change.

The business of bankers and traders on Wall Street changing from suits and ties to more casual clothing was driven by a change in their perceptions of their own context. The arc of the history of dressing is long, to borrow from Rev King, but it bends towards comfort. To wit, no banker or trader has worn the stiff starched shirts, celluloid collars, or frock coats that were de rigueur for a businessman in the early 20th century. And so it goes.
 
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Charles Dana

Honors Member
PART XIV—KHAKIS IN CIVILIAN LIFE, 1940-1945

By the end of the 1930s, khaki garments of one type or another had been part of the civilian world for 40 years.

From the beginning of the 1900s through the 1920s, khaki-related advertisements strongly (but by no means always) tended to specify that the clothing was for “outings” or for work (but not for school, and hardly ever for lounging around).

Those ads—explicitly touting khakis as being for outings or work—were still numerous in the 1930s. However, in that decade a lot of them simply mentioned that a store had khaki garments—generally shirts and trousers—and left it at that. Evidently advertisers by the 1930s no longer felt a big need to itemize the activities for which such clothing was most suited. People knew what to do with khakis by then.

By 1940, a further change in khaki-related ads was apparent: the word “outings”—so prevalent in such ads prior to that year—was becoming scarce. Generally, after the dawn of the 1940s, ads for khakis would either mention that they were for work, or they would not specify any particular activity for which those garments would best be worn. In any case, the word “outings” tended to be out of the ads—both before and after the United States entered World War II.

Even though this nation’s industrial clout was on a wartime footing after 1941, khakis continued to be marketed to those civilians who, for whatever reason, were not in the military. People in the civilian world needed to work, so there continued to be a market for khakis. And the makers and merchants tried to satisfy that demand as best they could.

The Sears Roebuck catalogues for 1944 and 1945 did not offer khaki trousers. The 1943 catalogue showed a work uniform consisting of trousers and a matching shirt, each made of “Army twill,” which was a drill fabric with noticeable ridges; but this catalogue, in contrast to the ones from previous years, did not contain a variety of khaki pants. (The Sears customers did not have to walk around pants-less, though: the catalogues displayed many kinds of non-khaki trousers for both work and casual settings. Later in this thread I will list some of those pants.) During the war, Sears did, however, continue to run newspaper advertisements that included khakis. One such ad is included in the examples below. I’ve also listed an ad in which Sears is selling “military khaki” by the yard.

You’ll also see the word “chino” creeping into more advertisements. When the United States entered World War II, clothing retailers got into the business of selling uniforms directly to military officers. Some clothing stores set up sub-departments that specialized in uniforms. Their products would sometimes be advertised as being made of “khaki chino.” This terminology migrated to the civilian world. (The migration had begun in the 1930s but started picking up steam in the first half of the 1940s.)

Again, I’ll remind you that to do my research, I have gained access to old Sears catalogues via Ancestry dot com and to newspapers via Proquest and Newspaper dot com. Because those companies own the copyright to the documents in their websites, I am not at liberty to reproduce the advertisements to which I refer in this thread.

Here are examples of newspaper ads showing how khaki trousers were marketed to civilians from 1940 through 1945:

January 8, 1940
Oxnard [California] Daily Courier

The Oxnard Department Store had:

Men’s Khaki Pants
Sun Tan—Vat Dyed
$1.00, and

Khaki Shirts
Sun Tan—Vat Dyed
79¢

******

February 1, 1942
Los Angeles Times

A store that sold Army surplus goods advertised:

Army Chino Trousers, $1.45
“Perfect shape—some new—probably cost the Gov’t over $5.00”

and

Army Chino Shirts, $1.45
“All perfect—some new—Khaki color—Gov’t cost probably $3.00”

and

Army Wool Trousers, $1.50
“Olive Drab—All Wool—perfect—Gov’t cost about $7.50”

******

July 30, 1942
Arcadia [ California] Tribune

Arthur’s Menshop offered the following merchandise under the heading “Overalls and Work Clothes”:

Levi’s Famous Overalls, $2.35
Levi’s Denim Jackets, $2.65
Khaki Pants (Angelus 1000 Brand), $2.65
Olive Drab Pants, $2.65
Khaki Pants (Headlight Brand), $2.95
Blue Jean Overalls, $1.89
Marine Blue Pants and “Slax,” $2.00, $2.65, and $2.95

******

January 25, 1943
San Mateo [California] Times

From a Penney’s ad:

“Whatever You’re Doing...Here’s Everything to Wear on the Job!”

“...And Work Will Win the War!”

“Victory depends on hard and effective work...by everybody who can work. Work and produce! Work to release others for production! Those are the battle-cries of the day! So the need for practical, durable clothes is growing....”

“Neat on the Job and Plenty Tough”
“Allenate Khaki Pants,” $2.29
*Sturdy Cotton
*Full Sized
*Washable
*Union Label

“Popular enough to wear most any places. Well-made—good tailoring and sized full to allow plenty of room for every kind of contortion.”

“Shirts to Match,” $2.29

[Note: This is one of the few khaki advertisements from the first 45 years of the 20th Century to suggest that khaki trousers were appropriate for general wear beyond work and outings. Sears Roebuck would also occasionally state that their khakis were for “knockabout” purposes.]

******

March 19, 1943
Long Beach [California] Independent

Desmond’s Clothing Store proclaimed:

“Work Clothes”
“These are the Best!”
“Good, solid, tough work clothes...made of long-fiber combed cotton Sun Tan Army Khaki Twill to stand all the hard knocks you’ll give it....”

Shirt, Army Khaki Twill, $2.95
Trousers, Army Khaki Twill, $3.95

******

March 29, 1943
The Bakersfield Californian

The City Mercantile Company advertised four kinds of trousers:

Lightweight gabardines in maroon, tan, navy and green, $5.45
Gabardine “slacks” in brown, $6.50
Khaki pants, Sanforized, $1.92
Khaki pants, Sanforized, $2.45

******

June 1, 1943
San Francisco Examiner

Kaplan’s (a long-time, now out-of-business Army-Navy surplus store) advertised:

Khaki pants, $1.00
Shirts, $1.00
Sailor caps, $1.00
Chauffeur caps, $1.00
Pea coats, $11.00
Logger mackinaws, $3.50
Fisherman’s pants, $3.50

******

September 16, 1943
The Bakersfield Californian had the following:

A Sears ad for fabric by the yard, including “Military Khaki,” which “makes grand shirts or trousers for boys and men,” 49¢ per yard.

******

March 23, 1944
The Shafter [ California] Press included this from Schirmer’s Department Store:

“Extra Special Prices on Men’s Work Clothing”

Khaki Chino Pants
“Fine quality Khaki Chino cloth, similar to the kind the army uses, specially well cut and tailored. Sanforized.” $2.98

Men’s Khaki Shirts, $1.39

******

June 29, 1944
From the Corona [California] Daily Independent:

A fabric store called “Corona Yard Stick” sold, among other fabrics, khaki twill, gabardine, sharkskin, rayon jersey, blue chambray, flannel, and striped shirting.

******

October 13, 1944
The Bakersfield Californian:

Sears Roebuck advertised “Work Pants” for $2.98. “Made of durable khaki-colored twill cut true-to-size for better fit. Strongly made.”


******

December 26, 1944
The Bakersfield Californian again:

Penney’s year-end sale
Men’s khaki pants, $2.29
Men’s khaki shirts, $1.98

******

April 20, 1945
Oakland Tribune
Swan’s Market (“The Home of One-Stop Shopping”)

“KHAKI For Work and Relaxing at Home”

Khaki Chino Work Pants, $3.82 and Khaki Shirts, $2.89

[The above ad is another one of those pre-1946 rarities in which a retailer states that khaki trousers are suitable for just hanging out.]

******

December 31, 1945
Oxnard [California] Press Courier

The Oxnard Army and Navy Store has:

“New merchandise arriving daily. LIMITED QUANTITY KHAKI PANTS AND SHIRTS.”

******

Next: A few stories from the first half of the 1940s
 
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