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.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.
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.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.
Really, really good stuff as always.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:
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.”
Sweat shirts, gym pants, gym uppers, athletic jerseys, baseball uniforms, swimming trunks, tights, sweat pants, football pants
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
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.
Men’s khaki twill trousers of medium weight. Sizes 30-44. “Well tailored.” $1.00
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
“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.
“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