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
All meant in fun and as a compliment as your own-initiative and unpaid impressive work is much appreciated.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!
INTERLUDEYou 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.
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.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
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.”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.
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.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.
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.”