AldenPyle

Honors Member
At the beginning there was the Brooks Brothers sack suit (1895) and polo collar shirt (1896).Of course, the sack suit had an antecedent in the French sacque which was a popular leisure or workman's suit in the USA in the 1900's and British athletes did keep their collar points down with buttons, but Brooks developed a 100% American business style. During the 1910's and 1920's, the two button sack suit and soft attached collar pushed out the European style frock coat and stiff collar as the uniform of American business. Brooks Brothers describe their innovation "the suit offers soft natural shoulders, a single-breasted jacket, and full, plain-front trousers."

Here are ads in the The Lafayette from the early 1920's.


 

AldenPyle

Honors Member
Trivia Quiz: Which iconic, fictional character from American literature graduated from Lafayette College in the early 1920's?
 

AldenPyle

Honors Member
But London was still the world's cultural capital and remained full of sartorial innovation. One important innovation was the development of the drape cut lounge suit which began to make inroads into America in the late 1920's. From the Lafayette again.


In the 1920's, there was a broad Anglophile wave among prosperous WASP's, especially in the northeastern states. Many UK sporting and country styles were imported at that time: tweed suits and Norfolk jackets (the antecedent of the sports coat), the gold buttoned double breasted navy Reefer jacket or blazer, regimental ties, flannel and covert cloth slacks etc. Read the Apparel Arts article posted by Tutee in this thread https://askandyaboutclothes.com/community/showthread.php?t=45581 (perhaps the best single AAAC post) describing university styles in 1934 (prior to the coinage of the the term "Ivy League"). The article notes that many particularly English details were in evidence including belted backs, bi-swing backs, side vents, pleats, suppressed waists and ticket pockets. It could be said that this British look had replaced the American sack suit style. Consider this ad from the 1937 Lafayette

The "correct" style of dress for the Lafayette man of 1937 was a classic example of the double breasted drape cut lounge suit.
 

AldenPyle

Honors Member
But just about then, something changed. In fall 1938, the Lafayette man found a new style waiting for him. A good old fashioned 3 button sack

Where did this come from? Well maybe we can see versions of this being advertised in the Yale Daily News in 1940 .

Now, the "correct style" is the straight hanging coat. In 1941, this ad was in the YDN.
A similar ad with the same picture ran earlier that year referred to this as a straight hanging model. Now it is the straight hanging model with natural shoulders. Of course, at J. Press it remained known by the traditional name
 

AldenPyle

Honors Member
So, the "natural shoulder style" was a digestion of all the British innovations, the tweed, the flannel, the covert cloth, but re-cut and re-styled along the lines of the Madison Avenue lines with the straight lines, the natural shoulder and the flat front trousers. Note, that pleats were the last to go. Consider this ad from The Lafayette in 1954.

Two interesting things. First, the specific reference to "not a zoot suit" which was the perjorative for the drape cut suit the same store had been sellling as "correct" in the mid-1930's. Second, pleats optional.

So that's the thesis. The natural shoulder style was a counter-reaction to the foreign elements introduced in the 1930's; keeping the good parts and returning to the traditional American style. This change was centered at Yale probably due to the sack suit loyalty of J. Press. The "Ivy League look" was a radical codification of that counter-reaction.
 
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Mannix

Super Member
I love those vintage advertisements that you all posted, they're more interesting than a lot of today's ads. Bally had some very neat looking Art Deco ads back in the day, hard to find many of them today though.
 
I noticed that some of the prices end in odd cents. We are used to seeing prices end in a 5 or a 9, but I saw some that ended in 4 or 7 for example. A penny had some value back then. One could buy a few things for a penny and a lot of things with just a few pennies.

Now that a pack of gum costs a dollar or more some places pennies are just a nuisance.

I now return you to the discussion of clothing.
 

Speas

Senior Member
Thanks for the super research AldenPyle. Very interesting.

I noticed that some of the prices end in odd cents. We are used to seeing prices end in a 5 or a 9, but I saw some that ended in 4 or 7 for example. A penny had some value back then. One could buy a few things for a penny and a lot of things with just a few pennies.

Now that a pack of gum costs a dollar or more some places pennies are just a nuisance.

I now return you to the discussion of clothing.
CPI inflation shows that $1 in 1941 is about $14 in 2007. Some of the items in the Macy's ad seem just right at that rate while some are cheap. Then again the CPI perhaps doesnt adjust well for quality on shoes. (I hate that inflation tax BTW). Something that caught my eye in the ad is the all caps IMPORTED. Today if it referenced origin at all it would say ENGLAND or ITALY or otherwise be printed [size=-5]imported[/size]
 

AldenPyle

Honors Member
When did khakis "happen"? After WWII?

What a happy primer this stuff is for me. Thank you for posting, AP!
Probably just after the war. Here is the 1949 Harvard Crimson

"The typical American college boy abroad in his tourist uniform looked something like this: He had a crew cut, khaki pants, and a seersucker coat with the green edge of a U. S. passport showing above the edge of his inside breast pocket."
 
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