The US Government Guide to Shirts

Apparently, if the internet were around in the mid-20th century, the US Government would have had a great menswear blog. Not too long ago, our friend CrimsonSox found a US government guide to quality suits, originally published in 1949. Today, he found a government guide to quality shirts, originally published by the US Department of Agriculture in 1939.

Like with the guide to suits, there’s some advice in here that’s still useful and some that’s a bit outdated (although, still fun to read). It’s still true, for example, that dress shirts are generally considered better made if they have mother-of-pearl buttons and fabrics woven in high thread counts. The section on detachable collars, on the other hand, is pretty much useless since shirts almost only come with attached ones these days. Back when this guide was published, men still had a choice between the two, and the advantage of detachable collars was two fold. First, you could just wash the part that most easily got soiled, rather than washing the whole shirt. Second, you wouldn’t have to throw your entire shirt away once the collar got frayed. Those advantages, of course, are pretty much moot as shirts have become cheaper and laundering easier.

My favorite piece of anachronistic advice might be the bit about how men should look for full cut shirts. The guide does make an exception, however. As it notes, “some brands of shirts are made especially for slender men, and should not be confused with cheap, skimped garments.” Thank you, US government, for acknowledging my existence.

Lastly, as with the guide to suits, there’s a nice section in here on fabrics. If you’ve ever wondered what’s the difference between broadcloth, oxford, chambray, etc., this is a good place to start. Just note that madras today mostly refers to the very colorful plaids that come out of India, not the plain stuff shown here.

Before They Were Nightclubs

Before they turned into pseudo-nightclubs, Abercrombie & Fitch stores used to be where adventurers and outdoorsmen would get their gear. Above are some rare images from 1913. Taken from the Museum of the City of New York’s archives, and found via my friend CrimsonSox. 

Motoring Style

Despite having no motorcycle of my own — or even my own car, for that matter — I’ve been really into leather motorcycle jackets lately. Above are two photos from one of my favorite StyleForum members, CrimsonSox. He has a knowledge of classic men’s clothing that’s not matched by many people.

The first photo is from Vanity Fair, and shows a version of a motoring outfit in 1907 (check out the goggles). I imagine this was probably worn in open top cars, but one of the interesting things I recently learned was that motorcyclists at the beginning of the 20th century wore a coat and tie when they rode. Something perhaps not too different from this. Some men had leather jackets custom made for them (mostly styled after aviation jackets, such as the A1), but the idea that you really needed serious protective gear (i.e. a real, dedicated motorcycle jacket) didn’t come until the 1930s or 1940s, when motorcycle performance started improving and more men rode them. 

Anyway, the second photo is of a Brooks Brothers store in 1915. Apparently the second floor was used for their “motor clothing department” (clothes to be worn on motorcycles or open-top unheated cars).The first paragraph reads:

We have a complete assortment of everything in the way of clothing, furnishings, and accessories for automobile use, and are prepared to furnish anything in this line in the fashions now practically settled, and deemed correct, many of them being of our own exclusive design.

The idea that you could walk into Brooks Brothers in 1915 and buy a motorcycle jacket — one that was “in the fashions now practically settled, and deemed correct” — is just really, really awesome to me. 

Oh, and Voxsartoria has an even higher resolution image of that second photo. 

(Photos via CrimsonSox’s Twitter)