75 Years of Esquire Style

Esquire published a couple of great posts last week showcasing 75 years of their history, and thus, 75 years of menswear history. There’s a post with a bunch of old illustrations and photographs, and then some excerpts from old issues. Here’s something that reads like a mission statement from the very first one they published:

"Esquire aims to be, among other things, a fashion guide for men, but it never intends to become, by any possible stretch of the imagination, a primer for fops. We have been studying men, and men’s clothes, for many years, and we have come to the conclusion that the average American male has too much inherent horse sense to be bothered very much by a lot of dress rules that nobody but a gigolo could possibly find either time or inclination to observe. On the other hand, we feel that men have long since ceased to believe that there is anything effeminate or essentially unbusinesslike about devoting a little care and thought and study to the selection of clothes." —Founding editor Arnold Gingrich, Issue 1 

Grey and Tan

Some colors will always look good together - a rich navy with mid-grey; a chocolate brown with racing green; or a mid-grey with tan, as show above. On the left is an illustration from a 1937 edition of Esquire. One of the men here is shown combining a grey single breasted suit, most likely constructed from flannel or a tropical worsted, with an ivory shirt, a brown and tan checked foulard tie, and brown shoes. A cream Panama hat up top could finish the look. On the right, Mark Cho of The Armoury is wearing a lightly checked grey double breasted suit with a tan shantung silk tie. The white pocket square underscores his white shirt nicely. 

Whether it’s in the 1930s or today, grey suitings and tan fittings will always look right together. 

(Above photo by Mark Cho. Which, as my friend would put it, makes this Mark by Mark Cho)

The folks at Esquire’s style blog were kind enough to invite me and my friend Will Boehlke from A Suitable Wardrobe to dialogue about getting dressed and getting older. I’m 30, but my first child is on the way. Will’s in his 60s, but has been buying clothes made for him since he was a teenager.

The news hook for the piece was the President’s 50th birthday, and the editor asked if we had specific thoughts about his dress. This is what I wrote, though all but the last sentence ended up on Esquire’s cutting room floor.

When I was in high school, I worked in the Mayor’s Office in San Francisco. The Mayor, at the time, was Willie Brown, one of the country’s best-dressed politicians. Mayor Brown came to San Francisco from Texas as a laborer, worked his way through San Francisco State College (now University), and was the longest-serving speaker of the State Assembly. He was mayor for eight years and remains a powerful force in California politics, even as a private citizen.

Throughout it all, the Mayor cut a fine figure. He was certainly one of my sartorial idols as a teenager. We used to get calls and letters, though, and they often picked on the way he dressed. I remember the word “pimp” being bandied about a lot. He was often called “imperial.” I don’t think that even progressives in San Francisco were comfortable with the idea of a black guy not just being in power, but wearing his power outwardly. The fact that a man from humble roots, born into a segregated world, would choose to wear clothes that were the opposite of unassuming is still controversial in San Francisco today.

This is of course a problem for any politician, but I think for a black politician in America, it’s particularly fraught. President Obama has worked hard to cultivate an image as a cool, collected, responsible black guy. I think he actually is that guy, to a great extent, but I also think that every suit he puts on is an effort to reinforce that image. It’s a reaction to the reaction he’s come to expect from a smart black man in power. Hence the cool colors, the conservative, off-the-rack American suits and so on. Ronald Reagan could afford to be glamorous, and Obama cannot.

And yeah, some of his formal clothing choices have been awful.

I’m in Esquire! The editors there recently set up a debate between me and one of my favorite bloggers, John Lugg, and had us argue whether the summer suit is a necessity. Check out the debate here. 
Big thanks to Kurt for the opportunity, and to John for the fun exchange. 

I’m in Esquire! The editors there recently set up a debate between me and one of my favorite bloggers, John Lugg, and had us argue whether the summer suit is a necessity. Check out the debate here

Big thanks to Kurt for the opportunity, and to John for the fun exchange. 

It’s On eBay
Men in Style: The Golden Age of Fashion From Esquire
I checked this book out of the library when I was in high school. Then I lost the damn thing. Had to pay its replacement cost. Now it’s out of print and costs $200. I lose on all counts. Amazing book, though.
Buy It Now for $223.91

It’s On eBay

Men in Style: The Golden Age of Fashion From Esquire

I checked this book out of the library when I was in high school. Then I lost the damn thing. Had to pay its replacement cost. Now it’s out of print and costs $200. I lose on all counts. Amazing book, though.

Buy It Now for $223.91

PTO Pal Nick Sullivan of Esquire teams up with joins with Patrick Grant, owner of the Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons for a drive around the UK to visit the places where some of the world’s finest clothing (and the constituent parts of the world’s finest clothing) is made. Check out more at Esquire.

Via Esquire
It’s been 90+ degrees here in Los Angeles, and I’ve been hiding under a table in my non-air-conditioned apartment, wearing nothing but a cold washcloth.  Our friend Wale, though, is out in Philadelphia, looking like a million bucks.  And guess what?  He just finished taking the bar.  Congrats, Wale!
Besides that, both Wale and another regular on the blog, Rob from Brooklyn, are finalists for Esquire’s Best Dressed Real Man award.  Congrats to both - check them out at Esquire’s site.

It’s been 90+ degrees here in Los Angeles, and I’ve been hiding under a table in my non-air-conditioned apartment, wearing nothing but a cold washcloth.  Our friend Wale, though, is out in Philadelphia, looking like a million bucks.  And guess what?  He just finished taking the bar.  Congrats, Wale!

Besides that, both Wale and another regular on the blog, Rob from Brooklyn, are finalists for Esquire’s Best Dressed Real Man award.  Congrats to both - check them out at Esquire’s site.

Back when I was but a 16-year-old aspiring sartorialist, I found a copy of this book at the Civic Center library in San Francisco.  I was looking for inspiration for a prom outfit, believe it or not.  The swing thing was in full force, and the inspiration was the style of the 1930s and ’40s.  I checked the book out, and forgot to return it.  I may have found it and returned it four or five years later.  I don’t have it, now.  Which is too bad, because A) it’s amazing and B) it’s going for $400+ on Amazon.

All I Want For Christmas: Nick Sullivan

In our series All I Want For Christmas, we ask men we like what style item they’d like to get for Christmas.

Nick Sullivan is the editor of Esquire’s Big Black Book, and writes Ask Nick Sullivan for Esquire.com.  Unfortunately, Esquire.com is kind of hard to navigate, so the best link for that we can give you is this page of pieces he’s written.  He’s also a supremely nice guy, though it should be noted that we’ve extrapolated that piece of information solely from the fact he sent us a nice email about our first video.  So, what does a fashion editor want for Christmas?  Three things, as it turns out.


BRUNELLO CUCINELLI BROGUES
Just as its clothing sits in a unique niche entirely of its own making between dressy and casual,
Brunello’s soft hued brogues span the gulf between proper grown up shoes and trainers.  There is nothing hybrid about these shoes but they are extremely comfortable, and they knock the stuffing out of a suit and add they chutzpah - or whatever the italian word for it is - to jeans or khakis.

VINTAGE BARBOUR INTERNATIONAL
Less the huntin shootin fishing style of the traditional Toffs outerwear, the Barbour International was conceived for and worn as a two piece suit by motorcyclists from the 30s on and adapted for use by World War II Submarine captains, and later even up to the present day by NATO
Cut shorter and slimmer than the country coats, it also had assymmetric pockets on the chest for ease of access when astrid a BAS or Triumph.

SMART TURNOUT MILITARY SOCKS
Stripey socks are my schtick. Lurid combinations of pink and yellow, red and blue, lime green and orange. I wear them with jeans and occasionally with suits. I should point out that since I have never served in the The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, nor occupy my mis-spent youth at Eton, Harrow or Stonyhurst, I don’t technically have the slightest right but damn do I like those colors.  Somehow for me, in America, socks are ok. But ties are not.