Fashion of the 1930s at the FIT Museum

Curator G. Bruce Boyer says that modern fashion began in the 1930s. His new exhibit, at the FIT Museum in New York, is “Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s.” Director Ben Harrison talked with Boyer at the posh opening party for the exhibit, and the curator drew the line between the Victorian and Edwardian fashions that still prevailed through the 1920s, and the strikingly contemporary styles of just a decade later.

The exhibit features vintage examples, ranging from evening clothes to trench coats to Fred Astaire’s shoes. In the early 30s, America was tightening its belt, but contemporary style was just getting started.

The exhibition runs through April 19th at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

"Today, of course, the unrefined type is exactly what is wanted: the classically cool look of working-class nonchalance. No designer collection would be complete without denim jeans, black leather jackets, and T-shirts. But in the hands of [designers], the black leather jacket—reproduced in every detail though it may be—is a mere shadow of its former self in terms of its ability to threaten or even show moderate disdain for social norms. The outlaw iconography has been diluted to the point of mere role-playing. Like wearing purposefully distressed jeans, or army camouflage fatigue pants for casual urban wear that today is favored by fashionistas, these rebellious symbols now speak ironically of their former power… the rebels have moved on.”
-G. Bruce Boyer sort of calling all of us out, from Rebel Style. Photo: Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
-Pete

"Today, of course, the unrefined type is exactly what is wanted: the classically cool look of working-class nonchalance. No designer collection would be complete without denim jeans, black leather jackets, and T-shirts. But in the hands of [designers], the black leather jacket—reproduced in every detail though it may be—is a mere shadow of its former self in terms of its ability to threaten or even show moderate disdain for social norms. The outlaw iconography has been diluted to the point of mere role-playing. Like wearing purposefully distressed jeans, or army camouflage fatigue pants for casual urban wear that today is favored by fashionistas, these rebellious symbols now speak ironically of their former power… the rebels have moved on.”

-G. Bruce Boyer sort of calling all of us out, from Rebel Style. Photo: Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.

-Pete

"Well, the ubiquitous uniform nowadays seems to call for cargo shorts, T-shirt and hyper-designed running shoes. It’s a decent enough look, I suppose, if your only goal is comfort. And all those expandable pockets do come in handy for all the stuff—water bottle, latest iPad or iPhone, keys, antidepressant medication—so many of us seem to cart around with us these days."
-G. Bruce Boyer on shorts in The Rake. Photograph of George C. Marshall on the porch of his summer cottage at Fire Island, 1939.

"Well, the ubiquitous uniform nowadays seems to call for cargo shorts, T-shirt and hyper-designed running shoes. It’s a decent enough look, I suppose, if your only goal is comfort. And all those expandable pockets do come in handy for all the stuff—water bottle, latest iPad or iPhone, keys, antidepressant medication—so many of us seem to cart around with us these days."

-G. Bruce Boyer on shorts in The Rake. Photograph of George C. Marshall on the porch of his summer cottage at Fire Island, 1939.

Ivy League Style in 25 Items Or Less

There’s a lovely new book called Ivy Style based on the Ivy Style exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I’ve been reading it, and besides the glorious illustrations and vintage advertisements featured throughout, one of the things that struck me was G. Bruce Boyer’s description of a college wardrobe in the Ivy era. What’s remarkable about it is that with some very modest tweaks (white bucks aren’t exactly standard issue these days), it could fly for most young men even today, fifty years later.

Six shirts, three white and three blue, and two or three pair of khakis would do the job. In cooler weather, a Shetland crewneck sweater in any color was added. A pair of brown penny loafers and white tennis sneakers (possibly a pair of white or tan buckskin oxfords) constituted the acceptable range of footwear. For outerwear, a cotton gabardine balmacaan raincoat (always tan), and a stout duffel coat (in tan or navy) were all that were needed, although many men also had a cotton gab golf jacket, also in tan… everyone had a tweed sports jacket (Harris or Shetland) and/or a navy single-breasted blazer for semi-dress, and a gray flannel suit for dress. Summer semi-formality was assured with a seersucker or tan poplin suit, some had madras sports jackets, for the more formal occasions a dark gray or navy tropical worsted suit. A half-dozen ties (regimentals, foulards or dots), and the necessary compliment of underwear, socks, pajamas and handkerchiefs filled out the basics.

That’s a pretty solid capsule wardrobe. Sadly, no crazy boating blazers, beer suits or raccoon coats.

Who knew that between all the pictures of Sylvester Stallone humping a hummer or whatever, Cigar Afficianado had the great G. Bruce Boyer writing for them about classic style? Worth checking out.

This segment with G. Bruce Boyer is one of my favorite pieces from S2 so far. Bruce is a sartorial hero.

PTO Man: G. Bruce Boyer

In this special bonus preview for Season Two of the menswear series Put This On, writer G. Bruce Boyer talks about his distinctly rumpled style. He says the clothes you wear are an armor against the slings and arrows of life, and you should enjoy them.

"You play to your strengths, you know? And my strengths happened to be rumpled."

G. Bruce Boyer’s latest book is Gary Cooper: Enduring Style.

Season Two of Put This On premieres March 13th at PutThisOn.com, along with the DVD of Season One.

Directed by Benjamin Ahr Harrison
Executive Producers Adam Lisagor & Jesse Thorn
Producer Andrew Yamato
Director of Photography Ryan Samul
Sound Andrew Reardon

Special thanks to Leonard Logsdail

Not only has Drake’s started a Tumblr, it’s being authored by one of menswear’s greatest writers, G. Bruce Boyer. Oh… and they announced a line of jackets, which look like a British take on the unstructured, soft-shoulder, patch-pocketed Neopolitan style so popular at the moment. Gorgeous.

Not only has Drake’s started a Tumblr, it’s being authored by one of menswear’s greatest writers, G. Bruce Boyer. Oh… and they announced a line of jackets, which look like a British take on the unstructured, soft-shoulder, patch-pocketed Neopolitan style so popular at the moment. Gorgeous.

“Perfection must never be the goal because it can never be achieved. One who courts perfection must fail, since we are all only human, but to achieve a nicety without appearing to have even tried is another matter. It leads us to wonder what grand design might have been accomplished had the effort been made. The nature of sprezzatura is deception.” —  G. Bruce Boyer, in Eminently Suitable
WSJ: How to Get the Bespoke Suit That Fits
Featuring G. Bruce Boyer and MistahWong.

WSJ: How to Get the Bespoke Suit That Fits

Featuring G. Bruce Boyer and MistahWong.