Posted on

Never underestimate the power of what you wear

Suits, in the beginning thought to originate from the seventeenth century.  A costume nightmare of long coats, waistcoats, cravats, breeches, stockings and of course wigs.  Legend or fact, before re-ascending the throne, King Charles while exiled to European travels was impressed by the various Courts of Europe, particularly the Parisian’s and their dressing splendor.  By decree King Charles is said to have set executive standards of dress.  Thus, assumed either by the decree or influence of the Kings dress, also the British Court’s fashion of the day.

Beau Brummell, a nineteenth century cosmopolitan fellow by nature, rejected the fuss of dressing in favor of a simpler elegance, designing a fitted two-piece ensemble, jacket and trousers of matching fabrics (todays suit).  Absent nobility, yet an original dandy, and somehow a mover and shaker of nineteenth century English court life,  could not help, but  to be noticed by society’s elite.  His appealing style, befriended by the Prince (who would become King George 1V), understood the look as an understated statement of confidence and standing.  A statement in which resonates as well today.

From these prehistory beginnings American colonist certainly aware of the fashion, continued to be influenced by a more evolved European society.  As such the Beau Brummell creation of what was known as a lounge suit, a casual garment for the elite and dressed-up for the working class soon became a symbol of American establishment.  Easy to wear, the suit offered a polished and professional appearance to all.  The suit today, generally consider worn as an expression of more serious intentions and respect for one’s workplace or host.  An elevated level of dress, second only to evening formal (Tuxedo) or State Affairs (Tails). 

However, changes in the form of the suit have been many.  To be sure the fashion industry, has on occasion made mistakes in suit design (we will address this another time), but more often changes in suit design represent the cultural sensibilities of the day: the industrial age, the roaring twenties, the golden age of cinema, the war years, 50’s conformity, the last impactful design changes 80’s materialism, the dressing down plague, and the costumed new millennium…super skinny 60’s rocker style, Thom Browne’s Pee-Wee Herman tribute, Mad Men cloning, the introduction of the elegance of Northern Italy (thank goodness), and the overzealous personal style extending  competition to off the floor.  Changes today, more subtle…the current prevailing trend, like it or not a tighter fitting suit.  That too will likely change.

But rest assured despite the threats from fashion and a continuing dressing down plague, the strength and commanding presence of this iconic fashion endures.  Welcome to the social contract by which we all should understand, not obligated, but unwritten rules for dress that quite simply offer a bit more joy to life.  Never underestimate the power of what you wear.  It pays to dress well.

Posted on

Our Thoughts, History of the Navy Blazer

Debate if you will the origin of one of our most enduring styles, the navy blazer… whether the romantic story of Queen Victory reviewing the crew of the  HMS Blazer; so inspired by the dapper nature of the crew in their dark navy tailored woolen jackets with shiny brass buttons…declared on the spot, henceforth the jacket style be known as a blazer.  Ultimately this standardized dress worn by Officers in the British Royal Navy is credited to have evolved from something of a style competition between crews of the HMS Blazer and Harlequin Navy ships out of frustration by the Captains with the otherwise sloppy dress of their crew.

Or, you may ascribe the origin to the more generally accepted historically accurate account tracing the name to the bright (blazing) red jackets worn by members of the rowing club at St. Johns College, Cambridge, England.  Worn for warmth, but moreover to identify rowers of a team competing in regattas.  Call it fast fashion of the day, the jackets blazing of color so nicknamed “blazers” are soon worn daily as a status symbol of membership and accomplishment.  Some believe the predecessor to the Letterman’s jacket…hence an historical debate.  A Naval origin or sporting, nevertheless, can we agree, both come from water.

Without debate, American style at the turn of the century is heavily influenced by our British allies, the blazer too was no exception.  Most prominently influenced, an American aristocracy, and thus those who aspired to such standing also influenced.  First appearing on American shores during the great depression the blazer was embraced by only those who could, the pre-eminent Brooks Brothers and the unspoken training ground for future American elite, the Ivy League.  The blazer rapidly became “de rigueur” fashion for the privileged of the day and for those outside this elite group, a symbol of perhaps belonging.

So, here we are today…the blazer a renaissance of attire, true classicism surely endures.  We would suggest, preferably a deep rich navy, fabrics for each season or for all seasons, distinctive, purposeful button choices, and always well-tailored.  Wear with a jean should you feel creative, a knit tie, if so influenced by Italian artisans, or a timeless expression, grey flannels, dress shirt and appropriate blazer striped neckwear for more serious intentions.

Again, debate if you will the origin, the pretense, the conformity and move beyond.  Be wise, a blazer always should hang in your wardrobe, ready to ease you gracefully through society’s travels.  If absent, welcome back for one simple reason:  nothing looks better.    

Posted on

Let Them Wear Scarves

Scarves have been worn since ancient times. evidence found in writings, images and statues. historians tell us.  Historical research determined (the Sudarium, Latin for sweat cloth) worn around the neck, or tied on the belt served to towel perspiration for hygiene through cleanliness, maintaining health and preventing disease.

Much later historians believed the scarf was utilized as a uniform accessory to identify officers rank.  (Cravats) the precursor to the present-day necktie a more formal design of the scarf and prominent in military uniforms around the world share the same purpose as well as a detail in formal military dress in the US.  It is this very identification purpose which Britain adopted similarly as traditional sporting wear as a show of support to the local athletic team.  And by extension could be argued has led to a billion-dollar sports apparel industry.   

Many more uses have surfaced over the years.  Most notably the use of scarves (also known as mufflers) in cold weather climates.  Generally, a thick yarned knitted scarf made of heavy wool tied around the neck and or wrapped around the face and ears for cover from the cold.

Drier, dustier climates where many airborne contaminants exist, a kerchief or bandana is often worn as protection for the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as a protector from harmful rays of the sun and heat.  

Religion also plays a defining role.  Christian denominations include a scarf known as a stole, part of the Liturgical vestments. And, earlier social customs preferred the wearing of head scarves as a modest symbol as well as determining marital status.  Many Western religions today although varied, as a matter of law, require headscarves for both men and women as part of a religious service, prayer and a prevailing social culture expecting a display of modesty by wearing the headscarf.

It is these customs that overtime, scarves evolved into fashionable accessory as a choice for dress rather than a cultural demand.  And, by the twentieth century have become an essential accessory detail for the well dressed, both men and women.

Scarves are varied in size from just long and wide enough to wrap around the neck, to cover both neck face, ears and head, to small blanket sized for stoles and shawls.  Fabrics are solids and patterns, plain or jacquard knitted and woven by machine or hand, made of the most common fabrics to the most luxurious cottons, linens, silks and wools and generally found in three shapes triangle, square or rectangle.  These fabrics, rather than only a knitted or woven design, are also printed.  Prints, a more expensive process, are most often found in women’s couture silks.

As antiquity speaks to the intent and usefulness of the scarf, could there be any better use than for today’s health challenge?  Rather than leaving the house, uncomfortable with the surgical mask, please donate and opt for a more fashionable choice; grab your favorite scarf.  Whether sartorial choices, uniformed expectations, religious and social symbolism or healthy practices…” let them wear scarves”.