Re-imagining the Shirt in the 1960s.
Men’s shirts through history have been fairly functional. They would keep a chap warm and well covered up, and particularly throughout the nineteenth century they would have been fairly voluminous with a wide straight cut, maybe with a generous shirt tail to tuck in to trousers, sometimes with detachable starched collars and cuffs. The collarless shirt, sometimes made of wool flannel, would be worn mainly by manual workers, a white or pale coloured shirt would be worn by office workers.
In the 1950s and into the 1960s, Rael-Brook was one of Britain’s largest manufacturers of men’s shirts. Their advertisements, featuring dancing shirts, were shown on the television, accompanied by the catchy musical jingo, ”Rael-Brook, Rael-Brook, the shirt for men”. Real-Brook introduced subtle stripes and soft colours, including primrose and pink to their range, to attract younger men to buy their products. In the early years of the 60s, millions of white shirts were imported from Hong Kong to Great Britain, but the younger market demanded something different. Arrow and Tootal were popular brands with the younger buyers, offering new and brighter patterns, with an emphasis on a new slimmer silhouette and innovations to the collar. Tab collars and button down collars became popular, as did pointed collars and rounded collars.
In 1963, Ben Sherman brand was born. Ben Sherman (neé Sugarman) came from the USA and started up a company making an iconic 1960s shirt. It was immediately adopted by the Mods of 1963, and later by Two-Tone and Ska followers. Like an Italian profile, the Ben Sherman shirt was a very slim fit with a square cut hem ( no bulky shirt tail!), it had a box pleat at the back, a back button and button down collar. It came in many colours and patterns. The Ben Sherman shirt was the epitome of mod fashion for British men.
In the USA, Arnold Palmer, probably the best known and best loved golfers of the 1960s, won the US Open in 1960, and created his own brand, Arnold Palmer Enterprises, a year later. From those early years, shirts were part of the Arnold Palmer range, and bore both his name and his own logo, a golfing umbrella. The Arnold Palmer shirt of the 1960s comes in a variety of colours and patterns, plains and abstract, has a sharp collar, is a slim cut, and reflects the tastes of young American Pop Culture.
Colour and pattern remained a feature of men’s shirts throughout the 1960s and into the 70s, when collars and cuffs became more exaggerated, sometimes with the addition of frills. 1960s shirt fashions remain infinitely sharp and wearable, making them highly sought after pieces of vintage clothing.
Sometimes a piece of clothing just grabs my attention and I like to find out a bit more about its provenance. And so it was with a bright red blazer that came in to my possession just last week.
It has an interesting pocket badge, embroidered with metal thread lettering, reading “Ford Wales Amateur Golf Tournament 1982, Home Internationals”, clearly a team blazer and of interest to Amateur Golfers and anyone interested in the history of Ford Motors. In 1982, Ford would have been in production at Bridgend, South Wales, I believe it was producing engines or engine parts, possibly for the Ford Focus. I find it interesting that even in the 1980s, the company would have supported its workers recreational pursuits, such as here, Golf. My understanding is that the Home Internationals, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England, had their own knock out leagues, and that Ford’s sponsorship included Small prizes for the regional tournaments, and presumably a larger prize for the final, which I understand would have been played on one of the more prestigious courses. Although I have not been able to unearth any further information, it is enough to capture my imagination, and has made me think how a piece of clothing can archive social and regional history.
Vintage classics, the gentleman’s hat.
Historically, hats were always an essential element of any man’s wardrobe. Worn to denote occupation, worn to denote class, to keep the elements at bay, to protect the wearer from missiles and blows, and to make a statement about culture, taste and style….hats were worn with pride and with dignity. In the liberal 1960s and 70s, men’s wear in general became more casual and individualised, and the classic hats of former eras fell from grace, or were worn for more limited occasions as a part of formal dress.
With the renewed interest in styles of the past, lovers of vintage, watchers of costume dramas etc., have discovered a new love of classic hats, and their many forms. A man can create a particular vintage look more effectively by including a hat in his ensemble. There are many styles to choose from, but I am particularly fond of those classic styles that can be worn by Everyman, looking stylish without looking as if in fancy dress!
The British Bowler.
I love the bowler hat, as it is quintessentially British in origin and in nature. I always associate the bowler hat with suave Patrick MacNee…Steed in The Avengers (1960s). He was the epitome of London cool sophistication in his sharp suit, with rolled umbrella and bowler hat. The bowler is a classic, created by the eponymous Bowler Brothers, William and Thomas. They were commissioned by the 19th century hat retailer Lock & Co. To create a sturdy low crowned hat for their aristocratic client Mr.Edward Coke. This was in the mid 1800s, and for the next 100 years it was a popular style with city gents and politicians. In general, the bowler hat is no longer worn by the man in the street but is still a popular choice for high society occasions. For an authentic look, the bowler should be worn with a classic suit or with a well cut overcoat, smart shoes and gloves.
The Trilby and the Fedora
These classic styles are similar, and are perhaps the most commonly worn and popular of hats, particularly in the first half of the 20th century. They were both invented in the early 1890s.
Generally made from wool felt, the Trilby has a narrow brim and an indented crown, and is usually tightly turned up at the back ( and less so at the sides). The Fedora has a wider brim, and also has an indented or pinched crown. Both usually have a hat band, often of ribbon, and may either be stiffened or soft. Right up to the 1960s these were everyman’s hats, but the Fedora in particular is associated with glamour….often worn by film stars of the era….and by gangsters!
The Trilby and the Fedora are having a revival, and in my shop there is always a lot of interest in both styles. For a touch of glamour, 1930s to 1960s style…..wear with a classic trench coat ( incidentally, it’s a style that looks great on men and equally good on women!)
The Panama and the Boater
The Panama hat and the Boater are both men’s lightweight Summer hats, originating in the 1800s. The Boater is a flat crowned, stiff brimmed straw hat, with a ribbon band, often worn by tradesmen, barbers shop quartets, and particularly by butchers. It is also the classic hat for wearing when messing about on the river…..punting or rowing. Wear it with a good striped blazer and white bags for an authentic vintage look.
The Panama hat is finely woven from palm fronds and is as flexible as the Boater is rigid. The Panama usually has a pleated or dimpled crown and a ribbon band. It is an elegant hat popularised in the movies and beloved of both screen stars and public notables. Wear it best with a lightweight linen suit.
Of course, there are many other styles of classic hats to explore and enjoy, and it’s good to see men using these vintage styles to add a touch of individualism to their outfits.
N.B. The archive Photographs of Patrick MacNee and of Maurice Chevalier are not my ©
The name Aquascutum is synonymous with quality tailoring, with elegance and tradition.
The company was set up by John Emary in 1851, the same year as the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, and started as a tailors shop in London’s Mayfair. Emary took out a patent on the first water resistant fabric, and the name Aquascutum, it’s brand name, is Latin for water shield.
Aquascutum moved premises in 1895, to Regent Street, and in 1897 received its first Royal Warrant, from the Prince of Wales. Thereafter, Aquascutum enjoyed the long and prestigious patronage of the British Royal Family, receiving six Royal Warrants in total, the last in 1952 from Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
During the Crimean war and in both World Wars, Aquascutum Made military trench coats, and was respected for both its military as well as its civil tailoring. Throughout its long history, Aquascutum dressed royalty, the military, stars of stage and screen, politicians, Everest climbers and even the 1996 British Olympic team.
Producing high quality men’s and women’s tailored coats, suits and uniforms, Aquascutum has a long history of innovation, fabric innovation and brand development that has earned it a particular place in British fashion and social history. Aquascutum was sold to YGM Holdings, a Chinese Company in 2012 after floundering in the early part of the 21st century.
During the 1940s 50s and 60s, a well dressed man would complete his outfit with a good quality woollen overcoat. This would be a capacious garment, cut to fit over the jacket of a suit. It was generally a well tailored garment and ideally would be made to measure, although “off the peg” became more commonplace, with gents outfitters able to make alterations where needed to a ready made garment. Overcoats from the first half of the twentieth century often have weatherproof finishes, satin or silk linings, and generous pockets. They may be double breasted, echoing the style of the war time trench coat, or single breasted, which generally sits better over a suit. They may have set in sleeves or raglan sleeves. Fabrics would usually be thick and dense wool weaves, in tweeds, checks or plaids, with colours and styles suitable for both town and country.
Buying a vintage overcoat is a great investment, as a quality new overcoat bought from a tailor today will set you back the upwards side of £600, whilst a good vintage coat may be picked up for under £200. Check the label, as it will give you information about the maker and the fabric composition. Some labels will instantly indicate a high quality garment, e.g Aquascutum, Gieves & Hawkes, Jaeger, Mackintosh, Austin Reed. Other labels may offer a local connection, e.g.made for a particular gentleman’s outfitter in a certain town.
Make a note of your own measurements, and compare them with the vintage item. The overcoat is designed to wear over a jacket, so it will be quite roomy. You may need to add a few inches to your own chest measurement for ease. Check both the sleeve length and the width across the shoulders. Nape of neck to hem will give you the length, which may be well below the knee, just below the knee, or a ¾ “car coat” length, which can be worn quite casually. The width from armpit to armpit , when doubled, gives you the chest measurement plus an allowance for ease of wear over your other clothes. Look at the overall condition of the coat. In particular, look for signs of wear at the cuffs, and pocket tops, which can become thin, check inside pocket linings for any tears or rips, and the lining, particularly under the arms and along the back seam, as this is where you will seem most signs of wear and tear. Any small defects can be repaired, such as missing stitching on a lining seam, or an odd missing button. If you are buying on-line, don’t be reluctant to ask for extra measurements or details from the seller. If you are a careful buyer, you will be able to add a high quality coat to your wardrobe, and will be able to wear it proudly for many years to come.
Please note the Aquascutum illustration and 1950s advert are not my own ©️
I believe that the string vest was first brought into being in the mid 1930s by a Norwegian army officer, Henrik Brun. It was designed on the principal that it’s string net structure would trap heat in winter and allow the body to breathe in summer. String underwear was marketed for its athletic and health benefits and had its heyday perhaps in the 1950s. I certainly associate it with “kitchen sink dramas”, brooding young men in cinematic poses, and the memory of these iconic garments drying on a clothes horse in front of an open fire in our 1950s family home! Although it’s popularity dwindled at the end of the 1960s and died a death in the 1970s, we can still summon the vision of famous string vest wearer Rab C Nesbitt (played by the talented Gregor Fisher) in the 1980s!
Here is some authentic 1950s string underwear from the shop….perfect for costume purposes, AmDram, dressing up etc. Note the title “Tarzan”. Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan in films popular through from the 1930s and 40s to the 1950s when they were often screened in afternoon matinées in British cinemas.
(The Strutts Health Vest cotton ad is period marketing and I am unable to credit the photographer.)
Its January, and I have been restocking the shelves at Coolclobber. Today I added more beautiful vintage headsquares, some more pre-decimal wallets and a fabulous red leather Italian handbag.
January is a great time to take stock of your wardrobe. Take things out, try things on, try out different combinatigons and accessories. Whether you like full on vintage or just a few vintage details, it’s a good time for planning and for buying. Revamp your wardrobe and look forward to the Spring!
We have a great selection of pre-decimal leather wallets in stock.
There is free Postage on U.K. orders over £30 from December 28th until the end of January 2018.
Now is a great time to think ahead to the New Year, and to Springtime. At Coolclobber there are plenty of warm coats and jackets for the current season, as well as glitzy gear to take you through the party season. There are hundreds of cool vintage items in stock , including a fine selection of handbags, gloves and headsquares.
This classic 1970s black leather biker vest is a recent addition to the shop. It will fit a medium/large , and is complete with loads of pockets, a cotton lining and various straps to adjust the fit. Visit the shop for full details.
Deréta is a great English label to look out for. This fab two piece suit is in pure wool and has a brown taffeta lining to both the waistcoat and the skirt. From the 1960s, this look was really popular for the “girl about town” or for office wear and could be teamed with coloured tights and Mary Ann strap shoes, or with little boots. Under the top you could wear a nylon turtle neck ( as shown), a skinny rib sweater or a fitted shirt. As with all vintage of this era, it is best to check actual measurements with your own as label sizing is quite different then and now. This is labelled as a size 14, but is more like a 12 with a smallish waist!
A bit random…..Traditional Academic robe by Ede & Ravenscroft. This style is graduate attire for Bachelor awards. It has a fluted back falling from a stiffened yoke and stiffened fronts and it has bell sleeves. All details in the shop.