So I have been thinking on this for a little while.  I am completely against the idea that to be a proper man, we must dress like they did 100 years ago.  I hate the entire notion of a tie.  My suit stays in the closet with the exception of most respectable events(pretty much weddings and funerals, may there be many of the former; few of the later).

 

The question that keeps coming into my mind is why did they dress up more back then.  You saw them in nice pants for even the most mundane of tasks.  Going out, you saw a nice jacket in the least. 

 

I can only honestly come up with two possible answers.

 

1)  There was more respect in self and others to be your best and look your best.

 

2)  There just weren't the options for different types of clothing, it wasn't economically feasable to get them to the masses affordably, and therefor you got what little was offered.

 

I would heavily come down on the second option.  The reason you see the guys dressed like that is that was all the really had.  Seriously, for the most part they looked the same.  Then added with cost of the clothes, you would take a lot more pride in how you wore them and cared for them.

 

I would willingly bet that if they had our options for variety of styles mixed with the widespread affordability, those ol' timey pictures would be radically different.

 

That, or I am just rationallizing for hating to get dressed up.

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Guess it is just you and me brother.
You're assuming that proper clothing can't be comfortable, which is far from the truth.

Properly fitting clothing is as comfortable as everythign short of pajamas. The problem is that too many men don't understand the value of clothing -they're happy to buy cheap, ill-fitting garbage made of inferior materials and are surprised that it's not comfortable. This should be self evident.

A Kia Spectra does not drive as well as a VW Golf, which doesn't drive as well as a BMW 3 series.
I agree. I happen to think that a nice fitting pair of slacks is more comfortable than jeans, hands down.
My responses are below in bold.


So I have been thinking on this for a little while. I am completely against the idea that to be a proper man, we must dress like they did 100 years ago. I hate the entire notion of a tie. My suit stays in the closet with the exception of most respectable events(pretty much weddings and funerals, may there be many of the former; few of the later).

This is a shame, sir. We do not dress like 100 years ago - the Lounge suit only had its birth in the early part of the 19th Century. Before that it was frock coats, morning dress, black tie, and white tie. Proper hats were everywhere. Men wore real shoes.

In fact, it used to be more formal to wear an odd coat and trousers than a suit - it showed that you had enough money to throw around that you could afford two different fabrics, rather than just one.




The question that keeps coming into my mind is why did they dress up more back then. You saw them in nice pants for even the most mundane of tasks. Going out, you saw a nice jacket in the least.

I can only honestly come up with two possible answers.

1) There was more respect in self and others to be your best and look your best.

2) There just weren't the options for different types of clothing, it wasn't economically feasable to get them to the masses affordably, and therefor you got what little was offered.

I would heavily come down on the second option. The reason you see the guys dressed like that is that was all the really had. Seriously, for the most part they looked the same. Then added with cost of the clothes, you would take a lot more pride in how you wore them and cared for them.

You are largely incorrect.

Much of men's style is grounded in convention, history, and respect for others.

First, most men did not look the same. This is like saying that all 4 wheeled mid-sized sedans look the same. They all are based around the concept of a box with wheels. But styles vary widely after that point.

Men's clothing is quite similar. Myriad fabric types, weave patterns, stylistic difference in cut and structure - they are not at all the same.

Moreover, there was a element of respect in dress. Whereas the uncouth of today think they they need impress no one and are offended at establishment's dress codes, previously men would dress in their finest as a show of respect to others.

This is typifed in the English gentry. Certain cloths (flannels, worsteds) we appropriate only for city wear. Others (tweeds) were only for country, and noonebut a bumpkin would wear a tweed in the city. Dinner dress typicall consisted of a black tailcoat, waistcoat, and trousers, with a stiff shirt and collar, bow tie, and polished black pumps or oxfords. To be dressed otherwise was an insult to your host. Formal dress was white tie. Again, to go to a formal event dressed even in black tie was wholly inapproprate. For a fantastic example of this in action, see Jeeves and Wooster, starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, back before he was House.

Today, especially in the selfish "me-first, everyone else and convention be dammed" America, this has largely gone to pot. I am thoroughly disgusted with the attitude of those who appear to public events in disgusting sweatpants and t-shirts with the mindset "I don't have to impress anyone." It's a vile, juvenile argument that has little pace in proper society.




I would willingly bet that if they had our options for variety of styles mixed with the widespread affordability, those ol' timey pictures would be radically different.

A lot of men's dress was practical. Remember - no washing machines, no central heat.

Fashion evolves. The stylistic conventions varied year by year. What began as a working man's hat, the Derby/Bowler, soon became relegated to a hat or the aristocracy or pure costume by this point today.

Moreover, clothing construction was a very different animal in those days. Much clothing was custom made, invoking a higher initial cost, but also making each garment unique. Of course, there were fewer options as clothing was a different animal, not nearly as cheap and disposable as today (an exception is socks, which used ot be intended for wear only a few times before they were to be discarded).

And you must also consider that shirts today are far different than back then. First, a shirt used to be considered a UNDERGARMENT, thus showing any more shirt than cuffs and collar was improper. This is part of the reason 3 piece suits used to be so ubiquitous, as was the lack of internal heat, and the general rule that a gentleman never removes his coat.

Also, shirts used to be constructed with detatchable collars and cuffs. Washing was significantly more difficult back then. Thus, a man might wear a shirt several times before washing, but would changed out his cuffs and collar to keep them clean. A relic of this exists in proper formalwear, but shirts nowadays are so easily manufactured and washed that it's a waste to most people/manufacturers to have detachable collars/cuffs.




That, or I am just rationallizing for hating to get dressed up.

You are rationalizing. Man up, get a suit that fits properly, some decent shirts and ties, and some polished shoes.

I also recommend that you do some reading on the history of men's clothing. The subject is quite interesting, and perhaps you'll find youself with a sense of nostalgia for the day when men took pride in ther appearance, rather than dressing as slobs at their leisure.
Moreover, there was a element of respect in dress. Whereas the uncouth of today think they they need impress no one and are offended at establishment's dress codes, previously men would dress in their finest as a show of respect to others.

I'm a tie guy. I feel much more comfortable in one, and I wear them to work on Mondays (minimum!), even though the office is "business casual," the definition of which has never been established. I can't tell you how many people made comments for the first year about weddings, funerals, job interviews and the like as a reason for a tie. I would just tell them "Nope, just Monday. Look your best, set the tone for the week."

I wore a tie yesterday as well. Now the comments include "Hey, it's not Monday!" But more disturbing was the friendly discussion I had with someone about rejecting the company culture. (I wasn't casual enough, so I wasn't really "one of them.")

How far have we come as a society when we discourage our peers from looking their best?


I also recommend that you do some reading on the history of men's clothing. The subject is quite interesting, and perhaps you'll find youself with a sense of nostalgia for the day when men took pride in ther appearance, rather than dressing as slobs at their leisure.


Any recommendations? I just picked up a copy of Flusser's Dressing the Man, but would be interested in more history as well.
To me, business casual is odd coat and trousers, tie, collared shirt. I realize that i am a relic in this world where business casual really means "frat wear," e.g. polos and cargo khakis.

I applaud you for your efforts!

Any of Flusser's are excellent.

"The Suit" by Nicholas Antongiovanni is a humorous look at men's dress history as well as a parody of "The Prince."
Are you implying that I am less of a man, for sticking with the clothing that I do, what fits me as the man that I am. That I should force myself into a mold that is in no way, any reflection of who I am, so that I fit your ideal with the perfect polished shoes and the perfect suit and tie?

Is my job, is the way I live my life unsatisfactory as well, or should they all conform to your ideal?

I ask, as I honestly would say that with the options in clothing, that I am further advanced, I am further a model of a man, as I can pick and choose what is best for my environment. I have no need for a perfect suit, nor shoes. There is nothing in my life that requires it more then on the odd occasion. I find no need for a tie, and therefor, choose as a man, to keep it out of my life.

I would also argue that your entire arguement is based solely around the trappings of the aristicratic history rather then that of the common everyday man.
The challenge at the end of my first post was more of a rhetorical "Man Up," rather than an actual suggestion of a lack of manliness, just as much of this site speaks to traditional rhetorical manliness.

I realize that it's impractical, if not impossible for many men to dress in a coat/tie/trousers at their professions. But that said, there's an attention to detail and pride in appearance that comes with it.

Can one be said to have pride in their sweatpants, oo to consider that appropriate wear to dine at a non-Applebees style restaurant? I would argue not.

I likewise choose what's best for me. I don't slog slop in a tailcoat. Nor do I wear one to work. But it's important that a man knows what's approprate for civil society in every situation.

If you have no need for it, then more power to you. I do have need for it at work, and frankly I enjoy men's clothing as a hobby.

Re: you final statement - I challenge you to look at pictures form the early 1900s through the 60s. Even the "common man," as you pen, knew how, where, and when to dress appropriately. This went to pot with the rise of Generation X, the "me" generation, and the California Tuxedo-ization (aka sloppy dress) of the DotCom era.


But in leisure and pleasure, it's often enjoyable to up the ante and dress properly when going out.
Mr. Shields:
Me thinks' the lady doth protest to much.
Respectfully, I say for your consideration, it sounds like you are avoiding confronting body image issues with yourself more than anything else.
It has been my experience that the vast majority of the time that Men whine and bemoan coming off dapper, it is because they are out of their element, self conscious and unsure about how they appear to others when dressed in a manner so foreign to themselves.
It is more emotionally comfortable to be slovenly in familiarity than it is to take on the challenges that a sharper wardrobe brings with it.
There is also an instinctual fear of what sort of Males you will now be competing with, should you dress like those Males who are most likely farther up the socio-economic food chain than yourself. Getting in to a suit, for the Man not accustomed to it, is not unlike the suburban boy swimming in to water to deep to see the bottom for the first time. He knows there is something there. He just is not entirely sure what, and how it will react to his presence.
I must agree. Here is something I have noticed, very few men look good in casual clothing, yes you will find individuals who can rock the t-shirt and jeans, but they either work really hard in the gym or are gifted genetically. The suit adds masculine form to a man. In a proper suit a portly man looks thinner and a skinny individual looks broader. Do me a favor, grab some pictures of some holly wood individuals, the older ones, not the younger ones. Compare them in casual attire versus suited attire, and you will find they always look better in their suits.
I agree with "needing to take pride in your appearance." However, you can still look clean and nice, in a T-shirt and jeans, especially if you can't wear "regular" clothes. For example, being in a wheelchair, my choices are limited in pants I can wear. I have to wear sweatpants, but there are some very nice ones. If I dress down, it's scruffy ones. If I dress up, it's a really nice pair. I may wear anything from an old T-shirt, to a Polo Shirt, to a button down collar shirt. With very great reluctance I will wear a tie, after 12 years of school, and 3 1/2 years on a "professional" job.
I agree that well made clothes fit better, and are worth it. The problem is that few can afford a full, custom made outfit, to wear every day. The major thing is to wear clean, well fitting (not too loose or too tight), clothing. Beyond that, have an attitude appropriate to the occasion as a man. That means the "nose in the air," or "I'm slumming," attitude is almost never right.
The person in T-shirt and jeans at a "fancy party," either doesn't belong there, or is rich/important enough to not care. Bill Gates doesn't have to "dress up," to impress anyone. Neither do Warren Buffet, Steven Spielburg, or George Lucas. People that are easily impressed by the way you dress, are not going to be especially worthwhile. Dressing up for a job interview is, but not how you dress at parties.
Shallow people are impressed by how you dress, not what you are. In business there is a thing called "branding." It means what people think of you, your company, and your products. How you dress, can be part of that, but only a small part. If you dress "black tie," all the time, but look and feel like a monkey in a clown suit, you will impress no one. OTOH, if you dress in a nice Polo (or Golf) shirt, neat jeans, or in my case sweatpants, and feel completely at home, you can impress almost anyone. That includes clean, well trimmed hair, a neat beard and mustache (if you have them), and don't look like a hardware drawer exploded in your face.
My point is that no matter what you wear, the same standards apply. The exception is, if you can't help what you wear. If the car breaks down on the way to the banker/investor/future Father in Law, and you get dirty fixing it, explain. Now, if you're one of the Wright Brother types. and you take a few minutes in the middle of getting an anti gravity vehicle running, for a meeting/tour, you won't be in a suit. :-)
I think a better question is "why don't we still dress like that now?" And what I mean by "like that", I mean respectable. As Leo pointed out, due to changes in technology, etc, the need for certain articles of clothes (such as removable collars and heavier everyday wear for cold houses) is gone. Also, modern society has us wearing clothes that were unnecessary a century or two ago (such as bike leather for motorcyclists).

I think what changed is that we no longer care about how we present ourselves to each other. I also think that this is a Western phenomena. Go to the poorer parts of Asia or Latin America and you will see people poorer than anything you can imagine and they will be better dressed than you. You will be in hot Central American sun with dust and dirt all around and you will see people dressed in long white pants and suits. White! Meanwhile you will see Western tourists wearing next to nothing or perhaps wearing ill-fitting shorts and Hawaiian shirts.

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