Friday, October 5, 2012

Fa Fa Fa Fa Fashion

A couple of things that have been on my mind....

Why do men's dress shoes have distinct heels?  Look at women's flats.  There are shoes with distinct heels, with heels that sort of just join the soles, with no heel at all, with any sort of transition betwen heel and sole.  But men's dress shoes always have a sole that goes the length of the shoe and a heel tacked on.

Why?  Frankly, a little more variety would make it easier for me to buy "passable" women's shoes.  So there is a bit of self-interest here.

What happened in the early 1800s?
Look at a painting of a group of men  from colonial America.  (Or this reproduction from a performance of 1776).  Men are wearing wigs or powdered wigs, the stockings over the pants, long coats, vests....  Now look at a photograph of men, just being men, not wearing costumes or period clothing.  Long coats took a while to go out of style, but I don't recall seeing any photographs from the Civil War of men in powdered wigs.  And it seems to be an all-or-nothing thing.  It's like someone decreed long pants, no wigs, clothes more like you'd see in an old western movie must be worn starting now.  I don't recall ever seeing a photograph of men standing in a group where half are wearing neckties and the other half are wearing....  What do you call that thing around their necks?

So what happened?  Was it a technological breakthrough that obviated their need, or did people one day just say "no, not gonna do that" or was it gradual ("hey look at George!  Still wearing a powdered wig!  That's so 1790s!")?

And why have men's fashions barely changed since photography was invented?  Al Capone could walk into a law office today and barely get a second look.  Women's fashions change with every season.  I know men aren't going to buy new styles every year.  Some guys want their three-piece suit or fat (or skinny or string) ties, and that's that.  But come on.  No long term changes?  It just doesn't make much sense.


  1. As a theater person, I've done some research on costuming. Long pants for men grew out of riding wear (breeches and stockings were not good for riding horses). As the working man realized how much more practical they were, they became the norm. As for jackets and vests, it seems to be a class question: The working classes only wore coats for warmth, the upper classes to distinguish themselves from the coatless lower. Ties grew out of the 18th-century neckcloth and 19th-century cravat.

    And I disagree about one thing--these days, men's shirt/neck styles are all over the map. It depends on the place: Law offices and other professionals tend to the staid business suit and tie but get into the IT field, retail, and other businesses and a tieless look (often the golf or polo shirt) is the norm.

    1. Look at shirt styles from the 1970s and 1980s... much more variety in color and material -- some polyester that bordered on satin -- and lapels so big they looked like airplane wings sturdy enough you could take flight with them.

  2. Great post Meg,
    So true about Mens fashions and about Al Capone walking into a law office today and barely get a second look. So very true but things are changing around the world from Japan to the U.S. to the EU men are saying we are sick of the same old thing and slowly the fashion industry is showing this on the runways. Like Fashion desinger Marcel Ostertag, is showing high heels on his male models on the runways and he also is wearing high heels him self and they are not the only ones wearing high heels it's all over the world too. It's not just the heels too, you now have pantyhose for men and a line of makeup plus skirts/kilt dresses and so on. I'm so happy to see this and every one should push and support this change and restore fashion to mens fashions. Men are changing, I feel that gender should be removed from clothing all together and human being wearing what they wish, this way in time I see the closed minds and the Hate we see today only being found in history books. Equality in Fashions with No gender based clothing I feel will go along way to ending the Hate.
    "Lorraine Goetsch" on Face Book.

  3. Meg
    I was just down in Colonial Williamsburgh. In the pre-war era all of the fine clothes, shoes, dresses, hats, wigs, etc were imported from Europe...primarily England. The fledgling Americans seeking liberty and freedom and in response to the Stamp Act Taxes, Tea Taxes, Townsend Duties, etc. both boycotted these efforts by the King to take wealth out of the colonies and eventually realized that war was needed to rid themselves of the King George version of 'wealth redistribution'.

    I suspect that those early styles were one of the casualties of war since limited domestic resources and talent were needed in other endeavors.

    I do share your thoughts on the static nature of mens attire compared to that of women.


  4. A couple of weekends ago I went to a wedding (in male mode) and was pleased that I could still wear the suit I was married in, 20 years earlier, however I could not have worn a suit from 40 years earlier, wide laples, fair trousers, or 60 years ago laples on teh waistcoat (vest) turn ups on the trousers, or worse still what my father wore t work up till about 5o years ago black jacket, pin strip trousers, seperate collar and a bowler hat!


My day is brighter when I hear from my friends!