A Sharp-Dressed Man

My first family portrait was taken in 1976. A lot of the photo is timeless: smiling young parents and grandparents gathered on a sofa around a bundle of wrinkly new baby. But a few things are classically 70's--specifically, my dad's shirt. Cresting waves of beige, mauve and periwinkle on a shiny poly fabric are crowned with a collar wide enough to take flight (my mom's isn't bad, either).

I can't take my eyes off that shirt, pops!

Unfortunately, the decade was wrapping up and the men I grew up knowing began dressing with increasing anonymity: cargo shorts. Polo shirts. Khakis. Shoes so boring they're invisible. Sunglasses on neoprene holders. These clothes are more genderless than masculine, really. Their purpose is only to protect the modesty of the wearer. They whisper, they sag, they don't make an impression. Ironically, they take up a lot less space than their feminine counterparts.

The generic man-uniform is so ubiquitous, it's tough to believe that boys and men ever wore anything else-- but they did! We seem to go through cycles of flashiness and elegance in men's fashion every so often.

Their mothers clapped with glee. 
In 1908, the soft androgyny of children was reinforced with lace collars, ankle straps and wavy bobs. Can you imagine sending little Cody off to pre-school in one of these today?

Just a few years earlier, freewheelin' Victorian guys went about their boyhoods in jackets with heavily ornamented asymmetrical plackets, poufy berets, stockings and kitten heels.

This ad from 1915 features the heterosexual masculine ideal of the time: graceful, elegant and poreless in skinny trousers and blinding white waistcoats.


In February 1935, the New York Times wrote that "Fun clothes for men have never before been so free, so gay, so startling." I went looking for examples. These "peppy styles for gay hot-shots" will do quite nicely.

Elegance exemplified in pleated trousers, t-strap sandals, and a sensible valise/handbag c.1947. This gentleman wouldn't have been caught dead in an Angry Birds t-shirt.

Aside from the wild terrain of the International Male catalogue, it seems like men's fashion hasn't had much fun since the 70's. Maybe fashion--like some of its wearers from those days--is still recovering from that decade of overindulgence. Relatively speaking, my dad may have exercised some restraint in his sartorial choices.

Why doesn't *my* blouse match my knickers?!