People often say that menswear doesn't change all that much. There's truth to that, but it isn't entirely so. The well educated (ne, obsessed) in these matters can always date a piece of menswear with reasonable accuracy. A healthy knowledge of the history of these things can be a helpful guide to dressing well. When scouring other peoples cast off garments in thrift shops, it becomes a downright necessity. The trick lies is knowing the history of a piece of clothing, taking something personally from that, and using the garment and your knowledge in a way that is personal and unique, so as to to avoid anachronistic costume dressing.Today's example is this tan poplin suit from Brooks Brothers, a historic icon in many ways. Brooks Brothers led the way in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the development of lightweight summer suiting fabrics for men. In 1958, the Du Pont company famously approached Brooks with their new "Dacron Polyester", and Brooks Brothers introduced it, blended with cotton, in suits and shirts. I know, we all hate polyester. But this old suit is different. I remember selling poplin suits at Simon's, in tan, olive and navy. We called them 'paper suits', because they wore like a brown shopping bag. But this old number is soft and comfortable. You can tell Du Pont was making a real effort back then to assure people that plastic was a reasonable thing to wear. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of the old synthetics, but I do like this suit. Besides, it cost $1.00. (Yes, it did.)
Wash and Wear... a decidedly 1958 selling point. However, this doesn't have to be strictly a costume piece.
Taken together with a blue striped contrast collar Brooks Brothers shirt (1980s vintage,$4.99), a black cotton knit tie (new, $5.00), a white silk driving cap by Stetson( bought new a few years ago, $12), and an orange square, you know, for punch, the whole thing has a whiff of the 1920s about it. Hows that for a conglomeration of historical influences?
Below, we keep the whole look in the modern world with dark jeans and ever-just-so-tatters brown loafers.
Knowing something about men's styles of the 20s, 50s, 60s and today all contributed to the outfit I wore today. As I've said innumerable times, successful thrift shopping is a perseverance game. Wearing these clothes successfully requires an ability to both collect and arrange seemingly disparate items, while still imparting your own personality onto the result. A pain in the *ss? Yeah, maybe, but I think it's worth it.
Then again, I am a little weird.