06 June 2011

A Perfect Poplin

This Summer will be my first as owner of a poplin suit. I had this post in my by back pocket for a couple of weeks, but it seems our man in Japan HTJ beat me to it. He offers lots of good back info and as usual plenty of old photos to study for the minute details which separate good poplin from terrible poplin. Still, here's my take on the matter.

Poplin suits are tricky, and if you're going to wear one, you must make sure you get a good one, which isn't always easy. I've seen a lot of them, and let many go. I had about a half dozen of them for sale at the Flea, but Ouiji from The Brooklyn Circus bought them all first thing in the morning. If you live in New York, go see him about it. My own is a vintage Brooks Brothers University Shop, likely from the early 1960s. Besides of course being dirt cheap in some crazy thrift shop, all the right sartorial details for a suit like this are in place.

A bare minimum of shoulder padding, as seen here, and a 1/4 lining are key. This suit should be well made, but softly tailored. After all, it's not really a formal garment. Sporting derived details like the swelled edges and patch pockets are a must. A large open patch breast pocket like this one has is a great bonus, but a detail that is sadly to hard to find today. It adds to the overall casual feel of the suit.

Being a vintage piece, the trousers are flat front, clean cut, with a higher waist.Given the fact that so many designers these days are talking their cues from suits like this, and the early 1960s in general, I wonder why we're still so stuck on the fad of everything a size to small. This suit has "the look", because it's real vintage, but it's also cut to fit a grown man comfortably, because it's real vintage. Honestly, if Brooks Brothers turned out a run of this exact suit tomorrow, they'd be out of stock in a week. Instead, we're stuck with Milano pants and this half *ssed version of a Summer classic. (side note: the point of that vintage Andover Shop tie is way off center, I know. Sometimes I think I should have it pressed, but I kind of like it this way.)

Dark socks with a light suit may have been a bad move, but I felt it kind of worked in the same way that light socks with dark pants sometimes works. I have no doubt, however, that tassel loafers were a perfect choice.

Wash and wear, poly/cotton blend. Normally, I wouldn't consider such a thing, but I must say that these old fabrics from the early days of Dacron are different than what you see today. This stuff is soft, thin and lightweight, not thick and crunchy, or worse, plasticy like modern polyester.I have some wool blend slacks that are some of my favorites too. In the old days, when I worked at Simon's, we used to call the poplins that came in every May "paper suits", because they wore like a brown bag. This one doesn't. Now I know everyone can't run out and buy a vintage suit, which is all the more reason for Brooks Brothers to offer this number again.

Of course, a khaki suit in 100% cotton would be best. But if you should happen across one of these old blended poplins, give it a chance. You might be surprised, as I was, how much you like it.

p.s. new stuff over at the Shop, including a 1980s vintage Brooks Brothers olive poplin suit.


Tre said...

too small

Charles Lister said...

A wonderful post, as always. If you have the time, could you say a word or two about the the hat you are wearing and any thoughts you may have on summer hats in general would be welcome... Of course, that may be the grounds for a future post. If so, I shall be patient.

Anonymous said...

These are the reasons I LOVE thrift stores!

notanymore said...

I really need a khaki poplin or cotton suit. Just have not gotten around to it yet. Looks good, G. Especially with that Household Cavalry repp tie.

Also, i thought I was the man in Japan. Well, of course, not at the moment. But in general! Kansai represent. I'll be back in Japan in October, renewing my Japanese drivers license and paying some taxes I still owe.

heavy tweed jacket said...

Giuseppe, Great post. That's a very nice looking suit. I like your use of burgundy in the shirt, tie and shoes. It really pulls it all together.

Marianne said...

Hi there. There is a vintage photo on the Sartorialist.com that looks exactly like you. Its eerie. You have to check it out.


David V said...

I miss the tan and navy poplin suits I had in the 80's. I don't know where I got them but not BB. The Brothers were a good deal above my pay grade. But even back then you could still by decent men's wear from Sears. At just right the right price point for the Jr. Executive.

Michael said...

Other than the socks (no socks, maybe? or a pair that match the suit?)- bravo.

Nicola said...

I think I may have saw you in my neighborhood this afternoon (outside of Ball Square Liquors in Somerville) sporting this suit. If so-- it looks very smart (enough so that I noticed and thought "who is wearing such a dapper suit?!"). If it wasn't you, then there's someone else out there sporting a fine poplin suit and hat-- and I am happy to see good clothing catching on around here.

ADG said...

That patch breast pocket is indeed, classic Brooks.

Young Fogey said...

You're about the only person there is who could make dark socks controversial. Or possibly a fashion statement.

That's Giuseppe!

I love the outfit, and find the dark socks a pleasant surprise. The shirt and tie are perfect. I wish I had a poplin suit half as nice as that one.

Tobias said...

Just scored a navy BB poplin suit and an olive BB poplin suit at a local thrift store. $38.00 for both. Both in great shape, flat front and made in the USA.
Thanks for drawing my attention to poplin with this post.