ralph lauren t shirts Century Décor and Dress Is Back in Fashion
IT’S usually easy to distinguish between clothes and costumes: either you’re Spider Man, or you’re not.
Drawing the line between polish and pretension is trickier, especially when last year’s costume can be this year’s classic, and next year’s yawn. Just consider the steady infiltration of 19th century haberdashery into the 21st century wardrobe. Garment after garment has arrived on the scene that one might think more Gilbert and Sullivan than Bergdorf and Goodman, only to be taken up by the young beards.
Not long ago, big brass buttoned military coats looked a bit extreme. So did high button, high lapel vests and slim tweed trousers. And so did guys who tucked said trousers into high, old fashioned hunting boots. Now these clothes (along with those ever present beards and mustaches) look like downtown defaults compared with fall runway looks like cardinal red tailcoats at Ralph Lauren, capes and bowlers at Alexander McQueen and knee breeches at Robert Geller.
As with home design, where curio cases, taxidermy and other stylish clutter of the Victorian era have been taken up by young hipsters, many of today’s popular men’s styles have their roots in the late 19th century. There are the three piece suits once favored by mustachioed Gilded Age bankers; the military greatcoats and boots of Union officers; and the henley undershirts, suspenders, plaid flannel shirts and stout drill trousers worn by plain, honest farmers.
“We’ve already seen the comeback of the butcher and the baker,” he said. “Next thing is going to be a hipster candlestick maker.”
The antiquarian aesthetic is far reaching, with tendrils in the worlds of art (as in the work of the fashionable painter Walton Ford, opening Thursday night at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea) and film (as in “There Will Be Blood,” “The Prestige” and, next month, “Sherlock Holmes”). But it has made its deepest inroads in interior design and men’s fashion. Just as in the late 1990s, when mid century Modernism seemingly infiltrated every apartment, men’s wear shop and restaurant, this messier, cozier and more idiosyncratic Victorian dandyism is now reaching into all sorts of fashionable spots.
It decks the dark wood paneled walls of the trendy Jane Hotel and the Bowery Hotel and A list y restaurants like the Spotted Pig and the Breslin. Somehow the look seems even more sincere in Brooklyn eateries like Vinegar Hill House and Marlow Sons and in antique shops like Obscura Antiques Oddities in the East Village and Luddite in Williamsburg.
Charcoal gray two button shrunken fit jacket, $1,320 at Marc Jacobs; Engineered Garments gray herringbone wool knickers, $355 at Farinelli’s in
Arlington, Va.; brown herringbone linen vest, $125 at J. Crew; Thom Browne white oxford cotton shirt, $260, and gray cross country ski cap, $570, both
at Bergdorf Goodman; Black Fleece red and white awning stripe silk tie, $150 at Brooks Brothers; tan wool shooting socks, $25 at Orvis; Julian
Boots leather lace ups, $750 at Barneys. Often they are made in New York by small labels like Engineered Garments and Freemans Sporting Club, Mr. Somer’s line.
The photographer Mitch Epstein, who lives near the Freemans shop on the Lower East Side, said that the store and its aesthetic had so won him over that he recently bought a charcoal plaid three piece suit. “These are not the kind of clothes I was wearing,
” he said. “I’m more high modern. But there’s a comfort and quality in them, a respect for what you wear and how you appear to others, but in a way that’s not heavy handed.”
Part of the appeal, in fact, is in how the clothes relate not to the runways or the estates of Europe, but to America’s heartland in ways that few fashions do. Country and city men alike have rediscovered old school American brands like Filson, Orvis, L. L. Bean and Duluth Pack. Obsolete hobbies like wet plate photography are finding new enthusiasts; long outmoded farming practices are being revived. Even deer hunting with old fashioned muzzleloaded rifles, which have to be loaded with gunpowder, a musket ball and a ramrod, has come back in force in some states.
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Who knows, maybe the troublesome comeback of the North American beaver population will lead to a new appreciation of beaver fur hats. They would be welcome at Paul Stuart, where beaver collars adorn greatcoats worthy of Andrew Carnegie, or at the Harlem workshop of the stylish hatter Rod Keenan, who has been selling bowlers, derbies and, this season, even a handful of top hats.
This flamboyance is part of a curious new movement called Tweed Rides, informal gatherings of spiffily dressed ladies and gents cycling leisurely through town and disdaining finish lines. Tweed Rides began in London earlier this year and have spread this fall to Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. This ride is for the dandy.”
Eric Brewer, a gallery owner who founded Dandies and Quaintrelles, the group that is organizing the Washington ride, said that the idea was not to come out in costume. “There are all kinds of societies that are about dressing up in period costume and then going back to your oversize jeans the next day,” he said. “This is about style as a way of being.” (You can’t help imagining a kind of upside down remake of “The Wild Ones,” in which a gang of elegant men in knee breeches riding old Raleigh three speeds descend on an unsuspecting town and freak everyone out with their impeccable manners.)
Even so, tweed states its own case surprisingly well.
“I haven’t worn tweed in a while, but I’m rediscovering it,” Mr. Brewer said. “The Victorian era was about a very trim silhouette and form, and I’m seeing tweeds that are cut that way. The thing is, tweed looks very elegant, but it’s a very sturdy fabric, so you can be dapper and still appear manly and rugged.”
As always, the look works only if you don’t go too far. In “Sherlock Holmes,” set in 1880s London, the detective, played by Robert Downey Jr., has a penchant for over the top disguise. But Guy Ritchie, the film’s director, so admired the more dignified three piece tweed suits created for Holmes’s sober sidekick, Watson (played by a mustachioed Jude Law), that he asked the costume designer Jenny Beavan for some of the fabric so he could have his own made.
It is worth noting, too, how well 19th century elements fit into the modern wardrobe, especially since many of them peacoats, vests, fedoras had a revival or two in the 20th century. And as formal or old fashioned as some of the attire may seem, most of it goes surprisingly well with the 19th century’s most enduring fashion legacy,
a special kind of trousers invented in California by a man named Levi Strauss.