Classic Menswear & Masculinity

Posted by Raye Penber on

There’s no better time to be living than today. We have cars and planes; food can be prepared healthier than ever; we can even do work away from the office from a simple phone. In fashion terms, we’re not only exposed to vastly different styles but a variety of different makers that make dressing well completely accessible to the masses. One would think that taking advantage of this would be good, but yet every so often, we’re bombarded that taking pride in your attire is “not manly”.  I couldn't disagree more, as masculinity is rooted in classic menswear!

Hopefully this blog post will show others that the phrase is not wrong, but totally unfounded in reality.

Slim profiles in an early 1920's illustration.  Even suits have changed with the times.

Let me first say that the modern suit was actually a rebellion against the gaudy era of petticoats and wigs. Ever since Beau Brummel helped invent the the proto-suit as we know it, tailored clothing has been far removed from the antiquated elegance.  But to the uninitiated, menswear and its suits are dainty, elegant things that are akin to a vase that goes unused and is for decoration. In actuality, a tailored suit, jacket, or trouser is much more like the the car you’ve picked out because you know it will serve you.  If chosen right, it’s substantial, hard wearing, and a big part of your personality. That mentality plays into our mantra that you should actively wear and enjoy the clothes you buy for yourself.  Confidence in yourself is certainly masculine and much more important simply wondering if a garment is “manly” enough. 


Clark Gable, in the 1940's cut.

We haven’t even talked about how a well tailored suit and trouser has always been about idealizing the masculine physique, regardless of how the that image has changed over the years. In the 1920s, slim (almost feminine) profiles were all the rage. When the 1930s came around, a strong shoulder, slim waist, and wide legs in tailoring emphasized the idea of V-shaped man. This was later played with in the 1940s and 1950s, before the 1920s repeated themselves (in a way) in the slim 1960s before getting boldly V-shaped again in the 1960s and 1970s.  The less we say about the overly baggy 80s and 90s the better, but even this was a return to the full cut, old Hollywood style which you can see on Richard Gere in American Gigolo. We can’t say much for streetwear or other high fashion, but at least in the terms of classic menswear, it’s plenty masculine.


Richard Gere looking simultaneously 

Even if the changing cuts is considered “fashion” rather than style, it is still rooted in the pursuit of the ideal masculine look.  And we can assure you that most style icons from any era, whether it's Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, James Dean, or Bruce Lee, did not care if something was considered masculine enough to wear. They wore it because they thought it was cool, it made sense for their context, and again, because they enjoyed it!  I would argue that they we still consider them some of the most masculine guys around, whether you dressed trad like Stewart or you started out that way and got bold like Bruce Lee. Even Conor McGregor has no qualms about playing with color and boldness.  But if that’s not enough, let’s keep the conversation going.

Gurkha Closure in action.

It’s important to note that quite a bit of contemporary menswear (at least the casual part of it) as we know it has its roots from military clothing.  I mean, we’ve detailed this storied history in each of our pieces detailing this history, from the G-1 and A-2 to the safari jacket and gurkha trousers.  You don’t need to wear them in combat (or bring them to paintball) to prove its worth, but perhaps it will help the detractors know that the basis for the leather jackets and trench coats that we like to wear has been worn by some of the bravest guys around.  This rugged, utilitarian and masculine heritage is inherent in the design and history of the garment. 


Even if we take the military out of the equation, we still have other “masculine” activities like hunting, sports, and workwear to thank for great pieces. Where do you think chore coats, trucker jackets, boots, or even jeans comes from?  How about the great tweeds, which were developed to be made into “shooting suits” for hunting? Or the versatile OCBD and polo shirt, which were made for playing sports with your best mates? Even the quintessential navy flannel blazer was meant to keep rowers warm when out for a race.

Rowing Attire.

You may argue that the connotations have been lost to time, but the fact remains that these great pieces were designed with a purpose more than to simply being worn for activities: they were designed to look good while doing it.  A good design simply translates to good style. It just so happens that we arbitrarily give it a masculine moniker.

Members of a 1930s college ski team. Looks damn good right?

In the end, true masculinity, at least to me, comes in the form of confidence in your attire. In fact, the control over what you wear and how you present yourself is probably the most masculine thing you can do. And if you want to get into the history of the pieces themselves, surprise- they all have roots in the military, practicality, hunting, sports, and workwear. The reason why these pieces are so classic are because they were always designed to look good! And even if your lifestyle differs from those of old; don’t worry, you’ve got the masculinity built right into the garment.

Classic menswear in all its forms is masculine through and through.  Remember that when you wear your gurkhas, which needed the pleats for easy movement combat, the tweeds to protect you from thorns while hunting, or the leathers meant to keep you warm in the cockpit.  The reality is simply that activities for men were always done with style.

Perhaps the question isn't whether it's masculine to be into classic menswear, but rather why we stopped attempting to looking good in our everyday life?


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