Those who know me are aware of my interest in vintage clothing. I have always had a fascination for the decades of bygone elegance. Some find my neo-Edwardian and inter-war recreations a little tiring; I can understand this point of view. It’s a little myopic to suggest that the only era of elegance in modern menswear lasted merely thirty odd years and that everything since has been a disastrous mish-mash of unfortunate trends. There was much to recommend the experimental tailoring of the 1960s, the dalliance with flares in the 1970s. There was an admirable bravery to these attempts at modernisation. Indeed, the modern ‘classic’ suit owes some of its constituent parts to the ‘forgettable’ decades. You only need a brief comparison of modern tailoring and that of the apparently evergreen 1930s to know they are really rather different. I for one prefer the slimmer, modern trousers and the flattering length of the modern jacket.
However, vintage clothing offers an increasingly unusual aesthetic for the gentleman of style. Mixing vintage with modern items offers an opportunity to produce singular and individualistic ensembles; there is no greater expression of the mixing capabilities of menswear than combining items with decades of difference. The rise of vintage clothing has largely complemented the acceptability of fashion shedding much of its self-consciousness; no one worries much about being ‘in fashion’ anymore. Vintage clothing, made for fashion styles long gone, is worn by people of all ages and of all incomes – it is happily classless and, importantly, is promoted by those in positions of influence as entirely acceptable. However, as many finger-wagging vintage-lovers have informed me, there is ‘vintage’ and then there is ‘proper vintage.’
‘Proper vintage’ items are of exceptional quality, in near immaculate condition and convey an authentic sense of an antiquated style. Examples include Edwardian and 1920s tailcoats, double breasted overcoats, specialist items like Victorian toppers, classic 1930s double breasted suits and heavy barathea wool evening dress. These items are increasingly rare. They are characteristically heavy and the items in the best condition are usually bespoke pieces made by English tailors for individual clients. While it may not be the same thing as purchasing bespoke made for oneself, the quality and outstanding style of the garments are worth investment.
One of the best sources of this sort of vintage clothing is Savvy Row, an amusingly named retailer of smart second-hand (vintage is a smart although not misrepresentative term) gentleman’s attire. I myself purchased an extremely chic and beautifully cut evening tailcoat from their selection of evening wear. This garment dates from the 1920s, has high and wide lapels, a flattering figure-hugging waist and is extraordinarily robust. It is unmistakably vintage. When I wore it to an event, with a boiled-front shirt, patent shoes and a red rose someone told me, to my great pleasure, that I looked like I had walked ‘straight outta the Twenties.’