The Future of Style, as Told by Hardy Amies

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The previous Permanent Style posting described how Hardy Amies, resident of Savile Row and men’s style legend, saw fashion in the sixties.

In his book ABC of Men’s Fashion he described the narrow, high-buttoning suit of the period and his belief that, for practical reasons, that style would remain the norm. Another interesting aspect of this is that he believed future trends would follow this line, only to a greater extreme.

He was wrong, of course. By the end of that decade all clothes were looser, baggier, freer. The seventies would see such a profusion of wide lapels and flared trousers in suits that commentators at that time again felt confident in predicting that the new style was here to stay.

Amies described the style of sixties most succinctly in a caption to one of his illustrations at the centre of the book. It reads: “The complete man-present: forward-looking hat, high tab-collared shirt, high-buttoning suit, slim boots with raised heels.” The picture shows a man in a pale-grey, checked suit, with only the top two buttons of his four-button suit done up. The trousers are narrow and a little short, the boots shiny and black. His dark, knitted tie is matched by a dark pocket square (though as the photo is in black and white the precise colour cannot be discerned).

Opposite is the future, as Amies sees it. The caption reads: “The complete man-future: slim bow tie balancing the vertical line of the suit, high-buttoning cutaway jacket, extra narrow trousers tucked into calf-length boots.” The gentleman pictured wears a dark, pin-striped suit, with only the top two buttons of his five-button jacket done up. The bowtie is matched by a dark silk handkerchief. And, amazingly, he indeed has his suit trousers tucked into calf-length black boots in what appears to be suede.

(My apologies that I don’t have any reproductions of these pictures. If anyone has any suggestions as to wear I can get these to illustrate this posting, please tell me.)

Did Amies really believe that the future of formal wear was suits tucked into suede boots? Can you imagine businessmen today sitting in the boardroom, their suit trousers tucked into Ugg Boots? Admittedly Uggs would be too chunky for Amies, but it seems no less ridiculous.

The fact is fashions oscillate around a figure of Permanent Style, with the sixties narrow form at one extreme and the seventies flair at the other. One swing is followed by another in the opposite direction. (By this I mean long-term swings, those that last decades not years. Skinny jeans, for example, do not qualify. They are a seasonal fad, like cowboy boots or peasant skirts.)

Once enough men today have bought one-button suits, expect to see three or four-button versions on the catwalk. Designers have to come up with something that’s different, after all. And when those inventions seem to chime with the times, as boots did in the sixties and flares did in the seventies, they’ll become a decade-long swing.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.