Linen & Wool Summer Suit Fashions in the 1930′s
After we published our Gentlemen of Style ebook, we paused our coverage of vintage men’s fashion illustrations for a while, but now it is summer and there are a few ensembles I don’t want to keep from you any longer!
In 1937, the thirties suit style was fully established. It did not have any resemblance to the suit of the twenties, yet is was distinctly not 1940′s fashion either. Shoulders were natural, drape was omnipresent and trousers were full cut. Although the clothes shown are more than 75 years old, you could absolutely wear these combinations today! For example, just look at the footwear – they are all wearing brown suede shoes with their outfits, which is a trend we have been seeing for the last two years. Suede is a fantastic material choice for the transition period between spring and summer or summer, and fall but its casual character works just as well if you are tired of white buckskin leather, canvas sneakers or spectators during the hot months of the year. But let’s look at the outfits in more detail.
Double Breasted Grey Chalk Stripe Flannel Suit
First up is a double breasted chalk stripe summer suit. Although buttoned in a 4×1 Kent Fasson, it can also be buttoned on the upper button, and hence it is quite versatile. Note how the low buttoning point elongates the torso optically. If you are short, that’s definitely something to avoid otherwise you will look oddly disproportional. Obviously, the trousers are cut rather wide with cuffs, as was the standard during those years. However, the two inch spacing (5cm) of the stripe is rather wide and more fashionable. For my taste it is a little too flashy, although the colors themselves are perfectly fine.
Flannel is a material most often associated with winter and generally only cream white summer trousers come to mind when thinking about flannel. However, there are also lightweight summer versions available in 8oz or less. Personally, I think a fresco suit works better in summer all around but then again, I am someone who is rather warm in general. The color combination of light grey, blue and white is classic, understated and hence perfect for summer business outfits.
In this ensemble, the suit is accompanied with a foulard bow tie in blue – at the time, the Duke of Windsor was an active proponent of this lightweight, printed form of neckwear, and so it became popular with the general public. As mentioned above, reverse-calf leather shoes in brown, a.k.a. suede, shoes were quite fashionable at the time, just as they are today. This season, Brooks Brothers has reintroduced the straw boater hats but other than that, they have not really celebrated a comeback on the street – maybe that will change, who knows? Would you wear a boater?
The Cream / Off -White Suit
Unfortunately, cream-white suits have not been very popular – with the exception of Tom Wolfe – because they are rather impractical. They stain easily and are likely to end up at the dry cleaner more frequently than you’d like, which is not just bothersome but also costly. Nevertheless, I would argue that for some the investment pays off !
A white suit is great for summer days because it reflects most of the light and heat rather than absorbing it. Also, it goes well with bright or pastel colors which are favored in summer.
The double breasted suit pictured here with patch pockets was tailored from silk, just like Mark Seitelman’s suits. Interestingly, it also features white mother of pearl buttons, which have become popular on navy blazers lately. Alternatively, open weave linen would be a great material for this kind of suit because it wrinkles so gracefully and is simply the epitome of summer elegance.
The white straw hat has a folded, wide blue band which makes it so much more interesting than just plain black.
Overall, certainly not a practical suit, but all the more elegant!
Single breasted, unlined suits in a slightly darker shade of cream that are made out of tropical worsted wool will guarantee you more wear than this example. This suit features three patch pockets with peaked lapels; traditionally, peaked lapels were reserved for formal suits but as you can see, designs and styles had started to be combined by 1937.
Most straw hats available are white or off white but a brown straw hats can look better, especially when your shoes are brown as well.
The Blue Summer Suit
I wrote about the blue summer suit before, and most of the things mentioned then apply here as well. The clear standout feature of this suit if the shade of blue. It is neither navy nor light blue, but more of a Prussian blue and it very much appeals to me. I think it would be a great color for a fresco suit.
Apart from that, the shirt deserves a mention because of its yellow color. Although white and light blue are the golden standard, I always suggest looking into other pastel colors the next time you buy a shirt or have one made, because they are very versatile, subtle, and yet different. Often times they look better than just white or blue.
Some people say, one should either wear a pocket square or a boutonniere, but not both together. While this may be a useful rule for men with a less refined sense of style, I think the picture on the left is evidence that both can work together splendidly, don’t you think? So next time, you are playing around with a boutonniere on your lapel, forget about “rules” and use your taste instead to determine whether the pocket square and the flower are in order or not.
In terms of suits, try to think outside the box and contemplate if a white suit would be something you would enjoy wearing. In regard to accessories, a brown straw hat could be a great alternative and if you do not already own a pair of brown suede shoes, you should seriously consider buying a pair because they go so well with everything ranging from tropical summer fabrics to winter weight flannels.
Also, don’t be afraid to wear a boutonniere with a pocket square! Just make sure that the overall look is balanced and not overloaded.
For more information about summer suits in general, you should check out this summer suit guide.
What suits do you wear in summer? In case you like this article you should definitely get our ebook if you haven’t done so already.