History of Men's Fashion

Book Review: History of Men’s Fashion—What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing by Nicholas Storey

Despite its title, this $30 book is neither about the history of men’s fashion nor about what the well dressed man is wearing. Instead, Nicholas Storey, an English barrister now residing in Brazil, presents his views on the matter of traditional men’s clothing in 182 pages. In his defense, the publisher chose the title with complete disregard for the author’s suggestions.

History of Men’s Fashion What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing by Nicholas Storey

History of Men’s Fashion – What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing by Nicholas Storey

After the introduction and brief elaborations on General Day Wear, Storey dedicates the majority of the book to Formal Morning Dress, Evening Dress, Country and Sporting Dress as well as Hats, finishing with his brief thoughts regarding Accessories, a pocket dressing guide for select British social events and a very short chapter about the Care of Clothing. Throughout the book, the author provides interesting anecdotes. For example, the tie as we know it today was invented by Washington Tremlett in 1892, Astrakhan is not only a kind of fur, but also a city in Russia, and ‘Cummerbund’ derives from the Urdu and Hindi word kamarband, which is, in itself, derived from the Persian kamar, meaning waist.

At first glance, it seems to be written from a distinctly British point of view. Firstly, there are shopping tips listed in almost every chapter, however, the vast majority of the recommended (top shelf and top money) stores based in or around London, which limits the average reader’s benefit. Secondly, the author emphasizes traditional British rules, such as: ‘strictly wear dark suits and dark suits in town – never tweed of brown or suede shoes unless you are merely passing through’ or ‘only wear dark hats in town and never straw, palm, tweed or caps.’ Thirdly, he claims the only strictly correct shoe for white tie is evening pumps, while a plain black patent oxford shoe has always been considered to be perfectly correct for white tie in the US and Germany. Finally, almost all the citations are British. There are repeated references to the various royals of the 20th century; anecdotes involve British figures like Lord Nelson, and proper Court dress is discussed.

While reading the passage about very formal morning wear or ‘THE NECESSARY HATS TO HAVE’, one realizes that this cannot possibly be what British men are wearing today. The suggested selection of hats consists of an opera hat, a silk top hat, a grey silk top hat, a coke / bowler, a homburg hat, a selection of soft felt hats, a Panama hat, a Tyrolean hat, and a straw boater. At best, this is what the British gentry at some point used to wear, and maybe not even what the most sophisticated and wealthy British are likely to have in their closets today.

Considering that this book is full of details about morning dress, evening wear and country dress, an area only very few people are actually interested in, this book is certainly not for a beginner seeking advice about building a business wardrobe. Storey is clearly not interested in providing a proper ‘How-to guide.’ Accepting that instead he desires to subjectively express his opinions and, at times, utopian views about clothing, ideals and vanished traditions, the book makes for an entertaining read.

Unfortunately, the selection of pictures throughout the book was rather disappointing in my opinion. Not only were they not printed in color, they were sometimes too well known or of inferior quality to be of interest.

Altogether, for the sartorially inclined, this book suits one with a profound knowledge of the subject, though under no circumstances is it a guide for the beginner or a historical reference.

You can find Part II and Part III here.

HISTORY OF MEN’S FASHION: What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Remember When
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1844680371

10 replies
  1. Will C. says:

    The necktie as we know it today came to being in the 1860s, with the addition of interlining in the 1910s. It was emphatically not invented by the American named Washington Tremlett in 1892. Did Nicholas Storey really write that in the book? I don’t remember reading that there. If he did, he was mistaken. I’ve read that a few other times on the interweb despite its complete untruth, very odd. It’s a myth almost as annoying as the spurious attribution of the ‘Windsor knot’ to Edward VIII.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Will,
      First of all thanks for comment! Washington Tremlett was not American but British and had a shop in Conduit Street, London as well as in Paris. In 1892 he designed a special evening tie for an American called Wright. This tie looked like most ties today. You can find this information in Storey’s book on page 105.

      In England, the first ties that were worn vertically and not horizontally are know as ‘four in hand’ and in France as ‘Regate’. They first appeared in the 1860s and became popular in the 1870s. However, it seems as if they did not look quite like the one Washington Tremlett designed: Mr. Wright wanted to visit the opera in Paris and the common standard for evening ties back then was either cravat or a limp bow tie. Tremlett designed what he called the ‘seven fold cravat’ – it was vertically hanging from the neck and had a narrow top that broadened towards the base while the edges were stitched.
      Today, you can buy cologne and perfume under the brand of Washington Tremlett. Apart from that, Kilgour acquired to rights to used the name and used it for their shirts.
      If you want more information, you should contact them.

  2. Will C. says:

    Ah yes, now I remember, he was the one who invented the sevenfold tie. That is true. But most contemporary ties are not 7 folds, so it’s hardly right to regard Tremlett as the founder of the contemporary tie. It’s probably true that early sevenfold ties were closer in appearance to contemporary ones, for the reason that sevenfolds would have had more substance than the unlined cotton or silk Four-in-hands of the day, and also would have been more slender than the unstructured ties of the day. The non-sevenfold Four-in-hands were flappy and wide and unstructured at the bottom, but that didn’t matter as most men wore waistcoats at all times then, which covered up the loose bottom part of the tie.

    I’m very skeptical that the sevenfold tie was actually intended for use at the opera – by the 1890s, the protocols of evening dress with black or white bow tie had been well-established for decades. Four-in-hands and cravats were strictly for daylight hours… perhaps Tremlett’s client was an extreme eccentric.

    Will C.

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