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April, 1948: Meet THE BOLD LOOK

scotrace

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Esquire in spring 1948 (and earlier, Apparel Arts) introduced a new men's fashion they were quite excited about. They called it the BOLD LOOK, and it had an impact on men's fashions in the post-war years.

Here are most of the text of the introduction, and all of the photographs. From the April, 1948 issue of Esquire.


It has been some time since Apparel Arts, our sister publication, has been mentioned on this page. Time was that the first edition of Esquire had not even been published, and the gentlemen in Abercrombie & Fitch, Tripler’s and stores of that ilk were poring over a quality magazine they found on the counter. It was like nothing they could buy on the stands; a massive, gloriously printed thing with a masculine, dramatic treatment of men’s fashions from cover to cover. Thus the gentlemen shoppers, despite attempts by their impatient lady companions to lure them away, paused for awhile and wished for a subscription to a magazine like this one. It was a beautiful job: it still is; but at that time it pointed prophetically to a national consumer magazine which could bring the American gentleman the kind of fashions he wanted. Masculine, devoid of frills, substituting good taste for the timidness he had been forced to assume on the whole subject until Esky hove into sight.
So Esquire came along, and Esquire fashions. You know the rest, the amazing growth of fashion interest by men who were supposed to sniff at even the word, and the thousands of letters that have flowed into this office every week asking every angle on tying a Windsor knot to the proper length of evening tails, to say nothing of whether or not you should calmly sit on them.
With the war, we turned our attention to other things, of course. Our own men were in the service, the apparel industry was straining to fit the forces. But now, with Esquire itself taking on a new postwar look, our Fashion Department has begun to take over again, as of yore. In this issue, we introduce a true fashion for men,the BOLD LOOK, and for reasons both sentimental and practical, quote from our own Apparel Arts announcement to the trade, as this important new move was launched in a recent issue:
“In its April issue, Esquire will announce to the public the most important fashion note for men ever presented as a co-ordinated theme in the history of our industry.
“Accurately descriptive, reflecting its true nature, it is called -- the BOLD LOOK.
“We are proud of our leadership in presenting these fashion firsts... the list is long and continuous. For example, looking back to the early Nineteen Thirties, among the ‘firsts’ we reported, and commented, were the covert coat, the double-breasted lapel rolled to the lower button, the white dinner jacket, wide-spread collar, the reversible bal-macaan, the bush coat, knitted swim trunks, coconut straw hats, Norwegian peasant slippers, semi-sport hats, the shirt-and-slack ensemble, string gloves, the leather watch guard strap, and so on and on up through the years.
“The BOLD LOOK is true, authentic fashion, bedded in the soil of our American past. It is sound, natural fashion, as opposed to out-of-line, pumped-up styles and fads, because it reflects the virility, the aggressiveness, the quality of dominance in the American male. It reflects too, our emancipation from the stiff, stilted traditionalism of the Old World which while the ideal of the European court dandies and of a pallid, ineffectual continental society, is certainly not the hallmark of a breed of men who, in a few generations, have hacked and hewn a nation out of a wilderness and smashed their way to a world dominance and leadership.
“We believe that the BOLD LOOK has everything. It is a natural expression of our American folk characteristics. It is in good taste. It is casual. It has definite, immediate to men and to women who influence the buying of men’s apparel. It is handsome. It is important looking and enhances the personality of the wearer.”
So says Apparel Arts: and so say we. But skipping the words for the thing itself, we suggest that you turn to page 79, and glance through the pages, for your first look at the BOLD LOOK. You’ll want to, because it’s here to stay, the biggest thing in men’s fashion for years. Look for it in your mirror.
{To page 79}
Notice something new about American men? Well-groomed American men, that is -- the kind you always notice? They have a new look. We call it the BOLD LOOK.
You see it wherever you see Americans today. Walking down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Coming out of our embassy in Moscow. Sitting around a conference table on Long Island, Entering the court of St. James in London. Or crossing Main Street in Peoria.
There’s a new look about them. It’s a self confident look and it’s as distinctive as it is distinguished. It’s a virile as football, as masculine as the Marine Corps -- as American as the Sunday comics. And new as it is, it’s as mature as the country itself, because it’s grown with the country.
[edit - further sales blather not transcribed]
The newest styles that are appearing wherever the leaders of fashion gather exemplify the BOLD LOOK. Ties, shirts, socks: they’re designed with the accent on authority. They’re unrestrained; they use wide borders, big patterns, bold colors -- more colors. They have a look of definite good taste. Wear them, and you’ll have that look too.
The new shirts for example, are made with the “Command collar.” This is a wide-spread collar with bold stitching a half-inch in from the edge rather than the usual eighth of an inch. The same bold treatment is given to the center pleat and the stitching on the cuffs. This is the first new shirt fashion in years and it’s especially styled for wear with the Windsor tie.
Neckties, in design and in color, are clear, sharp, bold. Checks are bigger, stripes are wider. Figures are bolder and more widely spaced. And the new polka dots are three-eighths of an inch in diameter.
There’s a new hat too. It’s a snap-brim in a rich cinnamon brown with a black band and gunmetal grey binding. The binding is barely visible on the top of the brim, but very prominent on the underside; Seen from the side and the rear it’s a wide band of color.
And there’s more definite design in socks. Ribbing is wider, clocks are broader. The BOLD LOOK in shoes is massive. And jewelry gives a man a chance to go to town with confidence. Tie clasps are wide slabs of gold. Cufflinks are larger and heavier to match. Heavy gold-link keychains follow the trend.
[handkerchiefs have a wider border, to be displayed well out of the pocket to show it - edited for length]
Those are some of the characteristics of the new BOLD LOOK, a look of self-confidence, good taste. Like as not, you yourself have been approaching the Bold Look with the Windsor knot and the spread collar. Those were just the first signs though - these newest fashions take up where they left off.



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This is the new BOLD LOOK. This is how the new accessories change your whole appearance - give you a new look of self-confidence and authority. The man on the left wears a blue-striped worsted suit. With it, the “command collar” shirt in white broadcloth and a tie with big red and blue checks. He wears widely ribbed socks with black straight-tip shoes and a grey snap-brim hat. Even the grey flannel suit, above, lends itself to the BOLD LOOK when it’s worn with a blue broadcloth “command collar” shirt and a widely-striped yellow and blue rep tie. The cinnamon brown snap-brim hat accents the grey of the suit, too, thanks to its black band and grey binding. The brown is is carried through in the husky bluchers.



Does anyone own an example of a suit or accessory they would attribute to BOLD LOOK influences? How long did this trend last? Esquire used big, well, BOLD language to introduce the whole concept. Does it seem BOLD to you? And does anyone know anything about the mentioned Tripler's store or the reversible bal-macaan?
 

Art Fawcett

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Actually Scott, it looks rather subdued to me. However, almost 60 yrs later..it would be BOLD again if the normal "guy on the street" dressed like this again
 

scotrace

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Agreed. It all seems pretty tame.

But I think we've just helped to date hats with a larger amount of contrasting binding showing under the brim than above.

We've spoken of the BOLD LOOK before; I've been meaning to share this introduction to it for some time.

Would you do a grey binding on a brown hat?
 

dhermann1

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Looks more like the Mild Look. I wonder if the stylists of the day came up with a new more relaxed fit for men's fashion, which seems in retrospect to have been a good choice, and then tried to find a name for it. They realized that it was milder and less assertive looking than older styles, but saying so was the last thing they wanted for the sake of sales. So they came up with "The Bold Look". I thought of Gregory Peck in "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit" the moment I looked at the pix. This was the era of "the silent generation", hardly bold.
 

Feraud

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Thank you for posting this scotrace. I enjoyed the read. There is a lot of emphasis on manliness, clean lines, authoritarian bearing, etc.
I liked the talk of strong bold patterns in ties, socks, handkerchiefs, and assertive men's jewelry.
 

ScionPI2005

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That's an interesting tidbit of information. I actually have an episode of Richard Diamond: Private Detective where Diamond discusses the new Bold Look--and Francis (Helen's butler) ends up getting a suit in the Bold Look for his Birthday.
 

Sefton

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Drat! One of my favorite DB jackets is dated 1947. I guess I'll just meekly tip-toe off and read some girlish old European poetry....;)

Seriously,thanks for the interesting article. Seeing as Apparel Arts and some Esquires are a bit hard to come by it's a real service that you posted this. I think I'll post some of the articles I have from my humble collection of 1930's Esquirs soon.
 

jgilbert

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Art Fawcett said:
Actually Scott, it looks rather subdued to me. However, almost 60 yrs later..it would be BOLD again if the normal "guy on the street" dressed like this again


Art I do think you are correct.
 

Marc Chevalier

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.

Let's look at this more closely. What was "bold" about this so-called Bold Look?


Answer:

-- Wider, more padded shoulders

-- Jackets with a lower, wider "v" closure

-- Bigger, fatter shirt collars with a 1/2 inch space between the collar's stitching and its edge.

-- Wider, fatter knots for ties

-- Wider, fatter stripes for ties

-- Thicker, heavier soles for dress shoes

-- Brighter colors and larger versions of classic tie patterns (dots, stripes)

-- Brighter (unusual) colors for dress socks


Esquire was in league with menswear manufacturers to get ex-servicemen (and new G.I. bill graduates) to buy lots of new businesswear clothes, instead of donning their pre-WWII duds. Remember what happened after WWI? The industry tried to sell ex-doughboys clothes that looked like military uniforms. Nobody bought them -- the vets didn't want to wear civvies that reminded them of uniforms!


Three decades later, the industry had learned from its error: it made the Bold Look very different from the relatively close-fitting WWII uniforms. The Bold Look wasn't trim and tailored: it was relatively loose-fitting and LARGE ... the stuff of corporate superheroes.


Not surprisingly, the Bold Look was a big success among ex-G.I.s.



.
 

scotrace

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Early 1941:

IMG_1414.jpg


More closely fitted jacket, higher gorge.


Early 1948:
IMG_6437.jpg


More relaxed, less constructed.

*interesting that in '48, the lapel flower of choice is a cornflower, or "bachelor's button."
 

resortes805

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The majority of my vintage clothing comes from this era. . . I think I'll go home and work on a photo essay.
 

Tony McNally

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Some thoughts on the influences of the bold look

When one looks at it. The bold look was a pared down version of the zoot suit. And could also be associated with the look of some gangsters clothing style, bold, bigger and brighter even a bit garish. These subculture dress codes were set in the late 30s and early 40's. At That time the bold gangster image was abhorred by the middle classes . Gangsters believed they were dressing like the middle class business man . However during that period Fashion exuded the idea of the trickle down theory were middle class were the arbitors of fashion taste and that their taste would slowly trickle down to the lower classes who wouldnt understand the subtleties of it, and get it wrong. Therefore the middle class business types were scared that their idea of fashion was being highjacted by hoodlums and would through many channels, including all media, point out style difference between the middle and lower classes ,when in many cases the same styles were worn by both. I Think ironically after the war the reverse happened and there was a trickle up in fashion codes from the lower sub classes of the Zoot suiter and the gangster to the middle classes, were the bold look as an accepted and much lauded fashion statement of the middle classes, took it look of broad shoulders load ties wider lapels from the very people they had earlier abhorred. Now they were happy to look like gangsters of old bigger bolder brighter and just a little bit garish. Of course the gangsters wouldnt complain either as they could now legitimitely look like a a late 40's business man. More over some gangsters had learned to dress more conservatively like the business man of the early 40s, a nice justiposition???. Any thoughts, Cheers Tony
 

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