The Average Joe

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by Ken, Feb 26, 2004.

  1. Ken

    Ken A-List Customer

    Messages:
    308
    Location:
    Scotland, UK
    There seems to be thread after thread about the finest fedoras, the dressiest suits and basically the best of the best. But what I want to know is what did the average joe of the time wear? On Indygear we dont all fork out for $300 Herbert Johnson, many opt with the Akubra or another alternative for a fraction of the price. Sometimes this is motivated by the wallet and sometimes just out of simple choice.

    So did all fedoras cost big $$s? What kind of shoes did you buy if you weren't a fancy lawyer or businessman?

    Ken
     
  2. Andykev

    Andykev I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    Remember

    THere is a STRONG distiction here. In the 30's to the 50's , the heyday of men's fashion and hats..you could go into any store and buy whatever you now see in the vintage clothing ads ..etc.

    TODAY to obtain the hat or the vintage looking suit, you HAVE TO PAY HEAVILY for it. Basic law of supply and demand: there is little demand and little supply, so the "cottage industry" commands great prices.

    Aside from that, adjust for infaltion. In todays dollars, hats are close in cost to what they were, but remember to add the speciality value cost to them.

    Try going into Macys or your local department store, ask to see the men's furnishings department. Your hat selection will be "Dorfman Pacific" wool crap hats.

    Nuff said!!:rage:
     
  3. havershaw

    havershaw Practically Family

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    715
    Location:
    mesa, az
    This is a great question. I'm glad you asked.

    I just got a fall/winter 1948-49 Montgomery Ward catalog. Now, that's got items priced for the Average Joe. It has a decent fur felt hat selection (and interesting notes on sizing and styling), but they are all BRENT-brand. They offer Good Quality, Better Quality, and Best. Slightly below these are wool felt fedoras ("MODERATELY PRICED, SERVICEABLE," they claim). The wool felt are $2.98. In fur felt, the Good Quality are $5.75 (and are listed as lightweight felt). The Better Quality are $6.85 (listed as regular weight felt), and the Best are listed as $8.75 (and are the only ones that come open crown). Souds like these would be pretty average-priced. Now, I have a Knox Twenty whose felt is really excellent, and there is a handwritten note in the box (apparently from a young bride-to-be) stating the hat is a pre-nuptial gift ("a Knox hat for my Fellar") and she also mentions that it cost $20.00. The handwritten date on the note is 1947. This would not be a hat for the Average Joe.

    Most of the vintage Stetsons I have have price tags around the neighborhood of $10.00. I suspect heavily that a lot of Average Joes wore Stetsons, as even Stetson's lower-priced hats were still pretty nice. I'm sure these Montgomery Ward hats are not as nice as a lot fo the hats I've got, but even the crummiest vintage hats I own are a lot better than most of the modern felts I've handled.

    But that's why I still buy so many vintage Stetsons, even though the higher-end Knoxs and Borsalinos are of such a superior quality - I like buying a hat that I know a middle-class Joe would've worn (being a middle-class Joe, myself - if I'm even well-enough off to be considered middle class in this country!)

    Art probably knows a lot more about this than I do...and can probably shed some light (and correct me if I've steered you wrong).

    I also need to scan some pages from this catalog for you guys. They are great. And I think you can get a pretty clear picture of what "the Average Joe" would have worn. The catalog is a great big one, 1000+ pages, so it has pretty much everything and anything you can possibly imagine in it (the feminine hygiene section is terrifying). I'm waiting on three more I bought to arrive...then I'll have a scanning party.
     
  4. Andykev

    Andykev I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    Just adjust for inflation

    You have to figure that that $20 hat was really worth something in 1947. In the Big SLeep, you can read the menu from the cafe Bogart is in....bacon and eggs is 35 cents. I think a steak was under $1.75 (my poor recollection).

    Figure out how much gas per gallon, price of a new home (we are skewed out here in the SF Bay Area!), and the price of a car. Then figure what the minimum wage was, the average salary, the cop or fireman, and the banker or sales executife.

    Subtracting the high inflated cost of real estate, I believe that most (read MOST) things are comparable to what the "buying power" was back then.

    I know how my paycheck has grown over the past 20 years, and I also know how much all my living expenses have "kept up"...gee how convenient.

    SO the point is, IF hats were made in quantity as before like they were hot back in style like never before..you would still pay "Optimo" prices for that level of quality, but the "Biltmore" junk would be in the $100 + range. I suspect Stetson would be in that range too.
     
  5. Art Fawcett

    Art Fawcett Sponsoring Affiliate

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    Location:
    Central Point, Or.
    Hi Ken,
    Both Havershaw and Andy are right in there perspective so I have little to add but can expand on Andy's thoughts.
    In 1946 my Dad finished his tour in the Navy and went to work for my great uncle as an apprentice bricklayer for .85 cents per hour. Bear in mind that was 50% of a journeyman pay but thats STILL under $2 per hour. A loaf of bread was .10cents, going to a movie was .25cents, you could buy a brand new home for $4000. Now add that EVERYONE had to wear a hat to be proper so hat shops were like 7-11s are now. Since there were SO many hat shops competing for your business the prices were kept as reasonable as possible or you wouldn't sell many hats. The average cost of a good hat back then was $15 or under. Notice I said GOOD hat. not great hat. By comparison, today there are a relative handfull of hatters, fewer manufacturers of hat related products ( ribbon, bows, felt bodies, etc) that have a limited market when it comes to fedora's ( the cap market is still great) so every aspect of making a hat is more expensive. The labor involved is the most expensive part of the hat still so it's an economic question. How little can one live on and still feed the family?
    This is one of the many reasons I am hooked on vintage hats. They can still be expensive on occasion but generally you get not only the hat but the history that is attatched to it.
     
  6. Matt Deckard

    Matt Deckard Man of Action

    This is a very good thread.

    On the suit aspect:

    The one thing I always keep in mind is that men wore suits everywhere back then... they were not dress clothes they were clothes (at least up until the early 60's).

    The suits back then had smaller armholes which made it easier to move around and kept the jacket from riding up when you raised your arms, modern suit coats feel restrictive to me because the train tunnel sized armholes.

    You can watch an old James bond movie and see Connery wear his suit anywhere, even sitting on the dirt with gypsies in From Russia with love.

    You watch a bond movie now and the character is afraid to get his suit soiled so he changes to his jumpsuit or must remove his jacket. Times have changed

    As was said above like with hats, with suits being sold everywhere competition flourished... competition is good for prices and sometimes quality.
     
  7. Michael Mallory

    Michael Mallory One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    Glendale, California
    I'm coming late to this thread. But I recently came across an old interview with Buster Keaton, who was complaining about the price of hats in the 1960s. Keaton went through a lot of those porkpie hats, and he usually made them out of Stetsons, with the brim cut down, flattened and stiffened with sugar water (only he knew why). He said that in the 1920s a hat cost $3.50. By the 1960s, the equivalent hat cost him $12.50. It was particularly noticeable since Keaton was earning a lot more in the 20s than he was in the 60s. There's another piece of testimony: in the 1934 film "It Happened One Night," Clark Gable (who plays as average a guy as Gable could, being Gable) trades his hat in one scene to a gas station attendant. Then at the end, when he presents a bill to Claudette Colbert's rich father for "taking care" of her, he lists $4.50 to replace the hat. In depression era bucks, that must have been something of an investment (which is why the gas station attendant trades for the hat -- obviously he can't afford to buy one).
     
  8. Michaelson

    Michaelson One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,839
    Location:
    Tennessee
    All I know is that in the 50's and 60's, my Dad had a work hat that he purchased from J.C. Penny's and wore daily. He had a dress hat for Sunday, ALSO purchased from Penney's that was dressier and only worn with his dress clothes. He now only has a dress hat, and wears a ballcap when out in the yard. He said they don't make a felt he'd wear now, nor does Penney's sell a hat he'd even want to own. Need I tell you where we had an account during my early years? (grins) Regards. Michaelson
     
  9. Bogie1943

    Bogie1943 Practically Family

    Messages:
    672
    Location:
    Proctorville, Ohio
    If I could wear vintage styles all day everyday I sure as heck would. I wish I could wear them to school everyday and get away with it, I have done it before, it actually got a great response, people think I am extreamely rich or something now, lol. I love vintage cloths from the golden era and always will, no matter what the costs!:cool2:

    P.S. (whispers) Michaelson needs more coffee!:p LOL
     
  10. Michaelson

    Michaelson One Too Many

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    1,839
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Josh, you have NO idea how close to the truth you are.......:confused: ;) Regards. Michaelson
     
  11. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    Good day gentlemen, I have been enjoying this topic very much.
    I have two cents that I would like to add.

    The average Joe?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ he would have worn a suit. He would have had two suits. And two hats. He would have a suit for work, and a nicer suit for Sundays or taking that special some one out to the ball game or the movies or, even take here down to the Palladium to see Harry James.

    Those days were simpler ones! If you look at the Sears catalogs you can see what styles he wore. Sears and Wards were the department stores that Mr. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìJoe?¢‚Ǩ? could afford to shop.
    Like mentioned earlier one needs to take into account that a man made less then, and the cost of living was less as well. Gas in the Depression was about .5 to .10 cents a gal. In the out brake of WWII it went to .25 cents a gal. I have a Bulova watch that was made in 1940. I also have a life magazine from that year that has a full color page add for Bulova watches. It has the same watch advertised and it was a model for there Presidential line called the Senator and cost in 1940 a handsome sum of $35.50 that was a little more then a very nice felt hat or a suit. Today you would easily pay about $100.00 for the lesser model that Bulova has to offer. Would the average Joe have a Bulova? No, not unless his wife or friend saved up and gave him one for Christmas. He would have had a West Clocks or something of that nature.

    The prices of suits from Sears were very reasonable! In 1934 a suit for the young man was about $14.85 to $18.95. In the 40?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s it went up to about $25.00 on an average. But, I remember my Grand Mother Smith telling me that for $4.00 bucks they could buy enough groceries for the week. So, clothing wasn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t cheep still. But, they did have thrift shops that were known as Second Hand shops. There a man could suit up for very cheep!
    Matt, I would like to debate the theory of a man wearing a suit every day. I have seen a lot of colored photos and film strips of every day life from of the 40?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s. The ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHistory Channel?¢‚Ǩ? has had the Color of war and showed the best colored footage of life on the home front. There were a lot of men in suits, but there were lots that weren?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t. There were men just walking down the streets wearing gabardine or wool slacks, a button shirt and a felt or straw hat. But, I agree on the point that a suit wasn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t as dressy as they are considered today. Most men had a tux from their wedding that they would dig out for fancy parties or an evening out to a nice club or restaurant.

    My best reference is photos! They don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t lie. They tell a story that we can only guess what it was really like. I know that the average Joe then did like to dress up fancy for a date and look as good as he could afford.

    Thank you and good luck,
     
  12. Matt Deckard

    Matt Deckard Man of Action

    Joe did not wear a suit everyday, though they were made for daily wear.

    Wild Root is right, casual clothes were all over at the time, mainly around the neighborhood. In the city, you would stand out if you were not wearing a suit.
     
  13. Andykev

    Andykev I'll Lock Up Bartender

    Messages:
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    Location:
    The Beautiful Diablo Valley
    Better quality?

    It appears that the clothing from back then was of higher quality. I have seen vintage shirts that are much better made than the typical dress shirt today. My dress shirts, even when professionally laundered, don't last over a year. They start breaking down.

    There is an exception...when you get tailor made shirts that are over $100 each. I can buy 4 or 5 Van Husen or Arrow type for that.

    Also...suits were made of a heaver material. I have enjoyed looking at Art's vast inventory. It'sjust better stuff. Too bad it's also too small for me. But he's keeping an eye out.!!
     
  14. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    Good morning guys,

    Matt, I totally agree with you on the suit thing. They were made so well that they could be worn for daily use. Boy, are you right about where they wore their casual clothes! It was mostly out side big cities. But, I have seen some guys going coatless in LA around the early 40?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s. But, also remember that the weather here in Southern California is wormer and a man got hot like the next and would shed his coat.

    Andykev, you are so right about dress shirts! Oh my, let me tell ya about them falling apart. They aren?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t made today as they were back then. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a shame that we live in a use and abuse then trash it society. I think that an Arrow dress shirt of that period would hold up longer vs. a new Arrow. But, only if the old one was right out of the box would it stand up to the challenge. I see 40?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s dress shirts as often as I see three piece belted back suits. They are hard to find! Especially in a 16 ?Ǭ? by 35. I know that Art had a nice stack at the last Vintage show, but I didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t want to upset his nice display to look for a size I knew he didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t have. I do find a lot of cotton and wool gabardine casual shirts here and there. I have a nice collection of those but not one dress shirt of the period. Seeing that they were made out of light weight cotton, they had a tendency to rot away as well.

    Any way, quality was the mission in most every thing then. Now, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s how fast and cheep can we make it.

    Oh, Andy one thing, I have been very successful in finding casual gabardine shirts from the 40?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s and 50?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s down here. If you give me your shirt size, I could keep an eye out for you as well. Two is better then one! And also what colors do you fancy.

    Take care men,
     
  15. fedoralover

    fedoralover Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,006
    Location:
    Great Northwest
    Just as an addition to the price range of things, I have a 1937 Stetson hat ad from an Esquire magazine that advertises Stetson hats ranging in price from $7.00 to $40.00. That 40 dollar hat would have been pretty expensive in 1937.

    fedoralover
     
  16. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    Fedora, it would have been the highest priced hat that Stetson offered for that year. And now, you can find those some times on e-bay in the $25-$30. Dollar range. I'm sure that Stetson didn't sell a lot of $40. Dollar hats that year.

    Any way, any more comments on this?
     

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