Scanning Around With Gene: When Men Looked Sharp
Maybe it’s because I’ve always worked in California, but I’ve never really had to dress up for work. Sure, even today I wear a sport coat with my blue jeans to casual Friday’s, and for a while I wore a tie to work. And I do dust off my tuxedo every now and then for a special occasion.
But I rarely wear anything that could be considered a real “suit,” with matching pants and coats, and never owned anything that came in three pieces, complete with matching vest.
Back in 1961, however, men who worked in offices tended to dress up much more than they do today. I suppose on Wall Street, in the Banking world and in sophisticated board rooms (and, thankfully, in the White House) many still do, but it’s not the norm. Today’s images are all from issues of Esquire magazine from 1961. Click on any image for a larger version.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing that looks sharper than a man in a well-tailored suit, and I use to fantasize about running a large corporation in New York, looking good and commanding respect.
But in my world the reality has been that if I dressed up to that degree I would look completely out of place – the “uniform” of Silicon Valley is hardly that of Madison Avenue, and it’s actually more embarassing to be over dressed here than it is to be under dressed.
It could be that Esquire didn’t reflect reality back in 1961, but I do remember even my dad wearing a suit to work every day and we lived in Los Angeles, another casual work environment. I think men really did dress up in those days and that dry-cleaning budgets were higher than they are today.
But then a lot of things were different back then. Even the casual man was inclined to dress well, at least according to Esquire. You didn’t run around in a t-shirt and blue jeans back then, even if you were mowing the lawn.
Sometimes I do think the casual dress code has gotten a little out of hand, and it’s always disappointing to me to go to a nice restaurant or a sophisticated event only to see people there dressed completely wrong for the circumstances.
It still feels good every once in a while to dress up. But I’ve never had nor needed a personal tailor, and my weekend wear tends toward sweat pants and an Angry Bird t-shirt.
Perhaps someday I’ll end up in an environment where suits and ties are the norm and I’ll have to dramatically increase my clothing budget. And I suppose if that time comes, I better subscribe to Esquire so I can see what the well-dressed man is wearing these days.