Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Men’s Fashion Perspective

Sinatra had a style that was no match for his charisma
“Dressed to the nines,” what exactly does it mean? 

Snazzy,” said in not so quite a whisper.  Often, this is what a man would hear as he entered a club or restaurant. Such was the common the reaction, for a gentleman wearing ties to over hear. For much of the prior century men had a desire to look stylish, wearing suits and ties - especially socially. This was commonly referred to “dressing up.”

Not long ago, a man had a keen sense of fashion that could rival a woman’s awareness of fashion and the desire to dress accordingly. This appreciation of apparel was not just limited to the aesthetic value of clothes alone, but the quality of textiles, fabrication and craftsmanship. Moreover, the value of what a designer’s name meant let alone just the knowledge of who they were and what qualifications they had were as important as the rooster of the starting lineup for the N.Y. Yankees. Today, it seems like men either don’t know who the fashion designers are, or they just don’t care. The acceptance of casual dress in the workplace, partly due to the dotcom era on the 90’s created a severely diminished appreciation of men’s high fashion clothing.

Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Marilyn Monroe
A revolution against neckties had gained support that it became a common ideal to dress in what some men called comfortable clothing. The casual Fridays became casual every-day. In Southern California guys working in stock broker firms would show up for work after the morning surf session in surf baggies, Tee shirts, and salt water still in their hair. Many Car dealerships, even large chains decided that a relaxed appearance was OK, and restaurants that required wait staff, men and women to wear neckties adopted the trend and branded clothing with company logos replaced the tie. What had been the signature apparel of fast food eateries and gas stations became a common look for establishments that had table clothes and reservations only policies. Some of hold outs, even signature restaurants and night clubs in New York City were not requiring a necktie for a man to gain entrance. It was as if what had been a standard rule in Miami Beach would be next in reverse, replacing “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” with,”Come in However You Look.” 

God forbid, if the Rainbow Room in New York City atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the 70th floor were to shun their "No Necktie - No Entrance" rule - Armageddon could quite possibly be next.  When arriving on the 69th floor the elevator door would open to the entrance to the famous lounge, one floor below the restaurant where it was a wait of several weeks of advance reservations for a table.  This was where the maitre'd would deliver the bad news to men without neckties.   Sadly, I have checked and it is true the Rainbow Room has closed in 2009, another recession casualty.  New owners are considering re-opening this iconic New York City Venue, which is perhaps the greatest view of Manhattan, and a beautiful example of Art Deco design.   Hopefully they will have a necktie required rule.  See Rainbow Room for the story about this restaurant atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza on 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.    In 1930 the "21" Club opened on West 52nd Street in Manhattan where neckties were required for men to enter.   In January of 2009 the popular restaurant and lounge ended it's neck wear policy, something that some men could never have imagined.   They still have a tie drawer with a collection ready to be loaned to men, young and old necktie aficionados.  You may read more here, Club 21 Abandons its Necktie Only Rule..  Any man ever visiting New York could get a necktie on the short notice at almost every corner at a kiosk.  There was a constant need for ties and as always, entrepreneurs would see opportunity.

Neckties surely have lost their way in the maze and confusion of men's fashion, and the very nonchalant manner of modern society.  Is the lack of a man's desire to dress with stylishness another indication of the decline of culture or way of life?  At the very least, men's fashion is becoming less than what many would consider as elegant.   Interestingly enough the word elegant according to Wikipedia is defined as impossible to define cogently, because the word is vaguely and arbitrarily understood. One man's elegance is another man's nuisance - obviously that would depend on the man and his character.  Apparently in the new millennium more and more men are in the opinion that neckties are useless.

In contrast, men wore neckties religiously to work throughout the decades from the turn of the past century, spanning two world wars. Even, men in the blue collar work force were not without their desire to have the distinctive look of character and of serious mind. This would be evident in the fact that non professional men would wear neckties under their coveralls. The professional dress code was suits and ties, although it was hardly enforced attire, rather one that was naturally adhered to. Men just felt the desire to be classy and polished while in employment.  

"Clothes and manners do not make the man; but when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance." Arthur Ashe

Oxford Suit Illustration
A statement that could easily illustrate how important dress clothes were to men is the fact that everyman owned at least one suit and several neckties. It was a show of respect to dress in a suit and tie and that respect was reciprocal. As if it were at right of becoming an adult young men learned how to tie ties, as if it were a ritual of adolescence. This was not just a tradition realized within society in which its scope was broad encompassing ethnic boundaries; it was more of life style than anything else.

It was a day when men wore ties because they felt elegant and sophisticated by having an appearance of style. Possibly a result of Industrialization, men clothing had become streamlined with flair and panache. Men were expected to be serious about their lives and their way of thinking. Their attitude and character would be perceived in such manner as a reflection of their style, which naturally created great thought in grooming. “If it looks like a gentlemen, and talks like a gentlemen, then it is probably a gentleman.” It was man’s endeavor not to look like a misfit and fall into the category of being a bum. It was a great feeling to being chic. Men were as glamouress as woman were in a time when being a handsome man meant being “dressed to the nines.”

Now, what does “dressed to the nines” mean? Well, now that you ask.

Although there are many different theories about the origin or reference of this cliché here is the actual meaning of the adage “dressed to the nines.”

Dressed flamboyantly or smartly


Phrase that means perfectly dressed in the most fashionable attire. Would most likely be used in evening attire fashion such as being dressed for a formal occasion in which a person would dress their best to command as much respect and attention as possible.

We could tell the black tie event was the most important of the social season. Everyone was dressed to the nines.

The Phrase Finder Wiki Answers

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  1. Thanks for sharing your opinion. really wonderful blog!! keep it up!! :)

    Fashion Ties For Men

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