Tag Archives: Grunge

Where Have All The Icons Gone? Menswear: A History

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that my affinity for clothing, especially men’s clothing, began long ago.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact I’m the fourth generation of my family to own and operate Louis, and all that goes along with that is now in my blood. Contrary to what people may believe, Louis wasn’t founded to sell women’s clothing. As a matter of fact, the history of Louis was built around the best menswear money could buy, and both my grandfather and father were pioneers in the industry.

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

From L to R: Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle), Saul Pearlstein (my grandfather), and a few of their dapper friends.

From L to R: Louis Boston owners Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle, Louis and Jerome’s father), and Saul Pearlstein (Nathan’s brother, my grandfather)…and a few of their dapper friends.

In the 1930’s and early 40’s, when the silent film era began to decline and “talkies” took over, the movie studios understood the value in their investments, and had beautiful clothes custom made for the actors in their films. They brought in the best tailors from Italy; to dress them, and give them what would soon become “signature styles.”

A craft that had been taught and passed down from generation to generation, the Italian tailors took the business of fabric, tailoring, and fashion very seriously. The garments were handmade, and depending on the region of origin, were distinctly different from one another. Hollywood brought them over to help their stars develop distinct differences as well, and they did.

You only have to take one look at the suits Cary Grant wore, with defined shoulders, lapels, and patch pockets…or the fitted garments Gregory Peck wore, with much stronger shoulders and very baggy pants, to see the incredible custom work that was being done and the impact these “style icons” were beginning to have on fashion. As Grant’s co-star, Eva Marie Saint remarked about the actor: ”Other men wear suits. But with other men, there’s the man and then the suit that’s on him. That didn’t happen to Cary Grant. Style was like (his) skin.”

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

When the war was over at the end of the 40’s the Italian tailors returned to Italy, but they took something from the United States with them. It was here that they first became privy to the concept of “off the rack;” and the understanding that suits did not have to be made entirely by hand to be special. For the first time they began to alter their designs for a much broader audience, and my father was among the first to buy them and bring them back to Boston. Even though the garments were now part of a larger production process they still had the quality only the Italian tailors could impart to them. They were still something special. Word spread, and toward the end of the 50’s and more so throughout the 60’s and 70’s, when the Baby Boomers were starting to take their fashion more seriously, Louis saw a substantial amount of growth. It was around this time, when I was a young woman, that I took a real interest in Louis and our family business.

My father developed a shop within our shop called “Down with Louis,” which was created for consumers in my generation. He was importing 3 piece suits from Italy, crafted in gorgeous gabardine fabrics, and sold them for $125 each. With a sales team made up of only women (including me!), our male clients couldn’t get enough and began to buy 6 or 7 suits at a time, in every color they could get their hands on.

As the 70’s wore on and designers continued to develop their lines based on the signs of the times, men’s fashion took a turn…for the worse. Men were being presented with Rayon suits and chunky, high heels shoes, and after a brief fascination with the trends, they started to turn in another direction. They abandoned these clown suits (sorry!) and sprinted back toward conservative and emerging designers like Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren who knew exactly how to “save” them. Throughout the 80’s they did just that by creating comfortable “uniforms” so men didn’t have to think or be different. They were simply, and gladly, fitting themselves in to the images the designers created. The “Armani suit” infiltrated the professional set, and from preppy, to safari, to dude ranch, to Wall Street – Ralph Lauren mastered the presentation. Men who weren’t sure anymore about how to dress themselves felt a wave of relief. It was all there for them. It was painless, mindless, and safe.

They ran from this:

1978 Men's Fashion Advertisement Vintage 1970s Menswear 5-1

To this:

Armani

Armani

and this…

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Similar to the history in women’s fashion, the 90’s brought all things to a screeching halt because Generation X wanted nothing to do with nostalgia or achieving a particular “look.” The truth was everything to the contrary. The demise began with the notion of “Dress Down Friday” which turned into, “Fu*k it…let’s dress down every day.” “Deconstruction” and “Grunge” made men deconstruct wearing a suit to wearing, well, anything…and besides bankers and attorneys, you would see everything from ripped t-shirts, old jeans, sneakers, and even pajamas on the street. This was fashion?

5dc6fa0ce623e6ced839890cc2ed1e74

Later in the decade the tech bubble burst which required GenX to find “real” jobs and present a bit more professional. Suits were still out of the question, and when the next century began a new uniform emerged in the form of no crease, no stain, fabrics made from Petroleum and Teflon. White t-shirt + blue button down shirt + gray suit =  fashion? I know you remember it well. photo

Soon thereafter, with a downturn in the economy, men’s fashion began to genuinely lose its footing and once again men became unsure of where to turn…to find another uniform. Because of the spread between generations, and due to the fact that is no longer a “one suit fits all” landscape, it seems that luxury department stores have had to divide the shopping experience for men into “tailored” or “designerwear.” In my opinion, they’re getting extremely lost on the path between two places, and I think their customer is getting lost right along with them. Tailored clothing are no longer one style fits all, and designerwear has developed into extremes that are unequivocally not for everyone. barneyspicstitch

To be honest, if they don’t find what they’re looking for soon I’m afraid men are going to rebel like they did in the 70’s and we’re all going to find ourselves staring out into a sea of mediocrity once again.

So where do men turn for their inspiration today?

Long gone are the days of Marcello Mastroianni, who ordered custom suits from his Roman tailor….and the rugged dressed-down style of Steve McQueen…and the New York City grit of Al Pacino. From the casual cool of Marlon Brando and James Dean, to the sex appeal of Richard Gere in American Gigolo and the power of Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” who are men looking to for inspiration today?

Are there any icons out there?

If you find them, will you let me know?

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

This brings me full circle to my affinity for menswear, and fuels my purpose to bring inspiring pieces to Louis today. I travel the world with what I just shared with you in mind, and remain determined to help men find a way to pack their jeans away. It just has to happen! I make it my mission to help men who shop here find their own contemporary, relevant sense of style – where clothes are tailored correctly to fit closer to the body without looking awkward, and where urban and athletic style come together with PANTS, refined hoodies, gorgeous fabric, gorgeous blazers and sophisticated sneakers that will blow them all away…

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

I’ll leave you with this…

I remember once, when I was young and single (oh yes I was!) and living in a Townhouse outside of Boston, an acquaintance asked if they could set me up on a “blind date.” Never one to turn away from trying something new, I agreed and waited, and wondered who would arrive at my door.

After several days of anticipation, the date was upon me. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and walking to the door with the anxious/excited feeling one (hopefully) gets just before a blind date and swung open the door.

To my excitement, the man who stood before me surprisingly very handsome, and I felt a wave of relief take over…until my eyes left his face and found their way to what he was wearing, and before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, I said, “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong address…I’m waiting for my blind date!”

He didn’t get it. Do you?

One Style Does Not Fit All

Rhetoric (n.): The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing…

There’s an evolution going on in fashion, and my hope is that you’ll take the time to find the pieces that have meaning to you, before the rhetoric of new trends are spoon-fed to you from the pages of magazines.

While those glossies have always been around, and serve a great purpose to many, it’s important to understand that most of the trends they write about are manufactured by an industry to suit the season.

In other words, it’s no secret that some women (and men for that matter) are being force-fed a “one style fits all” mentality. And clearly our society is NOT one style fits all. Not every body is meant to fit in skinny jeans, and not every breast was meant to be revealed in a skin-tight top. I understand that yoga pants are a “thing,” but there’s a time and a place. We don’t all want to see an ass wrapped in spandex while in line at the dry cleaners. (I’m sorry, but it’s true)

People seem to be spilling out of their clothing lately, and for some reason they think that’s okay.

But, it’s not.

Creating a trend to push people into buying is not the only way.  As a matter of fact some of the most exciting fashion “trends” actually originated in society, based on an authentic sign of the times.

The 70’s were a shining example. People didn’t wait for “Punk” to appear on the pages of Vogue before they sought it out. The clothing was part of a bigger, cultural movement before it became “The Punk Look.” It was completely organic before it was pursued, embraced, and ultimately devoured by a generation starved for something unique and different.

Another obvious example was “Deconstruction,” or “Grunge.” The movement, initially, had nothing to do with fashion, but everything to do with music and culture and a severe socioeconomic backlash that was sweeping the world.

Speaking of sweeping the world…have you met the Millennials? They’re young, influential, and sitting in various positions on the current socioeconomic pyramid: Some have more money than they know what to do with (Yummies), and others can’t seem to find a job…even with a very expensive University degree in their pocket. But regardless of their position they’re demanding and consuming everything, even (sadly) the skin-tight trends.

But it’s also because of this that the world seems to be on the brink of real change. And it’s important to notice again how THIS is what can propel people, and therefore fashion, forward.

So turn off your smart phones, shut your magazines, and take to the streets. If you do you’ll see that a compelling mixture of volume, athletic luxury and urban flavor now embodies an evolution of fashion design that hasn’t really been done before.

Today, the architecture of clothing has taken center stage. “Volume,” in fashion, might sound intimidating, but it’s not. Volume, done correctly, will enable you to feel comfortable, but look interesting and impeccable. It’s not about larger sizes or cuts of clothing, it’s about moving fabric away from the body. It’s about evoking a bit of mystery. And in this world, obsessed with fast and furious consumption, where almost nothing is sacred, mystery can be a very good thing.

Additionally, athletic influence in fashion has become a legitimate game changer. Where blazers and jeans and yoga pants held court, athletic influenced jackets, shorts and pants are taking over. Pieces are being created to be comfortable, fashionable, acceptable, and ultimately coveted.

And all of this is reflected in an urban sensibility that has been woven so prevalently into our society today: In life, and music, and fashion…on the streets of New York and Paris and Milan.

What you find in the streets is not rhetoric…it’s life.

Haus Alkire jacket and skirt, Proenza Schouler top, Balenciaga sneaker

Haus Alkire jacket and skirt, Proenza Schouler top, Balenciaga sneaker

Haider Ackermann jacket, Proenza Schouler pant, Robert Clergerie shoe

Haider Ackermann jacket, Proenza Schouler pant, Robert Clergerie shoe

Bogden top, Long Journey pant, Roland Mouret shoe

Bogden top, Long Journey pant, Roland Mouret shoe

Piece d'Anarchive shorts and sweater, Balenciaga sneakers

Piece d’Anarchive shorts and sweater, Balenciaga sneakers

 

 

 

Welcome to the Evolution

It was brought to my attention lately that my blog “What Is…” was not.  And for a woman who has spent many years curating stories that come alive within the walls of Louis, I stopped telling them to you long ago.

I blog because I always have something to say, but I stopped because I kept getting the uneasy feeling that my words were falling on deaf ears…in what can be a very ignorant industry anyway. My tone was becoming angry, I know I sounded whiny, and it was time to stop tapping the keyboard and start tapping into evolution.

It was no longer interesting to me, and surely not to you, to continue to regurgitate the mantras I so loathed of markdowns and selling out. Everything felt like it was standing still.

Fashion has been, and always will be, a socioeconomic illustration of society. And as such should always be evolving. And that’s where the industry is fumbling. Stories have become about conforming when they should really be about evolving.

And all roads lead me here.

Is fashion evolving, and more importantly, are we evolving with it?

Let’s just say I’m hopeful.

With the advancement of smartphones and the alarming rate of digital creation and consumption, things have been moving at warped speed…except when it comes to fashion. I get that this digital movement is highly instrumental in “sharing” fashion, but what’s being shared has been stalling out.

I can’t understand why, when for the duration of my lifetime anyway, I have found the history of fashion to be somewhat fascinating.

Bare with me…

The 1950’s were, unquestionably, the decade of the dress. The silhouette was often the same, but fabrics and patterns would change so there could be a dress for every occasion a girl could dream of. And in the 50’s they were all dreamers, weren’t they?

1950's Fashion

In the 1960’s fashion started to see some much desired change. Women were finally ready to wake up. They were ready to break out of their Jello molds, and their attitudes began to instead mirror the social movements of the time. Highlights (and there were many) included Mary Quant inventing the mini-skirt and Jackie O introducing the world to the Pillbox hat. Dresses were still in fashion, but the silhouettes were changing. Women were turning away from the conventional and toward a sense of timeless freedom. Shift dresses, pants and skirt suits made their way to the mainstream, but all were still high on “matching” and low on adventure.

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 12.24.14 AM

 

Dior

Dior

Fortunately, fashion underwent a full-blown change from uniformity to individuality in the 1970’s. “Separates” made their way into the department stores and women breathed a collective sigh of relief, as they were now able to connect with who they were…or who they thought they were…or more likely, who they wanted to be. Women’s Liberation helped them wake up to the notion of expressing themselves, and fashion was beginning to let them. Platform shoes, Mini and Maxi dresses, hot pants, tube tops, fitted blazers, the ubiquitous DVF Wrap Dress, and last, but certainly not least, the leotard. From dance class to the dance floor with a trip to the supermarket in between, the leotard crossed over to streetwear and had an impact on the world that I still can’t believe!

70s-fashion-bell-bottoms

By the 1980’s things began to really shift from the home to the office, and women were now the standard in the boardroom. They weren’t working because they had to, they were working because they wanted to, and they needed to create an identity that spoke to who they were, and they needed to own it. Shoulder-padded blazers lined the racks to help women display how fierce they were, and short, fitted skirts made sure they weren’t forced to abandon their sexuality. Now they had an identity, but individual personalities got lost in the commute.

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 12.51.23 AM

1980

As things shifted from the 80’s to the 90’s women did begin to take ownership of who they were. The non-descript stood up and said, “No, I’m not (non-descript)” and they began to demand more than suits and separates. They didn’t want to have to worry about fitting in anymore. To the contrary, they were finally ready to stand out.

A reflection of the times, the Armani power suit dominated for those who were “getting ahead,” while deconstruction began to condemn the glitz and glamour of the 80’s. When the recession engulfed the economy in 1991 designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and the “Antwerp 6” already had a strong hold on Europe and “Grunge” had infiltrated the United States.

christy_ga

The "Antwerp 6"

The “Antwerp 6”

"Grunge" by Steven Meisel for Vogue

“Grunge” by Steven Meisel for Vogue

But then, somewhere in the middle of the 2000’s, things hit a wall. Hard. The items that men and women wanted to make themselves standout suddenly became “trends,” and the “top 5” were born. Websites and fashion blogs began to overflow with information (content) and the pages of glossy fashion magazines began to tell people what they had to wear to really show their individuality. However, unbeknownst to them, women really found themselves negotiating their individuality, and then individuality became the trend.

It kept getting worse from there.

Two words: Colored Denim

color-blocking-modelo1

031612-colored-denim-623

If you’ve been following along, all of this begs the question, how can we evolve and stay innovative if we’re simply going to follow the trend? Who are you if you dress exactly like Kim Kardashian?

That’s not a trick question.

The answer is you…only now, you’re dressed like Kim Kardashian.

It’s time to dress like you.

We made it through dresses and separates, pants suits and shoulder pads, bell-bottoms and tie-dye,  geometric prints and all things Mod. Why stop now?

It’s 2014 and if you’re paying close attention you know that fashion is absolutely evolving again. If you’re not, you should know that your options are abundant…but you have to stop looking to the current “It” girl, or in the pages of glossy “fashion” magazines. Trust yourself, find your passion, and make your mark.

What does evolution look like?

Get ready, because here it comes…

 

Thomas Tait

Thomas Tait

Thomas Tait

Thomas Tait