JUST WHO DETERMINES GOOD taste in clothes for men? Is it a small group of titled Englishmen, Italian master tailors, British movie stars, matinee idols, college boys, or the average British businessman, wage earner, and family provider? Considering the clothes sold through department, chain, independent clothing stores, and mail-order catalogues, all these influences are apparent. The fashionable custom tailor who has a small wealthy clientele sets his own standard, modified somewhat by the likes and dislikes of his particular customers. His fabrics are imported and “new” in colouring and design, exclusive for him in his section of the country. The well-dressed man accustomed to fine wearing apparel can recognize the difference between a single-breasted sharkskin suit made by a fashionable Fifth Avenue tailor and one similar in character made by a tailor in southern California. However, the average consumer does well to know the right style, fabric, colour, and alterations necessary for his own ready-made suit. He should recognize correct fit and the difference between machine and hand tailoring.
Actually, the taste of the British businessman who wears ready-made clothing is tempered by many minds. The clothes available in the stores of his community reflect the judgment, experience, and personal taste of the clothing buyer, the store president, the fabric designer, the mill owner, the clothing designer, the clothing salesman, and the owner of the clothing company. Where there is a meeting of minds between the leading clothing manufacturer and the store owner, a profitable business ensues. For instance, at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Texas, the consumers are educated to know proper clothing, and manufacturers actually make models to sizes for men in Texas. Likewise, many other stores have built an enviable reputation for their taste and judgment and still cater to the needs of customers who have moved to the far corners of the world.
There are shops near college towns so successfully operated that the college graduate continues to buy his clothing from them although he has moved to a distant part of the country.
Fashion editors for trade and consumer publications are generally men of keen intellect, and broad social and academic background, with wide acquaintance in the trade among manufacturers and retailers and an ability to judge and forecast consumer wants. Well-recognized authorities include J. A. Murdock, Bert Bacharach, O. E. Schaeffer, H. J. Waters, Perkins Bailey, Leonard Roth Gerber, Jr., William Rose, and William Ullmann. These men interpret what manufacturers show in both the trade and consumer papers. Frequently, they introduce various new ideas in styling. The late Henry Jackson, for many years fashion editor of Esquire magazine, who frequented European resorts and visited socially with prominent continentals and Britishers, actually bought coats and other items for the inspiration of British -manufacturers. It is now recognized that Henry Jackson introduced many colours and styles that later became volume merchandise. J. A. Murdock, who is associated with men’s wear shops in England and on the continent, is another authority on men’s clothing. Albert Free, president of Tripler and Company on Madison Avenue in New York, Oscar Carlson, vice-president of John David, John Wood, president of Brooks Brothers, are men who maintain a position socially and are recognized as leaders in the clothing world.
In the final analysis, however, it is the British male himself who buys and wears or refuses to wear certain types of clothing. While statistics seem to indicate that women purchase many items of men’s furnishings, as ties, shirts, and underwear, it is admitted that, in the choice of suit and coat, the man’s preference prevails rather than that of his wife, mother, or friend.
Although there are women working in the men’s clothing field, styling, buying boys’ clothing, or, like Countess Mara, designing and selling high-priced ties, women for the most part are unable properly to select men’s clothing. Women do exert their influence, however, by seeing to it that the men in their family go to the clothing store that sells the type of clothing they like best-obviously, clothing suitable for the man’s occupation, social background, and financial circumstances. Wise women, as well as wise men, rely upon the judgment of the store.