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I, too, lament that grey flannels are much less common and no longer really worn in casual day-to-day situations.

While I'm a reasonably confident person, I don't want my clothes to actively call attention to me, so I found the comments discouraging. Even away from the comments, I felt a bit dressed up when wearing them - I just couldn't capture a "I'm wearing chinos" nonchalance vibe. I just felt too dressed up in them to simply hand around the apartment wearing them.

I love the old pictures of college kids playing catch football in OCBDs, grey flannels and weejuns, but it's hard to capture that casual comfortableness as an outsider to what everyone else is doing. Sadly, my flannels stay on their hangers except for "nicer" occasions.
My friend, I understand your conflicted views about wearing your flannels.

In my younger days I had the same mental hang-up about the better clothes that were hanging up in my closet. Then I asked myself, "What am I waiting for? Am I waiting for 'someday'? I'm not getting any younger; what if 'someday' never comes for me? Either I enjoy these clothes in this life, or I don't enjoy them at all. I have a choice: I can wear them, or I can keep them in pristine condition for the stranger who finds them in a thrift shop after I'm a pile of ashes. I vote for me. Upon my death, I want the clothes in my closet to be worn-out."

Time's a-wastin'. Wear the flannels and learn to love the old-world vibe. Don't overdo it, of course; keep the chinos in rotation. But now and then, make a point of padding around in the flannel trousers...just because.

(You'll find that as you age, "just because" becomes a good enough reason for doing more and more things.)
 

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Wearing a pair of pants that you subconsciously designate as "dressy" places you in a psychological straitjacket, you move around more carefully lest you distort the blade edge crease, you refrain from certain activities you'd naturally do lest the pants become stained or ruined, and you lose that devil-may-care attitude that is at the essence of Ivy. So my OP was driving towards finding a pair of flannels that we can, in our minds, treat the same as cotton khakis.
But then aren't you implying that, once we've found ourselves in a "psychological straitjacket," our only choice is to keep wearing it and then find something that we can use/enjoy as best we can while so encumbered?

What about finding a way to slip out of and discard the straitjacket altogether?

We can be ruled by what is "in our minds," or we can change our minds. Break through that mental barrier that's holding us back.

P.S. I've been loving your posts, by the way. I don't want this one point of disagreement to obscure that fact.
 

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Billax, I agree with everything you wrote (as if I were going to argue with a man who was actually, you know, THERE). When I read the OP’s initial post, I thought, “Perhaps he’s thinking about pre-WW II Ivy rather than the Ivy of the 1950s-early 1960s. So I simply read his comments with the 1930s in mind (and disregarded the part about khakis being seen as often as flannels, since that wasn’t the case at that time).

Next topic: Let’s bring back the beer suit.
 

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Tangentially (very tangentially) related:

An advertisement in the New York Times on September 20, 1951 reads as follows:

“In Wales, they call it GWLAN

“Hundreds of years ago, the Welsh invented the technique of weaving a comparatively light cloth and then napping the surface to give the fabric both softness and warmth. They called the fabric gwlan...and through the centuries it has attained world-wide usage and fame among well-dressed men.

“Here in America, we call it FLANNEL.

“The result is the Ivy League suit which is soft, silky, and luxurious to the touch...yielding to every movement you make...and among the most handsome any man can wear. It belongs in every well-rounded wardrobe.”

(I think the copywriter got a little carried away for a moment.)

The ad is for the “Ivy League” suit by John Jarrell Inc., 518 Fifth Avenue, NYC.

$85.00.

As the 1950s progressed (if you can associate the word “progress” with the 1950s), flannel odd trousers became less popular, khakis more popular. However, flannel trousers were still an obligatory part of the college man’s wardrobe in the early years of the decade. And for the businessman? The grey flannel suit was a staple throughout that decade and beyond.
 

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So the hangup lies with us.
What gevans said above brilliantly captures the theme of this entire thread. And not just the theme, but the solution to Tim's dilemma:

The way to wear wool flannel trousers casually is to wear wool flannel trousers casually.

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are reluctant to wear
wool flannel trousers on the weekend."

Many years ago, on television, there was a retrospective on President Kennedy. The program included a brief home movie of JFK at his new estate in Atoka, Virginia shortly before his assasination. In the clip, JFK is outdoors, sitting on the ground with his back against the wall of his house. He's wearing a tan crewneck sweater and what appear to be gray flannel trousers. He's feeding treats to Caroline's horse; after each bite, the horse nudges Kennedy for more. He keeps sticking his nose down into Kennedy's face. Meanwhile, JFK is ducking this way and that, and rolling on the ground, thoroughly enjoying the harassment.

When I first saw the home movie, I thought, among other things, "Why is JFK wearing dress pants when he's sitting on the grass feeding a horse?" Now, years later, I get it. It was 1963; most adults generally did not wear jeans unless they had to for work; it was a cool day, given how everyone else in the clip is dressed-so cotton khakis would not have been the best choice. JFK was never a moleskins-and-corduroy kind of guy. Wool flannel trousers? Why not? They're warm, practical, and-because they can be dressed up or dressed down-versatile.

In case you're interested, the home movie of JFK feeding the horse is on You Tube. It can easily be found by putting the words "JFK home movie Atoka" in the search field (without the apostrophes). The movie is almost 15 minutes long, but the JFK-and-the-horse part begins at 11:45.

The new estate where the scene takes place? Jackie Kennedy, who was effectively in charge of purchasing the property and designing the house, named it "Wexford." The Kennedys were able to spend only three weekends there before the President was killed. I read somewhere that JFK didn't like the place-it was too remote for his taste. It was really Jackie's project.

Other home movies of JFK are on You Tube. Like anybody's home movies, they're not that interesting. I like to watch them (with plenty of fast-forwarding) to see how JFK and his family members dressed casually in the early 1960s. There's a clip, for example, of JFK hitting golf balls (and hitting them, and hitting them...) while wearing Nantucket reds.

And it isn't just what President Kennedy wore that fits into the theme of this thread; it's what he said as well. In a televised interview in the 1950s, then-Senator Kennedy was asked how people could get involved-perhaps seriously involved-in political campaigns. He replied, "The way to get started is to get started." He suggested they begin by simply handing out leaflets door-to-door.

So get started. Put on those wool gray flannel trousers, regardless of what other people think.

Then buy an estate in the Virginia horse country.

Edit: I forgot that Tim himself said "I think it's mostly in the wearer's head." So I also want to give Tim credit for working through to a resolution. Cassius would be proud.
 

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TimF, if you're looking for grey flannel wool trousers that are far less spendy than what O'Connell's offers, please note that Peter Christian has them for $120.00. I don't think you'd want to mow the lawn in them, but it wouldn't be out of the question to wear them while sitting on the lawn, feeding treats to your daughter's horse--or for general lounging about or running light errands around town.

I'm pointing this out to show you that I'm not in the habit of prescribing universatilityness--universalizinicity--Eliza Doolittle--whatever the hell you said I was prescribing.
 

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On college campuses after World War II, there was a movement away from flannel odd trousers and toward khakis as everyday pants. This ascendance of khakis was gradual—it didn’t happen in 1946—but the trend was clearly underway by the early 1950s.

The above paragraph contains no new information; it merely re-states what has been noted repeatedly in various Trad/Ivy discussion forums.

Here’s something new (actually, old), just in case you occasionally like to go back in time to see what the people in the midst of a sartorial turning point had to say:

The March 24, 1954 edition of The Daily Princetonian has an article by Richard Kluger, a Princeton University student. He has heard that the poet T. S. Eliot, though living in London, still purchases his clothes via mail-order from Langrock's (a now-defunct store that for many years sold quintessentially Ivy-style clothes to Princeton students and professors, and to area businessmen). Mr. Kluger has just read "The Waste Land" and has heard that in the 1940s, Mr. Eliot completed "The Cocktail Party" in a study carrel in Princeton’s main library. Thus intrigued by the famous poet, Mr. Kluger decides to talk with Harry Decker, the owner of Langrock's.

Mr. Decker confirms that T. S. Eliot is indeed a regular customer. According to Mr. Decker, T. S. Eliot is "tall, gaunt, stoop-shouldered and very hard to style clothing for."

The article’s final paragraph is as follows:

"The proprietor concluded our visit with a tour through the Langrock plant; stressing the quality and the tailoring as the distinctive Langrock features that attracted Mr. Eliot's patronage even from England, Decker noted that among his clients are...several hundred distinguished businessmen and celebrities. We thanked him and hurried around the corner to pick up a pair of khakis at the Army-Navy Store before it closed.”

I think the last paragraph of the article is noteworthy in a way that the reporter couldn’t imagine. His juxtaposition of two clothing stores that are diametric opposites—one devoted to the best in classic, natural-shoulder tailoring, the other one to casual cotton duds—is an in-the-field report of what was happening with college fashions at the time.

In effect, the reporter is saying (these are my words): “Wow. Such beautiful suits! Such magnificent fabric! Such attention to the fine points of tailoring! No wonder so many luminaries shop here. Well—see ya! Gotta go get me some cheap khakis!”

The reporter’s comically abrupt transition from the venerable Langrock’s to the hardscrabble khaki joint presaged what was to happen to college fashions during the next decade: clothes in the former getting eclipsed by clothes in the latter, with the process complete by the late 1960s.

Come to think of it, perhaps the reporter, Richard Kluger, did have an inkling that the future would belong to khakis, not flannels, which would explain the vaguely satirical tone of his final paragraph, in which he seemed to breezily dismiss a store that represented a fusty old world.
 

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^ By the way, Richard Kluger is still alive and is active as a writer of fiction and non-fiction books. His latest novel, Beethoven's Tenth, will be published later this year. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his 1996 book Ashes to Ashes, a history of the tobacco industry in the United States. I wonder if he still wears khakis. I should ask him--he lives near San Francisco.
 

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^ Billax, thank you so much for your kind words. Your praise means a lot to me--a lot. And it's been a two-way street; over the years, I've been enriched and entertained by all that you have shared--pictorially and verbally--with us. In fact, I'm grateful to all of the other forum members who continually enlighten me with their own knowledge and insights.

Anyone with the time and interest can "time travel" the way I do. Here are a few of the ways I climb aboard the train to the past:

--I browse the Larry DuPraz Digital Archives of the Daily Princetonian and the archives of the Yale Daily News;

--Using my San Francisco Public Library card number, I gain access to ProQuest's

• New York Times Historical archives, which contain all copies of the NYT from 1851 to 4 years ago;
• Newspaper Archive Library Edition, which gives me online access to over 6,000 newspapers going back more than 300 years;
• Los Angeles Times Historical archives, which span the years 1881 to 1993;
• Vogue Magazine's archives from 1892 to the present (in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, Vogue covered men's clothing as well as women's).

If I'm researching clothing--specifically of the Ivy League/Trad type--then when I arrive at a given archive, I simply type applicable words into the search field: "Ivy League clothes," "sack suit," "lapel roll," "three button," "two button," "flannel trousers," "white flannel trousers," "Oxford cloth shirt," etc.--I just play around with various search terms--whatever I'm in the mood for researching--and see what pops up. Sometimes I get no hits, sometimes hundreds of thousands. Then to narrow things down if I get too many hits, I filter by decade or year. Just the typical things you do when you're doing online research.

To me, this kind of "time travel" is so relaxing. What a stress reliever it is for me to sit in a comfortable chair when I have a bit of time and read newspaper articles about the latest styles in men's suits in the early 1930s. (News flash: as of March 1931, the four-button jacket is "dead.")

Since I'm replying to Billax, I'll add some 3/2 Roll bonus information.

I noticed in my research that until men's online discussion forums came along, nobody used the term "3 roll 2" or "3/2 roll." Dispensing with such arithmetic shorthand, newspaper articles would simply describe that configuration: "The lapel rolls gracefully to the middle button;" "only the middle button is to be fastened;" or, from the Cedar Rapids Gazette for August 28, 1932 (evidently re-printing a widely-distributed press release): "three button, center button to button."

And the advertisements? In the 1930s and thereafter, ads for suits and jackets having what we know as the "3 roll 2" merely referred to the garments as the "three-button model"--no further explanation was necessary; it was understood that if the jacket had three buttons, then of course the lapel would roll to the middle button, which would be the only button anyone in his right mind would close. (If the ad were for a true three-button suit or jacket, then it would specifically point that out.)

The ads for a 3/2 roll suit or jacket would explicitly mention the garment's other features--"natural shoulder," "hook vent," "lapped seams," "patch pockets"--but the jacket's button arrangement wasn't worth mentioning--no need to--beyond the words "three button." About the furthest the ads would go would be to extoll a sack jacket's "easy lines" (as the Princeton University Store did in an ad for its blue flannel blazer in the November 11, 1953 issue of the Daily Princetonian).
 

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Tangentially, it would be very interesting to get some first-hand accounts of the struggle to open up the Ivies to GI-bill'ers. Because, let's face it, inclusivity was not (and some would argue still is not) one of their traits.
Interesting point. An article by reporter Benjamin Fine in the New York Times dated July 22, 1956 comes close to addressing the above issue. I have quoted excerpts from the article at the end of this post for anyone who may be interested. Warning: The article says nothing about clothes.

But aside from the veterans who were at the Ivy League in the 1940s and '50s, I would like to see first-hand stories about any of the tensions that existed at elite schools between (a) the wealthy sons of America's aristocracy and (b) the smart but financially strapped kids attending those schools thanks to scholarships, loans, and/or work-study programs. In the 1950s, roughly a third of the undergraduates in the Ivy League were receiving some form of financial assistance--and I don't mean the kind that comes from Daddy's investment portfolio.

Here's a notice that was published in The Daily Princetonian on January 17, 1952:

"Student Aid Men Register

"Today is the last day for all men registered with the Bureau of Student Aid to register their earnings. Registration must be made between 10 and noon or between 1 and 5 today. Financial aid renewal next term depends on this registration."

Imagine getting to Princeton and finding out that you've been slapped with the label "Student Aid Man." Wonderful.

Suppose a Student Aid Man and a Trust Fund Baby are sitting next to each other in their Comparative Literature class in 1952. How will they get along? I don't know. What's likely is that 30 years later, when Student Aid Man sells his company for $300,000,000, he and Trust Fund Baby will grab drinks at the country club and talk about old times on campus--such as all the times that Student Aid Man helped Trust Fund Baby write term papers.

*******

Here are excerpts from Benjamin Fine's 1956 story about how the initial phase of the GI Bill worked out:

"In twelve years, nearly 8,000,000 ex-servicemen attended school and college, took on/the-job training or worked on farms....

"Educators began last week to take stock of this great educational venture. At one time college campuses were swamped with veterans....

"There were misgivings at first. But the educators soon found that the veterans were characterized by maturity and strong motivation. The veterans were substantially older than their civilian classmates. And they wanted to make up for lost time.

"Perhaps the situation at Yale University is typical of the institutions that found their campuses overcrowded with ex-servicemen. Some 15,000 veterans attended Yale in the [past] 12 years. A maximum of 5,900 were enrolled during the spring term of 1947. Yale found that scholastically the vets did better work than the other students. But...the University benefited also from the rise in standards achieved by the veterans.

"The Columbia University campus probably had the largest number of G. I.'s of any institution. Some 85,000 veterans have attended Columbia since the program began. The peak year was reached in 1947, when 17,733 ex-servicemen were enrolled, comprising 74 per cent of the male student body.

"Contrary to expectations, few veterans gave up before completing their educational objectives. The ease and completeness with which the ex-G. I.'s fitted into the academic environment proved heartening.

"'Veterans...have brought to our campuses an atmosphere of serious purpose and a sense of responsibility' [said one official].

"There is little doubt that the veterans brought a sense of maturity previously unknown to college campuses. Dr. Herold C. Hunt, Undersecretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and former...Harvard University professor [said] 'Having shared the experience and responsibility of winning World War II, many veterans came to college with a deeper sense of values than those who came directly from high schools. Their seriousness brought good scholarship and a high level of achievement...."

"Many institutions created veterans' divisions. Brown University set up a separate college for ex-servicemen in the fall of 1946 for men whose academic background was not up to those of the regular students....College gave them this chance to show that acquired maturity and greater incentive to learn could offset any deficiencies of previous training....They made good. Most of them were able to transfer successfully to the college proper.

"Now the Korean veterans, 350,000 strong, are on the nation's campuses and in the classrooms...[and] they are being made welcome by educators impressed with the success of the World War II veterans."
 
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