It seems that there are fewer occasions these days to wear a white shirt outside of the office.
This is principally due to what Malcolm Gladwell calls a “tipping point”: essentially there arrived a moment when enough people simply opted not to wear a white shirt out, say to a music recital or to dinner at a fancy restaurant.
The result? Today one wonders, in increasing diverse situations where previously it was automatically the dress code, whether a white shirt is overdoing it.
This is to be regretted, if only from an aesthetic point of view, as white serves as an ideal background. It’s basically invisible: attention is instead drawn to your necktie or bow tie.
To avoid the “too formal?” conundrum, it’s advisable to avoid anything that looks corporate. That means wearing off white, or alternatively wearing white but with texture, for example the subtle seersucker in the above photo.
Neckties and bow ties are wonderful accessories: facilitate their appearance in your outfit with an unnoticed background, without looking as though you’re about to drop into work.
Our navy birdseye bow tie, available now on our website zutiste.com.
It sits among our more formal bow ties due to the relatively ‘hard’ hand of the wool. Thus it’s classy without being shiny, and classic without being dull—thanks to the modern spring-in-its-step of the birdseye weave.
From ‘Gentleman’ (2010). Bernhard Roeztel on that handsome & uncomfortable siren of summer, the straw boater.
The black band is rather sober, however you need to keep in mind that a century ago black was the universal colour of businesswear and the circular saw was habitually worn with a suit of that colour.
Today such a hat might carry rather a charcoal or navy band. Unlike a panama though, a genuine ‘Strat’ is heavy, rigid & grates on the scalp. Best worn with an excellent sense of balance & a padded inner headband.
Houndstooth for us places among the more subtle of cloth weaves. It’s not as logo-esque as a glencheck (originally that motif identified a particular estate) or brash as pin or chalkstripes; it brings rather an illusion of texture. This one is the real deal: a soft, worsted wool weave that pops in & out of its knot.
Le Bar Botaniste, Paris. Underwhelming; perhaps it was the plastic drinking straw, or the guy sitting nearby wearing a t-shirt, or the slightly-tacky pop music. On the plus side, a guest entered wearing a velvet smoking jacket. And the barmen are undeniably affable chaps.
We saw this style of photo for the first time of a pair of boots hanging from their laces: upside down but obviously, gravity being gravity, not in fact upside down. Here an unusually clear Paris winter sky gave us a direction-neutral background. Perhaps this is what a pilot doing barrel rolls might see were he to undo his bow tie?
Nous avons vu ce style de photo pour la première fois avec un pair de bottillons suspendu par les lacets. Ils ont l’air être à l’envers mais bien évidement, vu la force de gravité, ils ne l’ont pas. Ici un ciel parisien qui n’est pas clair d’habitude nous donne un fond sans indication de l’orientation spatial. Peut-être que c’est cela qu’un pilote verrait s’il dénouerait son nœud papillon en mêle temps de faire un tonneau ?
In 2016 Zutiste participated in the first Salon des créateurs de swing, or Swing Designers Show, à l’Arrière Cour in Paris. Accompanying the exploding dance scene in Europe are artisans & enterprises manufacturing bow ties (us!), clothing, & footwear (@swivells.shoes).
En 2016, Zutiste à assisté au premier salon des créateurs de swing à l’Arrière Cour à Paris. À côté du scene de danse qui connaît une croissance exponentielle en Europe sont des artisans et fabricants des nœuds papillons (nous!), vêtements et chaussures.
It’s summer. And for the elegantly-dressed, hot weather is accompanied by delicate conundrums. Compared to displaying one’s own bare skin, cloth is a relatively uncomplicated affair.
Until recently this question hardly arose as the body was expected to remain covered in polite society from ankle to wrist to neck, and above the crown of the head. With the unwinding of society’s fixation with and disapproval of the public human body these convenient coverings have steadily receded. Today, we are less burdened in summer with devising how to wear all this fabric without resembling a perspiring water fountain. Rather we are doubly vexed by how to present geographically more skin, accompanied here and there by appealingly fashioned scraps of cotton, linen, silk and other cool plant materials.
One evening in Budapest, l’éclat chaleureux of the window display of Bomo Art‘s fine stationery boutique on Régiposta utca cast a spell. I left with a plan, definite in resolution yet vague in specifics, to store some precious object in one of their attractive boxes.
At the gravitational centre of the parallel universes of dancing and dressing are one’s shoes. They are practically essential for the former; the sartorial fifth dimension similarly collapses without genuine footwear. I’m referring here to what could be called ‘classic’ footwear. It’s usually leather, goes well with a sports coat, requires polishing and all that. The fourth dimension, by the way, is time.
Entering a café in Paris recently, searching for coffee, the waiter greeted me:
“On a du très bon café monsieur” (We make excellent coffee here sir).
“Ah bon?” (Oh really?) I thought, doubtfully.
The milk was delicious. The coffee part of my café however is best left undescribed; despite the waiter’s good intentions I’m sure.
Coffee for me is integral to a dance festival, notably for sustaining on the dance floor and for summoning the weekend visitor’s joie de vivre that Europe’s wondrous array of regional capitals deserve. Budapest, Krakow, Madrid, Vilnius, Brussels, London, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Ljubljana, Bucharest, Stockholm: each are more pleasurable after visiting a reputable café. In the event that you visit Paris, I thought that you might appreciate a guide to the haunts of its few baristas.
La Fête du timbre (‘the festival of the stamp’) is an annual event involving the release of souvenir stamps organised by the French philatelists’ federation. Among the 2016 stamps is depicted ‘le Charleston’. The theme ‘la danse’ features again following salsa in 2014, hip-hop and tango the following year, and ballet, also in 2016. The waltz will feature among the stamps issued for the next edition of the fête.
The Charleston stamp was designed by French illustrator Nancy Peña. The design, redolent of the jazz age, is vibrant. The flapper’s dress is drawn as a riot of frills while the gentleman’s trousers are decorated with a classic art deco motif and his upper lip a pencil moustache. Both he and the trumpet player, in the background among the flying cubist, lithograph shapes, wear semi-brogue spectator shoes; she sports a headband, that timeless symbol of jazz age costume. The dancers’ hands are radiantly poised while their knees, turned toward each other, give a dynamic expression of the twenties Charleston movement. The font employed for the title could effortlessly find work on publicity posters from the era.
Sending letters and postcards is itself a somewhat ‘classic’ pastime these days. I can’t imagine a more stylish way to adorn handwritten correspondence than this philatelic wonder.
Integral to taking an interest in style is maintaining the minutiae of one’s appearance: an ironed shirt, polished shoes… and erect socks.
Socks count among the usually invisible elements of the well-dressed formula. Crumpled around the ankles or in whichever state, socks are unlikely to be noticed unless your legs are crossed, and the fabric is particularly bright in colour, or a photograph captures you in an acrobatic dance move. Introducing refinement to the conversation, a glance to the past and to classic dressing will reward the curious with an effortless and elegant means of displaying an ankle pleasingly and evenly covered by hosiery.
An advertisement for Keds ‘The shoes of champions’ in the November 1935 edition of Esquire magazine.
The advertisement is accompanied by illustrations of tennis, handball, basketball, the gymnasium, and ‘racquets or squash’. The shoe is clearly depicted as being—as the blurb in the bottom-left former describes—‘for every athletic purpose’. Add to that: dancing.
Swing dance historian Bobby White explains how Keds were essential equipment for professional lindy hop dancers between the world wars:
The basic Keds shoe (called “The Champion” today) and other Keds-like sneakers first appeared in 1917 and were the shoes the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers began wearing to perform fast, high flying Lindy Hop routines… [In] Keep Punching in 1939, we start to see Keds and sneakers on the Whitey’s.[i]
The ‘Big Apple’ scene from Keep Punching, 1939 (director John Clein, writers Rosamond Johnson & Marcy Klauber).
Trousers present two significant conundrums for dancers: they slip down, and shirts untuck from them.
Much of this impracticality is attributable to ill-fit. A bespoke shirt that fits properly will remain tucked while trousers that rest above the waist will remain up. Universally-sized, ready to wear shirts cannot accommodate an individual’s upper arm lifting without pulling the shirt’s body with it.
Talcum powder is a highly advantageous aide to enabling clothing to survive dancing. Athletic movement inside the often sealed and humid atmosphere of the ballroom leads to perspiration on the dancer’s outfit, which in turn results in that outfit acquiring an unpleasant odour. Continue reading “Talcum powder”
Someone recently sought my advice on where to buy trousers for dancing (or pants, in American English). Reflecting on this question I realised that there are, for the curious, numerous angles to consider: style, fabric, manufacturer, historical context, and dance suitability. That which follows is my (entirely unqualified) views and advice on trousers for dancing.