A Shining Start to the London Design Festival

I saw this picture online and was really impressed by these men's individual styles ad unexpected proportions, especially considering the date. The caption to the photos said, "7th July 1937: Some of the novel dresswear worn by the men as they arrived at the Men's Dress Reform Party competition at King George's Hall, London." Intriguing... So I did some Googling and discovered this:

The Men's Dress Reform Party (MDRP), based in Britain, had grown out of a clothing subcommittee of the New Health Society, a creation of the health radical Sir Arbuthnot Lane. In 1929, this subcommittee consisted of a group of academics, doctors, theologians, and authors. It was Lane's pupils who wrote the report that eventually led to the establishment of the MDRP. In the report, sartorial alternatives were set out. Instead of the starched collar, they promoted the Byron collar worn with a tie loosely knotted. Looser "blouses" were preferred to shirts, and coats should only be worn in the cold. Conventional trousers were condemned outright. Although they approved of the kilt, they decreed that modern industrial conditions made shorts the most practical type of clothing. Underclothing should be loose. Hats should only be worn as protection against the rain or sun, and sandals should replace shoes. Most importantly, they called for the exercise of greater individuality in men's clothing.

I love the shorts with knee socks, the tuxedo "cape," and the sleeveless suit jacket. I'm not saying it would all work in today's world, but I certainly suspect that Thom Browne might find some inspiration here.


London, 1937. (Photo: Getty)

September 17, 2008