Stylin' threads
March 8, 2006 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Who knows a bit about vintage men's fashion? Specifically, 50s rockabilly style.

My wardrobe up needs some changing up. I wear lots of cowboy shirts, but I want to be a little more ladykiller (depends on your definition, I suppose, but for this specific question I need you to work with me). The look I want to cultivate is the sportcoat, slacks and shirt with the butterfly collar over the coat lapel. However, I have no idea where to start or what looks authentic vs. Travolta.
Do you know anyone who makes a nice vintage style repro shirt with that style collar? I think most men's fashion is pretty ubiquitous in that aside from lapel and collar width, not much changes. I know pleats are out now, but were they in back then? If I have a coat on, who's gonna notice anyway?
Hat? No hat? Who looks at your shoes anyway? I'm sure a pair of wingtips would be fine. Thanks in advance!
posted by DonnieSticks to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total)
A couple of sites to look at:
The Costumer's Manifesto 1950s fashion links.

Atomic magazine.

Daddy-O's for shirts.

I don't know as much about men's fashion, but I believe most men's suit pants were still pleated in this era. However, the sharp-looking rockabilly kids I see around seem to wear mostly tight-legged, flat-front jeans, even with their sport coats. So it depends on how accurately retro you want to get.
posted by hilatron at 12:12 PM on March 8, 2006

Is the collar over the coat lapel ever a ladykiller look? To me, it's evocative of 70's swingers wearing gold medalions visible through partially unbuttoned shirts, or perhaps Yakuza. Plus Travolta, as you say (and I like the implication that he's not authentic).

As for 50's style, and sport jackets, I'm reminded of an article in the original Catalog of Cool about how the ultimate sport coat had only one button (worn with a solid-knot necktie).
posted by Rash at 12:19 PM on March 8, 2006

First, shoes are very important! Well I think so, at least. I think Creepers are most authentic.

Here are some drainpipe trousers which guys wore in the 50s. They're not pleated. Actually check out that whole site, they have a Teddy Boy category of clothes that may be of use to you.

I think it's a fine line between tacky and authentic. I'd try to shop at thrift stores to get the real thing rather than buying shiny new, brightly colored retro stuff.
posted by jdl at 12:50 PM on March 8, 2006

I'm not sure where you live, but if you can get to Winchester, Tennessee, go to Hammers (on the square) and get yourself some trucker jeans. I think they are Levi's 507 boot cut jeans without any acid or stone washing at all, just stiff and navy blue.

Actually, for the look you want, Hammers is pretty much the place. I don't think their inventory has changed since the 50's, literally.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:12 PM on March 8, 2006

At the rockabilly club I go to sometimes, there's two distinct styles among the men: the 60 year old blokes who've been into it all along dress very sharp - pastel short sleeved shirts with wide collars (never worn outside the jacket), baggy-but-tapered slacks, peg trousers (sometimes pleated, sometimes not), hair in a pompadour style (think exaggerated Buddy Holly acheived with lashings of Brylcreem), brothel creeper shoes, usually in muted colours. Quite a few smoke pipes, for some reason. The younger men are incredibly particular about their jeans - very, very dark selvage denim Levi's in obscure styles you never see in the shops, or genuine 1950s vintage (expect to pay £400 minimum) worn baggy with big turn-ups, heavy steel-capped shoes, bowling shirts, white t-shirts, less exaggerated hair. (I suppose the younger ones are dressed as the older ones would be if they were fixing their cars rather than out dancing, if that makes any sense.)

I'd've thought drainpipe trousers are more of a Teddy Boy thing, and tight jeans are more of a Psychobilly/Cramps type style?

This may be all be British take on these looks, though - obviously your best bet is to go down to your local rockabilly night and just check out the clothes.

Whatever, be careful, or you'll risk looking like a member of the cast of that godawful Swingers film.
posted by jack_mo at 2:58 PM on March 8, 2006

Rent Crime Story, season one. Steal all your wardrobe ideas from them. Skip season two, and, if anything looks a little too Eighties, ignore it. It's not rockabilly, precisely, but, as far as I am concerned, it is the height of retro cool. Pay particular attention to the Vegas episodes, and to the Nudies of Hollywood-style Vegas wardrobe of Ted Levine.

Nudies of Hollywood. Shit, that just might be my next FPP.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:58 PM on March 8, 2006

My friend Alex. Email me if you want to get in touch with him. He collects and sells quite a bit of mid-century clothing, and he totally knows his shit.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:02 PM on March 8, 2006

Talk to John Cosgrove at Decades Vintage Company, he definitely knows his stuff. Really nice guy too.
posted by bicyclingfool at 9:31 PM on March 8, 2006

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