This week we’re delighted to bring you an interview with the co-curator of Elegance in an Age of Crisis, G. Bruce Boyer. Bruce has been a writer and editor for over 30 years. He began his writing career in 1971, when he submitted a story on the Duke of Windsor to Town & Country, soon after becoming the magazine’s men’s fashion editor for 15 years. Bruce has published several books on menswear, including Elegance: A Guide to Quality in Menswear (Norton, 1985), Eminently Suitable, (Nortion, 1990), Fred Astaire Style (Assouline, 2006), and Gary Cooper: Enduring Style (Powerhouse Books, 2011). Feature articles by Bruce have appeared in several national and international magazines: Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Forbes, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Departures, and many more. For more Bruce, take a look at these fabulous interviews with him on Ivy Style and Keikari.
– Your essay on men’s tailoring in the book [Elegance in an Age of Crisis] talks about concurrent movements in London and Naples. Was there a cultural “need” for these two movements or were they isolated in their concerns?
BB: The years after 1914 produced a perhaps unparalleled shift in people’s lives. Over ten million were killed in what was called The Great War, another estimated fifty million died in the so-called Spanish Influenza pandemic following the war; and then of course came The Great Depression starting in 1929. It’s no wonder that incredible change and experimentation were in the very marrow of the 1930s zeitgeist. There were new concerns in hygiene and aesthetics, travel and sport, family life, work, and education. Virtually no aspect of life was left unaltered. We look to the men’s clothing experiments in London and Naples because they were the ones that bore the most fruit and are still with us today. The drape style of English tailoring and the deconstructed style of the Neapolitan school have, over the ensuing years, been the most successful. At the moment it’s the Neapolitan style which seems to hold the lion’s share of fashion in menswear, but there are many aficionados of the London drape cut as well. Between them, they make up the majority of the tailored clothing seen on the street today.
– What advice do you have for anyone who wants to learn more about men’s tailoring?
BB: There are today a number of well-written books available on the history and direction of men’s clothing. Books by Alan Flusser, Michael Anton, Farid Chenoune, Bernhard Roetzel, and—modesty no virtue—me, among them.
– Can you tell us a bit more about the music featured in the videos?
BB: The musical score accompanying the exhibition is comprised mainly of hit songs from the American songbook, songs that were considered beautiful at the time and that have stood the test of time. There is an emphasis on American jazz and jazz musicians simply because it was the popular music of the day: the most lively, innovative, and influential. I continue to believe that jazz is one of America’s greatest gifts to the world.
– Do you have a favorite ensemble from the exhibition?
BB: I have two favorite ensembles from the exhibit. One would be the tweed plus-four suit made by Peter Sheppard for himself. The other would be the cream silk double-breasted dinner jacket from the atelier of Rubinacci. Both, to my mind, have a timeless elegance, and I would wear them both today.
– And finally, please give us 3 words which describe this exhibition for you.
BB: Elegant (obviously), intelligent, and sophisticated.
Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes interviews, and be sure to tweet us with #1930sFashion.