The complete removal of sleeves is something you might witness on stage though. Singers for a teen generation, cabaret acts or performers just looking for something slightly unusual and extravagant might opt for the completely sleeveless look. So when you wear something like a sleeveless shirt yourself, expect to create an aura of showbiz and excitement. Sleeveless designer shirts are beginning to start appearing in vintage clothing stores in all types of versions, and this could be a sensible location to commence your search. The fact that they can be found in a vintage store shows that these self-adjusted models are perfectly durable. You may even chance upon a designer model if you look carefully enough.
The formal look is not a feature that accompanies any sleeveless shirt, unless part of some seriously highbrow designer combo seen only on the catwalks. In fact the opposite is more often the case with the desired look being distinctly casual to the extreme. Looking as if the outdoors poses no threats and your body is ready for anything and anybody, quite nicely summarises the attitude of the sleeveless shirt wearer.
They typically tend to find their way on the torsos of well-built males, characters keen to show off the fruits of their labour in the gym. As with all styles of fashion some kind of statement is often being made, but the statement here is probably one more appreciated by the wearer than any volume of observers. However the shirt wearer here is unlikely to care much for the opinions of the doubters. Perhaps that is part of the statement too?
Sleeveless flannel shirts are a classic example of "less is more". Take a common and plain item, remove part of it and end up with something more desirable and more valuable. It sounds odd but that's exactly what is happening here. Of course the end result is a less common piece of fashion that will not suit everyone though. If any item carries with it a strong personality statement, it is the short sleeve shirt and even more so the sleeveless shirt.
But although one of the differences between new and retro is often price, with older bags being normally more affordable, that doesn’t always mean you will spend less acquiring a vintage bag. Like many second-hand vintage items, the older status and lower price just means to can normally acquire something much better for your money than with new items. Designer labels may now enter your price range, and that iconic Chanel handbag clasp may no longer be just a dream.
These vintage bags fall into all kinds of categories that divide them up by age or function, by material or usage, by heritage and design. You might have vintage leather evening purses and fabric bags or retro luggage and suitcases. The combinations are almost infinite, but the categories serve as a means of tracking down the exact bag required. Day bags, evening bags or works bags are some of the functional categories, while leather bags is almost certainly the most common material denominator, although straw is another favourite. Then there are clutch bags, handbags or shoulder bags plus sports bags and shopping bags. Just imagine a shelf full of each of these variants in a vintage clothing store and you could easily find a substantial section of the store containing hundreds of different bags – not unlike a modern department store today you might say.
As with most new bags, a vintage bag is normally bought with a purpose in mind. It might become the chosen item due to its practicalities, things that are going to make it the perfect complement to a day at work. Or it could be a special look that will make it the ideal companion on a night out to the theatre or to a restaurant. In the same way, its original owner could also have bought a vintage bag with a purpose in mind, but that function could easily switch for any new owner. That practical, functional bag may now be the perfect embodiment of the new owner’s character. They could be a no-nonsense, sensible person who is happy enough to exhibit their economic tendencies in selecting a pre-owned item and reusing it. Or it may be a bag exhibiting the glitz and glamour of times past and will still fulfil the same purpose today.
With such a tradition of coat-wearing in the UK to evade the weather, the law or the odd faux-pas, it’s not surprising that we’ve got a rich vein of such outer garments in our collective vintage clothing culture. The coat is a perfect way to create a look as it can cover three-quarters of the body or more with one simple item, and they’re roomy enough to slip over more or less anything, from a tee shirt to an Arran sweater. The only rule is don’t wear an overcoat over shorts – that can get you in trouble.
One of the best known catch phases of the 1990s plays on this situation. The Fast Show’s Mark Williams pioneered the phrase “I’ll get me coat”, meaning “I’d better go”, after putting his foot in it during some delicate social moment. The phrase has entered common parlance and is still heard today, usually to defuse an awkward situation.
Overcoats have a definite social element to them, namely that they are for outdoor wear only, and there’s a whole branch of etiquette attached to them that people from non-coat-wearing societies might trip up on. For example, leaving one’s coat on when visiting someone’s house almost reaches the height of rudeness. If a guest has not removed his coat after ten minutes of arrival, hosts might well wonder (a) if he intends to stay; (b) if their house is warm enough; or (c) if said guest is wearing anything underneath the coat. Insisting that the guest removes his coat might just attain peak rudeness, though, so the stay is bound to be awkward, especially if the guest is waiting to be asked.
Another popular source of inspiration in the coat world has been the military; greatcoats, trench coats, raglans and pea coats all carry the hallmarks of military wear, both for ceremonial wear and for the battlefield. And overcoats became synonymous with another branch of military services during the Second World War: the friendly neighbourhood spiv, who is traditionally portrayed opening up his coat to reveal an Aladdin’s cave of cigarettes, nylons, prime cuts and booze. Coats once again proved perfect for the prevailing climate.
Although new versions of the slim-cut, colourful mini dress are still sold today, the way these dresses are worn now is different. Although many young women would claim to be confident enough to go out in such a short length, we are unfortunately tending to a slightly fuller body form these days. The streets are no longer awash with slim, leggy twenty-somethings as the problem of obesity affects our society. The mini dress is still popular though, even though the way it is worn may not include the pure sixties preference for bare legs and strappy sandals. The mini dress may be worn over woollen tights or even over jeans to bring a stylistic colour burst to an otherwise dull combination.
Even though this cycle continues to repeat itself today, the original lap of this well-worn circuit can be traced back to the 1960's, when post-war austerity had all but disappeared, living standards were improving and the general outlook on life by the masses was one of optimism, independence and happiness. Fashion was moving quickly into a new era of bolder colours, bolder fabric patterns, bolder dress designs and a bolder approach to dress length. The appearance of the very short dresses as worn by the likes of Twiggy, eventually made there way onto our screens, into our magazines and onto the shop racks fairly late in the decade, but they arrived soon enough to adopt the “sixties” name and will forever be remembered as such.
Let's not forget that these are simply upwardly extended jeans, so while the material costs may by lower, cut and design is paramount. As with a pair of traditional jeans, there are jeans and then there are jeans. There are sub-tenner bargain versions available from every department store and online catalogue and then there are the highly prized luxury selvage versions from the likes of top designers and marks that have created their own niche in this fashion sector that uses high quality japanese denim. Dungarees can also benefit from the same differentiators, so make your choice carefully if you value quality and good fit.
Of course dungarees are not only practical for workmen and women, they are also ideally suited to children. The ease with which they can be put on and taken off is very useful to a flustered parent, plus they are flexible in sizing and the straps make small adjustments easy too. Who hasn't cooed at a toddler looking cute in a pair of beautiful dungarees, some of which carry baby-designer names and high street designer prices too.
No discussion of dungarees can fail to mention Dexy and his Midnight Runners who brought the items to mainstream appreciation in the mid-eighties via Eileen and Geno. While the name of their band may have had dubious connotations their dress sense was loved and copied by a generation. Kevin Rowland would strut around sock-less with nothing but a sleeveless t-shirt under his dungarees exhibiting the kind of care-free freedom that many yearned for themselves. It wasn't a tidy look and with the rest of the band dressed similarly they did look like a kind of street gang, but audiences loved it.
The original practical use of dungarees by workman or labourers who found then both comfortable, easy to move around in and satisfying in terms of store options for tools is still appreciated today. Carpenters, electricians and decorators have all found their own versions, although few are constructed from denim now that we have more technical and durable fabric available. However the fashion designers still hark back to the original denim, which today comes in many new and higher quality weaves.
Is the time right for guys to lose their self-consciousness about looking good? After all, women have always known about the joy of looking their best. Maybe a browse around a vintage clothing store will provide the eye-opening experience you need. These places aren’t museums; they are emporiums of possibility, waiting to be dived into. Just wait till you of yesteryear greets you in the fitting room mirror – you’ll suddenly appreciate why it’s usually called a changing room.
So that brings us up to the 1970s. Suddenly, your mind has probably turned to mush as you contemplate the gaudy pastels and fifty shades of brown that the era triggers. While the hippies and heavy rockers certainly dragged fashion away from the boutique (which is not to say they didn’t take their image very seriously), everyday and professional wear started to deformalise as the class structure became undermined. And frankly, even though the 80s had their dandy moments, men have never really gone back.
In the 1950s, style itself became more casual, but it remained firmly within the realm of looking good. Quiffs and blue sued shoes didn’t happen by accident; one’s own image was nothing to be sniffed at. The 1960s made men a little smarter; off-the-peg suits became affordable and Carnaby Street became world famous for the technicolour sartorial wonders on offer.