ABC Of Men’s Fashion, By Hardy Amies – Book Review

By | 2017-01-03T12:55:36+00:00 Nov 25th, 2013|Categories: Style|Tags: , , |0 Comments

ABC Of Mens Fahion

Don’t worry. The book’s not s**t, but a loo roll may come in handy….

The Review

First published in 1964 by famed menswear designer and trendsetter Hardy Amies, ABC of Men’s Fashion is an interesting read, aimed at the gentleman looking to dress on the more formal side of things.

When I ordered the book, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. And at first I was a little disappointed. Amies has effectively created a dictionary for menswear, and as with most dictionaries, ABC lacks images (unlike Sharp Suits). This is, in my mind, a major failing, since men’s fashion is primarily visual. The writing itself is quite dry, especially if one tries to make a “session” of it. The best mode of digestion is in short chunks, for instance while on the loo à la the loo roll above! See, I was going somewhere with that….

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Pros

  • Writing in 1964, Amies makes some fascinating predictions and (funny) dated quotes / views of what is trending and will be the “norm” in the future. For example:
    • Under Haircut: “It is going to be fascinating to see what the Beatles look like when they are thirty.” (P. 55)
    • Under Tie: “Mine, as I write, is about one and a quarter inches wide: This is still considered wide be some: others feel a narrower area will not do justice to the beauty of the silk. I feel the former will win.” (P. 115)  (We all know where ties went in the ’80’s, and have now gone skinny again…it’s all cyclical, I suppose!)
  • Nice illustration at the beginning of each letter
  • Functional silk ribbon bookmark, and the cover is a fine fabric material
  • Inexpensive, see Amazon listing here
  • Good to read in small chunks of time
Illustration Of Man In Dapper Outfit

Fine illustration at the beginning of each new letter

Cons

  • Written in 1964, Amies’ views can be dated, especially if you want a “go to” reference (but still valuable for this historical perspective and voice, something we like to highlight here at Bespoke Unit.)
  • Lack of images. It’s good to have your phone handy to see what some of the items referenced look like)
  • Amies seems to confuse the distinction between fact and opinion, presenting his own observations / suggestions / personal preferences as hard truths. I wouldn’t recommend ABC as a go-to source if veracity is your main concern (but then again what is..? If you know please contact me.)
  • Hard to read for any considerable length of time. Although the book manages to be funny in places, reading a dictionary was never my favorite pastime (if it’s one of yours, scrap the former point and good luck to ya!)
Old Men's Shoe Images

Lack of pictures, which could have really added to the book’s value as a reference guide and lens on historical fashions

Best Quotes

The book is full of great quotes, from the informative to the nutty (by today’s standards, any way).  Below I’ve listed my top 5, in two categories.

READ
An Introduction to Scabal (Fabric House & Made-To-Measure Garments)

Informative

  1. Introduction to book: “A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them.”
  2. Lapel: “Lapel of suits and more recently those of overcoats, get narrower and narrower. In some cases, as on what is known as the Cardin or Beatle jacket, they have disappeared altogether. And what will become of the button hold then, poor thing? …” (P. 75)
  3. Normal Figure: “There is no such animal. You may be “stock” size so far as chest and leg measurements are concerned, but it is 99 percent certain that you will have some idiosyncrasy of figure that makes you not abnormal but simply individual.” (P. 83)
  4. Underwear: “Should be as brief as wit and as clean as fun.” (P. 119)
  5. Wardrobe: “To discuss a man’s wardrobe is really to discuss a man’s life. For the kind of clothes he has in it reveals his way of life; and their condition and degree of fashionableness will show his character. …” (P. 121)  (We here are Bespoke Unit could not agree more!)

Funny / Dated

Man in bowler hat in black and white illustrated **Note: If you are fat, American, easily offended, or some combination thereof, look away now and don’t purchase the book.**

  1. Bowler Hat: “… It should never be worn abroad, never by foreigners, and Americans who attempt to do so should be fined.” (P. 19)
  2. Fat Man: “If you are vain enough, as I hope you are, to read this book, surely you can be vain enough to want to make yourself less fat.” (P. 44)
  3. Grooming: “… A well-groomed man today likes to have a slight tan. This is achieved best by outdoor exercise. Artificial aid from sun lamps and lotions which change the pigmentation of the skin are rather frowned on; their use must be considered a bit caddish. Ian Fleming said you should never trust a man who has a tan in the winter. …” (P. 52)
  4. Pressing: “Everybody knows that trousers have to be kept well pressed and nearly everyone knows how to do it. If you haven’t been in the Services then get a wife and train her.”
  5. Ready-to-Wear: “… It is OK for Americans who are frightened of clothes that fit, and don’t really like the feel of them. …” (P. 93)
  6. Bonus – Stout Man: “See Fat Man” (P. 106)

Final Review – 4 Out Of 5 Stars

As the book is so hard to digest in one sitting, I would recommend it as a trusty companion alongside your throne.  Just 5-10 minutes a day, will eat away nicely at this small book (128 pages), and give the occasional valuable insight and chuckle.  So upgrade that dogeared GQ and turn your throne into the seat of sartorial exploration.

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About the Author:

Paul Anthony is the founder and creative director at Bespoke Unit. He has had a life long affair with design, watches, fragrance and clothing. Originally from England, he now lives in the USA splitting time between NYC & Philly. Favoring "British Style", but has an overall eclectic taste.

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