Profile: Sir Hardy Amies, Sartorial Legend

A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them.
I stumbled upon this quotation today again and it got me thinking about Hardy Amies, the source.
Sir Edwin Hardy Amies was a British men's and women's wear designer, probably most famously the official dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II.  In his early adulthood, he lived in both France and Germany, learning the languages of both countries.  Because of his language skills, he served Britain in the Second World War as a part of the Special Operations Executive, which was a secret group of unconventional warriors which specialized in espionage behind enemy lines.
After the war, in 1946, Amies opened a boutique on Savile Row, offering clothes for both men and women (unusual at the time, as Savile Row was nearly a center exclusively for bespoke men's suiting and shirting).  He wrote a regular column in Esquire for quite some time and also wrote several books pertaining to Men's style.  One of which was ABC of Men's Fashion.  It is written in the style of a dictionary, from A to Z, defining elements of the male "costume" as Sir Amies would describe it.  The above quotation is the first text disclosed.  Although the author is essentially writing a series of definitions, his own opinion about the defined is often and liberally applied.   Literally every kind of clothing, color, type of fabric, accessory, pattern you can imagine are described. Since the book was originally published in 1965, some of the prevailing opinions have changed regarding certain men's dress. However, you would not look at all ridiculous even today if you followed this book to the letter.  To the contrary, the styles that he describes in the book very frequently mirror those that are popular today (fitted trousers and jackets, narrow ties, boots, etc.).  Amies's predictions for the future of menswear are interesting in that they don't predict the cycle that we've observed to be true, rather, he envisions a progression or evolution toward a horizon point.

I received this book as a gift a few years back and I think reading it made me want to dress better and define my personal style.  It is an entertaining, quick read and I highly recommend getting yourself a copy.  Amies's writing is witty and funny.  He is hilariously disdainful of American and cautiously respectful of Italian sensibilities when it comes to dressing oneself; obviously preferring the customs of his own country to that of any other.  You wouldn't expect it from this type of book but there are several laugh-out-loud funny moments.  Below, I will share some of my favorite excerpts, some funny, some otherwise.

Bowler Hat: The only truly smart headgear for a man, but it can only be worn in London or at a race-meeting.  It should be worn either square on top of the head or tilted forward on to the nose.  It should never be worn abroad, never by foreigners, and Americans who attempt to do so should be fined.

Deerstalker: An entirely functional cap designed to keep your ears warm and your neck dry while stalking deer.  Sherlock Holmes wore one.  You need not.

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.  I am sure that all hints on dieting add up to the simple suggestion "eat less".  If, however, you are one of the unfortunate who have a faulty metabolism, or want some help from me while you are slimming, then I can only offer one general word of advice: be sure to wear clothes that are too large for you and never those that are too small.  You will then achieve one of the first rules of good dressing: you will look relaxed.

Italian Style: It is sometimes said that the French spend all their money on their food, the English on their gardens, and the Italians on their clothes.  I think there is some truth in this...Finally, we must agree that the Italian style of dressing and above all their attitude to clothes and the wearing of them have a certain predatoriness, an air of masculine superiority softened with an almost feminine grace that intrigues women and has proved successful in the great game of sexual attraction.

Purple: I can see no use of this handsome, not unmasculine color except for ties, socks, and handkerchiefs.  If you know how to wear them, you don't need my help.  If you don't, don't.

Smartness: Smartness is more a matter of the appearance of you clothes rather than their style.  Shoes polished, trousers pressed, and tie properly tied, are necessary factors in a smart appearance, whether your clothes are fashionable or not.  If they are, then your smartness increases proportionally.

Style: The Oxford Dictionary has two long columns of definitions for this word...The second definition is as follows: "a person's characteristic bearing, demeanor or manner especially as conduction to beauty or striking appearance."  I do not think any man aims at beauty or striking appearance, but he can certainly aim at style that is something more than being stylish.  It means a harmonious and individual interpretation of current fashions, and even sometimes a demonstration of a wish not to abandon an old style too quickly, if at all...

Tie: ...A tie is more than the finishing touch to the costume: it is an integral part of it.  You should never choose the cloth for a suit without considering what tie you are going to wear with it.

Trousers: ...You will not need pleats at the waist unless you have an important tummy...Prominent calves, the prerogative of he-men, should not bulge through the trousers. The width of the bottoms should be ordained by the size of your thighs.  If these are large, too narrow bottoms will make you look like a top.  See guys, us big-thigh-types had issues in 1965 and we're still at risk of looking like tops!

Walking Stick: An excellent and elegant accessory when you've broken your leg.

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...It is a good thing, on occasion, to think of your clothes as a wardrobe: a complete unit.  You should plan to have an efficient one, rather like a tool kit for a car, to get you through any situation or emergency...A man should aim at building a wardrobe to help him to be efficient at his job and able to enjoy his leisure.

Young Man: Today a boy becomes a young man at fourteen: and remains one at forty.  He is therefore a very important customer, especially as he insists on having the right to spend a large part of his money on clothes.  He feels this is the easiest way available to him to expressing himself.  It is sometimes more than vanity: it can be a demonstration of revolt: revolt against traditions and habits, the subservience to which he feels he has not made the world the happy place he thinks it should be.  In the nineteenth century the young man openly copied the clothes of his elders.  In the twenties he grew a mustache in an attempt to look mature as quickly as possible.  Today, from the cut and length of his hair down to his narrow trousers and boots he wants to look as young as he can: and starts at twenty-five to feel the first pangs of depression at bing middle-aged.  The young man thus rules the man's fashion realm.  A newly launched fashion has no chance of success unless he accepts it. his desires dominate all trends.  Thus the mature man will also reject all styles that do not help him to feel young.  In fashion today there are no old men; only the young and the dead.

NOTE: If I get access to a scanner, I will scan in the images in the center of the book accompanying Amies's predictions for the future of menswear.

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