A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Monday, June 22, 2015

Two Galleries of Best Dressed Men - Advanced Summer 1935 Issue of Apparel Arts

William Goadby Loew, possibly the best-dressed working stiff in America in 1935, 
as voted by a panel of American tailors and Apparel Arts

One tends to think of Best Dressed lists as a distinctly 21st century exercise of tawdry fashion magazines which usually end up highlighting a few poor souls for whom the words "best" and "dressed" should never go together. Of course, I have heard it said more than once that most ideas associated with men's style originated in the golden age that was the 1920s and 1930s, so it probably should come as no surprise that the "best dressed" list would not be any different.

Nevertheless, I was still taken aback to come across not one but two "best dressed" lists in the Advanced Summer 1935 Issue of Apparel Arts, in an article titled "Two Galleries of Best Dressed Men." Interestingly, the first gallery was chosen by a group of 10 tailors. The caption reads:

In an informal selection by a jury of American tailors, the ten men whose pictures appear on this page were selected as America's best dressed. The sartorial pre-eminence of William Goadby Loew . . . won highest honors from the jury. The other nine men who were rated by the jury of tailors as being among the ten best dressed men in this country were selected for various distinctive details in their mode of dress. This is one of the most interesting of many similar selections.

Some of the best-dressed selections from the tailors' list:

On the next page was the gallery of Best Dressed Men as chosen by Apparel Arts. The caption on that page read:

The ten men whose pictures appear on this page were selected by Apparel Arts as America's ten best dressed men. They were chosen not only for their ability to dress fashionably and with individuality at all times but also for their consistent habit of dressing correctly for the occasion. The influence of these men and others like them on fashion is international inn scope. Their acceptance of a new fashion places upon it a stamp of approval which has an important effect on its future success with respect to its ultimate and more widespread dissemination.

Some of the selections from the Apparel Arts list:

Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Jr., Society Man

There are a few points worth mentioning here. The first is that this William Goadby Loew fellow, apparently a broker by trade, was one of only two men to appear on both lists. The fact that the other gentleman with a dual mention was one Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. certainly is a point in Mr. Goadby Loew's favor. Indeed, in 1935 he may actually have been the best dressed man in America who actually worked for a living. Fairbanks is identified on both lists as a motion picture actor, but of course his last career screen credit was 1934's The Private Life of Don Juan.

No stranger to best-dressed lists of the 1930s

Another interesting point: aside from Fairbanks, each list includes only one other Hollywood actor. Sadly, this particular copy of Apparel Arts is not in the greatest condition, so that the images in this article have marks from where the pages became stuck together over time, In the case of both actors, their names were obscured by the damage. However, the actor included on the Apparel Arts list was easily recognizable. Apparently he was a style icon in his own day, a classification which has carried on into the present:

The actor from the tailors' list was one Warner Baxter, an actor who was certainly as famous as Astaire in his own era. Sadly, his film credits as well as his sartorial exploits are not as widely remembered as those of Astaire's.

Finally, it should be pointed out that there is one other significant difference in these two lists of best dressed men: occupations. Perhaps cognizant of the difficulties associated with the procurement of payment for services rendered, 8 of the 10 men listed by the tailors hold positions in finance or industry. The Apparel Arts list, on the other hand, identified three entrants as society men, while two others are described as  sportsmen, which I have heard may be a euphemism for someone who makes a living from betting on games of chance. For someone who wrote a book about the stylish gamblers and gangsters of the 1920s and 1930s, this is further proof that the sporting set, as well as some other fellows who resided on the other side of the tracks, were very much involved (and recognized as such in their own time) in setting the sartorial trends of the day (insert link for shameless plug here).

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