Cowboys to Dandies: A New Men’s Fashion Book

The CFDA and Assouline are publishing a book that chronicles the wide and lasting impact of American men’s wear on global fashion.

The CFDA and Assouline are publishing a book that chronicles the wide and lasting impact of American men’s wear on global fashion.

This story first appeared in the July 9, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“American Fashion Menswear,” was written by fashion journalist and historian Robert Bryan. It has a foreword by Ralph Lauren.

“American men’s fashion has had a greater influence on the world than American women’s wear,” Bryan said, citing cowboys and workwear as a starting point. “Jeans, coming out of workwear, are probably the single most important influence to come out of America. And Brooks Brothers at the beginning of the [20th] century, and the Ivy League — there’s nothing comparable in women’s wear to their influence. People all over the world look to the authenticity and integrity of that style, and just the more casual way of dressing that grew and grew after World War II.”

The book is divided into six themes: utility wear, Hollywood, Ivy League, sportswear, rock ’n’ roll and the American dandy. Each section reflects on the effects of such forces as social upheaval, technology, war, depression and prosperity, and the influential fashion icons and designers who made lasting contributions to the way men dress.

Bryan has been the men’s fashion director of The New York Times Magazine, the men’s editor at W, the fashion editor of Men’s Wear magazine and an editor at DNR.

“I’ve lived through most of the history of men’s wear at this point,” he said. But he had never written a book until he was asked by CFDA executive director Steven Kolb. They agreed the historical scope of the work should begin in the early 20th century.

“I didn’t want to go back to the 17th or 18th century, although I did mention Daniel Boone as an early fashion icon,” Bryan said. If he’d had a bit more free rein, he added, “perhaps I would have emphasized some things more that are to my personal tastes, like the college look of the Twenties. The modern suit evolved then. And you had college students adapting sports styles to their daily lives, as well as utility wear like Woolrich and Pendleton. The Prince of Wales was obviously not American, but he was the most-watched fashion icon and had a profound influence on American style before movie stars. And the essence of American style is they adapted what was happening elsewhere and made it more casual and wearable for daily life.”

The book, which is 280 pages, features 250 illustrations and costs $50, will come out in late August.