Killerton House & Dress History

This summer I finally made a visit to Killerton House in Exeter, the National Trust property home to its fashion collection. Following the exhibition closure last year due to roof repairs, 2018 marks the re-opening of the fashion display with a programme of exhibitions relating to the National Trust 2018 theme of women and power.

My visit timed with the second exhibition since it’s re-launch, ‘Branded: Fashion, Femininity and the right to vote’, exploring women’s dress throughout the campaign for women’s suffrage and how dress was politicised and used in the campaign as a visual symbol and communication tool.

My visit was greatly anticipated, excited to see the dress collection of the National Trust in a grand setting of a country house. The exhibition itself engages the viewer in the story of suffrage and women’s plight to gain the right to vote, explaining how the story is linked to the property.

The vitrine displays showcase objects of dress from the period, demonstrating how women of the campaign presented themselves in society, mobilising dress as a tool in communicating a sense of character and values.

Whilst the Trust suggest they aim to engage both casual visitors with no dress knowledge and the more informed historical dress visitor, I felt, as a postgraduate of dress history, left wanting more. The exhibition is engaging as a narrative of women’s suffrage, told illustratively through objects of dress, however it lacked depth from a critical point of view.

I have to say I was further disappointed to discover there was no permanent collection on display as well as the exhibition. Understandably the Trust need to encourage return visits by rotating exhibitions and renewing the displays, but for the visitor like myself who lives a considerable distance away, this visit was the one opportunity to see the collection in care of the National Trust.

Killerton House boasts a collection size of more than 10,000 items, spanning two centuries of fashion. It seemed the exhibition came at the expense of the rest of the collection and it has to be said, the story and origins of the fashion collection.

Falling into the category of more ‘specialist knowledge’ (National Trust, Killerton House, 2018), on the subject, I yearned for more after being tantalised by the temporary exhibition, tormented in the knowledge many more objects lay in the wings.

However, pushing my disappointment to one side, a key point caught my attention and the concept of dress shaping identity. Women of the suffrage movement recognised the power of their appearance and dress in representing the campaign, associating dress with embodied meaning and significance in expressing the core values of the movement.

Symbolism through dress and colour was to become a key construct in the suffragette image and communicating the campaign message.

Whilst caricaturists attempted to mock the women in derogatory cartoons, the women responded by assuming a dress code of looking their best in order to defeat the mockery and represent women of good repute, signified through appearance. Their appearance and emblematic objects carrying the colours of the campaign created a contextual visual culture in society. This respectable appearance represented the core values of the campaign provided in order for society to interpret the character and moral virtue of the women, shaping the social response.

The dress code of the suffragettes illustrates the significance of dress and its associated meaning being mobilised in a political campaign, harnessing its power in order to shape public opinion.


(‘Branded: Fashion, Femininity and the Right to Vote’ at Killerton House. Photo by the Author, 2018)

As Susan B. Kaiser (1990) suggests, appearance perception is a key process in communicating identity and forming an impression. Both Kaiser (1990) and Anne Hollander (1993) discuss the importance of dress in visually communicating an individual’s character and identity, along with Joanne Finklestein (1991) who suggests that character is intrinsically linked with appearance.

However, both Hollander (1990) and Joanna Entwistle (2000) discuss the ability of dress to ‘disguise’ or manipulate identity perception. The suffragette movement engaged with both of these theories, understanding the importance of appearance in creating an impression and recognising the significance of establishing conduct in dress in order to create a visual culture around the campaign, symbolising integrity and moral virtue.


(‘Branded: Fashion, Femininity and the Right to Vote’ at Killerton House. Photo by the Author, 2018)

The appearance of elegant and respectable dress, reinforced by the emblematic colours of green, white and purple, infused with meaning, instigated a visual culture that demonstrated the power of dress to communicate a political message and be constructive in social change.

Whilst I initially felt disappointment, I realised the exhibition had triggered discussion on the idea of identity and the meaning of dress. So, in that sense the exhibition heralded value and significance. It would excellent to see more National Trust properties engaging with historical dress, affirming its importance in communicating the narrative of social history, harnessing historical dress as a powerful tool of embodied human experience.


The exhibition Branded: Fashion, Femininity and the Right to Vote is on at Killerton House, National Trust, Exeter, until November 2018.



ENTWISTLE, K. (2000) The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory

FINKLESTEIN, J. (1991) The Fashioned Self

HOLLANDER, A. (1990) Seeing Through Clothes

KAISER, S. B. (1993) The Social Psychology of Clothing: Symbolic Appearances in Context


Gestation rather than Procrastination

Nearing the end of a year-long Masters degree has instigated an inevitable moment of reflection. As I read back through the words that I have poured over for the last few months, I can’t help but feel a sense of wonder at how I got to this point. I began thinking about the fear I felt when I thought about the seemingly large word count looming over me. How would I ever fill that? And in just so little time? Cue writer/scholar anxiety.

I stumbled across an article in Idler magazine lamenting the power of procrastination. The irony here being that I have owned this magazine since its publication in 2016 and I am only just getting round to reading it!


The article discussing procrastination as a positive, re-framing it as thinking time really resonated with my own thought process. Coming from the constantly hectic world of retail design where there never seems to be enough time, being bombarded with information from social media and trend alerts that demand your immediate attention and reaction, creating a non-stop wheel of business, the world of academia was suddenly a shock to the system.

Slowing down was a necessary but important task to navigate. The fast-paced demanding design world had robbed me of quality research time. My approach to academic writing began by following a similar path, speed was of the essence. However, I was quick to realise, this was not and could not be the right approach.

I found the more reading I did only made me more informed, naturally. However, I realised how I was hugely under estimating the power of thinking time. Instead of procrastination I began to engage with the art of gestation. I easily found myself getting too close to my work, going off on tangents and generally getting too caught up and missing the core message in my work. So I took a break and walked away, something I felt I had no time to do as a designer, but now I was in control of my time.

I took a deep breath and shut down my mind, I made myself present, listening to the surroundings, emptying my mind of all thoughts. And that’s when it happened, a lightbulb moment, a reminder of what my writing was all about. Enlightened I returned my work with renewed vigor and found the burden of the word count lifted as I wrote more freely.

I took more breaks but only increased my productivity as I gave my brain time to recharge and reflect.

Procrastination can be positive when used as thinking time. I used to think by taking a break people would think I was slacking in my work, that I was lazy, putting things off. Now I realise just how important it is to get perspective, stand back, slow down and allow yourself to gestate ideas.

“The best use of the mind is not to close it but to let it wander” (Michael Palin, Idler magazine, February 2016). Letting the mind wander allows the brain some freedom and headspace which can then find clarity, clearing the way to the best and most useful thoughts. I would set myself multiple tasks and deadlines, such as I must achieve this many words by such and such point, I must finish this chapter by the end of the day and so on. Whilst I thought I was effectively time managing through planning my time, I was missing the point of the quality of my work and instead enforcing restrictions and deadlines that only hampered my creativity. Something I now realise was happening in my design career. We live in a fast-paced world, technology has meant we can keep in touch with social media whenever and wherever we wish, however, it’s getting more and more apparent that we need to learn how to switch off. Our human capacity to make decisions, learn, think and reflect still needs time.

To procrastinate can simply mean giving yourself the time to reflect and that the first idea doesn’t always have to be the best or indeed, to procrastinate can be the moment in which you stop and remind yourself of the purpose and gently guide yourself back from that tangent.

Sometimes the best thoughts come just when you are not thinking.

“In Praise of…Procrastination” by Michael Palin is in Idler Magazine, February 2016 issue No. 48, pp.14-15

Slow Research not Slow Progress

After leaving a career based in the fast paced and constantly updating world of retail clothing design and returning to study, my gut instinct was to work at a similar pace.

I thought I should try to speed read as many books as I could and get to the writing part as soon as possible. However, I quickly learnt that this was not such a good tactic.

Working as a designer demanded speed and constant renewal, to the point it sometimes meant meeting yourself coming the other way! I often felt guilty for trying to devote some time to research, I felt people were looking at me as if I was just procrastinating. So it meant rushing through the research process, hoping for an immediate lightbulb moment to get the job done. Cue creative anxiety!

Returning to study I soon realised that you can’t establish a worthwhile opinion or viewpoint without having done the research.

Research is knowledge and provides the platform from which to feel informed and, importantly, confident in what you are saying.


I realised this when attempting to write one of my first essays, I began the writing process too early and felt a sense of anxiety towards it. I put this down to the fact I hadn’t done enough in-depth research to help construct my perspective.

So, I did something that I am not very used to doing, I slowed down. I took the time to read, and I mean read properly. Then, I had some good old-fashioned thinking time. Hey presto! The ideas began to flow, I felt more confident in my writing and developed an opinion worth talking about.

This made me reflect upon my time as a designer and I realised how much research was an issue. The time allowed to research, think and consider was becoming more and more eroded leading to less thought out solutions.

The research process is something to be valued and protected, not something to be seen as just having a look about online, wasting time. Research is vital to fully understand and interpret trends or ideas, and is a key part in the process of design.

desk book

Research is also the key to confidence, which in turn leads to well thought out, considered and valuable design creations.

Here’s to doing research, value it and don’t be made to feel bad for doing it, the best ideas come from being researched and knowing what you are talking about.

Sculpture in Dress: Balenciaga the V & A

Exhibition Review: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition fuses together a collective of engaging curatorial techniques.

The display embraces the Spanish couturier’s skill as a master in pattern cutting, emphasising craftsmanship in the art of tailoring and dress. Moving images displayed on screens demonstrate the sequence in which pattern pieces are brought together to ‘build’ the garment. It offers the viewer a chance to see the garment deconstructed.


The display of garment X-Rays creates an original and ingenious curatorial method, allowing insight into the inner workings and construction of dress not normally visible. Even exposing a pin left in during the construction process!

Rather than focusing on trend, this display encourages the viewer to engage with the process of creation. Instead, admiration is drawn towards the skill shown by Balenciaga in applying shape and drape, demonstrating a sense of the dramatic and architectural vision in dress.


Such interplay in methods of display tells a story of craft in an interdisciplinary and visually engaging way that draws the eye into the detail and the hidden.

This exhibition celebrates the craft and skill present in creating fashion and dress, showcasing dress as sculpture.


Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. Victoria and Albert Museum. Until 18th February 2018



House Style at Chatsworth

There is still time to catch the exhibition titled House Style at Chatsworth House and it would be well worth it.

The exhibition closes on 22nd October 2017. The exhibition brings together an incredible collection of clothing spanning five centuries linked to the people of Chatsworth with a vast array of the pieces worn by model Stella Tennant.


Designer pieces include those from Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christopher Kane, layered with pieces from Chatsworth History such as the coronation robes worn by the Duchess to the last three coronations.

The exhibition is brought to life by the backdrop of Chatsworth itself with grand rooms offering the stage for the beautifully curated collections displaying decadence and design in great depth.

I have to say, the winning room is the dining room, a sensory experience with the noise of a dinner party and mannequins placed around the room as if in attendance, together creating a vast display of grand style and design.


Book Review: Reigning Men, Fashion in Menswear 1715-2015


Book Review: Reigning Men, Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015

Sharon Sadako Takeda, Kaye Durland Spilker and Clarissa M. Eguerra with essays by Tim Blanks and Peter McNeil.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. DelMonico Books, Prestel, 2016


Reigning Men, Fashion in Menswear 1715-2015 by Sharon Sadako Takeda, Kaye Durland Spilker and Clarissa M. Esguerra delivers an opulent visual display of the menswear collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In her introduction Sharon Sadako Takeda explains how in 2007 LACMA acquired a collection of European dress for men, women and children. The strength of the menswear pieces drew them to the realisation that collections based upon and showcasing menswear above womenswear are rare and indeed far less prominent than collections and books based upon the history of womenswear.


Reflecting upon the writings of J C Flugel and his book The Psychology of Clothes, written in 1930, in which Flugel raises his argument of ‘The Great Masculine Renunciation’ at the end of the 19th Century. Here he explains how he feels that menswear took a step back from the decorative and elaborate styles of the previous century in favour of a more conservative, business like aesthetic, preferring to be correctly attired rather than elegant or elaborately so.

Reigning Men endeavours to rise against this and in fact explores the argument that menswear has always held a position of importance with an ‘enduring relationship between masculinity and fashion’ (McNeil, Peter).

Menswear has and continues to act as a method to document the mood of the times, reflecting society and cultural influences.


The book charts the timeline of menswear discussing the Macaroni, the Dandy, the Peacock along with key influencing events in history such as the French Revolution, the First and Second World Wars, followed by the wealth of youth and sub cultures that would follow.

The authors chart key figures in history such as Beau Brummell, Edward VII and Edward VIII, Oscar Wilde though to more contemporary influencers such as Mick Jagger and the Beatles, discussing their impact upon style.

The content is well formatted juxtaposing historical elements next to their modern counterparts and re-interpretations for example the memorable style of the Oxford Bags from the 1920s alongside the later Raf Simons Spring Summer 2011 collection, identifying how menswear continues to be influenced from the past and re-invented.


Reigning Men successfully celebrates the subtle and refined changes in menswear and displays men’s style as a reflection of society.

Essays by Tim Blanks and Peter McNeil provide more in depth analysis and thought provoking discussions on the impact of menswear and how it continues to evolve.

With an array of detailed, informative photography and interesting annotations with a wealth of historical knowledge Reigning Men is well worthy of a place in any menswear book collection.

The Great Coat of World War 1

In 1914 Great Britain went to war, the uniform that our army would wear had already undergone a number of changes and modifications in the years shortly before the outbreak of war, most importantly the use of khaki cloth for the standard issue Service Dress.


(Image: CHAMBERS, S,J (2005) Uniforms and Equipment of the British Army in World War One. Surrey: Schiffer Publishing)

The Great Coat formed part of the Service Dress issued to men as they entered the War in Europe. The Great Coat came in variations of below the knee in length and single breasted for dismounted troops, whereas for mounted troops, they were issued with a shorter, knee length version that was double breasted.

The coat was woven of a drab melton like cloth that was supposedly waterproof, the men were quick to learn that this was not the case. Once wet the unlined heavy duty coat stayed wet, it would easily collect mud which would dry and cake onto the surface adding to its, already heavy, weight.

Any alterations made to ones uniform would be met with suitable punishment as one solider realised when he cut the mud soaked bottom off from his Great Coat to ease the weight.

“I had cut my overcoat, greatcoat, at the bottom because it was all a foot soaked in mud and hard and was rubbing against my leg and I cut it off. That was a crime, interfering with Military property.”
Harold Joseph Taylor; IWM 9422


(Image: CHAMBERS, S,J (2005) Uniforms and Equipment of the British Army in World War One. Surrey: Schiffer Publishing)

In November 2016 I visited the Imperial War Museum at Duxford to see for myself a World War 1 Great Coat.
The Coat was concealed in a zipped up dress/coat carrier, I felt a tingle of anticipation, it brought to mind the question of how the men must of felt receiving their khaki uniform for the first time. Many men had been made to wait due to the pressures placed upon uniform manufacture and in the mean time had been forced to wear the much less desirable ‘Kitchener Blue’s”.
As soon as the coat became visible as the bag was undone I took a sharp intake of breath, a swathe of khaki lay before me. Even after 100 years the coat still held an air of authority.
We placed the coat on a mannequin and straight away I understood why men would complain about it’s weight. Stood in the warmth and stillness of a back room of the museum the coat was hard to handle, it was heavy and quite honestly, I think it could probably stand up by itself it was that stiff. So think of the men, marching for miles, in the rain, in the wind and then trudging through trenches only wide enough for one man to pass through at a time. I was silent for a few moments.

Then I was taken it by its full glory, the beauty of its construction, its craftmanship. At the time Britain went to war, English tailoring was at the forefront of menswear, admired by the likes of men in Paris who appreciated the excellent cut and workmanship employed by the English tailors of Saville Row. Therefore it made sense to me that the Great Coat embodied a sense of sartorial finesse.

The collar is rounded and tall to offer protection around the neck with a wide tab buttoning across the throat.


Five General Service brass buttons fasten down the front. The same buttons repeated in the centre back tab used to draw the coat in at the back.
The centre back falls away from the neck into a long inward pleat.


The coat, for me, stood for the message that whilst we go to war and fight to defend our country, we will do so in the finest way possible.
The coat in front of me, I felt proud, I understand how the coat along with the rest of the service uniform would have an initial impact of pride and strength. The uniform made soldiers of men.

As the War came to an end, the men spread across the globe were slowly demobilised.
It was at this point the Great Coat would have its lasting moment. The uniforms that the men had lived in, slept in, breathed in, fought in would now be handed back to the authorities in exchange for a civilian suit of clothing. The Great Coat had been issued under the title of ‘Public Property’ unlike the Service Dress uniform and so had to be returned but in the case of the Great Coat there was the option to keep ones Great Coat, for a £1 fee.

As demobilisation took place as we neared the winter season, many men took the option to keep their Great Coat. This may have been wise as it was a strong, durable coat, one of which may have been the best quality of coat many men could ever hope to own. Could it also be that the Great Coat held just a few memories too? Many memories of the First World War were harrowing and difficult for many but their were also the memories of brotherhood, belonging to a cause, doing ones ‘bit’. The Great Coat now acts a visual memory of a War that has had a long and lasting impact upon our Nation.

The Letterman: A Short History

In 1852 Harvard’s first rowing team braced itself to face their Ivy League rival, Yale, on the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire in what would become the first intercollegiate sporting event in America. It was this regatta, inspired by the eminent Oxford/ Cambridge boat race, by now a historical institution after their first meeting in 1829, that laid the foundations for the beginnings of an intercollegiate sporting legacy.

Baseball pic 2

It spurred the establishment of numerous college sports teams and marked the beginning of intercollegiate competition and rivalry.

At around this time the game of baseball in America had begun to take over in popularity from the traditional English sports of cricket and rounders.

In 1845, Alexander Cartwright compiled a set of rules to be applied to baseball. At the same time he was one of the founders of the earliest organised baseball teams named the New York Knickerbockers who also played in the earliest recorded baseball matches. The club itself had been founded in 1845 as a social club for the upper middle classes of New York society. With this in mind, baseball found itself acceptable to the higher classes within society and placed itself within the realms of respectability.

The American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 did much to improve the game’s popularity with soldiers away at war playing the game at times of leisure and so the game’s popularity soared post-war.

Baseball made its debut on the collegiate field in 1859 when colleges Amherst and Williams played the first match in Pittsburg, Massachusetts. The rivalry between the two institutions has gone down as one of the oldest in American academic history. This first game instigated a legacy of sporting history that would become a stronghold in the culture of American universities.

The game of baseball on an intercollegiate level also gave rise to another far reaching legacy, the Letterman.

It was in 1868 when Ivy League giants Harvard and Yale met on the baseball pitch to play their first intercollegiate league game. The term ‘Ivy League’ derived from the image of the ivy adorned walls of the gothic structures of America’s east coast universities. These select universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell and Dartmouth took their lead from the distinguished English institutions of Oxford and Cambridge, which are steeped in history and tradition.

Like them the American institutions set out to create a league of elite and prestigious universities for the academically gifted high-end of society.

That day in 1868 Harvard proudly took home the win but they also took home with them a piece of history. It was the Harvard team that proposed the simple notion of applying a letter ‘H’ to front of their baseball flannel uniform. The ‘H’ was in an old English style font and the colour magenta it was later changed to crimson to match the official college colour. It was a proud symbol of their allegiance to their campus and it was therefore at this moment the history of the Letterman began.

The Letter refers to the appliqué letter that appears on baseball jackets, crew sweatshirts and knits. The crew sweat that is adorned with a letter is named a ‘Letterman’ and for one who is awarded a letter is said to be have been ‘Lettered’.


This simple attachment carries with it great meaning; to receive such a piece was a clear recognition of sporting prowess, earning the wearer respect from peers and a distinction of honor.

The Harvard team initially used the letter to distinguish their players and they would return their flannel jersey once a match or season was over. It soon caught on to honour a player’s hard work and contribution by allowing the player to keep his lettered flannel baseball jersey as a reward. Such a reward brought with it a sense of pride and achievement, therefore creating a covetable award.

The importance of the Letterman was soon recognised. Brands like Russell Athletic, founded in 1902 and Champion, founded in 1919 were the pioneers of a new fabric, sweat jersey. Jersey offered an alternative to the dry and itchy flannel wool tops worn by baseball players. Sweat tops stretched, allowing a greater ease of movement and the ribbed cuffs and hem allowed the garment to fit closely to the body. A rib ‘v’ shaped insert, nicknamed a ‘dorito’, positioned to the front and back neck were designed to absorb sweat. The style was quickly adopted as training apparel.

What soon followed would be called the Letter Sweater, in which the letter applied to one’s baseball jersey could also be applied to the crew sweatshirt, therefore enabling the player to display their letter on and off the pitch. It also gave the sportsman the opportunity to display how often he had been awarded that letter by applying stripes to his sleeve. Wearing of the crew sweat off the pitch extended to around campus. This migration set up the transition of sportswear into casual wear as the crew-neck sweatshirt began to be worn as casual daytime attire and not just reserved for the sporting fields.

It was at Princeton University that it became a trend for girlfriends to wear the letter sweater furthering its transgression into everyday wear and furthermore affirming the Letterman as a respectable and desirable piece of apparel.

It was during the 1930’s when the letter was again interpreted into another style, this time into what would become an iconic mainstay in collegiate and American culture; the baseball jacket.

Baseball Jackets, like the crew sweatshirts, had rib cuffs and hem to ensure a close fit to the body, a curved rib collar allowing ease of movement and turning of the head and also featured a press-stud fastening, the zip still being in its infancy at this time.


In 1893 the Intercollegiate Commission was established who then in 1895 met to set out one of the most important elements of university tradition. With the expansion of American universities it was decided that each institution would be assigned a colour combination. This would then be the universities’ signature and would be applied to ceremonial gowns and other university attire. It was these rules that helped make the baseball jacket so iconic.

Baseball jackets began to emerge in the now traditional format with melton wool body and leather sleeves, displaying the universities colours.

The all-important Letter would be placed on the left chest. The Jacket accompanied by a Letter became a strong status symbol, demonstrating that the wear was a character of sporting skill and achievement. With the popularity of sports such a large feature on campus, the jacket would earn the wearer recognition and high acclaim.

In much the same way as the Letter sweater, the pride afforded in wearing one meant that the baseball jacket became a common sight around Campus worn as a casual jacket rather than solely reserved as Baseball attire.

In 1941 the lives of American civilians changed dramatically as the USA entered World War II. Such an event unavoidably interrupted the progression of American youth; many prospective students were now conscripted into the armed forces along with students already in place at the Ivy League institutions. The collegiate baseball pitches fell quiet during the war years.

It was post war, once the battlefields now took their turn to fall quiet and for its soldiers to return that the campus experienced it’s biggest transformation to date.

The G.I Bill, instigated by the American Government, was an attempt to ease the re-integration of its returning soldiers into society, rebuilding itself post war. One of its greatest concerns was the prospect of high unemployment figures and the effect this would have on the economy. One of its solutions was to offer these men passage to university. The G.I bill resulted in inflated numbers at universities across the country including the Ivy League universities. It must be said that crucially a reason for the rise in numbers was that students who would be attending at that time anyway were joined by the students that had been forced to postpone their study and were now doing so after a period of deferment. But what really made the difference was the new class of student, the middle class.

In the years running up to the war the Ivy League institutions were seen as the reserve of the elite, the upper classes of society. The G.I bill now facilitated the enrolment of people from all corners of society. This had a great effect on the ‘preppy’ look and campus lifestyle. It was the collegian G.I’s that popularised khakis into the preppy look after realising their ease of wear during wartime.

In the years following the War, the people of America began to enjoy increased leisure time with more regular working hours and pay. This, mixed with the raised numbers at university, led to the burgeoning interest in intercollegiate sports and along with this the now increasingly popular ‘Ivy League Look’.

The Baseball Jacket and the letterman experienced its halcyon period. Collegiate sport flourished along with its style. Letterman Jackets and sweaters were increasingly worn across campus and became a regular sight in American culture.

The look signified an aspirational lifestyle, one full of prospects. It was a life once reserved for the few, the elite and prestigious, a cut above the everyman but now it was achievable for many. With this in mind, the baseball jacket and the letterman became much further reaching symbols.

The occupation of Japan post World War II by the American military forces was also one of the pinnacle times in American clothing culture and its ascent to a wider audience.

The American occupation did much to establish a new sense of freedom for the population of Japan, raising human rights and building growth in the economy. People felt freed from the constraints of dictatorship and conforming to traditions. The image presented to them of American GI’s both in uniform and in casual American style launched an interest in western clothing and style that is still strong today.

It was in Japan at this time that the Baseball Jacket experienced its first permutation. At Yukosuka Airbase the stationed American airmen commissioned the local craftsmen to embellish their baseball jackets with embroideries of traditional Japanese motifs. The jacket embellishments became popular as souvenirs of a time spent upon foreign lands. Such jackets were later coined as Sukajan, meaning souvenir jacket.

The Japanese enthrallment with American clothing was only to increase with the publication of ‘Take Ivy’, in Japan in 1965, creating something of a cult following. The book visually documented Ivy League university life, from students walking about campus to the busy dining halls and providing an intimate view on campus society. Featuring the fashions and clothing etiquette of this, now a mainstay in America, this was new to the Japanese viewer who quickly identified a clear lifestyle message. The Ivy League Universities were well regarded as the epitome of elite in the field of education and its attending students were proud to be seen as a part of it through adorning the colours of the university and the varsity jacket emblazoned with the university name. ‘Take Ivy’ writer, Teruyoshi Hayashida, describes his struggle to understand the idea of campus fashion due in part to his upbringing in Japan where it is necessary for students at school to wear a strict uniform. Like his readers he quickly realised that the students of the Ivy League campus were creating their very own image. The campus and its surroundings were their world and therefore were influenced by its own society. Sporting attire becoming casual wear being a key component to the preppy look.

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 12.20.02

The Japanese viewer adopted an admiration for the student customisation and creating a fashion movement rather than just a trend.

The 1970’s saw another phase in the life of the baseball jacket: Britain and America saw the uprising of the Punk and Hip Hop trends respectively. Hip Hop adopted the baseball jacket, influenced by its meaning and symbolism of belonging to a brotherhood. It combined elements of the collegiate letterman and the sukajan, again furthering the reach of the baseball jacket into American culture.

It was at this time the Ivy Look took something of a back seat as popularity dropped in favor of the new trends such as Hip Hop that offered an alternative lifestyle. That was until 1980 when the book The Official Preppy Handbook was published. The book, edited by Lisa Birnback, was a lighthearted take on the preppy lifestyle, once again garnering interest in the style and its image. This resurgence was further aided by the advancing popularity of designer Ralph Lauren.

With his beginnings as a salesman for Brooks Brothers he was well versed in the preppy look. He is one of the styles most renowned cultivators and progressed the look from the confinement of the collegian and the campus to the wider, mass audience. The preppy look became popularised throughout American society, affirming it as now mainstream in its culture. The Baseball Jacket was a key player in the preppy look, with its transgression into everyday wear: it not only symbolised a connection to sporting achievement and participation in what was one of America’s great pastimes but also a reflection on a lifestyle. A lifestyle of one’s drive to better oneself and an allegiance with the perceived higher end and fashionable set of society.

The Letterman and the Baseball Jacket have affirmed their position in the fashion and style archives in the history of America, so much so that such a style has now transferred to mainstream menswear. Brands such as Carhaart, Fred Perry and Stussy, each varying in their brand ethos, have visited the Letterman and interpreted it through their brand identity whilst remaining close to the Letterman image of authenticity.

Over 80 years the Baseball Jacket has navigated a passage from its first beginnings as covetable reward jacket on the sports fields at the elite Ivy League institutions, through to fashionable campus attire, reaching the shores of Japan set against the backdrop of a post war civilisation seeking to discover its new identity to modern day in which the jacket has now firmly positioned itself in the realms of men’s fashion, continually adopted and interpreted by brands and designers.

It was that day 1868 that a legacy was established, an unforeseen lasting and far reaching legacy that continues to influence, and yet it is a style that refuses one to forget its roots and the history of a now timeless piece.