You’re the sartorial toast of your friends (not to mention the ladies) but do you know these 7 surprising facts about your wardrobe?
1. Button-down collars were invented by polo players
As if they didn’t have their hands full trying to hook their opponents’ mallet, polo players of yore also had to worry about shirt collars flapping and covering their line of sight. Their DIY solution? Sewing buttons to keep ‘em down. Brooks Brothers brought the idea to the U.S. and the rest is history. Now even Prince Harry sports them. Tea, anyone?
2. Mackintosh jackets were created by a chemist
Yep, waterproof jackets were first seen in (rainy) London town back in 1823 when a chemist called Charles Mackintosh (yes, with a ‘K’ for you grammar Nazis) joined two fabrics together with a liquid rubber compound to create the very first waterproof cloth. Legend has it he then went to the nearest pub for some bangers and mash with bitter. Well, maybe we made the last bit up but we’re definitely a bit peckish now, aren’t you?
3. French cuffs aren’t exactly a French invention
Oui, c’est vrai. French cuffs were mentioned for the first time in Le Comte de Monte-Cristo but they’re not exactly French like baguettes. Actually, their origin can be traced to the other side of the Channel - Brits who made shirts with a row of buttons so they could fasten the cuffs at their right length, folding back the extra. This technique rapidly spread throughout Europe and evolved into the dressier version described by Alexandre Dumas.
4. Pocket squares used to serve a purpose
Handkerchiefs have been used since time immemorial (well, since the 14th century anyway) to blow noses, dry hands etc. These white squares were often carried in breast pockets. The coming of disposable tissue disrupted this practice and today, the handerkerchief has evolved into finer fabrics and pocket squares are worn (but not used) by a few “men of quality”.
5. Boat-shoes soles were inspired by dog paws
It’s no coincidence that the wave-like groves on the sole of boat shoes resemble a dog paw. Thanks to a cocker spaniel dog called Prince, Paul Sperry discovered the key to his big success. He was amazed by the way his dog moved over slippery surfaces and this inspired him to create shoes patterned after Prince. Paul Sperry + Prince = BFF. Aww!
6. Perforations on Brogues were meant to drain water
Hard to believe but these classic shoes were not initially made for the office. During the early 20th century Brogues were outdoor shoes, specifically for walking on wet terrain as the perforations helped dry the shoes by letting the water drain off. Before you jump to the bog, be advised that today most perforations are just decorative.
7. Gingham cloth used to be striped, not checked
Born in Indonesia, Gingham cloth was traditionally produced with a striped pattern. The name came from the Malay word “genggang”, meaning “striped”. Then the Brits decided to spruce it up a bit. Tradesmen in Manchester started producing Gingham cloth with a checked pattern… and fashion history was made once again. In fact, soccer team Manchester United rocks a Gingham check shirt in tribute to the city’s roots in textile manufacturing.
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