Ah, the ultimate cool style. What’s more classic than a Blue Note musician in a perfect suit? Such raw sounds coming out of a modern dressed man. Here’s a great read, an essay on the style of these guys from Blue Note: Album Cover Art The Ultimate Collection by Graham Marsh, a really great little book filled with the best Blue Note LP’s.
on the clothes…
NO ROOM FOR SQUARES
“Consider the irony – the button-down shirt, which came to symbolize all that was hip about the Blue Note musician, was originally English. Polo players at the turn of the century were seen by John Brooks, of Brooks Brothers, to fasten their collars with buttons to keep them from snapping up in their faces.
This piece of sartorial history was of no concern to us, however; the mere fact that Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, and other Blue Note luminaries were photographed wearing these shirts, on their respective album covers, was endorsement enough. Now I’m sure to those musicians it was just another clean shirt, but in the early 60’s , unless your taste was for homegrown, the importance of being imported applied to the clothes as much as to the records. It was an obsession; a friend of mine was not a happy person until he owned a striped button-down identical to the shirt Big John Patton wore on the sleeve of The Way I Feel.
Let me tell you what we looked like. You can probably get an argument about it, but the generally accepted shirt was either plain blue or white Oxford cloth button-down, a close second was the tab collar. The Necktie was knitted, narrow, very black, and made by Rooster. A leather or webbing belt held upthe trousers of a three-button, natural shouldered, half-lined raised-seam suit, with the inevitable six-inch hooked vent. The pursuit suit was in tan needle cord, or olive or dark blue cotton. At the bottom of the narrow, plain-front trousers, was a pair of long wing-tip brogues or beef-roll loafers with the lowest heels you’ve ever seen.Today, by way of compensation, with original Blue Note records fetching prices that Sotheby’s would be proud of, you can still buy a Brooks Brothers’ button-down shirt for about forty-eight dollars – plus the airfare to New York.”
on the shoes…
“If there is no immediate association between the name George Bass and those celebrated icons of celluloid vinyl, there should be. At some time or another, from Robert Mitchum to Thelonious Monk, all have worn the Weejun Loafer, courtesy of Mr. Bass. His loafers were, and still are, one of the rare and enduring items of standard issue cool.
Once an indispensable part of the ‘preppie’ look, Bass Weejuns with their clean, smooth lines, soon became the unapproachably correct shoe of New York’s hipster saints during those fabled pre-psychedelic ’60s. They complemented perfectly the sleek, sharp, and minimal look that the modernists had nailed down so completely. If Miles Davis had the green shirt and Jimmy Smith had the sweaters, the rest of the congregation for sure had the Weejuns.
The loafer was introduced to American in 1936 by George Bass. Legend has it that Mr. B adapted his new shoe from the traditional Norwegian fisherman’s slipper. The Weejun soon became a symbol of casual American style. These loafers were so comfortable and hip you could put them on with your hands in your pockets, a sometimes overlooked fact, but worthy of special mention in dispatches.
When the powers that instigate a museum of cult objects, a pair of Weejuns will undoubtedly be displayed alongside a pair of Levi 501 XX 1955 model blue jeans, an all-cotton Burberry Trenchcoat, and a Brooks Brothers button-down shirt. Indeed apart from the two great art forms of Jazz and Film that the USA surfaced last century, the third might just be the Weejun.
Although endlessly copied by a host of imitators, the casual show by which all others were judged, is still the original Bass Weejun moccasin-style loafer, with its hand-sewn front, leather soles and heels, worn with or without socks. It looks better, and becomes more comfortable after each wearing, as it takes on the shape of your foot. As George Frazier, the late, great tastemaker and doyen of Boston journalists, said: Wanna know if a guy’s well dress? Look down.”
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