The Space Race of Wash and Wear Suits!

August 11, 2018

I have several wonderful vintage Wash and Wear suits arriving here tomorrow (in sizes c. 38 to 42), most of which are classic 3/2 sacks.... But before they appear I thought a little history might be fun!

 

Wash and Wear menswear was a classic summer staple from the 1950s through the 1980s....and it's easy to see why.

 

Suits were expected for office work. And while air conditioning was becoming more widely available, you still had to get to and from the office... in a very hot car, or by stuffy public transit. Cotton suits would wrinkle horribly and unprofessionally, linen was even worse, and seersucker, while it would hold its shape, was still too informal and attracted grime quickly. And while tropical-weight wool was a preferred option it would wrinkle and crease.

 

If only there was a fabric that was cool, easy to wear, and would resist wrinkling no matter how cramped the Subway was...

 

Enter the "Space Age" Fabrics that led to Wash and Wear menswear!

 

As its name suggests Wash and Wear clothing was designed to handle being washed, and then worn fresh out of the dryer--a feat that could only be handled by fabrics with some artificial content, and that was regarded as nothing short of miraculous in the 1950s. In 1951, for example, Du Pont showed a group of New York reporters a suit made from a fibre they called "Dacron". It has been worn for 67 days continuously, dunked in a swimming pool twice, washed in a household washing machine, machine dried.... and was perfectly wearable.

That was impressive.

 

No less impressive was the feat performed by Joseph Haspel, who to promote his new line of Wash and Wear suits walked into the ocean wearing one at a Florida clothiers convention, then walked (slowly, to let the suit dry!) straight into the convention to promote his new line of "Wash and Wears"--not least to a previously skeptical group of his own Directors.

 

Meanwhile, Hart, Shaffner, and Marx were experimenting with poly-wool blended suits designed to be washed, and that same year Brooks Brothers introduced wash-and-wear suiting into its regular line. Just as the USA and USSR were competing to land a man on the moon, so were the main traditional American clothiers competing to produce THE easy-care summer suits and jackets from the new "Space Age" fabrics that were becoming available.

 

Luckily for the overheated office worker who wished to look professional and stylish even in a New York heatwave, they succeeded....... And Wash and Wear suiting became a staple of the Ivy Style summer wardrobe!

 

 

 

 

 

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