International Fashion

Cartoon by Theodore Thomas Heine contrasting German and English Fashions. Caption for the image at left: “Herr and Frau Schmidt look like this when they travel to London”; for the image at right: “And like this when they return after a week there as Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” From Simplicissimus: Illustrierte Wochenschrift, Munich, 1902.

An American philosopher says somewhere, “A young man is rich if he has a good head on his shoulders and a good suit in his closet.” This is sound philosophy. It demonstrates an understanding of people. What good are brains if they do not express themselves with good clothes? For both the English and the Americans demand of an individual that he be well dressed.

But the Germans do them one better. They also want to be beautifully dressed. When the English wear wide pants, the Germans point out to them immediately (I don’t know whether this is thanks to old Vischer or to the golden section) that these are unaesthetic and that only narrow pants may be considered to have any claim to beauty. They bluster, they grumble, and they curse, but nevertheless they have their trousers widened from year to year.

Adolf Loos, “Men’s Fashion” Neue Freie Presse, May 22, 1898