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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Leyendecker and the Arrow Collar Man.

Because I feel this blog has been tragically short on vintage suits so far, here's a post all about Leyendecker and the Arrow Collar Man.
The Arrow Collar Man is a creation of J.C. Leyendecker, a German-American illustrator of magazine covers and advertisements in the 1900s-30s. Leyendecker worked on a variety of illustrations and ad campaigns, but his speciality was these hyper-masculine, square-jawed all-American guys who spent their days smoking, posing in a manly fashion, and playing sports. The Arrow Collar Man is kind of The Man Your Man Could Smell like of the early 20th Century.

1920s Twilight.
Arrow Collar Man didn't really have a personality the way The Man Your Man Could Smell Like does, though. He was more just endlessly handsome and glamourous, which is probably all you need in your shirt adverts in 1920s America. The campaign was incredibly successful, although that's probably less to do with the advert itself and more to do with the fact that the concept of shirts with collars already attached was astonishingly tempting when compared to the prospect starching all your collars separately.
Sherlock Holmes and Captain America (I wish).
Despite running for over 20 years, the Arrow Collar Man never seemed to age, which is particularly impressive since Leyendecker used the same model the entire time. I find them a lot more appealing than today's equivalent suit/fashion ads, to be honest, because using an illustration is an acknowledgement that people can't/don't have to be this perfect-looking. With a modern photo ad, the viewer sees a suit and is supposed to think, "That's what the suit looks like," with the photoshop/airbrush artist hopefully an invisible presence somewhere far away from either the model or the camera lens. But with a painting you have the model at one end, the viewer at the other, and in the middle the artist saying, "Hey guys, I'm here to make everyone look better and we both know that!" Photographs imply authenticity, but the point of advertising isn't authenticity, it's to show the product from its good side.
I think it's safe to assume that at least two of those soldiers are not remotely interested in the nurse.
There's a definite element of homoeroticism in a lot of Leyendecker's illustrations, although I have to wonder how much of it was ever picked up on by the general population circa 1905/1920/etc. Most of the time it's rather coy, like the picture above, although occasionally you get adverts that to the modern eye seem entertainingly obvious:
It's like he was going for "world's most phallic advert" award or something.
I mean, what is THAT? "Join the Navy, where glistening, shirtless men thrust huge missiles into waiting holes"? And there's more:
I'm going to go ahead and assume that Leyendecker never had much experience with the military, because these guys are basically Chippendales. It makes me feel a little bad for the small number of guys who looked at these posters, thought, "Hell, yeah!" and were then sorely disappointed by the realities of military life in the 1930s.
o rly?
But it's not just a "Leyendecker was gay so he drew a bunch of hot men" thing, I don't think, because he was being hired consistently for this work, meaning that not just gay dudes were buying the products he helped advertise. Arguably the Arrow Shirts could have been marketed directly at women buying for their husbands, but Leyendecker's magazine covers and other adverts weren't. To me it indicates that Leyendecker's men (and the men of early 20th ads in general, although to be honest I don't know much about this) aren't just objects of desire, they're meant to be enviable, and to be emulated. Much like women in modern ads.
 It's no secret that practically everything these days is sold using a hot, frequently half-naked woman, because in theory either you're going to associate sex-appeal with the product (straight men) or you're supposed to want to buy the product in order to gain sex-appeal (women). Leyendecker's men aren't the men of modern ads -- they're admirable, but they're also intentionally desirable. They're paragons of gentlemanly style and sportsmanship. They're a far cry from the Lynx/Axe body spray dudes -- probably an unfair comparison, but you get what I mean. All ice-cream ads in 2011 are women orgasming over the sheer gloriousness of ingesting £2.50's-worth of processed frozen chocolate, whereas a Leyendecker ad for ice-cream in 1911 would probably be two hearty chaps at the tennis court holding ice-creams and looking like they're in the middle of a discussion about tie-pins, the German Problem, or stock options.
JUST CHILLAXIN' HERE IN MY GOLFING UNDERWEAR...
Check out this sock ad. First of all: sock ad. Obviously it's charmingly archaic by our standards, especially the snappy slogan ("The most extensively sold make of Men's Half Hose in existence"). This is not the way to advertise socks in 2011. Socks are functional; sock ads in 2011 are functional. Men only get to be sexy if they're driving a new car or using a new shaving product, and then it's the product that's sexy, not the man. But I think we can all agree that the socks are not what makes this image awesome.
Nothing says "Easter" like an 18th century French courtiere and a poodle.
What really cracks me up is when Leyendecker's bosses give him creative control. If you google-image his art you get just as many magazine covers as adverts, and most of those magazine covers are totally impossible to parse. He seems to enjoy historical themes, but not usually for any... relevent reason...
Of course this picture represents Thanksgiving. OF COURSE.
Actually, looking at the Thanksgiving picture above, I can help thinking that 1920s American football uniforms are sort of steampunk. I would so totally wear that! Then again, I'd probably also wear the courtier outfit as well, so long as you removed some of the lace.
I looked at this magazine cover for a good thirty seconds trying to work out what news story it could possibly be supposed to represent. Maybe there was an article about sports and/or rowing in the magazine somewhere? All I know is, most weekly papers no longer feature oiled-up men in short-shorts on the cover.
You know you'd watch this movie in a shot.
Despite the fact that most of Leyendecker's paintings are very obviously posed scenes, I find it much easier to imagine a narrative for them than I can for modern adverts/fashion spreads. Possibly this can be put down to me being a pleb who finds it easier to interpret "art" in a painting rather than a photograph, but I think it's more likely thanks to the expressiveness of the models. Take this current Michael Kors ad:
Scene: personality-free mannequins having fun in a bar while being stunningly attractive yet oddly expressionless. Compared to the next scene: the similarly everyday scenario of people buying clothes (albeit buying clothes from a professional tailor in 1910), but in this case the characters seem to be imbued with 100% more human warmth despite being painted rather than acted out by professional models. I don't know if this picture tells a thousand words, but it certainly has more of a story to it than the Michael Kors ad.
N.B. I think the man on the far right is Giles from Buffy.
Quite apart from the whole female gaze/male gaze thing, I rather love Leyendecker's love of unnecessary costuming. Check out this newspaper cover:
I bookmarked this as "Mr and Mrs Weasley roleplaying as Naughty Maid and Sexy Centurion". I think Leyendecker just wanted an excuse to draw some Roman armour because it was March and it was chilly and he was being paid for this anyway so hey, why not? (Why not?)

To finish, here's one of my favourite Leyendecker illustrations, another (quite early: 1907) Arrow Collar ad. I particularly love this one because of the variety of styles displayed in the lineup -- two different (and very stylish!) businessman looks bookending the group, a woman with a riding crop, a young dandy out for a walk in his flat-cap, and the 1900s equivalent of a prepster. The woman I particularly like, of course. It's highly unlikely that the ad would be marketing to the women-who-wear-suits crowd (not exactly a big market in 1907, although I assume she is in fact wearing some type of riding outfit) but she's still there and looking badass.
The Arrow Collar Man, Virginia Woolf, Dorian Gray, Sebastian Flyte, and Dr John Watson.

30 comments:

  1. I. Love. This. I love your blog in general but this is my favorite thing ever. I'm totally stealing the Thanksgiving picture and sending it to all my Facebook friends tomorrow. :-)

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  2. PS I think the young lady in the last picture looks just like Emma Watson, and now I would like there to be a movie where they all do a heist or something.

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  3. One of my favourite illustrators! Why were there more hot guys back in those days? Ha ha ha!
    I just love the way he painted the white backgrounds!

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  4. To me it indicates that Leyendecker's men...aren't just objects of desire, they're meant to be enviable, and to be emulated.

    There is also the possibility that men who identified as straight were still responding to the sexual images in those adverts far more than they realised.

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  5. Are you getting a sudden urge to join the Navy? Or just buy more shirts?

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  6. ALL THE HOT GUYS WERE LEYENDECKER'S BF over and over again. :)) the Dinotopia illustrator actually reminds me a lot of leyendecker!

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  7. maybe a little emma watson around the eyebrows? i don't really see it though, i'm afraid. BUT i am always in favour of heist movies for sure. especially when they involve suits.

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  8. thank you so much! :))

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  9. The Arrow Collar Man, Virginia Woolf, Dorian Gray, Sebastian Flyte, and Dr John Watson.
    OMG. That is *so* Sebastian. Wheeeee! I think what i love most about his work - well, besides how gorgeous it is, and how elegant, and how slyly sexy - is how everything is so *crisp*. Even the collie's fur is cross-hatched and sharply defined, rather than 'fluffly'. And I love the little squares and lines of nearly-pure white that make highlights, particularly in the one you tagged with 'o, rly'.

    The lushness of the French courtier! I adore that coat - i'd wear it in a heartbeat. AND the hat. And probably the breeches. Plus i want the flowers.
    *happy sigh*
    :)

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  10. This guy's one of my biggest inspirations. *_* The hot guys, I mean the swift brush strokes color contrast...

    Even though illustration ads are less mainstream today, at least there's the internet. :D I'm so happy you featured this guy.

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  11. :)) Leyendecker seems to be even more well-loved than I already thought! I've had a bunch of comments on twitter, tumblr etc about how much people love his art.

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  12. i LOVE the crisp suits so much, dude. :(( I WANT IT ALLLLL.

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  13. Compared to the next scene: the similarly everyday scenario of people buying clothes (albeit buying clothes from a professional tailor in 1910), but in this case the characters seem to be imbued with 100% more human warmth despite being painted rather than acted out by professional models. I don't know if this picture tells a thousand words, but it certainly has more of a story to it than the Michael Kors ad.

    That's probably my favourite Leyendecker painting for the very reason that it DOES tell such a story (to me). On the face of it, it's a gentleman having one of his servants -- presumably a chauffeur -- outfitted, but then you start to think about the fact that he goes to such expense to have a servant look so nice, etc. And, well, the way he's gazing at the man, the intensity in both his eyes and his posture, implies other things, too. ;)

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  14. Definitely. There's always so much subtext in Leyendecker's art. Text, really... I hadn't even considered the chauffeur option for that picture, I was basically just assuming it was his boyfriend. ;) I mean, the dude in the chair is SO admiring/judging in that picture, for sure.

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  15. Great blog! I was just doing some research on 1920's/30's fashion and came across your polst about Leyendecker--had never heard of him and now am a big fan! I totally want to start collecting his work, now!
    www.rashadschiccritique.blogspot.com

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  16. This article is excellent. I just came across your blog today and have spent the last three hours pouring through the archives. Keep up the great work!

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  17. La gente compra i prodotti per la sensazione che ricevono Gucci Outlet. Come ti senti quando si ottiene una nuova auto? Sì, eccitato, fiero e ansioso di mostrare fuori un po '. Tenete a mente questi sentimenti, di parole e disegnare con i vostri annunci pubblicitari che li stimolano. Sì, sarete sorpresi dai risultati che otterrete da incoraggiare e drammatizzando i desideri dei vostri lettori.

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  18. The group of strapping lads is a rowing team carrying their racing shell after a victory. It was a popular college sport in the early half of the century and produced a very physically fit body.

    Arthur and Molly are dressed in Roman garb for the Ides of March. The date of the post shows that it will occur that week.

    The young lady in the last illustration is wearing a tailor-made dress, very popular among working women, suffragettes, nannies and governesses. It implied a can-do no-nonsense personality and a rebellious spirit. They also could be worn with men's accessories, such as the detachable collars and ties that Arrow sold. They'd simply have to buy the size intended for teens or children.

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  22. تنظيف خزانات بالمدينة المنورة وهى مؤسسة ذات مسئولية متخصصة فى مجال شركة تنظيف الخزانات بالمدينة المنورة مع التعقيم. تقوم بعملية شركة تنظيف للخزانات العلويه بالمدينة المنورة ونقوم بعملية تنظيف الخزانات الارضيه بالمدينة المنورة . لدينا
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    الكثير من الطرق لتنظيف الخزانات منها طرق يدويه وطرق ميكانيكيه تنظيف الخزانات بالمدينة المنورة يدويه حيث يقوم العامل بالنزول الى الخزانات ويقوم بتنظيفه جيدا اما الطريقه الميكانيكه عن طريق استخدام افضل المكانس النفاسه للخزان ويتم وضع احسن المواد المطهره لهذه المكانس حتى يتم تطهير الخزانات بالمدينة المنورة من البكتريا تطهير الخزانات بالمدينة المنورة كذلك يوجد نوعين من الخزانات خزانات كبيره ذات فتحه كبيره تمكن العامل
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    حيث ان معظم الامراض تحدث نتيجة المياه الملوثة لذلك يجب الاستعانة بشركة تنظيف خزانات مضمونة مثل شركة تنظيف خزانات التى تقوم بتنظيف الخزانات الجديدة و المستعملة طبقا للائحة الاشتراطات الصحية كما تقدم الشركات خدمات اخرى باسعار تناسب جميع الطبقات اتصل الآن و حافظ على صحتك و صحة اسرتك


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