I'm here to sing the weird praises of this mid-century Van Heusen shirts. After seeing this strange, illustrated spokesperson, who looks like the son of Rod Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor, how could I not? His violet eyes are piercing your soooooul:
Van Heusen has been making every kind of men's wear since 1881, having invented the "soft fold" collar in 1921 and thus effectively replacing all the stiff, startched collars that came before. I maligned them for no reason! They can't help if they had to stay up to date with horrible trends circa 1996!
In spite of their historical contributions to the shape and state of starch in American collars in the early twentieth century, I have to tell you, by 1947, they'd just gotten strange. Check out this two page spread for "aquatone" shirts coming out that fall:
Those girls are as distracting as they are strange! The point of the ad was to tout the "washability" of these new shirts, to which, coming from a household in which my mother would literally not allow me to buy clothes that were dry clean only, I can understand the appeal. The way the women's bodies are not quite as in focus, even for being in translucent water, and yet their pin-up faces have crystal clarity...what is going on here? Also, why are those shirts like four time the size of an average woman when folded? Inquiring minds want to know!
The next one features a dopey 1890's photographer in Parisian art smock and beret, beseeching us to be quiet, like the soft speaking colors of these new Van Heusen shirts. Do you see what I mean about the tone supposedly being whimsical, and missing the mark by a country mile?
I kind of like this one, but again, it's bizarre. The girl's frou frou, alpine-inspired ribboned dress and whatever is going on in her hair is actually something I would wear in a heartbeat, but it still doesn't make good sense we're kissing across a clothesline because of his striped shirt. I am not sold, Van Heusen! I am not sold. Now, if you were selling the ensemble on the left, I could totally get behind that...but we've established that you are not. And that I am sadder for that fact:
Yes, I get the Sadie Hawkins-type vibe in this one, but you're going to have a hard time convincing me that a Comfort Contour collar is enough to drop three beautifully dressed women to their stockinged knees for love of you. You old priss!
This 1952 ad had a whole group of guys, smug of head, wearing of Van Heusen. I kind of have a secret crush on the young Joseph Cotten lookalike in the upper right hand corner, and the Professor Jones third from the left in the second row. That yellow collar is a hoot (top row, center) and the guy in the dark shirt and light tie looks like either a Macaroni Grill manager or a wannabe gangster (maybe both?).
But ah! You lost me at sleepwear. WHY IS THAT MAN DRESSED IN A MANDARIN COLLAR? I really can't see any reason for any man outside of China wearing this style of dress. It looks cute on a girl! It does not look cute on this guy. I think the model in the tuxedo pajama is casting aspersions upon the man at right with his right eyebrow. You judge for yourself, though.
VH wins back major points for the names of these colors though. I like "Rhumba Red" and "Low-down Blue" so much it almost makes up for the Chinese collar. ALMOST.
As for one I didn't even include, what is with the weirdly racist text of this ad? There was one about a chieftan, and I was like, ah, well, you know, cowboys and Indians, whatever. Look at the angry African tribesman in the middle of that ad! Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but the bone in his hair is a little much.
Do you agree with me? Are these Van Heusen ads' forced jollity a little much for the 21st century reader, or do you think they were always kind of lame, in spite of the broad appeal of their actual product (which looks cool!)? Which one of these shirts would you wear yourself or buy for the goodlooking gent in your life? Seen any weird vintage ads yourself lately? Do tell!
That's all for today; I'll see you guys back here tomorrow!