Saturday 3 September 2022

They won in the end - this summer Great Britain was full of even elderly men wearing shorts


An enthusiast for Men's dress reform walking down the Strand in London.

The Men's Dress Reform Party (MDRP) existed from 1929 to the start of the war and aimed to increase the variety and choice in men's clothing. 

I suspect it was a harmless offshoot of the malign interwar enthusiasm for eugenics (improving the stock). Bernard Shaw and Edward Carpenter wore 'reformed clothing'.

Anne Fernie wrote this.
Strange to realise that adult men really did not wear shorts before the mid1920s. These formed a key health feature of the Men’s Dress Reform Party founded in 1929 by Alfred Jordan, an internationally renowned radiologist. He was famous for wearing shorts in his professional life, something that in this period was sufficiently unusual to generate press interest.

The MDRP was open to all classes of men, from the ‘working chap to the peer’s son’ and it was not a ‘crank or a faddist’ organisation but lobbied to end the tyranny of men’s dress away from heavy, hard to clean woollens and tweeds, sock suspenders, restrictive collars and in the case of heavier men – corsets.

Members included the artist Walter Sickert and lady members Barbara Cartland and the physician Stella Churchill. The ‘Tailor & Cutter’ journal however, thought it ‘odd’ for middle-aged and elderly men to be dressing like boys & the National Federation of Merchant Tailors labelled the |MDRP ‘ dress quacks’ who were ‘monkeying’ with men’s attire.

By the 1930s the movement held regular events: 1,000 people attended the ’31 rally at the London Suffolk St. galleries including H.G Wells & Alfred Jordan who appeared in a knee-length tunic, cape and sandals. Baden Powell (also an old friend of Caleb Saleeby) was interested in the movement & noted to them that his designs for Boy Scout uniforms largely met the movement’s ideals. The movement was also adroit at publicising itself through the media. Their 1937 Coronation design competition was one of the first events ever to be televised although only 50,000 people were able to receive the transmission.

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