London Lounge member Mihn recently posted some remarkable scans of old issues of Esquire and Apparel Arts, all originally published around the 1930s or so. Apparel Arts was a quarterly large-format publication, started by Arnold Gingrich, who was also the founder of Esquire. Where Esquire was aimed at the consumer, Apparel Arts was for the trade. You see, buyers who work for clothing stores today typically rely on lookbooks, tradeshows, and fashion magazines to decide what they should stock each season. This wasn’t so in the 1930s. Back then, small independent shops relied on Apparel Arts to figure out what the best dressed men wore, and consequently what they should offer to their customers.
For a number of reasons, the usefulness of Apparel Arts declined after the end of the Second World War, so it was transformed into GQ in 1957. One of the conspicuous things you’ll notice is that – along with scantily clad women – GQ today has small caption boxes listing the brands of the clothes they’re promoting. Fashion spreads will say things such as “Suit by Ralph Lauren $2,875; Shirt by Brioni $475; Tie by Zegna $185.” In Apparel Arts, there were no such captions. It was a publication simply about how to dress well given different settings.