- A Return to Civilized Attire
by Paul Kiernan
have a picture somewhere of my grandfather as a young man, dressed
for an evening on the town. He wasn't a member of the upper class,
but in this photo, along with a nice waistcoat, his hat at a rakish
tilt and a hopeful gleam in his eye, he was sporting spats. Grey
with pearl buttons up the side.
it comes to accentuating an outfit, men have very few options.
Too much jewelry is a faux pas, and hair accessories are simply
unacceptable. But with the right finishing touches, even an average
Joe can look like a million bucks: a silk pocket square; an elegant
tie clip; and the coup de grace, a pair of crisp white spats.
the age of Gatsby, spats were almost always paired with a tailored
vest in "boulevard style," says Lyn Tallarida, the designer
behind the Spatterdash line of custom spats for the modern man
Grey, tan or white spats were de rigueur in the 1920s, she explains.
But although spats are generally associated with the Prohibition
era, they originated some 300 years prior.
predecessor to spats was cloth shoe covers with a leather
sole that were popular in England in the 1600s. The French
removed the sole and incorporated the footwear into military
attire. The design was actually longer, with the spatterdash
(or gaiter, as they were also called) reaching nearly
to the knee. The style moved across Europe, and by the
19th century they had been pared down to the shorter ankle
length that is familiar today, fastened with a buckle
underneath the sole. Near the end of the century, spats
were a prized accessory worn by men and women alike. In
winter, they would be made out of heavy boxcloth; in summertime,
linen was the fabric of choice. As the fashion sense of
the day became keener, the louder colors and shocking
patterns of spats were simplified. High fashion dictated
that the best-dressed person wore spats only in grey,
white or tan.
spats became the victims of function over form. By the middle
of the 20th century, ladies' footwear styles became more delicate.
Women's slippers appeared on the scene, as did open-toed shoes.
The simple spat wasn't enough to keep the shoe clean and the foot
warm. And for both men and women, there was a new shoe cover called
the galosh. Thick, warm and water-resistant, galoshes meant the
end of an era for smart, savvy spats.
style is timeless, and a man can still make a bold fashion statement
by adding spats to his ensemble. Tallarida hopes Spatterdash will
launch a footwear renaissance. "The detail and quality of
the construction and design of the clothes back then is unparalleled,"
she says of Prohibition-era menswear. "I made every attempt
to match that detail and quality [with my spats]. This is definitely
something that needs to come back." Her line features bold
colors, fabrics ranging from waterproof nylon to sumptuous silk,
and eye-catching patterns-everything the well-dressed man's heart
desires. The spats are held in place by an elastic band that wraps
beneath the foot, or a strap and buckle on her Gold Collection
add the perfect touch to formal, semi-formal or night-on-the-town
wear, rediscover the neat, clean, dressed-to-the-nines fashion