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Unapologetic Preppy: Go To Hell Pants

When looking back at men’s fashion history, the whimsical penchant for madras blazers, lobster-embroidered trousers, and bright sweaters in pink and kelly green amongst the upper crust WASP North East stands out as bold and peculiar.

In the mid-1950s, a surprising overnight sensation took over men’s fashion. The summer 1953 issue of Gentry, a short-lived menswear magazine, credits Palm Beach, the Florida resort town where East coast elites sought refuge from cold winters, with popularizing the madras blazer the previous winter season. In 1955, LIFE magazine announced a “radical new line” at Brooks Brothers consisting of red, green and yellow blazers and trousers in thirteen different colors. The “Mad Men” look of monochromatic suits and white shirts was kicked to the curb in favor of outlandish pants in bright colors with daring patterns on them. Even more so than showcasing personal style, these pants were a way to tell the older generation of gray suits and Oxford shoes to go to hell. Like a proverbial game of chicken, men would attempt to out-do their friends by seeing who would wear the boldest pants of all.

Technically, any boldly colored pair of trousers with or without a pattern qualifies as a pair of Go To Hell “GTH” pants. Initially, the trend began with solid colors before it evolved into motifs of sailboats, animals, madras and seersucker.

As men’s styles continued to evolve, and men returned to favoring more classic gray, brown and black suits and slim ties, so did the GTH pants. Today, so long as the pants feature some icon or pattern that distinguishes them from an ordinary pair of trousers, they can still be considered a GTH look. Today, GTH trousers in slim cuts with minimal pattern or color are designed as a way to fit into a more formal atmosphere while still being able to convey a bit of rebellious flare.

How can the modern man actually pull off wearing a pair of GTH pants? Pairing them with an equally loud shirt is a sure-fire way to err. The important thing about wearing a bright colored trouser is knowing how to wear it: building an outfit around the one discordant pattern or color, and surrounding it with complementary pieces of clothing. The best way to wear the pants it to wear them with subdued and complimentary colors, so the pants can stand out. The “right” way to wear a hellbound item is to pair it with otherwise typical clothing. You should not pair wild-colored embroidered pants with a brightly checked shirt. Bright pants with a bright shirt would be interpreted not so much as bad taste, but as breaking the code. Also, a color’s shade has to be just right, as in the special shade of pink- or the perfect fade on a pair of Nantucket Reds (our specialty!), indicating years of summers spent sailing. And certain colors, such has purple, have not been accepted into the GTH genre.

There’s a very conscious, planned nonchalance about this style of dressing, and a calculated disregard. While GTH pants are obnoxious, they also are ironically a “correct” and popular style choice.  Have a look at our store to see some fun yet versatile every day pants that you dress up, dress down, or what ever you like!  

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