Ernest Thesiger


The Men’s Dress Reform Party


Ernest with some other members of the Men’s Dress Reform Party, July 1929.

“Dean Inge and representatives of the stage, art, teaching, and medical professions are among the sponsors of a new society forming to emancipate the dress of men.  This society is, according to its secretary, aiming at practical achievement such as the abolition of the collar stud, but its ultimate object is an ‘ideal dress,’ consisting of an open-neck shirt and shorts.  The new party of dress reform sets out its aims in the following statement: - ‘All interested in healthier and better clothes for men are invited to join the Men’s Dress Reform Party, the purpose of which is to discuss the means whereby men may reform their clothes with as much profit to health and appearance as women have recently achieved.’  It is signed by Dean Inge, Mr. Guy Kendall, headmaster, University College School; Dr W. C. Salceby, president of the Sunlight League; Mr. Richard Sickert, the well-known artist; Mr. Ernest Thesiger, the actor; Dr. Leonard Williams, the physician and author; and Dr. Alfred C. Jordan, acting hon. secretary.”

Aberdeen Journal, June 13, 1929

“If the ideas of Mr. Ernest Thesiger, the actor, on healthier clothes for men were put into practical operation, people in this country would go about in Russian blouses with one button at the neck and a belt round the waist.  ‘There are too many unnecessary buttons on our present style of clothes,’ Mr. Thesiger said.  ‘Instead of waistcoats we should wear jumpers.’  He condemns the present arrangement of pockets. ‘When you are being measured for a suit of clothes you take everything out of your pockets and your clothes are made to fit you accordingly,’ he said.  ‘When, however, you begin to wear the clothes, the pockets bulge out if you put anything into them.  There should be some kind of central pocket - just one - not like a lady’s handbag but something which could be slung over the shoulder.’  Mr. Thesiger also advocates soft collars for all but formal occasions ‘My idea is,’ he says, ‘that formal clothes should only be worn on formal occasions.  There are occasions when it is not necessary to handicap ourselves with the formal style in which people generally go to business.’”

Nottingham Evening Post, June 13, 1929

“I confess that I am just a little disappointed in the Men’s Dress Reform Party, headed by Dean Inge, Mr. Guy Kendall, Dr. C.W. Salceby, Mr. Richard Sickert, Mr. Ernest Thesiger, Dr. Leonard Williams, Dr. A.C. Jordan, Old Uncle Tom Hygiene and all.  After all, there was no need to issue that manifesto with its delicious phrase, ‘Membership...entails no obligation to carry out any immediate personal reform.’  If these people want to reform our dress, the vigorous method of personal example clamours for adoption.  Then we should have riots, martyrdoms, and eventual conversion.  Who could read something like this; ‘Mr. Ernest Thesiger, who had on a beige poplin kilt, prettily embroidered by his own needle, and a loose blouse to tone, was torn to pieces by a mob of wild stockbrokers in Threadneedle-street yesterday’ - who could read such words without feeling a burning impulse to rally round the cause?  Martyrs, that’s what we want, sir, martyrs.”

by “Beachcomber,” The Daily Express, June 15, 1929

“Two women with Eton-cropped hair and wearing cream-coloured trousers and sandals, and a man in a skirt took part in Wednesday’s Men’s Dress Reform Rally in London.  The majority of the 150 men present wore short trousers, tennis shirts, stocking, and lounge jackets.  Mr. Ernest Thesiger, the actor, appeared in corduroy ‘shorts,’ a drill shirt with an open neck, and a woolen pullover gathered in at the waist with a leather belt.  He did not wear a jacket.”

Essex Newsman, July 6, 1929

“‘Come as you are and feel your best,’ was the invitation to members of the Men’s Dress Reform Party’s midsummer revel at the Suffolk Galleries, London.  Dr. A.C. Jordan, the founder of the party, arrived dressed in a Roman toga and sandals, Mr. Ernest Thesiger, the actor, wore a blue silk shirt, silk knee-breeches and a heavy belt.”

The Daily News, Perth, June 26, 1931

"An ardent campaigner for brighter men's clothes is Mr. Ernest Thesiger, the actor, who so skillfully mimics the late Sir Austen Chamberlain in Bernard Shaw's 'Geneva.’ At the Malvern Festival a few months ago he caused a minor sensation among the inhabitants by wearing orange linen trousers alternately with corduroys, in which several bright, vivid colours had been woven."

Cairns Post, Queensland, January 11, 1939

“SIR,—There is no doubt that a reform in men's clothing is greatly needed—from the point of view of comfort as well as hygiene. Unfortunately the only people who have so far showed their common sense in this direction are at the wrong end of the social scale, and the conventional upper classes are loath to follow a fashion that they have not had the sense to initiate. Moreover, no reform can be made by any society or organization, as most people prefer discomfort to the risk of being thought cranky.

I should like to see soft shirts and shorts become the universal summer wear for men, and in winter, something resembling a Russian blouse, with a belt, could be worn over the shirt. For evening wear I should regret the disappearance of the starched collar, which is clean, smart, and not uncomfortable, but some modifications of the present dress suit could no doubt be introduced.

But I am quite hopeful that these reforms will be made quite soon and without the intervention of any society. In the last ten years men's clothing has undoubtedly become more comfortable and more picturesque. The Fair Isle jumper was a step in the right direction. Let everyone start by a little artificial tanning—then when they have acquired a becoming sunburn, they will be ready enough to expose their throats, arms, and knees to the admiration of all, and to their own increased comfort.—I am, Sir, &c., 6 Montpelier Terrace, S.W . 7. ERNEST THESIGER.”

The Spectator, September 23, 1927