Have you ever visited a museum and been mesmerized by a piece of clothing or accessory you wish you could have for yourself? I’m here to tell you that you can. Or at least something very similar. This Wedding Wednesday post will look at formal menswear. Future grooms, pay attention!
The Hagen History Center boasts a wide variety of menswear attire and accessories. Eyeglasses, pocket watches, tophats, spats, and snuffboxes – it’s all there. I’ll be the first to admit I had to google what a “spat” even is (nobody wears them in 2023). Clothing aside, the one accessory I find to be the most intriguing are cufflinks. Timeless in nature, functional, and fashionable. They add that one extra detail that heightens any formal look. The perfect little garnish, so-to-speak.
Cufflinks were first used as a fashionable accessory by the wealthy in France during the early 16th century. They were crafted from gold or silver and adorned with precious stones. They replaced ribbons or strings that were previously used to fasten shirt cuffs.
By the early 20th century, cufflinks had become an essential accessory for men’s dress shirts. They became a symbol of professionalism and success. Cufflinks continued to evolve in style to reflect the changing fashion of the times. Additionally, they took on deeper meaning with specific designs, inscriptions, and symbols.
Pictured below are cufflinks from the Hagen History Center archives. The first pair were manufactured by Krementz Jewelry out of Newark NJ. This design was made for the West Point Military Academy throughout the 1930s and 1940s. MDCCCII (1802) represents the year the academy was formed. In the center is a sword (the universal symbol of war) alongside the helmet of Pallas Athena (symbol of wisdom). On the border, one can faintly see the West Point motto “Duty, Honor, Country.” Plated in 14 karat gold, they were a known dress attire staple of recipients.
My personal favorite, these (likely) hand-made seashell cufflinks were donated to the Historical Society in 1961 by a local secretary. Pristine, the small bubble shells truly stand out against the more traditional designs. A quick trip to the lake and a dremel drill could easily land you something similar.
Finally, I couldn’t resist sharing this beautiful pocket watch I came across in the archives. Dating back to 1924, the silver watch was made by John Wade of London. Timeless in style, yet always on time. If you are in the market for a similar one, let’s just say I know a guy.
“Most men have one person that specializes in something. A car guy, a favorite barber. I want to be their clothing guy.”
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Louis Geramita, owner of Primo Tailors at 421 State Street. The address may sound familiar, housed in the former Erie County Historical Society History Center. We had a great conversation about formal menswear, and what it means today.
Louis has a fascinating back-story. From Pittsburgh, he moved to Erie to apprentice a local tailor and strengthen a skill he has always loved. Reminiscing that he learned to sew from his grandparents and parents. A decade ago, Louis started blogging about menswear and fashion under the (still active) name @aspiring_gent. With nearly 70,000 followers on Instagram, many tune to his social media posts for styling advice. His gentlemanly aspirations have indubitably succeeded.
Previously working in construction, he is a man of many talents. After solely focusing on styling and completing his apprenticeship, the Primo storefront opened in 2021. One would never guess this store is just two years old. Walking in, you are not just entering a retail store, but a bustling workshop that bursts with rich atmosphere. Perfectly styled clothing racks, brick walls, velvet couches, the smell of pine, and complimentary refreshments make it easy to slow down and really take your time.
Similar to my bridal post, I asked Louis what wedding trends we can expect to see for grooms in 2023. He explained that wedding attire is like the Wild West, where there are no rules. He has dressed grooms in everything from shorts to full tuxedos. He did note that solid suits are becoming more popular since they can be reworn for multiple occasions, making them a practical investment that holds great sentiment.
Louis also mentioned that the standard black and white tuxedo is far less popular in the wedding world today, possibly due to their poor fit from rentals. In the past, the tuxedo was always known for its custom fit, superior craftsmanship, and fabric quality.
Mentioning my fascination with cufflinks, he agrees it is all in the details. “Cufflinks are a great way to show class and distinction.” He also explained that shoes are now becoming a more popular investment piece, and another way to show sophistication. His expert advice emphasizes: “less is always more.”
Finally, I wanted to know Louis’ personal favorite formal/groom look. Without hesitation he quickly answers, “a white double-breasted coat and black slacks. Just like James Bond.” Pointing out that weddings have traditionally revolved around bridal fashion and gowns, men should have the opportunity to stand out too. “Brides rarely match their bridesmaids, yet the groom and groomsmen usually all get the same suit.” A trend he rightfully wishes will diminish.
“Primo” is the Italian word for “excellence.” Offering everything from retail men’s attire, accessories, personal styling, custom suits, tuxedos, and full-service tailoring and alterations (for women too!). Styling and alteration appointments are recommended. On limited days, Primo also has shoeshining available. It is undeniable that Primo Tailors exemplifies the excellence it is named after.
Looking for a great reason to get dressed up? The Hagen History Center is hosting its annual “Men at the Museum” cocktail party fundraiser.
When: June 7, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: Watson-Curtze Mansion (356 West 6th St.)
Tickets: Men ages 40 and under will pay their age for tickets. (39 years, old, $39). Men 41 and over, tickets are $100 each. https://www.eriehistory.org/support/men-at-the-museum/
- Hagen History Center digital and physical archives
- Kutscha-Lissberg, J. (2000). Cufflinks: A Celebration of Style. Abbeville Press Publishers.
- The History of Cufflinks. (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2023, from https://www.paulfredrick.com/blog/the-history-of-cufflinks/
- Foundwell. (n.d.). Gold Cufflinks. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://foundwell.com/products/gold-cufflinks-2#