Having failed to find any photographs of outrageously wide Oxford bags (see a previous post) among my own fairly extensive collection of old snapshots, I realised I had a few good examples of another baffling men's fashion favourite of the interwar years - plus fours.
Originating as comfortable golfing trousers or breeches generously cut so that they billowed below the knee by four inches - hence the name - these garments became popular as leisure wear appropriate for all kinds of locations, not just the golf course.
That famous men's fashion leader, the then Prince of Wales (you know, the one who made cosy social calls on Hitler and abdicated to marry Mrs Simpson) helped popularise the trend worldwide. And despite their Bertie Woosterish associations these days, it wasn't just upper class twits sporting them, but men of all classes.
The two gentlemen at the top were from the North Shields, and because I have quite a bundle of photographs from the same family I know that they and their friends lived in semi-detached or terraced houses, and fixed their bicycles by the shed in the back garden. They are evidently not members of the landed gentry. The precise location has yet to be identified, but the date is somewhere in the mid 1930s, and I implied with my caption that the chap on the right's plus fours look particularly capacious. Note the Argyle patterned socks that seem obligatory with plus fours.
This cheery crowd of youths from around the same date, or possibly a year or two earlier, display quite a range of men's leisure wear, with one brave pioneer in the middle in plus fours. Other photographs from this set show that these boys were camping in tents somewhere in Scarborough, and I'd be prepared to bet that this was probably their first holiday without their parents. Let's hope they behaved themselves.
These gentlemen are old enough to know better. The circumstances around this photograph are lost to history, but its fair to assume that alcohol might have been involved given the array of glasses at their feet. This does not explain the teapot, however, or the chap kneeling behind and holding something like a bicycle inner tube over his friend's head. Clearly none of this would have occurred had they been wearing sensible, double breasted suits.
From this limited selection of photographic evidence, it seems that plus fours brought out the light-hearted, jovial, devil-may-care aspect in a man's character. Something that may explain their virtual disappearance once the Second World War started spoiling everyone's fun.
But the fun can't end just yet:
This joker from South Wales has either gone completely potty and had some plus tens made (imagine the trouble in store), or he's actually tucked his trousers into his socks for a laugh. I'll leave you to decide which.
By the way: can you picture wearing a pair of trousers (please refer to the Oxford bags post earlier) over these plus fours? Hmmm.