One Man’s Fight to Preserve 40’s Fashion

Even if you’ve never been taught by Topher Dunne, you’ve seen him around. Maybe it was in the hallway, or maybe it was through a window into one of his history classes. And when you saw him, you saw his outfits. He sports the most unique look at GDS– among both students and teachers. Topher’s wardrobe is an institution at this school. Sophomore Zach Blank enthused: “Topher’s sense of fashion is really unique. When I had seminar with him last year, some of the first things I noticed were [the] plumed hats and colorful ties.”

The history teacher primarily dabbles in 1940s men’s formalwear. Reminiscing about the bygone era, Topher said that “the quality… is at an apex in the 40s and 50s. It was all still natural fibers and it was all pretty well made…Once you get past there, you’re talking about polyesters, stuff that’s more cheaply made…if something has survived since the 40s, it’s probably because it was well made. And the ties were very much art.” To Topher, ties are the centerpiece and can make or break a look. He explained to me that, “a lot of these were sort of ‘art’ ties. For a while, Salvador Dali did ties in the 40’s, which, I don’t own one because they are kinda crazy expensive. But, this notion of 40’s ties were meant to be like art deco, a lot of geometrics, like that. That’s really what inspired me, ‘if I’m going to go for an era, that’s one that’s really neat.’” His collection of vintage clothes started from his “grandfather’s leftovers.” There is a story behind every piece in his collection, and many deserve to be told. When I sat down to interview him, he was in a gray jacket with matching gray slacks. The look was completed with a beige shirt and a patterned red tie. Starting with a gray base “means [he] can mix it up with sort of anything.” He added, “most days it’s a white shirt, because again, with a neutral background you can put whatever you want over it.”

Even though he teaches history, and clothes himself in these tiny pieces of history, he still is aware of the present and the future. When I asked him about where men’s fashion is heading right now, in 2017, he offered a nuanced take. “If anything, the innovation is away from the suit-and-tie,” he said. “Figuring out ways to move away. There is that whole suit with a t-shirt thing, which got marketed to us in Miami Vice in the 1980s with the pastels… it’s all about incongruous pairings.” But at the same time as he recognizes the innovations going on now, at the end of the day, the 40’s will always reign supreme in his mind. On the topic of the quality of the 40’s cloths and fabrics, he slyly added that it was “not like your H&M stuff that’s gonna fall apart by next season.”

By: William Goldberg