A Field Guide To Mid Century Male Power Brokers

vintage illustration mid century me in hats and woman

A tip of the hat to mid century sexism

Gals, no reason to worry your pretty little heads trying to figure out that big old scary economy.

You  can rest assured that America’s economy will be in safe hands ( albeit tiny) under Donald Trump’s all boys club administration. When the Trump campaign released its economic Advisory Council it was not just short on economists,  it was woefully short on women.

Vintage illustration business men 1950's

What’s Wrong with this picture? Nothing if you’re Donald Trump. Vintage illustration Arrow Shirts Ad 1951

Yes sirree, no cake-baking, curtain-making, dress-hemming girls here! The only diversity among this exclusive group of skirt chasers was in the different spellings of the 6 Steve’s – Stephen/Steven and Steve.

In Trump’s retro based desire to make America Great Again,  he seems to hearken back to a less than swell time when the all boys club was the norm in business, politics and pretty much everything else.

Dress For Success

Men of Affairs Esquire Fashion 1949

A field guide to the American mid century male power broker a species many fear will become extinct. From Esquire Magazine March 1949. Men of Affairs: Chairman of the board of directors is surrounded by a sea of pin striped, and worsted suits and broadcloth shirts and silk ties. Illustration by Martin Burniston.

Once upon a time dress for success came in men’s size only. Looks like Donald Trump still shop at that vintage store.

But of course that’s about as dated a notion as this series of  illustrations of mid century power brokers  from Esquire magazine from 1949. A guide to the gentleman executive or Men of Affairs as they are referred to, on how to best present yourself for the big day – “A critical interview, a meeting of the board, a stop in at the White House, a trip to Europe or Eureka Kansas to close a big deal.”

It is a picture perfect, privileged world of power brokers  inhabited only by men- and white men at that- offering a blueprint  for top executives for successful dressing.

Today it offers a field guide to a species some fear may one day become extinct.

Masters of the Universe

Vintage illustration Philadelphia Whiskey Ad

Vintage illustration Philadelphia Whiskey Ad

These “Masters of the Universe” who inhabited the musky  world of corporations, government and finance are an homage to mid-century masculinity, the idealized world Trump and his followers would like us to return to.

A testosterone driven time when business affairs were conducted in a rarefied world of Club Cars on the Twentieth Century. Boarding the Clipper. Stepping out of a cab in front of a Wall Street address known around the globe. Catching the Congressional Limited. Meeting in a paneled board room 50 stories above Manhattan.

Old Boys Club Vintage illustration

Old Boys Club Vintage illustration Old Forester Whiskey ad 1952

Deals among the brotherhood of businessmen were made, “Relaxing over a cocktail at the Ritz, the Recess Club, the Raquet Club, the Bel Aire, the Bohemian Club and a dozen other spots where a white martini or a dry Old fashioned smooth business into the blend of creative venture and far-flung cooperation that American men have turned into a science and even a hobby.”

A rarefied world a world where women were relegated to taking dictation and fetching coffee.

Men of Affairs: Financier:

Men wall street Esquire 49 SWScan04256

The article, written as a personal memo to all executives,  Donald trump didn’t get the memo that times have changed. Illustration by Martin Burniston Esquire March 1949

“This gentleman with a seat on the Exchange ( where incidentally, he may not sit down at all) knows well that to be a financial pillar of the nation he must, like the Doric pillars behind him, reflect a certain restrained dignity. His custom preferences: luxurious dark blue cashmere double chested overcoat with lapels softly rolled; the executive flair of the Homburg, silk foulard imported muffler, striped blue flannel suit.”

Men of Affairs: Diplomat

Men Diplomat Esquire 49 SWScan04255

“Men of Affairs” Illustration by Martin Burniston Esquire March 1949

By tradition the diplomat is a mental athlete, a tactician, an accomplished gentleman who must pursue his purposes with flawless savoir faire and good taste. He asks as much of his traditional garb, the formal clothes which may excuse his occasional verbal informality: His Oxford grey jacket is a three button single chested model with peaked lapels worn over striped trousers. The pearl grey, double chested waistcoat and small patterned tie are distinguished touches.

The black Homburg is the accepted head-piece. Grey mocha gloves and black shoes are de rigueur, as they say at the Embassy in between sips of the champagne and munches on the caviar.

Men of Affairs: Coast to Coast

men businessman traveler 49 SWScan04257

“Men of Affairs” Illustration by Martin Burniston Esquire March 1949

His offices touching on the two oceans with branches midway between, our man has learned to fly thousands of miles as casually as he once traveled across town, and to keep his feet on the ground while reaching decisions with his head in the air.

His role is modern, demanding, his appearance at the airport must be 100% perfect the minute they feather the props. His own props: double chested cashmere coat cut along easy lines, its bold look brought out by the hand stitching set back from the edges considered by many men to be essential for transcontinental travel. With it a fine checked Angola suit. The hand sewn pigskin gloves are soft and rugged type specially indicated for ravel. His hat is handkerchief felt of course: and as the hostess on the plane watches him, maybe, she sighs.

“You see these American men of Affairs everywhere you look, including your own mirror,” the guide explains, especially if you are Donald Trump and the mirror you look into is a retro fitted… one that only looks backwards.

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 © Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




  1. Steven

    Sally – You say so much with a few vintage ads and I run out of space at 5,000 characters. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I finally figure the Trumpster out. He isn’t running for Commander-in-Chief. He’s running for Entertainer-in-Chief.


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