Arts & Entertainment

Gentleman’s Tacoma: a history of menswear in our city

When asked what he aims to achieve with Gentleman’s Tacoma, J. Daniel responded, “this is a way to make history relevant.”

A Klopfensteins blazer with a textured tie.

Imagine that you are walking down Pacific Avenue here in Tacoma and every man you see is dressed as dapper as can be in blazers and dress slacks. It is no occasion. No opera just ended at the Rialto, no ballet at the Pantages. People are simply dressed to impress.

It may come as a surprise in our current west coast culture of casual dressers that, back in the early to mid 1900’s, casual-wear was kept at home. As part of the Broadway Center’s Fall Free For All event, Gentleman’s Tacoma was a program that aimed to show us the history of menswear in our city. J. Daniel Elquist of J. Elquist Clothiers and Electric Branch Creative was asked by the Broadway Center to present this fashion show on Sunday, September 23rd. As a New York native who had worked at Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers, fashion expert J. Daniel fell in love with Tacoma shortly after moving here. He has since been striving to make Tacoma a more connected and unified city with fashion as his primary interest. J. Daniel sought inspiration for Gentleman’s Tacoma when he saw a “Hope in Hard Times” ad by the Washington State History Museum. The ad shows a photo from December 1930 of six men standing outside, crowded around a makeshift grill cooking pancakes for breakfast. Despite enduring the Depression, the men were dressed endearingly well.

A jersey from the 1940s Tacoma Elks softball team adorns this display, recognizing America’s favorite pastime.

The show was divided into three segments: “true to the era”, “sporting”, and “vintage clothes in the modern day”. The show was made possible with clothing donations from Goodwill, Bargain World, Value Village and Tacoma Little Theatre. Garments from old Tacoma menswear stores such Klopfenstein’s and Lundquist-Lilly Clothiers were prominent in the fashion show. Marc Blau, a local historian, collector, and sports enthusiast supplied the sporting jerseys and letterman’s jackets that were featured in the sporting segment. All looks for the show were put together by three savvy Tacoma stylists; Drew Collier, Travis Pranger and Mark Beltran.