This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
There is a lot of documented history about the creation and performance of The Big Apple line dance in the 1939 film “Keep Punching” – if you don’t know this story already, take a gander at Wikipedia, The Lindy Circle, and Savoy Style. It’s the story of a dance within a dance craze! I love this clip for its energy, the individual style (dancing and clothing) of each of the dancers, and also because they keep it simple and functional – this clothing is obviously their own normal street clothing, with the exception of the coordinating Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts. I imagine this is a snapshot into what they might wear on any given night of the week out at a dance (compare to the more fancy street clothing/costumes in Hot Chocolate (Cottontail) or the outright dance costumes in The Harlem Congaroos clip). There is an array of interesting clothing in this clip – from the dancers to the more fancy daywear/cocktail attire of the actors/extras to the orchestra in tails.
There are so many pieces of clothing worn by the dancers in this clip that are accessible today, so let’s dig in:
First, those custom Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts – we don’t have the light background with the darker graphics, but Chloe Hong has reproduced this graphic on dark blue and dark red tees that you can order from her website. Since none of us hold a candle to the original Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, we can view these shirts as aspirational/inspirational, a tribute to these original dancers and innovators. I love that some of the tee shirts in the clip are worn as-is and others are worn over another shirt, as layers. This makes me think of the ever present battle of sweat management – if that tee shirt has to last through a day of many film takes under hot lights, you might need that base layer to keep things fresh on the outside.
Since men’s reproduction knitwear is still a bit of an outlier, your best collared “undershirt” solution to get the look from the video is to pick up one of Simon James Cathcart’s short sleeved polos with that distinctive spearpoint collar – they are also made of wicking bamboo fabric, so extra helpful with sweat management. Available in nine colors and I wouldn’t be surprised if SJC was going to release some more in the future. Even though the men in this clip are wearing the spearpoint collars, these polos are also great for women, I have a few and I love them.
A few of the women in this clip looks like they may be wearing either some sort of collared or uncollared blouse underneath their tee shirt or they may be wearing a scarf tied loosely around their neck and tucked in a bit at the tee shirt collar. The House of Foxy’s 1940’s shirt in crepe would give a similar effect to the pointed collar blouses in the clip, with just the top points peeking out and the crepe being flexible enough to work around the tee shirt collar and lay right. One of the women is wearing a belt with her flared skirt and it looks awesome, but the video quality is such that I can’t tell if the belt is leather, fabric, or some other material.
While there is one woman in a flared skirt (and I say that relatively, as we’re not talking Dior “new look” volume, just a bit more twirl than the other women), rest of the women in this clip are in A-line skirts, something with a more streamlined profile, but with enough radius at the hemline to allow for kicks and movement. This skirt silhouette and just-below-the-knee hemline shows the fashion transition to the 1940’s silhouette, when you contrast with the calf-length skirts from the film A Day at the Races that came out just two years before Keep Punching.
UK brand Heyday has a nice A-line skirt, available in several prints and solid colors, I love the quality, wearability, and washability of their pieces. If you are going for the more full skirt, it looks like the House of Foxy’s Whirlaway Skirt fits the bill of being not to full, not too A-line, but just right in terms of fullness for the purposes of this clip. It’s also available in 7 colors and ditto on the quality coming out of this UK brand. Would wear both of these skirts for dancing and for work and for anything, really.
Men’s bottoms look like your standard fare for trousers, tucked in shirt or not tucked in – I mean, whatever’s comfortable for you after umpteen takes, right? If you are looking for something high waisted, I can’t say enough good things about SJC’s 1930’s chinos, which can handle belt or braces. Or just go and buy whatever lightweight, breathable trousers you can find and wear that shirt untucked! The exact right pants are usually hard to find, but for this look it’s not an absolute essential, the devil is in the other details. For the tucked-in crowd, note the dancer with the skinny belt – how skinny is up to you and your pants loops. Google was an absolute failure at looking for skinny belts (“no, Google, I mean REALLY skinny, 1.5 inches wide isn’t skinny!”), so dive deeper into your internet searches and/or go to the women’s section of a department store to buy one because nobody cares where it comes from.
The footwear is all over the map. I see white Keds-like sneakers with dark socks (that may color-coordinate with the collared shirt under the tee shirt) and in other colors (Gray? Black? Oh, wait, we’re not in Technicolor), or maybe even a shoe with a more substantial sole closer to Vans’ classic shoe (or their newly engineered more flexible/lightweight version).
I see a couple of pairs of saddle shoes thrown in the mix and, though most modern associations are with the 1950’s, the saddle shoe’s popularity boomed in the decades prior to the 1950’s, as well. Most saddle shoes I see today have a crepe sole, which isn’t my favorite for dancing, but Re-mix carries them with a leather sole. I’d consider giving this Restricted pair from ModCloth a whirl because they have leather interiors (for my sensitive feet), what appears to be a flat synthetic sole, and because the blue/brown color combo is awesome. Then I go and find this yellow and white Chelsea Crew pair…I need to stop while I’m ahead.
One of the dancers wears a pair of low heeled sandals with an ankle strap, akin to Saint Savoy’s Eden shoe or Chelsea Crew’s Nadia sandal – she’s also sporting them with some ankle socks, which may be part fashion-forward, part blister/sweat management.
Finally, one dancer has some classic leather oxfords on, which previous discussions on my blog have covered everything from buying them used at thrift stores to getting your first pair of Aris Allens to splurging for a pair of Allen Edmonds (or finding them used on eBay).
To recap: classic dance shoes of your choosing, socks, comfy pants/skirt, signature tee shirt, optional undershirt/collar/scarf action. One might say this is not too far from what we are wearing on the dance floor today. Now, time to go practice the second half of the Big Apple that I never seem to remember….