Relaxing in Daks

Max Hof Simpson Piccadilly fashion illustration

This Simpson of Piccadilly brochure c1937 is one of my favourite things. The illustrations, the clothes, the layout, the format. It’s all there, in spades. Strong in visual, confident in execution.

Against the current men’s swimwear conundrum (baggy swim shorts versus tight speedos) the 1930s Simpson man had it all sorted. With substantial yet clingy woollen trunks complete with a ‘built-in zip pocket for money, etc.’ and available in ‘all sorts of colours.’ As if that weren’t enough, they were reversible! Grey paired with burgundy – or 9 other colour combos. This rather raises the question of two layers and getting hot. Not to mention the sag effect of wet wool. Suffering for ones sartorial art and all that.

Still, the beach shoes could match the trunks could match the wrap. This printed fabric wrap with its ‘gay anchor design’ was lined with Terry (towelling) for practicality when sunbathing. The solo figure stretched across this cover is the exception. Inside the brochure men are pictured together smoking pipes, doing acrobatics, climbing trees and generally lounging around together. As in: ‘Here are five cracks, relaxing in Daks.’ Grand.

Hof was the signature of Maximilian J.A. Hofbauer; Max Hoff (with an extra ‘f’) worked manfully for Simpson from 1936 through to the 1960s. He came to live in England in 1938, invited to avoid Hitler by Crawford’s advertising agency, which handled all business for Simpson. Simpson knew how to spot illustrators, having used Shelf Appeal favourite Ashley Havinden to equally good effect.

Hof’s speciality was drawing the square-jawed athletic type of a chap. Rather the Abercrombie & Fitcher’s of their day. Hof later drew rather square-jawed women for Simpson, too. But, for me, his robustly robust chaps have a winning edge.



I can attest to the sag effect of wet wool. My friend once knitted a swimming costume for herself from a 1950s pattern. It was just about OK dry, but wet….

shelf appeal

Oh dear, they look lovely on those old knitting patterns, too. I hope the beach was empty at the time.


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