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Sartorial Agony

dhlawrence sent me a link, specifically: A tip of the hat to the classical fedora. The basic thrust of the article was, "Yay, fedoras!" which is certainly a sentiment with which I strongly empathize.

That led me to wonder, as I perennially do, where our culture went so far wrong that fedoras are considered a novelty or affectation, rather than standard fare as they once did. A bit of Google searching didn't find much ... one page blamed sunglasses, and John F. Kennedy is another popular scapegoat.

Of course, fedoras (and hats generally) are only part of the picture. Another item lost in the general slobification of the culture has been the suit. As one of the only two people at my high school who would willingly wear a suit even when we didn't have to, and as someone who still looks wistfully at tweed whenever I encounter it, I must face the fact that I'm an aberration in this regard.

It's made worse by the fact that I work in IT, an environment where deliberately wearing a suit makes you a freak. As it is, my daily necktie makes me more dressed-up than my boss is. Where this, say, 1964, I would be considered slovenly. These days, people regularly wonder what I'm all got-up for. People post blog rants crowing about how virtuous they are for not wearing a suit to tremendous applause.

Am I, in the classical sense, turning more and more into a dandy each day? Quoth Wikipedia:

Charles Baudelaire, in the later, "metaphysical" phase of dandyism defined the dandy as one who elevates aesthetics to a living religion, that the dandy's mere existence reproaches the responsible citizen of the middle class: "Dandyism in certain respects comes close to spirituality and to stoicism" and "These beings have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking .... Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind."

Well, perhaps I am. Maybe the Joeys are on to something. If given my choice between the two, all other things being equal, I certainly prefer dressing up to dressing down. I don't always go that route, of course ... sometimes I "shabby shirt and unwashed hair" with the best of them. But if I ever catch myself sideways in the mirror on those occasions (or worse, see a photo after the fact), I have to suppress a wince. At my best I'm an ungainly blob of flesh as it is; let that blob of flesh go untended, and I turn into a shambling horror.

The problem is, it's not just me that makes me wince. Just going out on the street and seeing a world of people who just let it all hang out tends to get me down. That as much as anything is why I usually find myself dressing "just a wee bit better" than most of the people around me, or than people expect me to -- because I'm trying to inch the bar back up against the tide. If I go nuts and start wearing tuxedos all over the place, people will just dismiss me as a kook out of hand and I'll never make any progress. But if I am consistently in the upper reaches of what people are expecting, there is at least a glimmer of hope that I'll bring the overall average up with me.

That's the theory, anyway. In reality, I'm probably tilting at windmills. But at least, to my own self I'm being true.

-The Gneech


( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 13th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC)
The whole crew-cut and suit idea was a rigid requirement in the 1950's and into the 1960's. Some sociologist point to books like "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" as the watershed point at rejecting a rigid culture. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_in_the_Gray_Flannel_Suit)

Generally on each generation there is a rejection and change by the next. The 60's dealt with clothing as part of that change.

Personally I like wearing relaxed but good looking clothing. As a tech guy it's actually as expected of me as the long hair in a pony-tail. I used to wear my hair cropped quite short, but I would literally spook coworkers. In many ways I consider my "uniform" to be the "casual geek" style. I'm working at improving that as I can (sneaking in button up shirts as hawaiian jackets, etc) as part of a unwritten requirement to dress better to manage.

But at the same time I do like dressing up. The traditions around music performance can seem as private and archaic as reading runes at times. (Stage musicians applaud each other with their feet, for example) And putting on a full tux is part of that. I've been keeping an eye out for a full tails set as well.

It's interesting that formal clothing can and has become a specialized thing at times. The whole zoot-suit movement is still an underground thing that has quietly tapped into a revival of the 50's bowling wear.
Sep. 13th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm certainly against uniformity -- and I'm particularly against crew-cuts for those what don't like 'em! ;) And having lived through the era of pink-shirted yuppie clones, I sure as heck don't want us to go back to that.

But I do like on a philosophical level the idea of dressing well a) as a sign of professionalism, and b) as a sign of respect for your co-workers and clients. This latter one particularly is an idea that tends to get me blank stares -- but it was well-understood once upon a time!

-The Gneech
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(no subject) - bigtig - Sep. 13th, 2007 10:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jedi_iwakura - Sep. 13th, 2007 09:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 13th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)

OH AND CUMMERBUNDS (of which I now only see when I go to the Harkins' Theatre up the street). WITH MATCHING CUFFLINKS. **swoon**

Ah, tweed. I've yet to see any GOOD tweed menswear fashion for women that didn't involve capri bottoms, a leather cord garrot-- er, belt, unflattering patterns and colors, and poofy sleeves/shoulders.


How I mourn stylish, practical pieces of fashion. I'd go into the business myself if I weren't afraid of the futility in it all.
Sep. 13th, 2007 09:44 pm (UTC)
I indulge in tie clips from time to time. Although, being me, they tend to be things like Egyptian cartouches or The Yellow Sign rather than the more traditional plain gilded stud.

Cufflinks, I've not had the opportunity to use, so I don't have much to say about them.

As for tweed, I had in mind something a bit more like this...

I'm not sure what tweed menswear fashion for women would entail!

-The Gneech
(no subject) - jedi_iwakura - Sep. 13th, 2007 09:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_gneech - Sep. 13th, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jedi_iwakura - Sep. 13th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jedi_iwakura - Sep. 13th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_gneech - Sep. 13th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - jedi_iwakura - Sep. 13th, 2007 10:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - the_gneech - Sep. 14th, 2007 11:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 13th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
Since you know we don't see eye to eye here, I'll be as subjective as I can ;-)

It's funny how men dressing up means everyone wears the same thing, while women dressing up means they don't want to be caught dead wearing the same thing. Perhaps that's the problem here. There's no variety in men's professional fashion. One sleeve length, one collar, one neckwear, one pants length, in white/grey/black/brown/blue (and that's ALL). At least women get some leeway on all of the above.
Cars, architecture, fonts, furniture, toys...how many other things have aesthetically evolved (even by decade) over the past century due to technology, functionality, and/or comfort... The suit hasn't. Who wouldn't be bored of it after all that monotony?

So basically, maybe there could've been some kind of evolution for contemporary menswear that would've encompassed style and professionalism, and still retained people's interest. But it failed to do anything different, and now the rebellion has swung against it. There's nothing inherently wrong with dressing up, but there's currently nothing exciting about it either.
Sep. 13th, 2007 10:51 pm (UTC)
Well, we're not as far off as you seem to think in that regard. Like I said to bigtig, I'm very much against uniformity (which you and I have talked about before).

I've complained bitterly before about the fact that women are "allowed to" have a lot more variety in their clothes than men are, from boots to jackets to hats to jewelry.

Part of the problem there is the whole perception of being interested in fashion as "un-macho" -- to be a Manly Man™, you're supposed to hate all that falderal 'cause you wanna be out in the fields a-plowin' (or a-shootin' or a-whateverin'). This is why I say the Joeys may be on to something. It's probably also why there's the cliché that gay men are better dressers -- they're flouting the big taboo of Manly Manliness™ as it is, so why bother getting hung up on a little thing like actually caring about their appearance?

-The Gneech
(no subject) - bigtig - Sep. 13th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kylet - Sep. 13th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_gneech - Sep. 13th, 2007 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kylet - Sep. 13th, 2007 11:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_gneech - Sep. 13th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - jedi_iwakura - Sep. 14th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kylet - Sep. 13th, 2007 11:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - the_gneech - Sep. 14th, 2007 11:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 14th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC)
I think your style of dress is quite dapper. To include BigTig's picture too.

Much much better than the pants hanging off the butt. UGH!!
Sep. 14th, 2007 11:53 am (UTC)
Thanks! =)

And I'm right with you there on the pants hanging off thing. Not content to be mooning everybody, this year's hot new fashion is a peekaboo of pubic hair out the top. Bleah.

Even for the Venus/Adonis types out there who can wear that without causing people to want to claw their eyes out, I'd still rather not see it. :P

-The Gneech
Sep. 14th, 2007 12:19 am (UTC)

Still wearin' mine right now. ^^
Yeah, I'm definitely happy to have mine. I feel so stylish!
Though it's had some wear-and-tear... Might need to get a new one.
Sep. 14th, 2007 11:58 am (UTC)
Sep. 14th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
Great Recap!
Sep. 14th, 2007 11:55 am (UTC)
I can't get "RAEVMBNC" to parse. Whuzzit mean?

-The Gneech
(no subject) - c_eagle - Sep. 15th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 14th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
At least there's my icon of Sefo here :}
Of course, there are some people for whom being dapper just isn't practical. I sweat a lot, especially here in Houston TX (tropical climate without anything that makes tropical climates worth visiting). Fancy clothes would just make that worse. I've got nothing against seeing people dressed up, and I definitely wouldn't join in the chorus of "why the heck're ya wearin' a suit?", but I'm just far more comfy in my jeans and T-shirt.
Sep. 14th, 2007 12:02 pm (UTC)
Re: At least there's my icon of Sefo here :}
Well, I don't get suited up for 1/3 of the year for precisely the same reason here, alas. Only in the coldest two weeks of winter can I stand to dress completely in the "Oxford Don" style that I would prefer.

-The Gneech
Sep. 14th, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
I'll throw my...wait a second here, I don't have a hat so I'm removing my suit jacket...well, there goes my arm again.

As a preacher dressing respectable is part of the job. What is changing, however, is what is passing for "respectable" these days. While I used to dress only in suits for the longest time, I've toned it down a notch. Why? Two reasons: comfort and approachability.

Suits can be comfortable: I own two that I have had for nigh 10 years (and you can't tell it: I didn't go for the "latest style" and, instead, opted for the classic style, and I take good care of them, and they still fit). But where I preach (in a small country church) the inside temperature can change quite a bit over a short time. I get stuffy/choked up pretty quick in a suit/tie combo, and that can lead to some pretty miserable Sundays.

And while suits are professional, for my area they carry an air of unapproachability. People are more comfortable around me in something a bit toned down.

I still wear my dress shirts (Van Heusen because the shirts seem to fit better, and I like the flat front look, where the button holes aren't standing out with a breaking pattern of their own) and ties, but the suit jacket stays in the closet most Sundays.
Sep. 14th, 2007 12:07 pm (UTC)
And while suits are professional, for my area they carry an air of unapproachability.

I know exactly what you mean by this, it happens around here too sometimes. But it's a phenomenon with which my brain just can't seem to come to grips. My grandfather, as blue collar a country Joe as ever maintained buses for a living, still wore a suit on Sunday as a matter of course.

It's weird how such a major shift could happen so quickly!

-The Gneech
( 40 comments — Leave a comment )

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