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.