Old and New

Old and New

Posted by: on Jun 14, 2010 | No Comments

I spent this past Saturday at the London International Fine Art Fair, which included a wide variety of stalls and exhibitions. There was everything from book sellers to furniture dealers and people selling modern paintings next to Regency cabinetry.

Nostalgia and Ideals

Nostalgia and Ideals

Posted by: on Jun 9, 2010 | No Comments

First off, I want to say thank you to everyone who left comments on my piece about travel and inelegance two weeks ago. I’m glad to know I’m not just being a sour puss, and others feel the same way.

Of all the comments though, the one that stood out from the rest was that of the reflective Mr. Flibble, who pointed out the distorted view we may have of the past and its mores. While I don’t want to use this as an opportunity to directly deal with only his comments, I do think he raises questions that bear more exploration. So for all of you who thought I was simply ignoring your comments, I was most certainly not, and here is your reply.

Mr. Flibble focused mostly on issues of decorum and manners, only touching on dress at the end of his analysis. But, while I could write books (that I would be totally unqualified to write) on the subject of manners and behavior, I will take this chance to focus on the ways in which his comments apply more broadly. While I would agree that the Gilded Age was not a time without poor conduct and poor attitudes (far from it), I find the romanticization of this era, or any era at that, to be a helpful tool in creating a more elegant future. No age is perfect, nor anywhere close for that matter, but we can always learn from those who came before us, whether it be from their successes or their mistakes, and then seek to make our own lives more enriched.

If we look to art for an analogue, Neo-Classicism is a prime example of this process. Were Ancient Greece and Rome perfect places, full of artistic and athletic purity, celebrated through colorful festivals, and devoid of hedonistic and immoral practices? No, absolutely not. And, moreover, I do not believe that those who attempted to “emulate the ancients” did so fully believing this fallacy either. It was their ability to look to something in the past, draw its finest qualities away from the dregs, and aspire to create a greatness they thought was lacking in their own lives through artistic means. Titian’s paintings are both astounding and probably nothing like Ancient Greece; it is the historically inspired ideal that is valuable, not only the historicity itself.

If those of us who frequent the men’s style blogosphere were living a hundred years ago, I would be willing to bet we would probably be lamenting the new, naff short dinner jackets becoming all the rage, rather than the slashed denim and logo T-shirts we rail on now. Rather than thinking what we might be inclined to think now, that all men were elegant in their suits, ties, and correspondents, we would probably all find other details and quirks to mourn. Most of us are “classically” inclined, and that requires a certain historic tendency – I think this perfectly healthy, as long as we are able to reflect and admit our position.

Now, finally, I hope I have not offended anyone in my musings. They are just that. If you feel like this does not represent your ideas, please comment and let me know. Or worse, if I misinterpreted your previous comments, please set me straight. For me, this is one of the biggest questions in classic men’s dress – when do ideals and inspirations become out of touch, out of date, or simply misguided rather than pleasantly nostalgic and practicable?

Anchors Away

Anchors Away

Posted by: on Jun 4, 2010 | No Comments

So, I hate to do two self-centered posts in one week, but here it goes.

Next time you hear from me, it will be from London. I fly across the Gulf Stream late Sunday night, and will not be returning to the States until the middle of August, just in time for school to start up again. Beginning next week, I will be working as a summer intern for Finch’s Quarterly Review, based in the West End between Regent Street and Savile Row.

Collar and Cuffs

Collar and Cuffs

Posted by: on May 17, 2010 | No Comments

While much of women’s fashion seems to be about big statements, new silhouettes, and outlandish experiments, men’s style seems to be mostly in the details. Whether it is crisp white cuffs or a thoughtfully eccentric accessory, it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.

A Few Passages – Hardy Amies

Posted by: on May 10, 2010 | No Comments

Well, it is exam week, and with less than 48 hours to go I am a bit short on time. I thought I would throw up two quotations from Sir Hardy Amies’ entertaining book “The Englishman’s Suit.” The first to me represents the ways in which we can draw upon tradition and reinterpret in interesting ways, and the second serves as a thoughtful reminder of the external impact of dressing ourselves properly.

“It’s all quite simple. When you drop fastenings so low that you can go no further, you move upwards. You look to history to see how far you can go. You think of Edward VII’s Deeside coat. You remember that the single-breasted coat originally fastened up to the neck. You feel that we’ve had enough of the double-breasted coat. You go upwards.”

“The sight of the clothes worn on the streets today provokes fascinating thought. Mercifully, you can say, there is less gentility. No one seems to be attempting to be something grander than they are. Anoraks, trousers and white running shoes abound on both sexes. It is remorsely non-upper class. This does not make for classlessness. It only throws the differences into high relief. It throws up the relation of fashion to manners. It is rude to the citizens of London, Paris and New York to be ill-dressed. It is particularly rude to dress squalidly at the opera, theatre or concert hall. It is rude to your fellow public and rude to the performers.”