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Balderdash!

Another great old Laurence Fellows illustration from the 1930s.  Contrived?  Certainly.  It appeared in a trade publication after all.  But there's no denying that the suit-shirt-necktie combos look good.

What follows below is my response to a post that appeared early this morning over on A Suitable Wardrobe

I disagree with Mr.Isle's somewhat cynical view (to me at least) that others do not, or will not, notice when a man is well turned out. . . Or that there is no real need to dress nicely in 2014. However, I also find that getting too hung up on the "rules" of menswear takes the joy out of dressing and can result in mentally crippling a guy who is trying to improve his everyday appearance.

One should have a little fun here, within reason, and not get too worked up if he concludes by 5pm that what he put on at 6:30 that morning doesn't quite work the way he thought it might. The sartorial journey is (more than) half the fun after all. Unless a guy is so gauche as to own and wear loud plaid polyester stuff with ultra-wide lapels that dates from the 1970s, slight unintentional mistakes, for want of a better term, with clothes or accessories shouldn't be thought of as the end of the world.  Put your clothes on, forget about them, and go forth about your day.  If you're going about it with the right spirit, it shouldn't require hours of planning each evening as you lay out the next day's attire.  That is the coveted nonchalance about our clothes that we are after, or should be, rather than the more contrived sprezzatura that has been on everyone's lips the last few years.

Sure.   Maybe my double-breasted ensemble yesterday didn't quite work.  Maybe it was the pink shirt and green tie with the busy Glen Plaid jacket.  Perhaps those colors would have worked better beneath a more sedate navy blazer with some mid-gray flannel pants instead of charcoal.  At the very least, that photograph showed that the jacket sleeves still are not quite short enough for some cuff to show.  But,  and here is the important point, I still felt good.  Dressing nicely always improves my mood.  Even on a good day.  Better yet, my wife mentioned how nice she thought I looked when I returned home that afternoon, which took my good mood on into suppertime and well beyond.  So there you are.  Silly?  Possibly so.  But small things like that do indeed make a difference in our lives. 

But how is this of any importance to the legions of average guys out there who have yet to take that sartorial leap and begin dressing in clothes other than saggy relaxed fit jeans worn without a belt, a cheap hoodie, and over-sized white sneakers?  Here's the answer.  Let's not be so quick to discount the transformative powers of classic attire whether, or not we happen to be menswear enthusiasts.  Let's not turn up our noses at dressing like an adult male with things to do and places to be.  I can assure you that there most certainly is still a need for us to dress like men with some grooming and sophistication. . .  in stark contrast to our increasingly course society and business-casual-taken-to-ridiculous-extremes era.  Or as I prefer to think of it, Slob Post-Post Modern. 

Even if no one else notices, pretends not to, or tries to argue to the contrary, dressing nicely affects how we perceive and feel about ourselves.  That's true whether you wear a suit and tie during the workweek, or you've got on that comfy old rugby shirt with corduroy jeans and worn leather docksiders during the weekend.  And here's a radical idea.  Maybe if more people today actually bothered to wear something a little nicer -- note, I did not say more expensive or ultra formal -- than bagged out sweatpants, ratty cargo shorts, the ever-present backwards baseball cap, and/or cheap flip-flops 24/7, they might feel a little better about themselves.  

By extension, the high rates of depression and reliance on mood leveling prescription drugs in the United States might, just might, be somewhat lower than they are based on what I read.  It's my considered opinion that one of the reasons so many people feel so crummy about themselves and their lives is because, in part, so many walk around looking so bad most of the time, whether they are on the street, in the supermarket, at work, or camped out in front of the TV on the sofa at home.  And hey.  Maybe that's part of the problem?  If you walk around looking like you aren't much, then you are going to feel like aren't much.

There are, in fact, studies out there about how personal attire and appearance have considerable bearing on how we feel about ourselves, so this observation doesn't seem that outlandish on reflection.   Perhaps if more people made a tiny bit more effort, things might begin to turn around for many of them.  It's not just about how others see us based on our clothes and behavior, after all, but also how we see ourselves.  And our attire plays no small role in that. 

So, to any of you average guys out there who might be reading this and still sitting on the fence about whether the clothes you wear are really that important in the grand scheme of things, I'll leave you with this rhetorical question.  You do want to set yourself apart in a favorable way from 95% of the men on the loose today, don't you?  Good.  I thought so.  Glad we are in agreement on that point.  Time to kick up your everyday style a few notches then.  Small (and habitual) efforts by a man to pull himself together before he walks out the front door are necessary, and they do not go unnoticed.  Dressing like you give a damn remains relevant in the second decade of the 21st century.  End of story.

-- Heinz-Ulrich von B. 


P.S.
In other news, a friend just suggested Mad Men-inspired ultra short, slim cut suits by H&M to me earlier this afternoon during a discussion of menswear.  H&M??!!  I bit my tongue and said nothing.  He went on to describe fuller cuts and pleated trousers as, "antiquated."  Groan.  The argument for trendy versus frumpy, fleeting vs. classic, cutting edge name brand vs. "dressing like a Grandpa" rears its ugly head.  


Comments

  1. I have just posted a response on the article referred to. Here is the main argument:

    Froma Harrop, wrote in ‘Slobs and the American Civilization’ of her recent experience standing at Chicago airport watching a “nation of slobs parading through the airport. Frayed denim hems swept the filthy floor, cleavage poured out of t-shirts bearing vulgar messages, big bellies flowed over the waists of ill-fitting jeans, mature women waddled in stained sweat suits….it’s a grim scene.” Clearly people do pay attention to those around them!

    The central argument seems to be about ‘rules’ and whether we should abide by them. You could argue the average American described by Froma Harrop is a reaction to simply being tired or overwhelmed by rules – or you could blame the all too sadly modern phrase of being ‘too busy’ to care.

    Personally I believe the ‘rules’ of fashion are a set of guidelines designed to give guidance to enable people to feel comfortable.

    As to our own approach I prefer to follow the 1528 advice of Castiglione who wrote “To perfect oneself is not selfish, but fulfills a public and private moral duty for the individual to act as a model for others”.

    So, I am with you! But, let's not bash H&M just yet - if this is the way we can get men dressing well it is a start. It would be a better base to work from than sweats and flip flops. Baby steps!

    Mark

    ReplyDelete

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All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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