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Dress and elitism

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
Reading Manton's book got me thinking about how a person dresses places him in society, especially the last chapter which discussed how servants dressed vs. elite and how the servants were put in their social place by their dress.

It occured to me that even after going through higher education (even at ivy walled institutions) one can never learn how to dress their station. e.g. one can wear a suit and tie but still look like the security guard. Perhaps that is one reason social mobility can be hard, even if you are able and well educated.
post #2 of 48
I disagree almost completely. That's not really true anymore at all.

Obviously, it depends on your chosen field, but I know multi-billionaires who dress like crap. I go to black tie events on average every few weeks, and some of the outfits would make you cringe. There are super-wealthy people who have never worn a tie... There are so many ways to make money out there these days, be it in the tech industry, manufacturing, or whatever. Does that mean everyone who has money is in the highest "social" echelon? Well, Bill Gates is hardly snazzy, but you can bet he's a VIP everywhere he goes. And, economically, yes, all those people are at the top. Though of course that doesn't mean that they're getting invited to every tea party in the Hamptons. But I don't know who the hell would want to go to those anyway...

Going further into your "social mobility" comment is probably better relegated to the positively painful "Poor people" section in the current events Forum. All I will say is that there are more rags-to-riches stories in this country than you can count, and I have seen many of them personally. Indeed, a few weeks ago I attended a black tie award dinner at Ellis Island for immigrants who have really made something of themselves and contributed great things to the United States. These are people of all races, genders and backgrounds. And I can tell you, most of them didn't know how to tie a tie when they got here.

Best.
post #3 of 48
No comments with respect to clothing, but just keep in mind that Bill Gates story isn't a rags to riches story. His story is a rich to ridiculuously rich story.

And the majority of poor people in this country stay poor, and their children and descendants stay poor as well. The majority of wealthy people stay wealthy, and their children and descendants stay wealthy as well. Social mobility, which increased from the 30's to the '70s has been on the decline since then.

But strangely enough, dress codes are disappearing. The rise of business casual, and knockoffs, makes it more and more difficult determine somebodies economic status based on their dress.
post #4 of 48
I didn't even mention Bill Gates in the same paragraph as my rags-to-riches comment, but merely used him as an example of how dress doesn't mean much of anything anymore in terms of being a member of the "social elite," whatever that means. Cash is cash.
post #5 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by poorsod
It occured to me that even after going through higher education (even at ivy walled institutions) one can never learn how to dress their station. e.g. one can wear a suit and tie but still look like the security guard.

I don't follow your example. You're saying one can't learn to dress better?
post #6 of 48
He may be saying that some people who are new to dressing well, will never quite seem comfortable in their clothes.
post #7 of 48
I know wealthy people that dress down to almost ridiculous extremes in order to blend in with the crowd. On second thought, they might be labeled as eccentric.
post #8 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by cpac
I don't follow your example. You're saying one can't learn to dress better?

I don't think he means it can't be done, just that it's possible some do not.
post #9 of 48
I think he was saying that you can get all the way through a prestigious education and whatever apprenticeship process, and into a high-ranking position without ever ( knowing / being taught / knowing you don't know ) how to dress. They know how to follow a dress code, but they don't look any sharper or "richer" than anyone else.

Why that would hinder someone coming up, I'm not exactly sure. It seems to me it makes it more valuable to know how to look your best, since by comparison you may pretty easily look sharper than some of the richest guys in your company. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the right dress is an advantage. Not necessarily the best quality, best looking, best made, most expensive, but the right dress for the occasion, audience, role, station, etc.
post #10 of 48
If the point is simply that one can get an ivy league education without learning how to dress well, that's certainly true. (Though both my fraternity and career services at Dartmouth offered education on the subject).

But I don't think any further conclusions about social mobility, etc. are possible (at least w/r/t the US - I do understand that the UK has a more enduring sense of class divisions based on accent, etc.)
post #11 of 48
I may be missing the point here, but some people put a suit on, and some people wear a suit, and there is a big difference. As for how this relates to station, I have no idea. I'm poor, but I know darned well that when I am appropriately (and comfortably) attired and walk into a room full of suits, I can own the room. And I'm no Michael Douglas. Regards, Huntsman
post #12 of 48
Joan DeJean's book "The Essence of Style" she notes that during the Louis XIV period in the 17th century:
"The French fashion industry reduced not ony geographical distance but social distance as well, just as happens today, when couturiers adapt their ideas for moderately priced lines and market them in midlevel stores. Before the mid-seventeenth century, fashion was the exclusive preserve of a few immensely wealthy nobles....
The vast majority of the population had only simple clothing made from coarse homespun fabrics. ... As Paris became the world capital of style, fashion began to spread gradually through French society. ...
When the fashion press began in the 1670s, it included coverage of men's clothing...." pp39-40
http://whatareyouwearingtoday.blogspot.com/
post #13 of 48
Clothes can't make people classy, and clothes worn without regards to taste and appropriateness look horrible regardless of the wearer.
post #14 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by zjpj83
I didn't even mention Bill Gates in the same paragraph as my rags-to-riches comment, but merely used him as an example of how dress doesn't mean much of anything anymore in terms of being a member of the "social elite," whatever that means. Cash is cash.

Very true. I had a meeting a few months back with a guy who happened to be on Forbes' list. We started talking about business casual and suits (he was dressed in nice trousers and a navy blazer, no tie), and he made the comment "suits are for worker bees". How times have changed huh?
post #15 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by j
I think he was saying that you can get all the way through a prestigious education and whatever apprenticeship process, and into a high-ranking position without ever ( knowing / being taught / knowing you don't know ) how to dress. They know how to follow a dress code, but they don't look any sharper or "richer" than anyone else.

Why that would hinder someone coming up, I'm not exactly sure. It seems to me it makes it more valuable to know how to look your best, since by comparison you may pretty easily look sharper than some of the richest guys in your company. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the right dress is an advantage. Not necessarily the best quality, best looking, best made, most expensive, but the right dress for the occasion, audience, role, station, etc.

Yes j has my point right. I didn't mean to be vague.

The passage that got me thinking was on pg 177 of the Suit ". . .one way that the English upper class maintained the distinction between servant and served was by forcing the former to wear correct attire in incorrect combinations."

I was wondering if this in a way holds true in America today because even well educated people are not taught how to dress and whether this labels you as a brahmin or as a pariah. Of course the very rich and very powerful can be exceptions because they can do whatever they like.
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