At the behest of several members here, I recently picked up a copy of Paul Fussell's Class
. I thought it was a pretty poor book--wholly unsubstantiated, biased, and untestable. This wouldn't have passed for acceptable sociologic method even two-hundred years ago. But academic gripes aside, Fussel makes some interesting points concerning clothing. He says:
"[L]aboring to present yourself scrupulously clean and neat suggests that you're worried about status slippage and that you care terribly what your audience thinks, both low signs. The perfect shirt collar, the too neatly tied necktie knot, the anxious over attention to dry cleaning--all betray the wimp. Or the nasty nice. The deployment of the male bowtie is an illustration. If neatly tied, centered, and balanced, the effect is middle-class. When tied askew, as if carelessly or incompetently, the effect is upper-middle or even, if sufficiently inept, upper. [. . .] "Too careful means low--at least middle-class, perhaps prole. 'Dear boy, you're almost too well dressed to be a gentleman,' Neil Mackwood, author of Debrett's In and Out
(1980), imagines an upper-class person addressing someone in the middle class, as if the speaker were implying that the addressee is not a gent but a model, a floorwalker, or an actor."
It's a mark of the middle class to be concerned about this passage, but I still take issue with these claims. Is it really lower class to be well-dressed? Do you associate messiness with the Rockefellers, Pews, DuPonts, Mellons, Fords, and Vanderbilts? I can see a new and neat Men's Wearhouse suit looking middle-class--but can't envision the same from Kiton, etc.. Your insights are appreciated.
Problem 1. Badly dressed can be either upper class (who are very secure of themselves) or lower class. Problem 2. Fussell does not consider the fact that some people may have an interest in clothes. Therefore, even the upper class or the lower class who appreciate fine clothes will dress well. It is a good book, and I find the predictions stunningly accurate. Low class people do practice defensive optimism all the time, and they like to affirm their own existence by "reading" their books/notes to themselves (in whispers) in the library which annyos the hell out of me. Clothes that don't fit (too loose, tight). Clothes that are trendy in a "demeaning way". Clothes made with polyester. Clothes that expose belly buttons. And they drink soda, not water, all the time. They do have their positive qualities though, but I'm not in the mood tonight
What about a combination of drinks? Whilst too much soft drink's will hardly help a person become the perfect picture of health, moderate soda drinking will not deter one's health too much, i.e. perhaps one can of soda per day, max (I must admit, as a person whom works for a B2B computer company and sits at the computer all day, I quite often break this rule
). Of course, throughout the day I also drink about a gallon of water, orange juice, and on occasion alcohol. Which is something which also when not taken into moderation leads to not only deterred health, but other wonderful changes in personality. If the middle beverage downfall of the middle class is soda, then surely the beverage downfall of the upper class is Grey Goose
. Regarding your other point: well, people are people; money is only one factor of separation. If you take two upper class people with completely different backgrounds, they will act differently. For their education / environment is completely different. Every person has "defensive optimism" regarding one topic or another, a defense of which they practice all the time. It is human nature to act defensively (and optimistic, just ask every executive who violates SEC insider trading rules, if they feel optimistic that they won't get caught). Before branding someone a plebian they must show themselves that they in fact are one. (Aw, hell even I don't fully believe that one, some people are just plebs.) Jon.