I apologies for my imperfect English, it is '......an UK....'
How much does culture/ethnicity affect the clothes you wear? - Page 3
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Spoo, no false modesty in this thread! You have a certain image that has come from somewhere - such things do not spring forth de novo. We all know that part of your sartorial language is Versace. And you clearly think about clothes a lot already; so you're also processing your cultural background, filtering it through your experiences such as the love of the Versace aesthetic, and creating something fresh and personal. I don't know what your cultural heritage is, but I bet it has informed your choices and ideal archetypes to some degree. What impact do you think it has had?
Yes, you are correct in that aspect. While I am not Italian, I am really drawn to Italian style - more so than English or any other region. In terms of Versace, of course my penchant for Gianni's work is no secret. That has to do more with my creative side. I was first gravitated towards his clothes because of the bold, graphic silk shirts. Art is another passion of mine, as well as clothing. Gianni Versace was the first designer that I saw who incorporated both of my passions into one, and thus a monster was born I think I misread the title of your thread thinking that it was only a discussion about ethnicity influenced clothing - I missed the cultural aspect of it. In any sense, I incorporate - rather view dressing as an art. Ive moved on from wearing the bold printed silks of the 90's (maybe) but that sort of thing is where my eye tends to go - to find the art in a piece. Its still very early, so forgive me if thats a bit scattered or rambling, but this is what you are addressing in the OP, yes?
There is a style of lounge suit worn exclusively in the African-American community. It's a bit of a holdover from the jazz-age, and is almost. certainly derived from the zoot-suit. Today these suits are most commonly associated with Steve Harvey. Were someone to post a picture of himself in such a suit in WAYRN, he's be laughed off the form, but within a certain subset of the black community, he would be considered EXTREMELY well-dressed.
As a black man who lives in the larger world, I wouldn't dream of dressing like that. I used to make fun of men who wore those suits...and be somewhat embarrassed of them. As I get older I realize that like it or not, those suits have some sort of cultural significance in a "black community" that is rapidly fading from existence as more educated and successful blacks become further assimilated into the larger American society.
Glad, I'm going to quote you here because what you have to say rings true for me as well, except as an Italian-American. The guido subculture has been something thats been shunned since its inception (the first generations of Italian-Americans who did their best to "Americanize" their immigrant parents customs) and its something I consciously try to avoid when I dress, whether its casual, street wear, or CBD-or as CBD as I get. I like you, however, have realized that there is some importance to this "guido" culture, that as much as they try to disconnect from the old country, ties directly into the lives their ancestors lived and the reasons those men and women LEFT Italy in their own diaspora, and in fact should be embraced by Italian Americans because our culture is also disappearing. In fact, the topic, not necessarily from a sartorial perspective, will be a pet project of mine that a few SFers and the many IA friends I have will be helping me formulate through the sharing of their experiences.
Back to the sartorial, well sort of. My great grandparents came to NY over 120 years ago and when they did they did everything they could to "become American", even if it was at the expense of their own culture. This included dressing American, speaking American, and eating American. They became avid NY Giant fans (baseball) and spent much of their little leisure time at the Polo Grounds faking American accents in the stands. Another aspect of the "change-over" was the disassociation with the Roman Catholic/Latin Church. Although still members on Sunday, much like the conversos and marranos of Spain during the Inquisition, they stayed far away from it during the week. The easiest way they could do that was to adopt a WASP wardrobe. The guidos, who could easily be identified through their accents and clothes, whether its The Situation on Jersey Shore today, or Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever 35 years ago, were clearly Italian Americans and clearly Catholic. Italians who came here wanted nothing to do with a religion that was viewed as archaic and un-American, and the esiest way to do that in everyday ife was through dress and speech. Even Italian names began to change once in America (my great grandfather went from DonDiego to Bell, and first names became Anglicized). It also probably didn't help the situation that Church officials top to bottom across the South (formerly Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) were implicit in the brutal oppression that Garibaldi and his cronies laid on the people there in the 1860s. But thats for another thread...
Anyway, as we as a society look upon people like Mike The Situation with disgust (A&F paying him NOT to wear their clothes...imagine if they made that same offer to an African American start today) they are holding onto more of their identity, albeit changed over the years, more so than the Italian Americans who know little of where they come from and view their Northern oppressors as heros and icons of their culture (which in my mind is the biggest falsehood in Italian American identity, as most of us hail from the South, where we spoke a different language-I wont even call it a dialect, I argue it was as different as Spanish and Portuguese-and had a very different culture and way of life). That different way of life was a polar opposite to the Protestant American Capitalist work ethic and caused the same type of problems within our subculture that we are now seeing in Greece, another Mediterranean culture with whom Southern Italians have much in common. I'll share with you this last story of my Neapolitan family. The Nunziatas came here in 1900, and during the 20's, 30's and 40's they owned a scrap metal business. When the Second WW started they could have made millions, but instead chose to work and get enough scrap so that they could shut down shop and spend the rest of the day at the beach, or lounging around. At first glance, and most of my own family feels this way, this would seem lazy and undesirable. But if you look deeper, it was just their way of showing what held more value in their lives. Rather than working all day, and making a ton of money for future generations, they valued the time they had on this earth with their family (they were very close) and to them, that was worth more than the dollar bills that could have lined their pockets and bought them expensive wardrobes. Some will say (with their Protestant American Work Ethic branded on their consciousness) that these folks were lazy, entitled bums, just like many are calling the young Greeks today. I argue, that this philosophy, which frustrates a great many Western Capitalist visitors when they go to places like Naples and the Greek Islands (shops closing for the entire month of August, 2 and a half hour lunch breaks, opening at 11, closing at 4), is neither lazy nor entitled, but simply has value placed on other things aside from money and work. Its why the Nunziatas were usually in a pair of trousers and "wife beater" guido undershirts all the time. Because it was the time and people they got to enjoy life with, rather than the "stuff" that we've been brainwashed to "need" by our capitalist system. Most Italian American try to distance themselves from that today, and one way is through how they dress, by consciously avoiding the very style (life and sartorial) that was once the very foundation of who they were, or weren't.
Great points. If we were all born and raised in a different country under different cultural norms I'm sure our choice of clothing and our since of what is "normal" attire would be completely different. Culture shapes us as individuals in every aspect of our lives so of course it plays a major role in affecting the clothes we wear.
First I will note that I've added a quote from Holdfast to my signature. As it beautifully describes my personal aspirations regarding dressing well. I these day's I see dressing primarily as a way to communicate - and more often than not have my days activities well in mind when selecting that day's attire. I make my selections based on what I want my fit to 'say'.
Further, as I work with clients all over the world, I very much attempt to develop a rudimentary understanding of what sorts of things might appeal to their particular cultural expectations and taste. This does NOT mean, as some suppose, that I would ever be so conceited as to presume to understand all of the many layers of cultural nuance and experience that shape 'taste' in an individual. Nor to copy a 'local' style.
As for my particular background, well, I'm 'as American as apple pie' as the old saying goes. WASP to the core in terms of heritage. My mother's ancestry can literally be traced back to the Mayflower pilgrims and my father's to Jamestown Virginia in 1620. I was raised in middle America in an environment that was nearly completely devoid of cultural and ethnic diversity. However, even as a child I was repelled by the 'sameness' of everything around me. I left that environment the moment I turned 18 and have spent most of my life 'rebelling' against it every since. This included an absolute, fanatic rejection of the 'preppy' style that was dominant during my early professional years. During those days I experimented with everything that was new, different and fashionable, whatever that might have been at the time. (Everything from triple pleated Willi Wear trousers with equally overscaled shoulder pads, to the super slim, form fitting all black 'techno' look of the late 80s.) I was young, good looking, worked VERY hard at building and maintaining a great bod, and showed up for work in skin tight turtle neck sweaters that I'm sure would be make me blush today. Basically I rocked any trend that would come along as long as it didn't involve the 'trad' look. (I did, of course, make exception, meaning I was interested enough in success to know that certain occasions called for proper suits etc. etc. and I wore them as required for meetings - but only begrudgingly.) And let's not even discuss footwear - let's just say I recently bought my first ever shoe with brogueing a few months ago and I'm 53 years old.
Of course now my tastes have evolved to a quest for a much 'quieter' look based upon the classics - but I doubt I'll ever do them without a certain sense of rebellion. For instance, today I'm wearing the most classic ensemble of all WASP wear - Navy Blazer, Kahki Trousers, Loafers. But thats an Isaia unlined cotton blazer with a snug fit, roped shoulders and unusual fabric texture, Borelli Kakhis, and Bally loafers. In other words - still rebelling against Brooks Brothers, and tassle loafers and I have no intention to change. Determined to both fit in and express separateness at the same time.
All of this 'rant' is to say that I absolutely affirm that I believe what we choose to wear is PRIMARILY shaped by our culture and our individual reaction to it. And I would even go so far as to say for many people, if not most, they exert far less 'free will' or creative thinking in their choice of clothing than they would like to believe. To a large degree their clothing is 'pre chosen' for them by the environment they exist in, or their reaction against it. (Think cerulean sweater monoloque from the 'Devil wears Prada' if you are familiar with it.
Blah, blah, blah, enough about me.......can we talk about talking about me some more as I'm tired of talking about me.
Edited by Gdot - 9/29/11 at 7:21am
As a half European and half American I am really interested on how you see things over there in the US. I have to confess that I never understood why Americans are so obsessed with ethnicity, religion, etc. Probably because, as I have seen many times, most people who arrived to the US from Europe or Asia despised their culture of origin and tried to embrace the new American culture. And when they became Americans, their descendants wanted to go back to their roots and glorify their history. I don't know.
IMO what really differentiate people is not their ethnicity or their race, but their socioeconomic status (aka social class). So OP had a point saying that we try to imitate the elite and that this elite is the one that settles the canon.
I really like clothes. Nice clothes that fit and are all in harmony when played. But I have to confess that, at least one part of me, likes to dress up to differentiate myself. But never in the ethnic or cultural way, mainly because in Europe we don't think like that (in general, of course we have racial supremacists and stuff, but they are the lumpen of society). Actually I dress basically the same way as a guy in Rome, London, Stockholm, Munich, etc. that is into the sartorial supremacy.
I forget, is the punishment for this crime being beaten to death with a telephone or a leg of lamb? Hmmmm................
I do the same. I say if it's above 80 degrees white bucks and seersucker are good. After all, what does labor day mean anywhere in the world other than the US anyway?
The traders, brokers, and bankers -- generally well-paid professionals and total alphas by disposition -- were reminiscent of the style usually endorsed here. That is, they were fond of expensive suits tailored to within an inch of their lives paired with accessory selections thoughtfully arrived at.
Conversely, there were the creatives, of which I was one. Very pointedly we didn't dress as the Wall Streeters did in large measure so as not to be mistaken for one. An art director I knew occasionally wore a fur vest to work while everyone was comfortable wearing a lot of black and denim. It was a point of pride to wear this into our offices and seemed to signify the contempt in which we held the guys in finance.
Then there was the vast middle -- the salarymen, the workadays -- who seemed content with loose dockers, blousy OCBD's, and Ecco shoes. They were the "normal guys", and had contempt for both of the above categories.
Curiously, everyone seemed attuned to the signifiers and could tell instantly which group and individual fell into. Bottom line is we wear what we wear to indicate which gang we belong to.