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MC General Chat - Page 71

post #1051 of 1752
Me either.
post #1052 of 1752

Wow, we're really delving into some tricky areas: taste AND race in one thread. Yummy, this will be good. biggrin.gif

 

I had a late start to the day and so, while dozing in and out of sleep, my mind returned to the topic being discussed in this thread. Is it actually possible to have a non-culturally-biased, or acultural, viewpoint on what looks good? Some schools of aesthetics would suggest so, but they all generally fall prey to the philosophical equivalent of what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error; in this case, "my perspective on what is aesthetically-pleasing is rational, while yours is culture-bound".

 

Now, it's certainly possible to derive rational principles (or even rulesets) to create an aesthetically-pleasing outfit, as defined by a cultural perspective. In fact, that's what's been discussed ad infinitum on this board (e.g. manton and esp. mafoofan are excellent at this sort of concretisation/derivation of principles behind an aesthetic cultural framework; follow his rules and you wiil get a result that fits within the framework) & in a myriad of books on mens' style. These rationalisations can be made more or less internally-consistent, with a little minor bending of logic at the margins. Why is that helpful? Well, once you've decided you want to project a certain look or style, they'll help you achieve it. That's certainly not to be sniffed at, whether you have those aims or not.

 

However, it doesn't get us much closer to deciding if there is an abstract aesthetic that is pleasing irrespective of culture. One way to determine this would be to look at points of clothing consistency across cultures. This feels a little "lowest common denominator" to me (phenomenological commonality might be an answer, but is it the answer?) but then I've always liked thought experiments more than actual experiments, so that could account for that. Still, I do feel there must be a more perceptual way to define what is pleasing to look at i.e. through a scientific understanding of how human vision works and how that to the feeling of pleasure. Obviously culture will act as a secondary overlay, influencing the connections, but study enough people across cultures and some common residue should emerge. This is not a new concept (neuropsychologists, gestalt theorists and various other tribes have been working on these concepts for decades), but I don't think any have applied their theories directly to clothes. They've concentrated on faces, features, geometric & absract shapes and the like.

 

Hmm, there's a certainly a PhD thesis (at a minimum) in there for someone more motivated than I.

 

My hunches are that some cross-cultural aesthetic pluses are:

- an outfit that encourages saccadic eye movement (mimicking how eyes look at faces)

- outfits with broad symmetry but one or two key asymmetric features (again, like faces)

- outfits that broadly emphasise secondary sexual characteristics (the exact ones will vary across cultures).

 

Beyond that, and the precise mechanism of achieving those goals, is more culturally-bound.

 

Anyway, all vague, rambling, unevidenced and inexact, but hey, that's what this thread is for, right? :)


Edited by Holdfast - 2/7/13 at 12:41pm
post #1053 of 1752
Hi.
post #1054 of 1752
That was a pretty interesting read hf. I really didnt mean to bring up race in regards to the topic. I was merely contemplating whether this analysis applies to men of a tint shade which could be a southeast asian, african or a white person with a substantial tan.

But I do agree that culture plays a role in regards to good taste

I also think age plays a role as well
post #1055 of 1752
Quote:
Originally Posted by mafoofan View Post

Hi.


Oh God, and just as I was logging off for the evening... this guarantees that this thread will have another 20 pages by the time I check in tomorrow! biggrin.gif

 

Seriously though, your thoughts on the themes of the last couple of pages will be interesting. In particular, I'm curious as to whether you believe it's possible to derive an acultural aesthetically-pleasing outfit and whether its principles would tally with any of my hunches outlined in the post just above.

 

(not saying it's necessarily practically relevant; I'm not really interested in that. More as a thought experiment about whether it's theoretically possible to derive a valid construct or not.)

 

Anyway, I certainly look forward to seeing the state of the thread tomorrow. Try not to kill each. The bloodstains are hard to get out. devil.gif

post #1056 of 1752
I think the silhouette of broad shoulders, a smaller waist, and swelled chest, are pretty universally admired in males. Of course slight variations across cultures will exist, and the ideal numbers may vary across cultures while the ratios stay the same, but this might be near as universal as the hips-to-waist ratio in women.

But you're going to have a hard time finding a non-culturally-dependent rationale for the tastefulness of pick-stitching.
post #1057 of 1752

I think all style is going to be culturally relative. Even if it is true that unbel's "broad shoulders, a smaller waist, and swelled chest" are universally admired traits (and I'm not sure it is---for example specific times and specific cultures for whom corpulence is admired because it indicates wealth), how to emphasize and indicate them? Why wear clothes at all: why not just be naked and develop large shoulders and pecs? Padded, extended shoulders vs. spalla camicia?

 

I'm most familiar with anthropology, which would seem a good field to approach some of these questions, but there has been very little good research on clothes. There has been more linguistic research on color terms, though, and the way different people categorize colors varies dramatically. Even within cultures! I would guess that SF members have more color terms than average men in our respective societies. Does this mean that people with different color terms would find different combinations of colors most aesthetically pleasing? I don't know, but possibly.

post #1058 of 1752
Mymil true words..m

Nigeian men especially older ones with less influence from the west tend to prefer rotund stomachs. It signifies their baller status.
post #1059 of 1752

Some men value inguinal hernias because your guts fall into your balls and make them really big.

 

Some more things: codpieces. Penis sheaths (yes, that's a thing; no, I'm not going to post a picture for you). Men's tights (at certain points men's slender legs were considered worthy of display). Frilly collar things. White powdered wigs (would Foo advocate cream powdered wigs instead?).

post #1060 of 1752
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error; in this case, "my perspective on what is aesthetically-pleasing is rational, while yours is culture-bound".

I always enjoy psych references icon_gu_b_slayer[1].gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

This is not a new concept (neuropsychologists, gestalt theorists and various other tribes have been working on these concepts for decades), but I don't think any have applied their theories directly to clothes. They've concentrated on faces, features, geometric & absract shapes and the like.

This type of research would probably be more in the area of cognitive psychology. Any well-dressed cognitive psychologists here on SF?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

Hmm, there's a certainly a PhD thesis (at a minimum) in there for someone more motivated than I.

I proposed this... and the committee member with the square-toed shoes said no. If someone does plan to fund a grant for this type of research, I will be one of the first in line to collaborate!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

Beyond that, and the precise mechanism of achieving those goals, is more culturally-bound.

Very interesting topic about men's style here since I dabble in clinical and research work related to men and masculinity. I think the biggest confound is that (I would guess) almost everyone here on SF is influenced by "Western" culture since we focus primarily on this type of clothing. Although the membership is international, suits, ties, and oxfords are the norm here and does not go beyond societies that have this type of influence. It would be interesting to find out how people from non-Westernized cultures view our "style." Would they think our clothing in general is "abnormal" regardless of fit/color/material?
Edited by DpprDr - 2/7/13 at 5:25pm
post #1061 of 1752
Originally Posted by mymil View Post
I'm most familiar with anthropology, which would seem a good field to approach some of these questions, but there has been very little good research on clothes. There has been more linguistic research on color terms, though, and the way different people categorize colors varies dramatically. Even within cultures! I would guess that SF members have more color terms than average men in our respective societies. Does this mean that people with different color terms would find different combinations of colors most aesthetically pleasing? I don't know, but possibly.

Originally Posted by DpprDr View Post

Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

Hmm, there's a certainly a PhD thesis (at a minimum) in there for someone more motivated than I.


I proposed this... and the committee member with the square-toed shoes said no. If someone does plan to fund a grant for this type of research, I will be one of the first in line to collaborate!
 

Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

Beyond that, and the precise mechanism of achieving those goals, is more culturally-bound.

Very interesting topic about men's style here since I dabble in clinical and research work related to men and masculinity. I think the biggest confound is that (I would guess) almost everyone here on SF is influenced by "Western" culture since we focus primarily on this type of clothing. Although the membership is international, suits, ties, and oxfords are the norm here and does not go beyond societies that have this type of influence. It would be interesting to find out how people from non-Westernized cultures view our "style." Would they think our clothing in general is "abnormal" regardless of fit/color/material?

 

I wonder why the symbolic/communicative power of clothes is such a neglected field. It seems so vital to me; it being a deliberate/chosen external manifestation of societal value systems. It should rank alongside the other visual arts in interpretative importance. I remember reading Anne Hollander's enjoyable Seeing Through Clothes some years ago; that was the closest I've read to a book on the topic and even then, she had to parlay it through more traditional art in order for it to be "important" enough for publication, even to the general public.

 

The basic forms of tailored clothes as worn on SF (jacket, trousers, etc) have their roots in Western culture, so it's not surprising that the readership has an occidental cultural mindset. Having said that, you do see it reflected through a more oriental prism in the modified fusion forms of the garments put out by someone like Yamamoto. In a way, the SW&D forum is more open to different uses of volume & geometry, but then again, they are intrinsically more willing than the CM forum to consider clothing a communication medium, open to change in the same way that a spoken language is. Women are also far more aware of this language, though the frequency with which they change dialect can render their communication closer to babel.

 

(ps the word oriental itself is another example of how cultural mores influence usage. It's a perfectably acceptable word here (and, I believe in most parts of the world), but I think some Americans can get in a tizzy about its usage, so fwiw, no offence is intended )

 

Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

But you're going to have a hard time finding a non-culturally-dependent rationale for the tastefulness of pick-stitching.

Any culture that values pick-stiching is deeply, deeply disturbed. tongue.gif

post #1062 of 1752
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

I wonder why the symbolic/communicative power of clothes is such a neglected field. It seems so vital to me; it being a deliberate/chosen external manifestation of societal value systems. It should rank alongside the other visual arts in interpretative importance. I remember reading Anne Hollander's enjoyable Seeing Through Clothes some years ago; that was the closest I've read to a book on the topic and even then, she had to parlay it through more traditional art in order for it to be "important" enough for publication, even to the general public.

And of what scholarship there is, most is not very good (at least in anthropology). Most likely because of associations between clothing and frivolity and femininity---something not serious enough to be worthy of research. Unfortunately. There are some good things, though. Like Terence Turner's "The Social Skin" (1980). Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction. Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class is a classic, and presents something that is close to what is now a common-sense notion about fashion, but isn't as insightful or productive as the other two (in my and many and many others' opinions).

post #1063 of 1752
Quote:
Originally Posted by mymil View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

I wonder why the symbolic/communicative power of clothes is such a neglected field. It seems so vital to me; it being a deliberate/chosen external manifestation of societal value systems. It should rank alongside the other visual arts in interpretative importance. I remember reading Anne Hollander's enjoyable Seeing Through Clothes some years ago; that was the closest I've read to a book on the topic and even then, she had to parlay it through more traditional art in order for it to be "important" enough for publication, even to the general public.

And of what scholarship there is, most is not very good (at least in anthropology). Most likely because of associations between clothing and frivolity and femininity---something not serious enough to be worthy of research. Unfortunately. There are some good things, though. Like Terence Turner's "The Social Skin" (1980). Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction. Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class is a classic, and presents something that is close to what is now a common-sense notion about fashion, but isn't as insightful or productive as the other two (in my and many and many others' opinions).

 

Thanks for the recommendations.

 

I've read Veblen (that is to say, I read the chapter on Dress while browsing in a bookshop... ;) ). My abiding impression was of a rather sour and envious man, rationalising away what he did not like about the world in an effort to justify his disdain. I seem to recall a prediction that beards were there to last, and no-one would ever return to the practice of shaving every day ever again. If ever there was a statement to prove he didn't really understand the human desire for novelty and the changing of fashions, well, there it is.

post #1064 of 1752

Yeah... Veblen is important to read as a historical foundation and a foil, but not much more. It's funny that he would make such a universal prediction---I don't remember that in particular, but I did think what he described was a relatively dynamic process of upper-class (i.e. leisure class) innovation and middle- and lower-class imitation. Hence my surprise.

post #1065 of 1752
Quote:
Originally Posted by mymil View Post

Yeah... Veblen is important to read as a historical foundation and a foil, but not much more. It's funny that he would make such a universal prediction---I don't remember that in particular, but I did think what he described was a relatively dynamic process of upper-class (i.e. leisure class) innovation and middle- and lower-class imitation. Hence my surprise.

 

I tried to google it, and found that Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class has actually been uploaded to Project Gutenberg!

 

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/833/833-h/833-h.htm

 

The relevant (funny) excerpt:

 

Quote:
During the past one hundred years there is a tendency perceptible, in the development of men's dress especially, to discontinue methods of expenditure and the use of symbols of leisure which must have been irksome, which may have served a good purpose in their time, but the continuation of which among the upper classes today would be a work of supererogation; as, for instance, the use of powdered wigs and of gold lace, and the practice of constantly shaving the face. There has of late years been some slight recrudescence of the shaven face in polite society, but this is probably a transient and unadvised mimicry of the fashion imposed upon body servants, and it may fairly be expected to go the way of the powdered wig of our grandfathers.
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