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Population Bottlenecks?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Note: this is a dumb meta-thread, and if you have the good sense to steer clear of them, then begone! I envy you.

 

A population bottleneck is what happens when a species narrowly escapes extinction. After this catastrophe, the traits of whatever survives to repopulate are present in much high proportions. For example, if a chemical plant leak suffocated the rest of New Jersey, and my girlfriend and I (both gingers) had to repopulate, there would be an awful lot of gingers running around New Brunswick for years to come.

 

Why am I talking about 9th grade bio? I think it's why we have groupthink on the CM forum. So many people, like myself, have no grounding in classic menswear. We have to learn from people who knew menswear pre-internet -- Alan Flusser, Manton, Will Boelkhe -- and so we end up with their idiosyncrasies magnified. This can be a good thing, since they have pretty great taste, but do we lose something as a result of this? Do we end up with iteratively safer versions of their tastes as we try to learn from those who learned from them?

 

Is there any way to break that cycle? I reckon, without the aid of a really good salesman or a great tailor, that it would be difficult to get the kind of "primary source" knowledge that men like Manton or Flusser have.

 

Any thoughts?

post #2 of 19
1) Watch old movies and check out as many old pictures as you can.

2) Reading opinions of others is useful in educating and refining your eye, but then use your own judgement.

3) Dont wear anything that feels uncomfortable

4) Dont feel too stuck in the past or devoted to tradition - the people you're emulating didn't.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

1) Watch old movies and check out as many old pictures as you can.

2) Reading opinions of others is useful in educating and refining your eye, but then use your own judgement.

3) Dont wear anything that feels uncomfortable

4) Dont feel too stuck in the past or devoted to tradition - the people you're emulating didn't.

 

Thank you.

 

Point four reminded me of a kind of mind-blowing idea that I read recently -- tracing the idea that our current society is "old" back to Spengler's The Decline of The West. It seems to me, looking back as a layman, that the idea of so much of our culture as "new" lasted until well into the '60s. Now, we tend to look at a lot of stuff that's fairly recent as ancient and immutable -- in more than just clothes, of course.

post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 

Many among us have some totem that marks us out as something of an iGent. A pair of dub monks, a Rubinacci square, a Harris Tweed-branded hanger from Walmart. Thanks to this thread, I have a subtweet from Vox, which means much more. You have to earn one of those. bigstar[1].gif


Edited by YRR92 - 7/29/13 at 7:58pm
post #5 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

1) Watch old movies and check out as many old pictures as you can.

2) Reading opinions of others is useful in educating and refining your eye, but then use your own judgement.

3) Dont wear anything that feels uncomfortable

4) Dont feel too stuck in the past or devoted to tradition - the people you're emulating didn't.

These are really good tips from Unbel. No. 3 probably cannot be emphasised enough. Related to this is perhaps the very important - but often ignored - notion that style and comfort are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

On the other hand, given that the notion of "comfort" is fluid, I wonder if this could lead to the slippery slope that eventually leads to a sartorial era of "anything goes."

In the same vein, I wonder if people in the old days had a higher tolerance of discomfort. I'm thinking, for instance, of stiff detachable collars. Is it just a question of habit, or were such things objectively uncomfortable? (The Duke of Windsor seemed to agree with the latter.) If the latter is true, why stop at stiff collars? Why bother with ties, for instance? Where does one draw the line?
post #6 of 19
My suggestions were directed to someone who already has an interest in tailored clothing, but wants to branch out a little bit from following the rules of Manton, Flusser, and Will. And by "comfort" I didn't mean just physical comfort. I meant more that just because Will says bowties are great for wearing in the evening, don't start wearing them at night if they make you feel silly. For those who really hate wearing a coat and tie for whatever reason, there are certain occasions in life when they'll just have to suck it up and look like an adult for a few hours. If they're uncomfortable with a tie on, it's probably just that they've outgrown their shirt collar anyway.
post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

My suggestions were directed to someone who already has an interest in tailored clothing, but wants to branch out a little bit from following the rules of Manton, Flusser, and Will. And by "comfort" I didn't mean just physical comfort. I meant more that just because Will says bowties are great for wearing in the evening, don't start wearing them at night if they make you feel silly. For those who really hate wearing a coat and tie for whatever reason, there are certain occasions in life when they'll just have to suck it up and look like an adult for a few hours. If they're uncomfortable with a tie on, it's probably just that they've outgrown their shirt collar anyway.

Small point re: bowties. They are great when dining out as they are not in the
"line of fire" and rarely get food stains. A few generations ago, at least as seen in
photographs, it was perfectly acceptable for gentlemen to tuck table napkins into their
collars to protect their ties and shirt fronts.
post #8 of 19
I think the worst sort of groupthink occurs when you have people who simply regurgitate what they learn on a place like SF without taking the time to understand the why. Then you have the worst possible combination of dogmatism, lack of imagination and lack of understanding. I do believe that Flusser, Manton and others you cite generally do a good job of explaining the why but acquiring an appreciation for it does take some effort. I think we also see a lot of responses that sound like groupthink directed towards people who are themselves making poorly argued cases for their preferences. In a sense, stupid arguments are countered by stupid arguments.

I think that learning how to dress well takes the same sort of effort that becoming knowledgeable about any other topic takes. If you want to learn about an era in history in depth, you don't just read one book and decide the author is right about everything. You read it critically, look at other sources, evaluate them critically and form your own views. If you have access to primary source information or see it cited by your historians, you would also look at this too and consider how the historians you read interpret the primary source information and whether their interpretations make sense to you. Much like classic menswear, you will probably find some things are less in dispute than others. It could be a result of historian groupthink or it could be because that's where the evidence points and people who are better informed are more likely to be aware of certain facts. If you want to only read one good book, you can do this too, but your knowledge is more likely to be colored by the editorial biases of that particular author.

People like Flusser, Manton, Will, etc. can be seen as historians in this analogy. Each has his own biases but each has also done more research than most of us will do on the topic in a lifetime. The equivalent of primary sources in this context would be old movies, photographs, carefully selected articles from old magazines and the like. Watching old movies alone can give one an excellent appreciation of how classic menswear is best done. The trick is to consider it all and make an informed judgement based on all the evidence on what has traditionally been appropriate and what is appropriate / what looks good now.

Once you've done this, you also have to make sure that you are comfortable in your own clothes. If you dislike bowties, don't wear them just because some recommend them. If you don't like double monks, don't wear them. But also don't say something like "Double monks are for dilettantes; people only like them due to groupthink." It's easy to label something a majority of the forum believes as groupthink, but quite often it is unfair to do so and people fall back on referencing groupthink when they don't have a great argument to make. I am not in any way accusing you of that, but I think discussions here get dragged down due to groupthink and also due to people who can't process a forum consensus as anything but groupthink.
post #9 of 19
Too many people here are impressed with the knowledge and experience of some members, and assume that those members have style and taste. They are not one and the same.

Ergo, beware that plenty of bad advice on style and taste spews forth from some members that are held in high regard.
post #10 of 19
It's odd to me that some people expend so much effort "fighting" against "groupthink". As if they need to validate their own decision to wear, say, navy odd trousers, by convincing everybody else what a great idea it is and how closed-minded they are for not embracing it. To me, the point of the forum isn't to arrive at a consensus on what is "SF-approved" and then get the good word out. I may have contributed to this problem by writing SF101, but it was intended more as a helpful primer and a starting point for new members, and a time-saver for veteran members who were spending a lot of time answering the same questions over and over, than a list of commandments never to be broken.

There is a lot of variation in modes of dress temporally across the past 100 years and geographically across the suit-wearing world. The "historians" you cite tend to focus more on the US and Britain in the '20s and '30s. There were certainly many well-dressed men and great tailors during that era. But there have been other places and times that look good in their own way. Vox's blog has photos of well-dressed men from pretty much every decade photos were taken. It's a good thing to look at these other eras too. Inspiration can be found there as well.

There also should be room for varying levels of adherence to historical costume. Returning to the biological metaphor (the last time I took a biology class was sophomore year of high school, so understand that this is just a metaphor to talk about clothing, based on my very limited understanding of evolution, and not meant as a Darwinian treatise), it's healthy for a species to have random genetic mutations at the margin. Many of them will be complete failures and die off fairly quickly. Some will have result in increased survival and have a lasting effect on the gene pool. That's natural selection, and it's a good thing. It helps a species adapt to new environments.

There is also the potential for non-adaptive qualities to have genetic success. Suppose females randomly decide that some quality is attractive in males, even if it confers no actual physical advantages. Then males with that quality will have more success with women. Their offspring will be more likely to have that quality, and if future generations of women inherit the preferences of their mothers, these offspring will also have greater reproductive success, justifying the preference for this random trait in the first place. Over time the trait might become hypertrophied to the point of handicapping the species, at which point it may fall out of favor. A similarly destructive and inevitable process goes on over generations of clothing.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by archetypal_yuppie View Post

Too many people here are impressed with the knowledge and experience of some members, and assume that those members have style and taste. They are not one and the same.

Ergo, beware that plenty of bad advice on style and taste spews forth from some members that are held in high regard.

I slowly move away from trying to give advice as I have realized how much I still have to learn. When we start learning the basics we like to believe we can help others, but in reality we're not helping all that much.

 

I mean, that bad advice you talk about is usually good hearted in nature, but that doesn't make it any more useful.

post #12 of 19
I think there is a baseline of knowledge that positively affects both taste and style. However, I find both style and taste to be most effective when they come from the gut. That is to say that at a certain point your taste or style can be negatively affected by the sea of minutiae discussed here daily. The most tasteful and stylish people I know are naturally so. It takes some of us a little bit more to get to that level, myself included, but when you begin thinking a design or look is thwarted by details that are at odds with all the "rules" you've "learned," leading to outward rejection without any attempt to understand why or how something may work, then you do yourself a disservice. I find oftentimes people lose the forest through the trees.
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bourbonbasted View Post

all the "rules"

No shortage of nonsense rules driven by myopia.
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

archibald_leach, I think you hit the nail on the head WRT how the more hidebound SF traditions form. Somebody who's well respected posts something that's fairly nuanced, but then only their central thesis is remembered. I don't recall Manton's original anti-red tie post, but I recall that his "How To Wear A White Shirt" thread (which led to a whole bunch of people eschewing white shirts, it seems) set up a very nuanced explanation of why white shirts don't work with some combinations -- but in some ways, it gets remembered as "don't wear white shirts>'

 

UBR, I'm not too bothered by the existence of groupthink. It'll happen, no matter what. I object to it when it gets in the way of dressing well.

 

RDiaz, I sometimes envy the people who just clunk around giving bad advice because of how certain they are.

 

Bourbon_basted, I tend to agree. I do think you can start from learning the rules, but then rather than "breaking" them deliberately (a weirdly mannerist form of expression aimed more towards SF than the real world), you can internalize enough of them that you sort of innately apply the thinking behind them. That's sort of what I see from the people who learned how to dress over a number of years, pre-SF -- an undogmatic application of the intentions behind the rules, rather than an unthinking obedience to the letter of the law.

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by YRR92 View Post

archibald_leach, I think you hit the nail on the head WRT how the more hidebound SF traditions form. Somebody who's well respected posts something that's fairly nuanced, but then only their central thesis is remembered. I don't recall Manton's original anti-red tie post, but I recall that his "How To Wear A White Shirt" thread (which led to a whole bunch of people eschewing white shirts, it seems) set up a very nuanced explanation of why white shirts don't work with some combinations -- but in some ways, it gets remembered as "don't wear white shirts>'

Yeah, that's a great example. There was a lot of nuance but the main points were that most people do not need a large quantity of white shirts since white shirts are better in more formal situations (e.g. suit or blazer and greys) and that many ties look better on a non-white background such as light blue or pink than on white. There wasn't a ton of new ground broken in the post or new principles that were foreign to SF so much as putting a lot of principles together in a user friendly form. I'm sure a broader SF preference for light blue shirts didn't help matters, but things got a bit out of hand. All avoidable by a careful and critical reading of Manton's OP in that thread and at least some cursory understanding of what the purpose of the thread was.
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