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The perils of overdoing it.

post #1 of 292
Thread Starter 
I've been visiting this site regularly now for about a month and I'm astonished at the levels of knowledge and expertise that exist about all aspects of men's clothing and footwear. I'm full of admiration and have learned a lot. However, since by definition all visitors to the site are suffering from an idee fixe I suppose it's to be expected that excess creeps in from time to time so it's perhaps appropriate to say a word about it. This thought is provoked by a lengthy thread about the appropriateness of getting a particular rather heavy and loud tweed made up for essentially urban wear. I submit there is a very fine dividing line between looking stylish and being an object of admiration, and on the other hand looking something of a caricature that evokes humor rather than respect.

The first thing that needs to be said is that if you are very well and stylishly dressed in the USA or most of Europe, you are going to get noticed anyway. The prevailing level is so low that you are going stick out like a sore thumb. This is actually a great feeling because there's no doubt you're going to get admiring glances from men and women. On the other hand one of the major downsides I find is that waiters always bring you the bill! This being the case it behooves us to practise a little moderation and restraint. That doesn't mean there isn't loads of opportunity for experimentation and creativity. The teaming of stripes and checks, oranges with blues, DB blazers with red moleskin pants, pinks with grey, brown shoes with blue suits, woolen ties with formal suits, etc. etc. but it does mean it has to be done with great care so one doesn't slip over that invisible line into self parody. I suggest that certain garments have already gone there: the Ascot for example.

All this means that in purely aesthetic terms there certain minefields to be avoided. Over large bowties: this is a garment already on the borderlands of eccentricity so tie it overlarge or team it with the wrong suit and it looks risible. Of course we all have personal likes and dislikes for example I'm not crazy about brown calf shoes of any color with grey suits but I'm perfectly willing to admit some of the rich chesnuts, dark browns and burgundies look great as do some cordovans. But these are essentially staying inside rules that have been developed and tested over decades. Team light tan shoes with a blue suit as I saw being done in a high end men's store the other day and the result is simply garish.

As it happens I think tweed suits and jackets are particularly difficult because they can so easily to slip over into self parody in an urban environment. That doesn't mean loud tweeds are beyond the pale, just that some loud tweeds can be. After all most of the Breanish's are pretty loud and most work well although a couple are OTT. So before kitting yourself up in a particularly loud cheviot for a stroll down Madison you might want to think twice about it. I feel the same way about luxury weaves like twills or herring bones in white shirtings. I love them personally (sorry Manton) but they have to be very, very, very muted and by this I mean you can't see them if you are more than 12" away from the wearer. The same applies to some exotic weave of suiting eg. very visible figured solid fabrics like twills can make you blink. I don't mean a single color grey muted Glen Urquhart. You know what I mean.

Somebody once said the well dressed man should pass totally unnoticed. Well that may have been true in 1935 when even the average schmo could look stylish (look at old family photos if you want to see what I mean) but it isn't true today. You're going to be noticed. Make sure it's for the right reasons not the wrong ones.
post #2 of 292
I think, as a general matter, you are right, but I disagree that Bill's gun club check qualifies as going too far. It's a classic pattern that one sees all the time, and the colors are not crazy.
post #3 of 292
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post
I think, as a general matter, you are right, but I disagree that Bill's gun club check qualifies as going too far. It's a classic pattern that one sees all the time, and the colors are not crazy.

I find it a little to loud I'm afraid and there is the weight issue. I was also deeply underwhelmed by the example being worn by the older gentleman which was an exercise in self parody. It reminded me of those absurd bookies tweeds the writer Evelyn Waugh used to wear. I'm afraid I'm somewhat into nuance Manton as in fact you are also from what I've seen.
post #4 of 292
The weight is an issue, but I rather like heavy coats for cold days that relieve me of the necessity of an overcoat.

As to the color and pattern, I just disagree. I generally prefer quietish clothes, but I often like louder things than that. And I just don't find that all that loud.
post #5 of 292
I generally think you're right but people's perception of you is going to vary quite a bit depending on who those people are. I suspect that there is a greater social circle diversity here then you all realize.
post #6 of 292
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post
The weight is an issue, but I rather like heavy coats for cold days that relieve me of the necessity of an overcoat.

As to the color and pattern, I just disagree. I generally prefer quietish clothes, but I often like louder things than that. And I just don't find that all that loud.

We'll have to agree to disagree. If it's a cold day in town I think you should in any case wear some sort of topcoat. Anyway in my bit of philosophising I was just taking the issue of tweeds as an example: I have loud ones also. I was trying to provoke a somewhat wider discussion about this whole area because I don't like to see the cult of stylishness devalued by ill judged enthusiasms.
post #7 of 292
Re tweed, I think it all depends on your attitude, the cut of the coat and how you wear it. I generally prefer tweeds a bit more "out there" than the gun club, and have never thought that I looked like I was in costume or like a bookie. YMMV, I guess. As far as the rest of the OP, I do agree that there is a general lack of understanding about subtleness here, and have noted it many times. I am happy that you are now going to be the whipping boy, so I can take a rest from it.
post #8 of 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Ellis View Post
I find it a little to loud I'm afraid and there is the weight issue. I was also deeply underwhelmed by the example being worn by the older gentleman which was an exercise in self parody. It reminded me of those absurd bookies tweeds the writer Evelyn Waugh used to wear. I'm afraid I'm somewhat into nuance Manton as in fact you are also from what I've seen.

The alden picture did look a little like Compo, now that I think of it.

John - are you in the UK?
post #9 of 292
I like to dress so that no particular item stands out. I don't try to be noticed but if I am, then I like for my overall appearance to be considered very well dressed.
post #10 of 292
Refreshingly mature writing . . . centered-self rather than self-centered .

Along with the above which I think of as The Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome, I also see Missing the Forrest for the Trees as a peril of spending time on SF.

The world is round after all . . . The Matts of America find inspiration in Italy, Flusser and Manton all over, the Japanese in the West with their thirst for branded wares, and Mr. Giorgio Armani finds his the East (from Celant & Koda's Giorgio Armani), "I must say that the East has had a definite influence on me, with its rational style of dress; a small jacket with a mandarin collar is the utmost in elegance and comfort. In all my collections there is definitely a touch of the East - always."

- M
post #11 of 292
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by iammatt View Post
Re tweed, I think it all depends on your attitude, the cut of the coat and how you wear it. I generally prefer tweeds a bit more "out there" than the gun club, and have never thought that I looked like I was in costume or like a bookie. YMMV, I guess.

As far as the rest of the OP, I do agree that there is a general lack of understanding about subtleness here, and have noted it many times. I am happy that you are now going to be the whipping boy, so I can take a rest from it.

I tried to make clear that my objection is not to loud tweed per se but loud tweeds that have a hint of preposterousness, because of their weight or pattern, in an urban setting. I actually think these sort of themes are interesting because they go to the heart of why we all have this thing. Trying too hard which I've done many times myself over the years simply makes you a laughingstock and by talking about this sort of stuff perhaps others won't fall into the same trap. For example I was castigated for suggesting that a beginner might team a Hermes tie with navy blue suit and white shirt. This seems to me a far less egregious sin than some of the suggested "sophisticated" combos I've seen promoted here.
post #12 of 292
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by letmebefell View Post
The alden picture did look a little like Compo, now that I think of it.

John - are you in the UK?

No I reside in the USA but was originally English. I've been here for 35 years so have a very good sense of US culture and social mores.
post #13 of 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Ellis View Post
I tried to make clear that my objection is not to loud tweed per se but loud tweeds that have a hint of preposterousness, because of their weight or pattern, in an urban setting. I actually think these sort of themes are interesting because they go to the heart of why we all have this thing. Trying too hard which I've done many times myself over the years simply makes you a laughingstock and by talking about this sort of stuff perhaps others won't fall into the same trap. For example I was castigated for suggesting that a beginner might team a Hermes tie with navy blue suit and white shirt. This seems to me a far less egregious sin than some of the suggested "sophisticated" combos I've seen promoted here.
I fear that I would not be able to identify which tweeds have a hint of preposterous and which do not. I'd be happy, in the future, if you would be so kind as to point out which of mine that I might post have these features, not because I would change, but because I would be genuinely interested in knowing what you are talking about. I don't necessarily subscribe to the harder and heavier is better philosophy, I like a bit of everything... silk, shetland, tweed, cashmere. It is all fun and good. As for trying too hard, I can certainly think of some examples I have seen that strike me as such, if I want to look at them that way. More often, I think that they are simply poor attempts. I generally don't try very hard, mainly because most of the things I own look the same, and I couldn't really depart from that, even if I wanted to. I do have one sportcoat that may fit the bill, but I am still trying to decide if it is fun, or ridiculous.
post #14 of 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by iammatt View Post
I do have one sportcoat that may fit the bill, but I am still trying to decide if it is fun, or ridiculous.

Both.
post #15 of 292
I generally agree. A lot of what I see on the forum incorporates too many colors and patterns for my taste. Moreover, these colors and patterns are often too loud for me to appreciate. If I had to guess, the desire to pointedly express one's personality is to blame. I'm all for developing personal style, but maybe it would be better to rely on smaller details and interpretive choices to voice one's personality and stop trying to re-invent the wheel.

I'm still trying to figure things out myself. Toward the end of college, I wanted to change the way I dressed, and discovered AAAC. I ditched all my designer stuff, and started wearing more classic, tailored clothes. But I don't think I put enough faith in the new format. I tied huge qaudruple-windsor knots, preferred bright pink or apple green super-spread collar shirts, and collected dozens of whimsical pocket squares and socks. I guess I didn't believe a 'shirt-and-tie'-based outfit could be interesting or creative enough without such bold strokes. It's taken a lot of time to become more comfortable with myself and my clothes. Now, if anything, I'm too boring and formulaic.

Still, I don't see anything wrong with Bill's gun check in this regard. It's just a nice tweed in a classic pattern. I have no issue with wearing tweed or tweed-like jackets in the city. I figure, at the worst, I'm just dressing more casual that way. In a world where wearing any jacket is already a huge step-up in formality, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
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