it's interesting to me, and it really could be a separate thread, that so many writers on sartorial matters neglect to cite sources or in any do some rudimentary scholarship when citing anecdotes or precedents for rules. Â (And I love the rules). Â I'd like to see more indepth work, but I suppose it's not necessary for books written for the general public. Â It gets tiresome however when we hear about Albert or Edward not buttoning his button on his waistcoat in phrasing that is so similar to the way another author has written the story. Â It just becomes too much.
Well, the thing is, there are not a lot of original sources. Â Those that exist are largely hearsay themselves. Â The duke of Windsor's memoirs are a great example. Â He crammed them with everything he could remember about clothes, and even had one of the most knowledgable experts of the 20th century (James Laver) help him with research and fact-checking. Â Yet a lot of what's in there boils down to his personal recollections, or stories he heard, or things he took on faith from Laver. Beyond this, I think there are two kinds of "rules": those that govern how things should be made, and those that govern how things should be worn. Â It is almost universally easier to trace the precise beginnings of rules in the former category. Â Anything made has an "origin and first appearance", and if you can find that, or some account of it, you are likely as not to be able to figure out why
it was made that way in the first place. Â A great example, sticking with the duke, is the origin of black tie. Â He writes of this at great length, because he more than any other person is responsible for it coming into being. Â He tells us why he wore what he wore, and how he designed it. Â The origins, specs, and rationale are all there. "Usage" rules, however, are much harder to pin down. Â Well-nigh impossible, in most cases. Â The reason writers cite those stories (e.g., Bertie unbuttoning his vest) is because they are cute and part of the lore. Â I don't have a problem with it. Â I do have a problem when people cite such anecdotes as established fact. Â But for these rules, the lore is all there is, for the most part. Â Nobody knows. Â It's like trying to trace the origin of shaking hands: there are theories (e.g., it proves you aren't poised to strike with a weapon), but no original sources to back up the theory. The point is that unlike (say) political history, there is a dearth of sources. Â If you want to know why Richelieu really
goaded Louis XIII into the siege of La Rochelle, you can go back and read all his official correspondence and private diaries. Â If you want to know why the prince of Wales unbuttoned his vest, you can read every one of his letters and, amazingly, the subject does not come up. Â (Though clothes did occasionally come up in royal correspondence, mostly in the form of letters from parents scolding their children to dress more conservatively. Â The duke quotes these at some length.) As for Flusser specifically, he is a reader (he has a much better and bigger collection of books and sources than I have, and mine's not small) and compiler of the lore. Â He's been doing this for something like 40 years. Â First as a hobby, then as a business and
a hobby. Â Naturally, he has heard it all. Â Personally, I would trust what he has to say about what is "correct" or "traditional" or the "rule" over a lot of quasi-original sources. Â (Even the great Apparal Arts
sometimes stumbled, for instance with the mess jacket debacle of the mid-1930s.) Â Which is why Flusser's "endorsement" of short sleeve dress shirts was so disheartening. Â That is wrong, wrong, wrong no matter what Alan says. Â What makes it worse is that he knows better, so if he's serious about that, he's just bending for the sake of "modernization." Â Or something.