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Does it ever end?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Stugotes, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    Given the level of OCD on here, it would be difficult for me to believe that members find clothes to be relaxing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
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  2. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Like I said, once learned, it is second nature. Doesn't take any noticeable effort to exercise taste--just to explain it.
     
  3. mcbrown

    mcbrown Senior member

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    I understand what you're saying, but I think you are missing two things:

    1. Not everyone has the same form or degree of interest in clothing.
    2. Devolution into costume is a consequence of bad choices, not motivation.

    On point 1, one could make the same claim about other interests, and it would be just as wrong. Take music. I am a very serious amateur musician. It was very nearly my vocation, not just a hobby. For me, music is most certainly not something you just do for fun - to do it right, your lifestyle must revolve around the demands of practice required to excel. But that's for me. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the 40 year old guy who buys a guitar and strums a few chords once in a while. If part of his enjoyment is trying a new guitar every now and then, who am I to say that he is doing it wrong?

    On point 2, costume is not a necessary result of acquiring more stuff than you need. Imagine that I own a perfectly adequate navy blazer (which I do). If I decide to get another one in a slightly different material or cut, just to see how I like it in practice and not because I need it in any way shape or form, will the second blazer be any more costume-y than the first one? Costume comes from bad usage, not duplicate acquisition.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
  4. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    There is nothing wrong with a 40-year-old guy who buys a guitar and just strums a few chords on it. But that is not how you make good music. Likewise, I will not begrudge people for collecting clothes as a hobby--but, that is not how you develop good style. People on this forum forget that too often. They claim they are trying to dress well, but cannot see that accomplishing that goal is essentially impossible so long as they are just doing the equivalent of collecting guitars and strumming a few chords on them.

    I could not disagree with you more about your second point. Motivation is essential to good style. When something looks "costume," it may be a direct result of specific clothing choices, but the root cause of those choices is, ninety-nine percent of the time, attitude. Really, dressing well is actually not very difficult. Often the boring and more obvious choices are the better ones. Yet, people stray into bizarrely grotesque and tortured territory all too frequently, often under some false guise of creative independence, when in reality they are simply fixated on consuming and getting the next "good" deal. Thus, it is truly clarity of purpose at the bottom of it all--and which is so sorely lacking.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
  5. mcbrown

    mcbrown Senior member

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    I sort of agree with you, but I think you're really latching too hard onto the word "collecting". To the point about venturing into the grotesque, that may be a consequence of owning too many things, but owning more things is not necessarily synonymous with owning more grotesque or less simple things.

    The irony of this discussion is that in practice I find myself more aligned with your own approach, even though I am disagreeing with you now - after a few years of participation here I find that I like the idea of owning fewer things that are more versatile and fit me well. But for the purposes of this discussion I think you are missing the degree to which investment in style, with few exceptions, necessarily has aspects of a hobby. In the 21st century the vast majority of men will not see a material impact on their life or livelihood from "dressing better" above some (very low) culturally acceptable minimum level. You must get something out of this besides professional advancement to justify spending the time on it, and if that is the case then it is necessarily in part a hobby. And hobbies don't have set rules about what is "too much".
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
  6. RDiaz

    RDiaz Senior member

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    Well, I don't know if I fall into the "costume" category - I am an IT technician. My income is rather low, my friends dress in t-shirts and jeans, and my lifestyle is really, really humble. But where I work at, there's many people in suits. There are diplomats, ambassadors, and a Minister. So, while I have no dress code to abide by, I think it would be very disrespectiful to dress like a slob here, even though I'm sort of a "pleb".

    Other than that, I do enjoy clothing as a hobby. Not just in the style sense, but I also have a fascination for the art that is behind tailored clothing. I would have loved to learn the craft, but I'm too old for that now.
     
  7. in stitches

    in stitches Senior member Moderator

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    disagree. some people simply get bored with stuff, and have the know how, and coinage, to keep things from stagnating for them. they may buy and sell 10 navy SCs and 15 blue shirts and 7 mid gray flannel suits, in a few years. instead of keeping the same one until it is worn out. something new, slight deviations in shade/tone/texture are what some people enjoy and have the opportunity to do so.

    their wardrobe will always have the basics, just different garments, and fun pieces that come and go as their level of intrigue waxes and wanes. i see nothing wrong with that. people can enjoy clothing, dress well, and be happy, in different ways.
     
  8. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    No, quantity alone is not a problem. But when quantity takes precedence over quality, it surely is. Why does that happen? For the same reason so many hobbies perpetuate themselves. Take watch-collecting for example, which I am intimately familiar with. People will collect dozens of watches, constantly trading back and forth, over years and decades--all because they cannot "afford" the one or two grail watches they truly desire. Ironically, it often turns out they've spent much more on all the lesser watches they didn't really want. It's a cycle that goes on tragically too long for too many. Yet, every now and then, someone figures it out, sells his entire collection, and buys the minute repeater he's always wanted. He writes a long, triumphant post on Timezone, then is never to be heard from again. Good for him. He can now live his life and enjoy the one watch that could ever quench his hunger.

    Most people are terrible long-term planners and thinkers. Hence, a "good deal" is what is cheap and affordable right this very moment. The stuff in my wardrobe is wildly expensive compared to most of the things posted here, but ultimately I've probably spent not much more than the average forum member.

    So, yes, there is always a degree of collecting and hobbyism in endeavoring to do something well. We all need to put together a good toolkit. But sometimes we get carried away with building a bigger toolkit and forget that the real work is in learning to use our tools.


    I haven't a seen a single example of a person who treats clothes as you describe that I'd say has a convincing style.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
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  9. in stitches

    in stitches Senior member Moderator

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    i was not saying there is or isnt one. i was merely saying it could be done without being profoundly wrong. :)
     
  10. mcbrown

    mcbrown Senior member

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    Well here is our common ground then. I love this, especially the bolded part... New toys are always fun, but the only way to get better is practice, practice, practice.
     
  11. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    A guy with a solid-fitting navy blazer and grey flannel suit, plus time spent developing good taste, is eons ahead of the WAYWRN norm.
     
  12. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    This is more the norm actually, if you look at the history of well-dressed men. Minus the selling part - because he didn't need to - the Duke of Windsor is the most obvious example that comes to mind.
     
  13. mcbrown

    mcbrown Senior member

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    Couldn't agree more.

    Upon further reflection, I think my disagreement arose from the fact that there are two primary drivers of acquisition of "things" related to style/music/photography/etc.

    One driver is curiosity. A curious acquirer might think "I know that I already have perfectly adequate tools; this new addition will not allow me to do anything I can't do with the tools I have on hand; however neither will it detract from my other tools, and I want to know what it feels like to use this new object, because trying new things is part of what I enjoy about this interest of mine." I think you'd agree that if someone approaches "collecting" with this attitude, it's less likely they are going to run off the rails. This is what I was trying to get at above.

    The other driver is the desire to "upgrade". There is a degree to which upgrading is helpful - e.g. a serious amateur musician can benefit a lot from moving from a cheap student instrument to a professional-grade one. But because upgrading equipment is so easy, and upgrading the human (through practice) is so hard, people can fall into a trap of believing that therein lies the key to success. On music fora it's common to see advice to invest in more lessons rather than more gear, and it's correct 99.9% of the time. Some form of that advice undoubtedly applies to style as well. I think this is what you were trying to get at, no?

    The situation with WAYWN is illustrative of your point, I suppose. Even though I'm far from a "finished product" style-wise and should theoretically benefit from perusing photos of what other SF members are wearing, I just can't draw any useful lessons from those threads anymore. I find that whenever I am in search of a visual I'm better served consulting either the old "best of" thread, the coherent sportscoat combo thread, the tailors' feedback thread, or even the now-dead coherent combinations thread (via waybackmachine). They inspire me to do more with less*, which is another point you are consistently making.

    (* Does not apply to shoes, where I admit I have a problem.)
     
  14. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Amidst the many gems, the Duke put together a lot atrocious outfits. Maybe his hit rate would have been better if his resources were more limited and/or his appetite less devouring. The truth is he had a lot of natural talent, which can overcome a lot--even an addiction to clothes.

    Us mere mortals must play a different game.
     
  15. Quadcammer

    Quadcammer Senior member

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    dressing well and having style are two separate things. I think a guy with 4 suits (navy, navy pinstripe, gray, gray pinstripe or gray flannel), a few shirts, and maybe 10 ties could be considered to dress well if the stuff fits. But thats boring as shit, and while it might require less thought, i think that thought is exactly what people who strive for style enjoy. Thinking about outfits, thinking about pairings, thinking about new ways to wear certain things, etc are the part thats enjoyable.

    While I agree that WAYWRN posts are a disaster more often than not (my god some of the sport coats in that thread are so hideous its scary), I don't think foo's look is anything terribly desirable either.
     
  16. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    The Duke may be an extreme. I'm with NJS on this one - he may or may not have talent, but with the kind of money and tailors at his disposal, it would be hard not to come out of that life well dressed.

    In any case, the point remains. Even if we set aside famous dandies (e.g. Count d'Orsay, Evander Berry Wall, Beau Nash, etc) and Old Hollywood icons (e.g. Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, etc), the fact remains that most people we know who are well dressed love clothes. That includes people on this forum and others, and in the general population. They all have a lot and acquire a lot.

    Take our own corner of the internet. For anyone who we can think of who was well dressed in 2007-2010 (most of whom no longer post here), they all had fairly big wardrobes. It's really only you who has been able to do well with a small, highly curated collection. Most people enjoy clothes, buy things for fun, and take pleasure in putting together different looks. Stitchy is right. Many of these people would feel bored if they kept to something as small as what you have, so they experiment with a few things here and there. Slightly different shades, textures, cloth, colors, details, etc.

    We should distinguish the precise problem on this board: most people have bad taste. They will continue to have bad taste whether they have large or small wardrobes. The people with good taste will continue to be well dressed whether they have large or small wardrobes. The size of the wardrobe is not the problem. It's the person in the morning choosing what things to wear.


    Whether you think you would look good in Foo's wardrobe or not is a separate issue. Comparing him to what goes on in WAYWT, however, is pretty absurd.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
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  17. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Well, yes, taste is the biggest factor of them all. But let's be honest, a lot of that comes down to talent and I'm not sure how much can be learned. It is not a factor you can meaningfully control.

    Studied curation is meant to ward off the manifestation of bad taste. For most of us, I still submit that is key.
     
  18. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    All you're saying, in a way, is "let me at least tell you what to buy, so you don't buy ugly shit." That would solve part of the problem, but you're essentially asking them to wear the same thing more or less every day. Many people have great variation in their lives, and can not wear a brown gun club tweed with grey flannel trousers everywhere they go.

    I don't know if taste can be learned either. Though, I've seen a few people make great improvements. Stitches is one, and I felt heartened by NORE"s recent conversion.
     
  19. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I think Stitch might be regressing . . .

    But yes, your characterization of my advice is more or less accurate. If you cannot wear a brown gun club tweed with grey flannel trousers regularly, then you have no business buying or wearing any of the nonsense typical of WAYWRN. That garbage shouldn't be worn anywhere by anyone.

    So, if a person is given to such nonsense, the best approach is to start over with classic staples. I might be one of the sole voices on the forum dictating what those staples are, but don't confuse that for meaning I'm making them up on my own. Focusing on those core items will cut one off from the silly things he would have otherwise accumulated. Moreover, they will put you in league with all those icons you mentioned earlier. Astaire, Cooper, the Duke, etc., would be astonished by a man who attempts to dress well without owning a proper blazer and grey flannel suit. They probably all started in the same place. In fact, half the time I imagine them in my head, they are wearing such staples (which, in no small part, they helped establish).
     
  20. RDiaz

    RDiaz Senior member

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    Sure it would be great to focus on good quality staple items as soon as you start building your wardrobe, but what if you're going to dress in coat and tie everyday and you can only afford getting 2-3 quality jackets/suits per year? I'm guessing it is not a good idea to wear the same blazer everyday for 4-6 months. Similarly, it wouldn't be a good idea to go to work well dressed one day, then show up in jeans and t-shirt the next day because you don't have anything else.

    Unless we're just talking about making tasteful purchases (i.e. a navy blazer rather than a crazy glen plaid odd jacket as a first coat), without worrying much about construction or cloth quality, which depends on the buyer's income level.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013

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