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Dress and elitism

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by poorsod, Jun 2, 2006.

  1. poorsod

    poorsod Senior member

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    Reading Manton's book got me thinking about how a person dresses places him in society, especially the last chapter which discussed how servants dressed vs. elite and how the servants were put in their social place by their dress.

    It occured to me that even after going through higher education (even at ivy walled institutions) one can never learn how to dress their station. e.g. one can wear a suit and tie but still look like the security guard. Perhaps that is one reason social mobility can be hard, even if you are able and well educated.
     
  2. zjpj83

    zjpj83 Senior member

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    I disagree almost completely. That's not really true anymore at all.

    Obviously, it depends on your chosen field, but I know multi-billionaires who dress like crap. I go to black tie events on average every few weeks, and some of the outfits would make you cringe. There are super-wealthy people who have never worn a tie... There are so many ways to make money out there these days, be it in the tech industry, manufacturing, or whatever. Does that mean everyone who has money is in the highest "social" echelon? Well, Bill Gates is hardly snazzy, but you can bet he's a VIP everywhere he goes. And, economically, yes, all those people are at the top. Though of course that doesn't mean that they're getting invited to every tea party in the Hamptons. But I don't know who the hell would want to go to those anyway...

    Going further into your "social mobility" comment is probably better relegated to the positively painful "Poor people" section in the current events Forum. All I will say is that there are more rags-to-riches stories in this country than you can count, and I have seen many of them personally. Indeed, a few weeks ago I attended a black tie award dinner at Ellis Island for immigrants who have really made something of themselves and contributed great things to the United States. These are people of all races, genders and backgrounds. And I can tell you, most of them didn't know how to tie a tie when they got here.

    Best.
     
  3. NoVaguy

    NoVaguy Senior member

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    No comments with respect to clothing, but just keep in mind that Bill Gates story isn't a rags to riches story. His story is a rich to ridiculuously rich story.

    And the majority of poor people in this country stay poor, and their children and descendants stay poor as well. The majority of wealthy people stay wealthy, and their children and descendants stay wealthy as well. Social mobility, which increased from the 30's to the '70s has been on the decline since then.

    But strangely enough, dress codes are disappearing. The rise of business casual, and knockoffs, makes it more and more difficult determine somebodies economic status based on their dress.
     
  4. zjpj83

    zjpj83 Senior member

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    I didn't even mention Bill Gates in the same paragraph as my rags-to-riches comment, but merely used him as an example of how dress doesn't mean much of anything anymore in terms of being a member of the "social elite," whatever that means. Cash is cash.
     
  5. cpac

    cpac Senior member

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    It occured to me that even after going through higher education (even at ivy walled institutions) one can never learn how to dress their station. e.g. one can wear a suit and tie but still look like the security guard.

    I don't follow your example. You're saying one can't learn to dress better?
     
  6. Tomasso

    Tomasso Senior member

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    He may be saying that some people who are new to dressing well, will never quite seem comfortable in their clothes.
     
  7. stach

    stach Senior member

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    I know wealthy people that dress down to almost ridiculous extremes in order to blend in with the crowd. On second thought, they might be labeled as eccentric.
     
  8. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I don't follow your example. You're saying one can't learn to dress better?

    I don't think he means it can't be done, just that it's possible some do not.
     
  9. j

    j Senior member

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    I think he was saying that you can get all the way through a prestigious education and whatever apprenticeship process, and into a high-ranking position without ever ( knowing / being taught / knowing you don't know ) how to dress. They know how to follow a dress code, but they don't look any sharper or "richer" than anyone else.

    Why that would hinder someone coming up, I'm not exactly sure. It seems to me it makes it more valuable to know how to look your best, since by comparison you may pretty easily look sharper than some of the richest guys in your company. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the right dress is an advantage. Not necessarily the best quality, best looking, best made, most expensive, but the right dress for the occasion, audience, role, station, etc.
     
  10. cpac

    cpac Senior member

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    If the point is simply that one can get an ivy league education without learning how to dress well, that's certainly true. (Though both my fraternity and career services at Dartmouth offered education on the subject).

    But I don't think any further conclusions about social mobility, etc. are possible (at least w/r/t the US - I do understand that the UK has a more enduring sense of class divisions based on accent, etc.)
     
  11. Huntsman

    Huntsman Senior member

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    I may be missing the point here, but some people put a suit on, and some people wear a suit, and there is a big difference. As for how this relates to station, I have no idea. I'm poor, but I know darned well that when I am appropriately (and comfortably) attired and walk into a room full of suits, I can own the room. And I'm no Michael Douglas. Regards, Huntsman
     
  12. kitonbrioni

    kitonbrioni Senior member

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    Joan DeJean's book "The Essence of Style" she notes that during the Louis XIV period in the 17th century:
    "The French fashion industry reduced not ony geographical distance but social distance as well, just as happens today, when couturiers adapt their ideas for moderately priced lines and market them in midlevel stores. Before the mid-seventeenth century, fashion was the exclusive preserve of a few immensely wealthy nobles....
    The vast majority of the population had only simple clothing made from coarse homespun fabrics. ... As Paris became the world capital of style, fashion began to spread gradually through French society. ...
    When the fashion press began in the 1670s, it included coverage of men's clothing...." pp39-40
    http://whatareyouwearingtoday.blogspot.com/
     
  13. StevenRocks

    StevenRocks Senior member

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    Clothes can't make people classy, and clothes worn without regards to taste and appropriateness look horrible regardless of the wearer.
     
  14. TCN

    TCN Senior member

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    I didn't even mention Bill Gates in the same paragraph as my rags-to-riches comment, but merely used him as an example of how dress doesn't mean much of anything anymore in terms of being a member of the "social elite," whatever that means. Cash is cash.

    Very true. I had a meeting a few months back with a guy who happened to be on Forbes' list. We started talking about business casual and suits (he was dressed in nice trousers and a navy blazer, no tie), and he made the comment "suits are for worker bees". How times have changed huh?
     
  15. poorsod

    poorsod Senior member

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    I think he was saying that you can get all the way through a prestigious education and whatever apprenticeship process, and into a high-ranking position without ever ( knowing / being taught / knowing you don't know ) how to dress. They know how to follow a dress code, but they don't look any sharper or "richer" than anyone else.

    Why that would hinder someone coming up, I'm not exactly sure. It seems to me it makes it more valuable to know how to look your best, since by comparison you may pretty easily look sharper than some of the richest guys in your company. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the right dress is an advantage. Not necessarily the best quality, best looking, best made, most expensive, but the right dress for the occasion, audience, role, station, etc.


    Yes j has my point right. I didn't mean to be vague.

    The passage that got me thinking was on pg 177 of the Suit ". . .one way that the English upper class maintained the distinction between servant and served was by forcing the former to wear correct attire in incorrect combinations."

    I was wondering if this in a way holds true in America today because even well educated people are not taught how to dress and whether this labels you as a brahmin or as a pariah. Of course the very rich and very powerful can be exceptions because they can do whatever they like.
     
  16. Morris

    Morris Senior member

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    Yes j has my point right. I didn't mean to be vague.

    The passage that got me thinking was on pg 177 of the Suit ". . .one way that the English upper class maintained the distinction between servant and served was by forcing the former to wear correct attire in incorrect combinations."

    I was wondering if this in a way holds true in America today because even well educated people are not taught how to dress and whether this labels you as a brahmin or as a pariah. Of course the very rich and very powerful can be exceptions because they can do whatever they like.



    Ignorance is the root cause of poor dress (and most social evils) in the US. Higher education trains you for a particular vocation, and to some extent to be a more well rounded citizen.

    One can pick up the traits of dressing with style from exposure to those who possess those desired traits (spend time with well-turned out gentlemen or read this fora or AAAC) or more formally through study ... case in point, Manton's book, Roetzel, Flusser, et. al.
     
  17. Toiletduck

    Toiletduck Senior member

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    I believe in confidence
     
  18. j

    j Senior member

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    Is this like how we still assume anyone at a restaurant in a white shirt and black pants (or skirt) is part of the waitstaff? I haven't read this part of the book yet.
     
  19. Sator

    Sator Senior member

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    I may be missing the point here, but some people put a suit on, and some people wear a suit, and there is a big difference.

    I recall reading once that there is an old Italian saying that a man only looks good in a suit after it has been worn for three generations. I guess the first generation is the nouveau riche who orders the suit but somehow looks out of place in it. The second generation starts to feel a bit more comfortable in it and the third looks like he was born to wear it.
     
  20. whoopee

    whoopee Senior member

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    It seems one of the strongest held beliefs on SF is that the majority of all people, economically ascendent or not, do not learn to dress well. Real dress codes for speciifc stations, especially at the upper end, do not exist anymore. My experiences follow closely with zjpj's in this area.

    Part of the attitude of the upper classes before regarding clothes was that they would have the best, but if it looked a bit off and tattered, it didn;t matter. In fact it was desired as an affirmation of one's confidence in one's position. People are still somewhat the same. It's less "I'm a duke" and more "I could buy out everyone's ass in this room."
     

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