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English clothing reactions

Film Noir Buff

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What is most interesting about the English sense of style for tailored clothes is that in theory it should be very simple and straightforward but in practice it is very complex. I have mentioned that there is a desire to be very different from one's neighbor but all within a very strict set of color and patterns. On the surface, the English seem to agree that it has a common language but when it comes to actual choices there is a lot of judgment about good and bad taste. This illustrates that every Englishman's style is relative and that though there is agreement that a national standard exists, no one really believes that anyone else represents it; not even their best clothing shops. The shops themselves often believe that other long standing English shops are not necessarily tastefully English and this is not only a matter of commercial competitiveness. I say this because many English shop workers or people in the business of manufacturing accessories have a different favorite shop where they themselves buy things which are their England and none other will do. For example someone working in a cufflink store will buy their shirts from a shop which to them is the only place on the island still making that "Traditional" English shirt. Another man who makes neckties or even weaves the silk for them will swear up and down by another shirt shop as the very "best" England has to offer. None of these men are lying and none of them is mistaken, they simply operate within their preferred part of the pond. Even the white rabbit had his waistcoat made in specific shop and he will believe it to be the best. Could it be any other way? Would you want someone to shop where he believes it to all be second best? Aside from their acknowledgment of the most abstract of common details, black shoes, darkest suits, bold or pale shirts and dark ties, the only people who can see the continuity of English style are outsiders who care to register it. For instance, the colors that the English all choose seem to be on the same part of the spectrum. The English cannot see that Turnbull, Harvie and Hudson, Duchamp and Paul Smith all share the same family of collar styles, tie weights, color combination. To them, each one of these shops is a polar opposite. I wanted people to understand that although outsiders would see little break in the continuity between the furnishings sold in the above mentioned shops, the English see a chasm. When it comes to clothes, the English see details that other cultures take for granted. This may be a little hard to follow and thus an example. Let's look at Harvie and Hudson. Ask one Englishman and it's a young person's store, ask another and it's a more mature store, ask yet another and it's City lad, yet another Englishman will tell you it's primarily for barristers, mandarins etc.. Even in the shop itself, the owner will pair certain shirts and ties with certain shirts which will be completely different from those his younger assistant (also well steeped in the Harvie philosophy) will choose. The owner will tell you his choices are traditional and the energetic assistant will be happy to admit his choices are "Mad", even unique but what they don't realize is they are all part of the maelstrom of English style which rages constantly but is nevertheless contained within the "tea cup" dimensions of the island. The English do admit that they're trying to impress each other and not outsiders. In Manhattan there is too much interference from different designers to produce a single universal style with a myriad of eccentric sub variants. In England, there is this atmosphere of a greater "us" but it is at odds with the need to be personally different, different enough to claim that any particular combination of shirt, suit and tie is not English even when they know deep down that it is in fact recognizable. However for the system in England to work, the details had to be settled for the eccentricity to begin. No doubt this explains standardization in items such as collar styles, tie lining thicknesses, cuts of suit. To stand out you must choose from the same ingredients table and show people what you can do with it. Americans haven't had that for a while, perhaps when the single voice of Esquire reigned supreme but not since the sexual revolution and the designers took hold. When the English know an item of clothes or a style combination is English there will be less of a fussy reaction (Even if they personally don't like it) vs. immediately refusing something as non-English. This is an involuntary response. In a similar way an American believing he is speaking to another American will catch that one trace of foreign accent that will forever change his viewpoint of the speaker as non American. Russel Crowe plays a city lad in the film "A Good Year" and on his way up an escalator he tells someone perfectly well dressed that he loves his tie, then adding the smart alleck remark "My compliments on your mother's taste". The concentric circles of style are small in England and keep narrowing until there exists a circle of one. Here is the man saying hello to Russel Crowe's character:
And Mr. Crowe turning to give the man a verbal slap:
 

Kingstonian

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FNB,

Hello on this forum.

I think you are generalising about 'the English'. Dark suits and black shoes in the City ? Yes. Favourite shops - Harvie and Hudson versus Turnbull and Asser ? Most Englishmen could not care less. They probably do not know the shops anyway. They ain't that well dressed to begin with.

My litmus test is looking at shoes when I get off at Bank Tube station. They are usually complete and utter rubbish. A pair of well-maintained, but modestly-priced Loakes would mean you are better shod than 95% of those around you.
 

dopey

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Originally Posted by Film Noir Buff
What is most interesting about the English sense of style for tailored clothes is that in theory it should be very simple and straightforward but in practice it is very complex. I have mentioned that there is a desire to be very different from one's neighbor but all within a very strict set of color and patterns.

On the surface, the English seem to agree that it has a common language but when it comes to actual choices there is a lot of judgment about good and bad taste. This illustrates that every Englishman's style is relative and that though there is agreement that a national standard exists, no one really believes that anyone else represents it; not even their best clothing shops. The shops themselves often believe that other long standing English shops are not necessarily tastefully English and this is not only a matter of commercial competitiveness.

I say this because many English shop workers or people in the business of manufacturing accessories have a different favorite shop where they themselves buy things which are their England and none other will do. For example someone working in a cufflink store will buy their shirts from a shop which to them is the only place on the island still making that "Traditional" English shirt. Another man who makes neckties or even weaves the silk for them will swear up and down by another shirt shop as the very "best" England has to offer. None of these men are lying and none of them is mistaken, they simply operate within their preferred part of the pond. Even the white rabbit had his waistcoat made in specific shop and he will believe it to be the best. Could it be any other way? Would you want someone to shop where he believes it to all be second best?

Aside from their acknowledgment of the most abstract of common details, black shoes, darkest suits, bold or pale shirts and dark ties, the only people who can see the continuity of English style are outsiders who care to register it. For instance, the colors that the English all choose seem to be on the same part of the spectrum. The English cannot see that Turnbull, Harvie and Hudson, Duchamp and Paul Smith all share the same family of collar styles, tie weights, color combination. To them, each one of these shops is a polar opposite. I wanted people to understand that although outsiders would see little break in the continuity between the furnishings sold in the above mentioned shops, the English see a chasm. When it comes to clothes, the English see details that other cultures take for granted.

This may be a little hard to follow and thus an example. Let's look at Harvie and Hudson. Ask one Englishman and it's a young person's store, ask another and it's a more mature store, ask yet another and it's City lad, yet another Englishman will tell you it's primarily for barristers, mandarins etc.. Even in the shop itself, the owner will pair certain shirts and ties with certain shirts which will be completely different from those his younger assistant (also well steeped in the Harvie philosophy) will choose. The owner will tell you his choices are traditional and the energetic assistant will be happy to admit his choices are "Mad", even unique but what they don't realize is they are all part of the maelstrom of English style which rages constantly but is nevertheless contained within the "tea cup" dimensions of the island.

The English do admit that they're trying to impress each other and not outsiders. In Manhattan there is too much interference from different designers to produce a single universal style with a myriad of eccentric sub variants.

In England, there is this atmosphere of a greater "us" but it is at odds with the need to be personally different, different enough to claim that any particular combination of shirt, suit and tie is not English even when they know deep down that it is in fact recognizable. However for the system in England to work, the details had to be settled for the eccentricity to begin. No doubt this explains standardization in items such as collar styles, tie lining thicknesses, cuts of suit. To stand out you must choose from the same ingredients table and show people what you can do with it.

Americans haven't had that for a while, perhaps when the single voice of Esquire reigned supreme but not since the sexual revolution and the designers took hold.

When the English know an item of clothes or a style combination is English there will be less of a fussy reaction (Even if they personally don't like it) vs. immediately refusing something as non-English. This is an involuntary response. In a similar way an American believing he is speaking to another American will catch that one trace of foreign accent that will forever change his viewpoint of the speaker as non American.



Russel Crowe plays a city lad in the film "A Good Year" and on his way up an escalator he tells someone perfectly well dressed that he loves his tie, then adding the smart alleck remark "My compliments on your mother's taste". The concentric circles of style are small in England and keep narrowing until there exists a circle of one.

Here is the man saying hello to Russel Crowe's character:



And Mr. Crowe turning to give the man a verbal slap:




I am really not sure about this one as I haven't read the OP. So I am putting in a "?" and asking for a ruling from the booth.
 

Manton

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Originally Posted by dopey

I am really not sure about this one as I haven't read the OP. So I am putting in a "?" and asking for a ruling from the booth.


I didn't read it either, but I gave up flagging the mentions when they reached >50 per day.
 

EuropeanInterloper Redux

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I'm confused. Who is this "the English" you're referring to? A massive hive mind of some sort? When you got one of them to admit that he dresses for other Englishmen, not outsiders, did he also tell you that "resistance was futile?"

I'm sorry, but you take some fairly vague concepts and act as if they're concrete.

EI

Bred in London, Wot?
 

Film Noir Buff

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Originally Posted by Kingstonian
FNB, Hello on this forum. I think you are generalising about 'the English'. Dark suits and black shoes in the City ? Yes. Favourite shops - Harvie and Hudson versus Turnbull and Asser ? Most Englishmen could not care less. They probably do not know the shops anyway. They ain't that well dressed to begin with. My litmus test is looking at shoes when I get off at Bank Tube station. They are usually complete and utter rubbish. A pair of well-maintained, but modestly-priced Loakes would mean you are better shod than 95% of those around you.
Most may not care less, most may not know the shops, most may not be well dressed but we are talking about reactions to clothes which are not necessarily worn by them. Most Americans are not well dressed either but still recognize someone who is and at some level of generality (probably broader than that for the English) they recognize who is wearing an American style vs a foreign one. If it makes you feel any better, shoes on men in the US are often pretty bad as well.
 

tlmusic

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Originally Posted by Film Noir Buff
Most Americans are not well dressed either but still recognize someone who is and at some level of generality (probably broader than that for the English) they recognize who is wearing an American style vs a foreign one. If it makes you feel any better, shoes on men in the US are often pretty bad as well.
It is interesting what things North Americans gravitate toward and English businessmen shun. Americans like brown shoes, white shirts, loud busy print ties etc. However, if an American were to adopt a "City Lad" outfit (navy chalkstripe suit, blue and pink bengal stripe shirt, blue spot tie, and black punch caps, with Savile Row cuts) would an American register that this is a "foreign" look? In 99.99% percent of the cases, I would think not. Why? Different cultures have their own posture, movements, and general attitude. Just wearing a culture's clothing does not convey the look of that culture. At a party last year, I was sitting on the back porch at a Brazilian friend's house. A woman at the table (also Brazilian) noticed another person had pulled up and was taking some stuff out of his car. She commented "who is that? He's definately not Brazialian, I can tell by the way he moves." The reason I mention this is that everyone was wearing typical US super casual attire. He was a bass player friend of mine, who is about as Midwestern in manner as one could get. So FNB, why not study the expressions, movements and posture of the English while they wear their outfits, if you really want to dig deep?
 

Britalian

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Originally Posted by RJmanbearpig
What is a City Lad?

Maybe a chap who works in finance of some sort in The City - the Square Mile; London's financial district?
 

EnglishGent

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What a load of bollocks.
 

RJmanbearpig

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Originally Posted by Britalian
Maybe a chap who works in finance of some sort in The City - the Square Mile; London's financial district?

I've heard of City Boys, and I've heard of Lads, but not of some sort of combination of the two.
 

gorgekko

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Yeah, I hate Manton too :)

Wait, did FNB actually post something that made sense this time?
 

EnglishGent

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It makes no sense at all.
 

Douglas

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FNB's prose is impenetrable. The French should have built the Maginot line from it. Men going to war could make chastity belts for their wives from it.
 

Film Noir Buff

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Originally Posted by tlmusic
It is interesting what things North Americans gravitate toward and English businessmen shun. Americans like brown shoes, white shirts, loud busy print ties etc. However, if an American were to adopt a "City Lad" outfit (navy chalkstripe suit, blue and pink bengal stripe shirt, blue spot tie, and black punch caps, with Savile Row cuts) would an American register that this is a "foreign" look? In 99.99% percent of the cases, I would think not. Why? Different cultures have their own posture, movements, and general attitude. Just wearing a culture's clothing does not convey the look of that culture.
You are right, the combination or ensemble itself wouldn't necessarily trigger a reaction from an American for several reasons. An American wouldn't generally be as conscious of foreigners as the English would be. The English have a more concentrated sense of their cultural choices than we do and therefore tend to have a clearer sense of other people's differences. Also, wearing English things and combinations is somewhat "East coast" so it wouldn't be that shocking. I think the cut of the suit, maybe certain details like hacking pockets etc. would send signals. I also think posture plays a part and I do touch on that. I think it can all be important; the cultural element would be fascinating as well as the things the English do wrong with clothes. One of the reasons for studying another culture is to understand what they are trying to accomplish. Clothing has a language within and between cultures. The more you can decipher the messages that items and ensembles send, I think the more personal power you have to present yourself in the manner that you want.
Originally Posted by tlmusic
So FNB, why not study the expressions, movements and posture of the English while they wear their outfits, if you really want to dig deep?
 

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