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If your wardrobe is too large, you end up looking worse.

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by radicaldog, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. radicaldog

    radicaldog Senior member

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    OK, thanks for all the responses. Here's a slightly different way of putting (one aspect of) the general point. Unless one is a dandy (good point, Dewey), one wants to look like one dresses because he is socially required to do so. I don't mean to say that we are all closet nudists, but simply that dressing should come across as a somewhat mundane activity, rather than as one's hobby. Having a great deal of clothes and always looking super sharp doesn't help in that respect.

    Reply: what if I have a good valet, who presses and brushes all my clothes and shines my shoes etc.? Well, the fact is that the sort of aesthetic of neatness belongs to an era when most men who could afford to care about clothes could also afford a valet, or domestic help of some sort. For better or worse, we don't live in that era any more, so if one looks like they do, then there will be something strident in their appearance. They just won't blend into their surroundings very well.

    Finally, let me restate my original point. Achieving the same range of versatility with a smaller number of garments is only possible with a superior control of the language of dressing. It's like when you write an essay. You start by scribbling down some thoughts. Then you cash out all the detail, but usually your argument has to get longer before it can get shorter, i.e. before it can reach its ideal size. So chances are that any given ensemble created with the smaller wardrobe will be better than the equivalent ensemble created with the bigger wardrobe -- just like any given sentence in the shorter essay is likely to be better than any given sentence in the longer, unedited essay.
     
  2. sifl

    sifl Well-Known Member

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    A man can derive pleasure from owning and wearing a lot of different garments, without identifying himself with or conveying the attitude of a "dandy". To each his own, some people like consistency and giving to others a well thought-out and precisely crafted image of themselves. Others prefer a lot of variety, buying and wearing garments that they simply happen to like (which can add up to a large wardrobe), without much consideration for consistency of said image. Nothing reprehensible or misguided with either approach.
     
  3. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Senior member

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    I'm not going to go in order...

    Finally, let me restate my original point. Achieving the same range of versatility with a smaller number of garments is only possible with a superior control of the language of dressing.

    Since your point begins with assuming that "the same range of versatility " is achieved with a "smaller number of garments," I cannot but accept that this means the person has exercised "superior control of the language of dressing."

    How would you feel if I rephrased it, though?

    "Finally, let me rephrase your point. Achieving an even greater range of versatility with a larger number of garments is only possible with a superior control of the language of dressing."

    Also, what would you think if someone said that there isn't a language of dressing, but languages?

    OK, thanks for all the responses. Here's a slightly different way of putting (one aspect of) the general point. Unless one is a dandy (good point, Dewey), one wants to look like one dresses because he is socially required to do so. I don't mean to say that we are all closet nudists, but simply that dressing should come across as a somewhat mundane activity, rather than as one's hobby. Having a great deal of clothes and always looking super sharp doesn't help in that respect.

    No, I guess it does not. The best way to fit in in Boston these days is not to wear tie, or even a jacket. Suits are right out unless you are in a niche industry. The best way to fit in most of those niche industries where one wears a jacket and tie is to arrive in both, and then take off one's jacket for most of the day. We're all hard at work, ya know.

    In other words, tailored clothing in daily life is largely dead.

    Will you join me, then, in a polo shirt and chino look, even in the dead of winter? Kenneth Cole shoes?

    I am quite serious about this...and this is in what once was thought to be the most sartorially conservative city in America. I suppose New York is now.

    I'm not prepared to give it up quite yet.

    For better or worse, we don't live in that era any more, so if one looks like they do, then there will be something strident in their appearance. They just won't blend into their surroundings very well.

    See above.

    Reply: what if I have a good valet, who presses and brushes all my clothes and shines my shoes etc.? Well, the fact is that the sort of aesthetic of neatness belongs to an era when most men who could afford to care about clothes could also afford a valet, or domestic help of some sort.

    This is true, although commerical laundries sort of fufill this purpose. And, not only the rich were neat their appearence before the 1960s.

    It's like when you write an essay. You start by scribbling down some thoughts. Then you cash out all the detail, but usually your argument has to get longer before it can get shorter, i.e. before it can reach its ideal size. So chances are that any given ensemble created with the smaller wardrobe will be better than the equivalent ensemble created with the bigger wardrobe -- just like any given sentence in the shorter essay is likely to be better than any given sentence in the longer, unedited essay.

    All Hemingway, all the time? No Joyce? Really? [​IMG]



    - B
     
  4. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Senior member

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    A man can derive pleasure from owning and wearing a lot of different garments, without identifying himself with or conveying the attitude of a "dandy". To each his own, some people like consistency and giving to others a well thought-out and precisely crafted image of themselves. Others prefer a lot of variety, buying and wearing garments that they simply happen to like (which can add up to a large wardrobe), without much consideration for consistency of said image. Nothing reprehensible or misguided with either approach.

    Wow. Did you have a cup of coffee or something?


    - B
     
  5. sifl

    sifl Well-Known Member

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    Wow. Did you have a cup of coffee or something?


    - B


    What are you meaning Mr Vox?
     
  6. Dewey

    Dewey Senior member

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    And if you are...what was it? a dandy?..."Look at me, I enjoy life a great deal!" I guess in that case: you're f*cked. Better add that addition to your house...
    dude, that's you. there's nothing you don't do, and do well, as you show us with all your pictures. no shame in that at all. i used the word "dandy" in the same sense that manton does in his book. if you are not a dandy, nobody is. no shame in being a dandy. no slight meant at all. it's a term for the clothing hobbyist. often these guys are into a wide range of material hobbies: watches, cars, places been, meals eaten, women laid, physical accomplishments like mountains climbed, marathons run, etc. it's a way of life and it's a good one. not one that every repressed catholic or hardscrabble drudge appreciates, but there's no lifestyle that everyone appreciates.
     
  7. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Here's the thing: "Lived in" doesn't have to equal "tatty" any more than "traditional American style" needs to equal "shlubby." Personally, I don't want to look like I had to buy my clothes for a day's outing.

    If you have so many shoes that they never develop a nice patina, that is a shame.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Bottom-line: clothing hobbyism and style are not the same thing.

    In my estimation, WAWRN suffers from too much hobbyism: members are collecting clothes at a rate that far outpaces their ability to tastefully choose and wear them. That's not to say that you can't dress well and have a large, diversified wardrobe, just that it's very easy to pursue that goal at the expense of developing better style and taste.

    I know myself and know how easy it is for me to get lost in a collecting frenzy. I also know that I've had very little time to develop my taste. Thus, for me, it makes the most sense to move slowly and discipline myself. I'm not sure if that's helped me dress better, but it's certainly done wonders for my sanity and psychological comfort. Now, I feel very little pressure to expand or keep up and I'm absolutely content moving at my own pace.

    Perhaps I'll speed up and allow my appetite to run more free in the future, but I'm hoping that's never necessary.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. radicaldog

    radicaldog Senior member

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    All Hemingway, all the time? No Joyce? Really? [​IMG]




    Well, Joyce was a literary dandy, so to speak [​IMG]
     
  10. Flambeur

    Flambeur Senior member

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    Wow. Did you have a cup of coffee or something?


    - B


    Are you conversing with your own sockpuppet?
     
  11. JayJay

    JayJay Senior member

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    About ten suits and jackets per season for a basic working wardrobe in which a man wears tailored clothes throughout the week. That is not a giant wardrobe: that is a basic one. If you are favored living in a climate that has but one or two seasons, then you might have chance at a wardrobe of ten to twenty items...one or two of which you will replace every year. If you live where there are real summers, falls, winters, and springs...well, Mother Nature has condemned you to a bigger closet. Thirty or bust.



    - B

    This.
     
  12. srivats

    srivats Senior member

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    If you have so many shoes that they never develop a nice patina, that is a shame.

    Well said, and very true.

    Bottom-line: clothing hobbyism and style are not the same thing.

    In my estimation, WAWRN suffers from too much hobbyism: members are collecting clothes at a rate that far outpaces their ability to tastefully choose and wear them. That's not to say that you can't dress well and have a large, diversified wardrobe, just that it's very easy to pursue that goal at the expense of developing better style and taste.


    You hit the nail on the head.
     
  13. radicaldog

    radicaldog Senior member

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    I'm not going to go in order...



    Since your point begins with assuming that "the same range of versatility " is achieved with a "smaller number of garments," I cannot but accept that this means the person has exercised "superior control of the language of dressing."

    How would you feel if I rephrased it, though?

    "Finally, let me rephrase your point. Achieving an even greater range of versatility with a larger number of garments is only possible with a superior control of the language of dressing."

    Also, what would you think if someone said that there isn't a language of dressing, but languages?


    I'm not sure I get your point. Keep the range of versatility and the level of appropriateness of each outfit constant, and change the number of garments.

    As for there being many languages, I guess we are talking about the language of classic male clothing.

    No, I guess it does not. The best way to fit in in Boston these days is not to wear tie, or even a jacket. Suits are right out unless you are in a niche industry. The best way to fit in most of those niche industries where one wears a jacket and tie is to arrive in both, and then take off one's jacket for most of the day. We're all hard at work, ya know.

    In other words, tailored clothing in daily life is largely dead.

    Will you join me, then, in a polo shirt and chino look, even in the dead of winter? Kenneth Cole shoes?

    I am quite serious about this...and this is in what once was thought to be the most sartorially conservative city in America. I suppose New York is now.

    I'm not prepared to give it up quite yet.


    Fair enough. I made a similar point a while back on an influential Italian style site (noveporte.it). There is a paradox in classic clothing: you're supposed to blend in with your surroundings, and you're also supposed to keep to a certain dress code, but in the present world the two things are largely incompatible. I think the strategy that comes closest to a solution of that paradox is to dress classically in a relatively inconspicuous way -- avoid pocket squares most of the time, etc. The point is not to maximise one's ability to fit in (e.g. by not wearing a coat etc.), but rather to not stand out too much. Vague, I know, but probably true.


    This is true, although commerical laundries sort of fufill this purpose. And, not only the rich were neat their appearance before the 1960s.


    My grandparents certainly weren't rich, but they had two live-in servants well into the 1950's (that was in Italy, though). The point is that back in the day it was normal to try to look like those who had plenty of valets, so if actually had all that domestic help you wouldn't look out of place. Having everything commercially pressed very often is quite bizarre, and inconvenient. That's why always looking like one's clothes just came out of the laundry is not ideal.
     
  14. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Senior member

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    Here's the thing: "Lived in" doesn't have to equal "tatty" any more than "traditional American style" needs to equal "shlubby." Personally, I don't want to look like I had to buy my clothes for a day's outing.

    If it were anyone else, I would sum that up as contentless. Do you mean "lived in" as I described it earlier...as something left a bit unkempt, in the country and academic way. Or are you actually among those who assert that there is something functionally different in appearence in a jacket that is five years old than one that is one?

    I am addressing this directly because it is a pillar of SF orthodoxy, but when you look at photogrpahic examples, the numbers are almost always old dapper guys in the close made to fit them when they were younger, or, men in a mild state of dishevelment.

    For example, you are never in that state...you're always quite crisp. (Don't take that too hard.)

    If you have so many shoes that they never develop a nice patina, that is a shame.

    Patina is a new-fangled concept, and its usage for city clothes is a recent association with the brown shoe.

    - B
     
  15. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    "Finally, let me rephrase your point. Achieving an even greater range of versatility with a larger number of garments is only possible with a superior control of the language of dressing."

    Possible, yes--but desirable? I'm less sure. I think it's worth considering the notion that, ultimately, we each have a very little to say stylistically, and we each might be better off learning how to communicate a single message with increasing clarity and persuasiveness than trying to spread other messages. It's interesting that many of the men widely acknowledged to be amongst the world's best dressed appear to possess very narrow aesthetic preferences, as expressed in very eccentric, focused personal styles. Sure, we can look through any man's past to find dalliances and divergences, but, at the end, we still tend to know them for a particular look.

    My guess is that diversity and quantity can be excellent methods of experimentation, which may lead to a better end result, but the end result may be neither diverse nor great in quantity.

    Also, what would you think if someone said that there isn't a language of dressing, but languages?

    I'd agree, but I'd point out that it is a very rare individual who can speak more than one language beautifully. I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time communicating in the one I was born with.
     
  16. james_timothy

    james_timothy Senior member

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    First, the "style without effort" way.

    You study clothes and lurk on internet fora but this is a big secret that you keep from your friends and co-workers. If this is the case, when you enlarge your clothing rotation beyond the usual (for your friends and co-workers), that betrays your effort.

    If your goal is "Look at me, I know how to enjoy life a great deal," then having great clothes is just another way you show this.


    Rhetoric. On the one hand, the the pathetic internet watchers. On the other, those of us who are living gods. Which shall I pick?

    Thus, I shall ignore your real point.
     
  17. Tarmac

    Tarmac Senior member

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    I disagree with the OP but I do think that it's weird to want to be the guy who is known to have a ton of clothes. There are some fellow students at my school who are obviously overly clothes-conscious to the point of looking fussy. I don't want to be like them.

    On the other hand, if a man is 40 or 50 years old and buys high-quality items of clothing somewhat regularly, he should have accumulated quite a bit over time.

    What I don't understand is people with tons of $300 Japanese repro denim, all bought in the last 2 years. I am a total hoarder of stuff, but I have no need for more than 2 pairs of jeans in rotation, and 2 or 3 older pair which are well-worn. 10x pairs of brand new crispy selvage chaninstitched $350 straightleg jeans from Self Edge - I don't get it.
     
  18. TC (Houston)

    TC (Houston) Senior member

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    Great thread. Keep it coming.
     
  19. hendrix

    hendrix Senior member

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    The "lived in" thing bullshit. You wanna look less put-together? Don't wear an ascot or anything costumey. And don't match your pocket square to your tie. etc.

    I think the real issue is the thing Mafoofan often alludes to. People choosing to wear clothes that they like, rather than what actually looks good on them. They also are more inclined to dress inappropriately.

    For example, straight leg jeans and a white t-shirt looks frikken awesome in a casual setting, but you only have to look through the WAYWRN thread to see that very few of the S&D guys do this, and even if they do, they'll try to spice it up with some crazy boots or something.
     
  20. srivats

    srivats Senior member

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    What I don't understand is people with tons of $300 Japanese repro denim, all bought in the last 2 years. I am a total hoarder of stuff, but I have no need for more than 2 pairs of jeans in rotation, and 2 or 3 older pair which are well-worn. 10x pairs of brand new crispy selvage chaninstitched $350 straightleg jeans from Self Edge - I don't get it.

    Most people outside SF think the same about 10 pairs for $300+ shoes.
     

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