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

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

  1. 0b5cur1ty

    0b5cur1ty Senior member

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    Very interesting thread (one minor derailment aside).

    I have to say, in general, I agree with the OP's proposition. Not because of any preference for a 'lived-in look' (if you take care of your clothes and yourself, the former won't looked lived-in) but because a big wardrobe invites variety for varierty's sake. Having a small wardrobe, for whatever reason, forces you to conentrate on what you like and on what suits you. The results will generally be better.

    Typically, Parker got there before me:

    Too many options can lead to bad combos. I think the key to looking good as often as possible is to acquire things that can be mixed with most of your other things easily.

    I guess one could do this with a large wardrobe, but it would probably work better (or just as well) with a smaller one. This restrained approach narrows one's style identity, so probably won't work for those who are more experimental or like to express different identities.
     


  2. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    The lived-in vs. not lived-in debate mainly concerns the study of clothes through pictures. I think it's nonsense, to be honest.

    There's at least two ways to be well dressed. 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. People eventually note that you have all these different shoes and jackets and start to wonder why that's the case. You don't own the hobby and yet you have so many looks. Here I think too many clothes begins to make a person look like (a) he does not know who he is, and (b) he maybe cannot control his impulse to shop and spend. Neither thing is good. So yeah, if you are going for stealth style, keep the quantity small.

    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. You are a dandy. You can have all the clothing you want and that's not going to undermine your being well-dressed in any way.

    If your wardrobe is very large because you have a lot of crappy clothing, your problem is not that your wardrobe is too large. Your problem is that you have a lot of crappy clothing. Why are you keeping crappy clothing? Some things are not worth the rent you pay for an inch of closet rail.


    +1
     


  3. radicaldog

    radicaldog Senior member

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    I think that Barbera is a perfect example. He is almost the poster child of what I think radicaldog is talking about. Most of us like how he dresses today. He looks so dÃ[​IMG]shabillÃ[​IMG] in his clothes when photographed in The Sartorialist, right? So lived in. Perfect. - B
    Yes, pretty close. Not sure that age is a necessary condition for that look, though. I'm sure it can have a causal role, but it's not the only possible cause, if you see what I mean. Sorry for being a bit slow in catching up with the thread -- I didn't think it would get so many responses. Your little essay above strikes quite a few important notes. I'll read the replies now and I'll try and come up with a response of sorts soon.
     


  4. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    Grrrrrr!

    Even the most thoughtful of you conveniently ignore the living laboratory of the world around us, and the fake, small contained test tube that is WAYWRN.

    In both cases, clothes are "lived in" and male wardrobes are generally limited. There are more men with five pairs of dress shoes than one hundred. There are more men with three suits than thirty.

    Many of the ills of WAYRN are based in want, not plenty. Men who might not even have one good suit. Men who do not want to make an investment in a complete wardrobe, and then who seek variety through accessorization: ties, socks, squares. It is exactly the lack of depth in their basic wardrobe that is the problem. Sprezzatura comes out of WAYWRN sometimes like streamers out of a clown blunderbuss.

    Things are far worse in the wider world. Clothing among nearly every class was once valued, and was something one which one spent a bit of time. The whole modern notion of casualization...of which the widespread, trans-Italian spread of sprezzatura-by-OCD is merely one smiling, aristrocratic Bourbon tip...has really led to a overall drabbing down of men. A future that points to the Slanket.

    As I noted earlier, there is probably a workable midpoint which I think that Will described about as well as anyone. 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.

    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...


    - B
     


  5. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    Yes, pretty close. Not sure that age is a necessary condition for that look, though. I'm sure it can have a causal role, but it's not the only possible cause, if you see what I mean.

    Sorry for being a bit slow in catching up with the thread -- I didn't think it would get so many responses. Your little essay above strikes quite a few important notes. I'll read the replies now and I'll try and come up with a response of sorts soon.


    You started a great thread. Take your time.


    - B
     


  6. 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.
     


  7. 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.
     


  8. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon 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
     


  9. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon 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
     


  10. 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?
     


  11. 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.
     


  12. 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.
     


  13. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO 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.
     


  14. 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]
     


  15. 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?
     


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