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On why we like modernist chairs and houses, but classical clothes.

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by radicaldog, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. radicaldog

    radicaldog Senior member

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    Foo made an interesting observation that got a bit lost in his overcoat thread.


    It's an issue I've been pondering with little success for a while, and I don't really have much time to elaborate. Someone should.
     
  2. aravenel

    aravenel Senior member

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    Well... To be fair, I can't stand modernist furniture or housing, but I know I am the odd man out on this forum for that :)

    I can absolutely appreciate the modernist ethos of function over form and celebrating that... But at the end of the day, I want my house, or furniture, or whatever to be pleasing to the eye, and too much modernist architecture is not IMO--it's too severe and cold.

    I noticed this too, and it is a good topic for discussion. Hope this picks up.
     
  3. Claghorn

    Claghorn Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Oddly enough pB and I were pming about furniture and briefly touched on modern v. antique.
     
  4. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    I've noticed this split before, and wondered the same thing. Good topic for a thread; hope it takes off.

    Personally, I dislike modernist furniture & architecture and have little empathy with modernist art either, so I have little personal/practical to contribute to this thread. The thing is, it's all intellectually coherent, and I can understand its appeal on that level; searching for an objective "better" state is always a tempting pursuit. But I always think, "well, you've made it rational, but really, is that actually better?". My personal answer is often in the negative. Waste, excess, flowery deviation, tangential forays, ornamentation for its own sake, deliberate unfunctionality... these are terribly useful mechanisms for letting off a society's (and an individual's) steam. The need to be correct and to be better is tiring in its earnestness & endeavour; I prefer not to be tired.

    Anyway, as an outsider looking in on this topic, the obvious rationalisation for sticking with the basic forms of classical clothing (but paring it down) is that it is the practical least-worst compromise when viewed from the perspective of trying to stick to the principles of modernism while functioning in a society that does not implement them fully. It is the best compromise for functionality, if you like. That is not a truly modernist attitude to take, but the iconoclasm required to be fully modernist in dress would take one outside the realm of day-to-day acceptability in many jobs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  5. Ich_Dien

    Ich_Dien Senior member

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    A simple artistic theory shouldn't be applied to clothing, which is almost entirely a sociological phenomenon. The majority of clothing never has been or will be fully practical. Whilst modernism does touch on this, certainly Loos who has been mentioned elsewhere today, it is not practical for other reasons than style. Clothing has been since it's inception in civilised society a symbolic interface between the user and the viewer. Whilst style is integral to this interaction - it is not the simple basis of the interaction itself...clothing is not merely aesthetic - which is why a theory such as modernism doesn't fit.

    Clothing is better dealt with by with more sociological theories such as Iconography and Iconology as it involves the "viewer" just as much as the person wearing them. Clothing itself also has more inherent symbolic values than a simple artistic theory would permit, for it is itself a vehicle of expression - following Derrida it is logocentric. To paraphrase Gombrich all clothing is essentially Classical or Non-Classical, like Foo says, yet there is such a deeper meaning there it is too simplistic to talk about modernism.
     
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  6. Pierce R

    Pierce R Well-Known Member

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    Posted some pics of my place on the Cribs thread. I was a general contractor and did quite well in the housing boom.

    I have absolutely no interest in modern furnishings, with the exception of modern light bulbs. My wife and I refused to put stainless appliances in this house when we built it.

    I know we're not alone on this; our schtick when we were flipping was turning "modern" condos -- white carpet, white walls, rounded fixtures -- into "vintage" living spaces. Granted, this was 5-10 years ago but I think the sentiment still holds. Someplace I've got pics of our old remods, but basically we did the same thing in each: hardwood floors, smooth walls with a Tuscan-style faux finish, antique-look fixtures, plaster and mud ceilings, country kitchens with colored enamel appliances. I remember we had two couples in a bidding war over one of our units, while there was an identical floor plan available in the same building with no bids at the time. The difference was, the other unit was very modern. Granite counters and sinks, stainless appliances, dark wood floors, white walls, track lighting, and staged with modern furniture. That was "the look" back then -- still probably is now -- but we did very well by avoiding it. I know this is anecdotal but it was repeatable.

    Also this:

    "the iconoclasm required to be fully modernist in dress would take one outside the realm of day-to-day acceptability in many jobs."
     
  7. Longmorn

    Longmorn Senior member

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    For my part, I appreciate modern design, but greatly prefer an eclectic mix that builds on a foundation of Georgian/Regency/Directoire style elements. I find pure modernism too austere to be comfortable - better when it is balanced against more traditional or rustic style.

    I'm deeply puzzled by the argument that art is not a sociological phenomenon, but agree on the acceptability of pure modernist attire.
     
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  8. Ivar

    Ivar Senior member

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    I think many people feel similarly. In Europe, the most coveted residential buildings have long been the old Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau buildings of the Belle Époque. And the New-Urbanism inspired neighborhoods that have sprung up over the last decades are also very popular. These tendencies suggest to me that people's taste in architecture might actually run more conservative than their taste in clothing.
     
  9. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    One might argue that Brummell was a proto-modernist, stripping away the frippery to emphasize line and simplicity of form.

    Beyond that, modernism values function, at least in theory, and the case could be made that the classical form of men's clothes fulfills an important function -- projecting an aura of seriousness and competence -- that casual wear does not.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  10. aravenel

    aravenel Senior member

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    This is a great explanation of how I feel. The intellectual tyranny of much modernism--trying to be objectively *better*, whatever that means, at any cost--while a fun intellectual exercise, doesn't often yield things that I want to enjoy at the end of the day. It's fine for art if that's your cup of tea, though it's not mine. But I don't want to live in it, or look at it every day. I'd rather get enjoyment as well as function out of my living spaces and furniture, and I don't see anything wrong with something that is pleasing to the eye.

    Personally, I have also always been a big history buff, and I enjoy the history of many different architecture and furniture styles, so that's another vote against modernism for me.

    Also agree that pure function is not the purpose of clothing. Certainly it is in some types--mountaineering clothing for instance. But that's not what we are talking about. Clothing as iconography is probably a pretty apt descriptor I would say, and in that light, maintaining the appearance that projects the image you want to is important.
     
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  11. Lovelace

    Lovelace Senior member

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    "there should be no features about a building which are not necessary for convenience, construction, or propriety"

    "all ornament should consist of enrichment of the essential construction of the building"

    A.W. Pugin.

    Interior of Pugin's St Giles Church.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Lovelace

    Lovelace Senior member

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    One might argue that Brummell was a proto-modernist, stripping away the frippery to emphasize line and simplicity of form.


    Dozens of rejected starched muslin cravats does not to me suggest the absence of frippery. Quite the contrary.

    There is a puritanical streak in Brummell's dress though, if not in his rakish behaviour.
     
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  13. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    Classic Menswear as we refer to it is about as old as modern furniture. The first modernist chair that I am aware of is the coffee house chair by Thonet designed in 1859. That is about the same time period as the origins of the lounge suit and 30 years prior to the tail-less dinner jacket.
     
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  14. bboysdontcryy

    bboysdontcryy Senior member

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    I think that not everybody is taken by modernist furniture, though I can appreciate the function over form argument. Somehow, being a history buff, I find fulfillment in opening my colonial chest of drawers and letting my imagination run, and sitting back against an antique chair with a good book.
     
  15. comrade

    comrade Senior member

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    Hmmm. I hate modernist furniture, but love very traditional classical menswear.
    Nevertheless, I own a set of eight Thonet Chairs that are well over one hundred years old.
    Go figure.
     
  16. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    So unless you hate your Thonet chairs....
     
  17. comrade

    comrade Senior member

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    I never considered them modernist, although in their day they were very
    advanced technologically- bent wood. Mine belong to the Art Nouveau
    era or, more properly, the Vienna Secession of the late 19th century.
    For me "modernism" began with Bauhaus and the parallel Art Deco.
    The former unornamented spare lines, the latter more onamented
    angular lines.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  18. Sander

    Sander Senior member

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    And that is exactly why this is a topic. Why do you (we) appreciate function over form argument in architecture/design but not in clothing? Overalls would be a lot more functional than suits, ties, pocketsquares...
     
  19. sugarbutch

    sugarbutch Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    What make overalls more functional than a suit?
     
  20. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    Thonet is the manufacturer of those chairs and always has been, from their website:

    The famous coffee house chair is an icon and considered the most successful mass produced product in the world to date: it initiated the history of modern furniture. The basis was a new technique - the bending of solid wood - that Michael Thonet developed and perfected during the 1850s and it was the first time serial furniture production was possible. Added was an ingenious distribution model: 36 disassembled chairs could be packed into a one cubic meter box, shipped throughout the world, and then assembled on site. With its clear, reduced aesthetics this classic has been placed in the most diverse environments for more than 150 years. It is produced in our Frankenberg facility.
     

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