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

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

  1. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    So unless you hate your Thonet chairs....
     


  2. 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


  3. 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...
     


  4. sugarbutch

    sugarbutch Bearded Prick Dubiously Honored

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    What make overalls more functional than a suit?
     


  5. 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.
     


  6. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    I offered an answer to this. Modernism can be understood as a cost-benefit analysis. Function is not merely physical. We don't ditch Corinthian columns because they are completely without function. Sure, we do not need them for structural support and they block both space and light, but they still have a cultural meaning and convey a message. We ditch them because building materials and techniques have progressed so far that it is worthwhile to do so, even sacrificing their cultural, communicative function. The modernist hopes that showing off new materials and technology in the process of optimizing physical functionality will create a new cultural message in place of what columns once conveyed.

    I argue the cost-benefit analysis is not nearly so clear when it comes to clothes. Technology has not provided us with superior enough, cheap enough solutions that make it worthwhile to sacrifice the language of classic menswear. A suit and tie say something very powerfully. Alternatives created with more modern technology do not offer enough superiority in physical function (if any) for us to invest in a new language.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013


  7. YRR92

    YRR92 Senior member

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    I gotta agree -- anybody who thinks overalls are more functional than a suit hasn't worn very many overalls.

    If you ask me, I think quite a bit of the connection between modernist furniture and classic menswear has to do with SkinnyGoomba's point -- they are, after all, contemporaries. The two aesthetics, after all, worked together. I mean, if you look at post-Renaissance European luxury goods, there's an aesthetic commonality with the whole powdered-wig knee breeches silk brocade business. Similarly, the Modernist period I think of when we talk about furniture and decorative objects (the late '20s through to let's say the late '60s) also coincides with the era where most men wore coat and tie.

    Admittedly, wearing "classic menswear" wasn't a true aesthetic choice for those men, since it was the default, but I think there's some significance in the fact that the people designing most of the furniture we look at as "modern" were dressing within broadly the same aesthetic as we are.

    Actually, it struck me today that the more I learn about art history, the better I become at dressing. That may be coincidental.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013


  8. Lovelace

    Lovelace Senior member

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    Consider where overalls are worn.

    Try working on a piece of machinery in a 3 piece suit.
     


  9. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    Overalls do offer some functional superiority over a suit, though. They are much easier to put on and exponentially cheaper to make.

    But that's a side point. I am just emphasizing that one must be careful of defining function too narrowly in this sort of analysis. The reason why overalls shouldn't replace suits is not because overalls are without any physical or material advantage, but because they do not function better in the net. Like I said in my post above, a suit conveys a powerful cultural message. That is part of its functional value.
     
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  10. YRR92

    YRR92 Senior member

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    Obviously, but I assumed Sander was referring to day-to-day wear, where I'd much rather be wearing something with a separate shirt, trousers, and jacket.
     


  11. mcbrown

    mcbrown Senior member

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    Well, let's not overstate things. "Classical" men's clothing is not that old, and "modernist" design (as it may be popularly understood) is not that young. Certainly there was a not insignificant period of overlap in the evolution of each. There is no inherent contradiction here.

    Even if there is an apparent contradiction, so what? For most of us there is no absolutism in aesthetic preferences. I like antique furniture at my 1800's farm house, and I like more modern furniture at my 1960's apartment. There is no such thing as my "true" aesthetic preference - context matters.

    Edit: I see SkinnyGoomba beat me to the punch on the age thing.
     
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  12. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    The age of each movement is irrelevant. Regardless of age, there appears to be dissonance between their fundamental principles. It's a conceptual issue, not a chronological one. That's what we should be debating. On the surface, one appears to be about function over form, while the other appears to be about form over function.

    In truth, they are both about function over form--when you define function as broadly as you should.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013


  13. Lovelace

    Lovelace Senior member

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    Well, Corinthian columns were originally used for structural support or else how would you have supported the entablature?

    I posted a picture earlier on of the interior of a church designed by Pugin. Not minimalist is it.?

    Pugin believed in architectural honesty., that the design of a building should be based on its purpose. Adherence to one corner of the Vetruvian triad.
     


  14. mcbrown

    mcbrown Senior member

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    I agree with this. I don't actually see what there is to "debate" here. I see no conflict to be resolved.
     


  15. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    I'm not sure what point you're making.

    Yes, columns were once necessary for structural support. But we have continued to use them for a long time since. Modernists oppose them because they have outlived their cumulative, functional value to us--not because they have absolutely zero value.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013


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