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whnay.'s good taste thread

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Manton, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. Cantabrigian

    Cantabrigian Senior member

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    Just for kicks, could someone photoshop a cream square here. Extra points for poofed / :foo:-folded, if that's even possible.

    [​IMG]

    I'm having a tough time picturing it.
     
  2. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Finally, something worth discussing!

    Mike, if I understand you, I think we agree that good taste is not defined by the frequency of empirical incidence. To distill, it sounds like you are saying: (1) since there is no way to logically deduce the ugliness or beauty of a thing or combination of things, (2) we are forced to rely on various "authorities" (great dressers of the past) as examples of taste, and (3) therefore, if many such "authorities" have ascribed to a certain practice, we might as well assume it is in good taste. Please feel free to clarify any of these steps if I've missed something.

    I agree with your premise that one cannot deduce ugliness or beauty. However, I disagree that we may only induce aesthetic conclusions from historical authorities. You also have at your disposal the wealth of your own contemporaneous observations--through real life, magazines, pictures of random internet people, etc. Then, through a process of iterating various theses as to why some things look better than others, you can get closer and closer to a conclusion or "rule" that best distinguishes the good from the bad. The better the fit of the rule, the fewer the outliers. You can then give the outliers a harder look and see if they truly remain exceptions to your rule or if, after clarifying your thoughts, they are no longer outliers at all.

    This has been the process by which I have developed my style. If you think I have good taste, you'd have to admit this is either a valid approach or I am simply lucky.

    That all said, I would go further to argue that a person of taste, including yourself, does not become tasteful simply by acquainting himself with the practice of known authorities. It is not as if good taste was established some time ago and all we can do is simply apply received wisdom. It is just as likely that people who really care about this stuff, and who may have a talent for it, are actively refining and developing good taste as they go. I value "authorities" like Astaire and the Duke, but they are not sacrosanct or unimpeachable. I aspire to do even better.

    We should all acquaint ourselves with the past and know what has been considered good taste. I lament as much as you that very few will take the time to do that. However, the way I see it, the past is only a starting point. To admit you are standing on the shoulders of giants does not mean there are no greater heights to reach, does it?
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
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  3. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I have to go to the World Series now.
     
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  4. Despos

    Despos Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Priceless!
     
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  5. in stitches

    in stitches Senior member Moderator

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    I dont know if this is "in good taste" or not, but I do like it. However, its nothing like the previously posted fits. The lighter gray suit and brighter blue tie are far less serious/formal looking, than the other fits in question. I think thats why the edge works here, where it would not there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  6. Makoto Chan

    Makoto Chan Senior member

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    I can see how talking about taste, beauty, and elegance in this left-brained way is fun for some people on the forum (Foo and some others), but it seems like a waste of energy to me.
     
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  7. Stencil

    Stencil Senior member

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    Gosh, I'm glad I posted that photo. Seems to have livened things up around here!
     
  8. Cantabrigian

    Cantabrigian Senior member

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    What's the model in this case? No two things should exactly match?

    Still struggling to see how white S / PS doesn't qualify for an exception or a change to the model. Is it just that you really really don't like it and know in your heart that it's wrong? (Sounds like I'm not SRS but the question is completely earnest).
     
  9. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I would say this is one approach, but not the only one. And also notice that it involves a lot of personal judgement: what data to start with, what hypotheses to form, and then finally what to allow as exceptions. Even the final cosmetic step of coming up with an explanation for why something is an exception where something else isn't may involve choosing from a number of options. The process you describe is about developing your eye, not, in my view, about discovering scientific truth. So I disagree with your earlier statement about developing taste being more about teaching the mind than the eye (although we may have to argue over where exactly to establish the boundary between the two, as clearly by "teaching the eye" neither of us means improving your eyesight).

    So, the case of the white shirt and white pocket square...you have (from what I gather) applied the rule that matching items draw too much attention and found that, now that you look at it with this in mind, the white shirt and square do indeed draw your attention and you don't like it, not one bit. Other people say that it's been so common for so long and white is such a uninsistent non-color that this instance of matching does not draw their attention too much. These two views will not be reconciled. So you excommunicate everyone from your church of one, fling them down to sartorial damnation, maybe establish a purgatory for noble pagans like Astaire and the Dook who had to dress in the dark days before the gospel of :foo:. You're like someone who looks at the Rubin vase/faces picture, sees an apple core, and continues to berate anyone thinking it's a vase or two faces because you can clearly describe each of the bites taken out of the apple and possibly even recreate the exact shape by eating from an apple so how could anyone possibly see it as a vase.

    Now you will be tempted to reduce my argument to absurdity by saying, "well if you can say it's a vase or two faces or an apple core then basically anything is acceptable and now we are lost." I am not particularly troubled by everyone being able to enjoy their own sense of style, any more than I am bothered by each person having an idiosyncratic sense of humor. Even so, notice that while a vase, two faces, or even an apple core are reasonable things to make out of the picture, it would take a lot more doing to convince someone that it represents an airplane or a koala bear. We can allow multiple visions without allowing all of them.

    If you're not feeling so ecumenical and still want to pursue a single "good taste" in the sense of this thread, it must be in the narrow sense of good taste within the context of traditional Western dress. Unless you claim that non-coat-and-tie-wearing people can never have good taste in dress, which must be wrong. So the historical examples of agreed-upon well-dressed men don't just offer potential examples of good taste - they establish the context of good taste. You recognize this by carving out an exception to your ban on white/white for black tie, but outside of that get caught in the whirling dervish of your "there are other options and they are better so why settle for less like a schmuck and wear a white square" argument.

    We have to start with some context. White shirts and white squares are very well established within the context of traditional Western male dress. If we start without context, we have to question navy suits (at least as matchy-matchy), striped ties (asymmetric!) and all the rest, at which point the debate becomes entirely different and more abstract. We could no longer, for instance, ding a jacket for looking like a suit orphan, since that judgement comes from within the context of traditional Western male dress. If we do accept context, then you have to accept the white shirt and square as being inoffensive. You don't have to wear it, of course.
     
    7 people like this.
  10. UrbanComposition

    UrbanComposition Senior member

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    All you smart people make my head spin with fancy words like "ecumenical" and "the"
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
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  11. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Thanks for some honest engagement. I've tried to give a number principles already, but here they are again in no particular order:

    1. Conspicuousness is bad. An outfit should appear a cohesive whole, without any one element or aspect drawing disproportionate attention.

    2. Pairings are conspicuous. The more exacting the pairing, the more conspicuous. An obvious example is where colors in two different elements (say, your tie and shirt) are exactly the same. The matching colors need not even be the dominant ones to run afoul. If a shirt is light blue and the motif in a tie has little flecks of exactly the same light blue, I would avoid wearing the two.

    3. As pure ornamentation, pocket squares and ties are particularly prone to appearing conspicuous. This is why pairing the two to each other is particularly bad. Pairing either to anything else (such as a shirt) maybe not quite as terrible, but still bad enough to avoid.

    4. Highly contrasting elements are also highly conspicuous, unless mitigated. One way is to fill-in the empty middle range with colors of more moderate brightness and saturation. Another way is to ensure that external circumstances will make your high contrast outfit inconspicuous. Consider the difference between wearing a classic dinner suit ensemble to a black tie event and wearing a black suit with a white shirt and square on the subway.

    A white square paired with a white shirt is problematic for all these reasons. You may argue that the normality of the pairing mitigates to some extent, but I would counter that any time normality is the chief virtue of a thing, you are not off to a good start and should aim higher.

    At first, I did not mind the combination at all. Like most people here, I assumed it was plainly correct. Over time, as I have refined my sense of good and bad, it has fallen out of favor. Maybe I exaggerate that it is "cardinal" sin, but it is still rote, lazy, obvious, and thoughtless. Taste is not about doing what tasteful people do. Frankly, that sort of practice is repugnant to me--it is typically called snobbery. Rather, taste is about having a sense for what is intrinsically better or worse.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  12. IndianBoyz

    IndianBoyz Senior member

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    You know what, I think it's kinda entertaining. And, you could always save these little 'passages' and read 'em when you're having a tough time falling asleep.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  13. kulata

    kulata Senior member

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    Or you can just count sheep...
     
  14. IndianBoyz

    IndianBoyz Senior member

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  15. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    This works only if you think about dress in a purely abstracted form, however, without consideration for current practice, history, and norms. White square plus white shirt is very much a norm -- with long history -- so deviation necessarily makes it conspicuous, thus violating your first and most central rule.

    It's fine if you think it looks inherently bad, but it can't be because you think it's conspicuous. That could only be true if you were the first to try such a combination, not the millionth man in 100+ years of Western dress to do so.

    Cream silk square in an otherwise totally monochromatic look, on the other hand, is very conspicuous.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
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  16. Cantabrigian

    Cantabrigian Senior member

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    Where 2 kop?
     
  17. Cantabrigian

    Cantabrigian Senior member

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    Where 2 kop?
     
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  18. IndianBoyz

    IndianBoyz Senior member

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    Kop? You could try to order Manton's book. Maybe ask Foo to write up an essay aswell..
     
  19. emptym

    emptym Senior member Moderator

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    I would wear a white shirt plus white square because:

    1) they are thought to be the most formal of their categories, and

    2) white squares are the most common of squares.

    So while I'm not sure white w/ white is aesthetically conspicuous, I'm sure that white w/ cream would be socially conspicuous and informal. And times there are times when I'd want to avoid this, such as a job interview.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  20. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    That sounds either very high school prom DJ or street corner pimp.
     

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