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Why does the MC tailored aesthetic fetishise the idea of insouciant dressing?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Holdfast, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. philosophe

    philosophe Senior member

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    Thanks for starting this thread, HF.

    The contrast between natural ability/talent and hard work predates Judaism and Christianity. Look, for example, at ancient Greek ethics: Aristotle praises the person who is by nature moderate, generous, courageous, etc. Such a person is born with the right temperament and into the right social context, such that he has the right appetites and moral emotions. Judaism and Christianity praise the individual who strives to overcome temptation. Early rabbinic texts and later Maimonides praise continence and self-control: managing one's desires is praiseworthy. The Christian theology of post-lapsarian temptations goes even further: everyone is always responsible for conquering defective appetites and desires. the monotheists like hard work.

    I find it interesting that women are praised for spending a lot of time on personal appearance and clothing, but men (with the exception of men in dress uniforms) are expected to look as if they've spent very little time contemplating haircuts, clothing, and all that. I suspect fetishizing insouciance over careful production points not only to the talent/hard work dilemma but also to prevailing ideas about masculinity and femininity.
     
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  2. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    There are some splendid, thought-provoking and open/honest replies here; I hope the discussion can continue in this vein, because some very interesting tangential topics are being touched upon, many of which I am wholly unqualified to probe. Of course, that will not stop me.: )
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2012
  3. poorsod

    poorsod Senior member

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    I think one aspect absent from this discussion is "context". For example we would interpret the same imperfection differently on a Pitti Peacock vs DoW. The same imperfection on a Pitti Peacock would be seen as an affectation (or disingenuous) vs. on the DoW it might be seen as genuine (or insouciance).

    Framing the context is a complex amalgam of character, gravitas, fame, body language and etc., and not just clothes.
     
  4. radicaldog

    radicaldog Senior member

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    Thank you for saying that out loud. Now if those unbothered about the lack of authenticity could buy this part of your argument and so drop their squares we would raise the standard of dress around here.
     
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  5. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Maybe this is a weird analogy but...you know how baseball players before they get up to the plate or basketball players before they shoot a free throw sometimes have some weird routine? It looks completely batshit insane to you the first time you see it, but then over time, you get used to it. To them, it makes them feel more comfortable before going about their work, allows them to relax and feel ready to take on all challenges. To them it's not too weird or studied, it's just how they get ready.

    If wearing a pocket square makes me look batshit insane to you and contrived, well ok. But it's a part of how I get dressed and ready for the day.
     
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  6. FlyingMonkey

    FlyingMonkey Senior member

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    I only have experience of Japan. Japanese street fashion is about the most diverse and fast-moving in the world, which is in stark contrast with the 'sarariman' office standard of black suit, white shirt, dark tie and the uniforms still required of many manual workers in large companies. However even the crazy street fashion is very much within certain parameters and conforms to group (zoku or subcultural 'tribe') expectations. But that's not really so different from western countries.
     
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  7. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2012
  8. Fuuma

    Fuuma Senior member

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    Interesting post which got me thinking about how clothing is perceived by certain members of the afro-american community.
     
  9. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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  10. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I think the male/female thing goes back to beau Brummell. Today it's more accepted for a woman to employ artifice to improve her appearance, but it's still universally considered more attractive if you are beautiful without makeup than if you are beautiful only when dolled up.

    On the AA stuff, it's not all directly on point, but I found the Put This On episode on 'Lo-Heads interesting, and would be at least somewhat relevant.
     
  11. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Also classic exchange between Bunk (black) and McNulty (white) on The Wire (aka greatest show ever on TV):

    McNulty: Bunk, you know what they call a man who spends too much time worrying about his clothes don't you?
    Bunk: An adult?
     
  12. Nicola

    Nicola Senior member

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    When does somebody in a uniform spend time thinking? The whole point of a uniform is to stamp out all thinking. You follow the rules. You break the rules you get punished. School boy or dress uniform.

    I'd argue that the reason many men strive to look not perfect is a sort of rebellion against the uniform.
     
  13. eg1

    eg1 Senior member

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    Very interesting thread.

    In the Christian context, there is something of the Martha vs. Mary thing going on here.

    I agree with posters who have identified this attitude with the aristocratic notion that work of any kind (and especially trade) is for the lower orders. Think also of the expression "a gentleman's C"

    Also the bit about bucking against the "uniform" is something everybody who attended a school with one will understand.

    It is probably impossible to pin the thing down to just the one motivation or other -- status in different tribes/regions being different and all.
     
  14. Geezer

    Geezer Senior member

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    I'm sure they exist, but I haven't come across a culture where there isn't a tension of some kind between the idea of taking care in one's distinctive appearance being a good thing, and the rival concept that virtue eschews vanity or frivolity. The MC insousiance point is precisely interesting because it lies at the mid-point of the two extremes, where the concepts intersect.
     
  15. McBindle

    McBindle Well-Known Member

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    A quick correction on that one. Bunk says, "A grown up." It is a declarative statement that, in his delivery, suggests how dismissive he is of McNulty's attitude towards comportment. Bunk screws up a lot too, but at least he looks good and makes a pretense at respectability.

    This is a fantastic discussion and I am interested also in the African, African-British, and African-American perspective. I have rarely posted but thought this might be as good an opportunity as any. FWIW, my cousins are African American but have grown up in a household that is is more traditionally English (their mother was born in England, and they are adopted). As they have grown up they have, as young people generally do, explored and asserted their identities. One cousin BMX's and skateboards and dresses like it with a recklessness that could not be mistaken for elan or insouciance - just t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, with all style expressed through his incredible BMX skills. My other cousin plays college basketball and takes most of his formal and informal look cues from African-American sports figures, as he loves to show me and discuss with me. So my take is that culture and environment obviously play a huge role. While there are codes of dressing in the skateboard and bmx world, they tend to be more relaxed and image is more "results-based." However, having been introduced to their respective peers, I have noticed that my basketball-playing cousin's peer group, who is predominantly African-American, exercise great care and fore-thought in how they wear their hats, tie or don't tie their shoe laces, the brands they wear, and inevitably add a personal touch that might be analogous to the "sprezz." As Miles Davis might say, they look "cleaner than a mutha*****."

    Looking forward to thoughts from Niidawg and Barims especially on this one.
     
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  16. sugarbutch

    sugarbutch Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I don't think the pocket square and unbuckled shoe generate the same reaction among civilians. The PS marks you as, at worst, a fop. The unbuckled shoe marks you as a fool.



    Deserved quoting.



    Clothing is a huge signifier in the community, extending well beyond MC. For one thing, I think what black folks choose to wear reflects the point on the In/Out spectrum where they want to be seen. Are they dressing to fit into the larger culture's aesthetic or embracing something more obviously "black"? Square or hip? The message sent can be powerful and read very differently depending on the context. Given prevailing conceptions about black people, over-attention to appearance or use of too much color can reinforce the bullshit people are carrying around in their heads. Then there's the element of code switching. Shit gets deep.



    All of this.
     
  17. Ianiceman

    Ianiceman Senior member

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    I think a lot of blokes are under the impression that seeming to care too much about appearance and clothing might be seen as effeminate or gay, so they add, subtract or adjust some item to make it appear less than perfect so that they don't REALLY care that much. When this is shown in pictures on this message board by fellas who spend hours posting, discussing and critiquing clothes it stinks of phoneyism which is why I'm so critical of it.

    I read recently in GQ how Brunello Cuccinelli has to re-tie his tie several times each morning to achieve just the right amount of studied nonchalance, an oxymoron pursued by morons. I learned to tie a tie when I seven years old. It's not hard. Why then make such a performance of pretending at advanced middle age that you have yet to master such a simple task?

    Unbuckled monk straps, unbuttoned collar buttons, poorly tied ties, unlinked French cuffs ... They all stink of gimmickry and fakery to me and they certainly do nothing to 'butch up' the appearance of anyone who subconsciously fears being considered effeminate.
     
  18. Elegantly Wasted

    Elegantly Wasted Senior member

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    Women are valued as trophy wives and men as bread winners.
    What is new here?
     
  19. sugarbutch

    sugarbutch Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I'm the trophy husband. So what does that mean? :confused:
     
  20. Elegantly Wasted

    Elegantly Wasted Senior member

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    It means your wife doesn't care about her own looks but praises you for going to the beauty saloon perhaps? :fu:
     

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