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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. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    I think there are two very different things

    The conCept of sprezz I see as a real conciept myself, I just find the whole thing very artificial


    On the other hand, I think that for a line manager or somebody who faces customers tonbentoo much of peacock is a problem. I think for a staff manager, or an academic, or an advisor that mighTmbe something different but if yiu're job involves projecting a certain prof retinal image you need to look. Like dressing isn't somethjimg that takes up too much of your thoughts
     


  2. Jermyn

    Jermyn Senior member

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    A genuinely interesting and thought provoking point. I think you are broadly correct, this concept of talent vs. work is particularly pervasive.
    It makes me think of this (loosely related) Malcolm Gladwell article:

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/20/081020fa_fact_gladwell

    For what it's worth, I have worked at dressing well and genuinely enjoy reading about clothing, learning more and developing my style.
    Over the course of time, it has become much easier for me to put together different fits. The process is still not effortless though.

    Once you no longer have to make an effort, I think, some of the joy is lost.
     


  3. Geezer

    Geezer Senior member

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    "The one exception I can think of the above is being an employee in a city, profession & firm where a traditional tailored aesthetic still rules the roost. And not just in the fact that there's a suit & tie dress code, but that it's an institution with sufficient standards and cultural signficance that a high level of absolutely correct dress is expected. There, the highwire act is restored, and a daredevil puff vs a TV folded square can againbe noticed for what it may once have been. There are precious few such insitutions left, but maybe you can think of some"

    This applies to me, with a very occasional "biz cas" Friday.

    It may explain why, for example, I am rather more relaxed than this forum about what shoes to wear with a suit, as long as they are black, clean, and of good quality. I also do things that this forum rightly approves of (wear braces, wear a PS often, have my suit pressed when it needs it) that are much more distinctive as sartorial statements to non-SF people than wearing non-oxford shoes. It gets very boring indeed wearing the "job interview outfit" every working day.

    As many soldiers will attest, if you have to wear a uniform, the little ways of personalising it - within regulations - can have their attractions, including showing you don't take it that seriously. There is a time (state occasions, big parades) for identical perfection. At other times, there is a natural human impulse to show some individuality.

    As a former art historian, I find it useful at times to think of MC clothes in terms of artistic styles. There are classical styles, but also neo-classical - the latter inspired by and emulating the former, but not slavish recreations of what has gone before. There are in-your-face baroque styles, quirky knowing mannerist ones (much sprezz seems mannerist to me), and modernist and post-modernist approaches. Of course it doesn't map across exactly, but it does give you a different frame of reference.

    There are specific and distinct cultural reasons why insouciance (which is absolutely the correct word) has a powerful hold on ideas of traditional men's style. Mostly from English, French and Italian cultures, as they were the primary drivers of MC in the early/mid 20th Century (and like most such drivers were then swamped by, reinterpreted by, and absorbed into US culture). A mix of an aristocratic "I am a superior person of independent means and higher sensibillity and do what I like", English "don't look like you are trying too hard, or care too much", individualist posing "I am an artist" and so on. It's sort of Beau Brummell versus Lord Byron, and that duality exists in most of us.
     


  4. Quadcammer

    Quadcammer Senior member

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    i feel like this is pretty simple.

    cool people, or those who society perceives as cool, interesting, etc. don't have time to worry about how they are dressed because they are out doing cool stuff, banging hot women, and generally drinking and smoking, all while not being concerned over whatever motion should have been filed or how much mezzanine debt is necessary for whatever transaction. They simply throw things on (like the unbuckled monk or the haphazardly folded square) and their persona and confidence is what makes it look good. Less fred astaire (who, while debonaire, is not what many people associate with cool), more james dean. its simply a matter of not giving a shit if your shirt is just so or your shoes have a perfectly bulled cap.

    We want to replicate that, and thats how you get deliberate sprezz, which isn't actually sprezz at all. its affected and its pretty obvious.
     


  5. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    ^I think it's less about time than the fact that being a try-hard is uncool in general. Which brings us back to the earlier discussion.
     


  6. Quadcammer

    Quadcammer Senior member

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    too many big words being used up there, can you elaborate on what you mean by "earlier discussion" or at least highlight the post.

    thanks.
     


  7. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Hee. I mean Fuuma's initial point about why it's uncool to try hard.

    "Cool" might be the most useful concept brought into the thread so far.
     


  8. Fuuma

    Fuuma Franchouillard Modasse

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    Having read some books on the topic of "cool" I can tell you no one has yet managed to really grasp the subject sucessfully.
     


  9. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Yeah, I know what you mean. But I don't want to dissect it, just to suggest that it's a very relatable concept, the idea that it's uncool to be seen as a try-hard.
     


  10. Half a loaf

    Half a loaf New Member

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    If you’ll permit a first post from one only recently noticing, and cursing, the lack of quality in modern clothing, I would suggest that the particular form of dress adopted on this forum has an inherent tension stemming from its history and culture that have filtered through to now due to the somewhat glacial pace of ‘gentlemanly fashion’.

    Consciously or unconsciously this is a style that has become archaic enough that it stands out, it is a form of ‘peacockery‘ in itself yet the forms and rules of dress were established at a time when to wear a suit was expected. Without this frame of reference there is the problem that this is a conservative form of dress made for a time when what you wore was very much defined by what you did or what social rank you had attained, as well as relatively simple rules, simple options that enabled the majority of men who did not have the time, or interest to dress without the aid of a valet. Now however, these rules are unknown by most so the touches indicating insoucience have to be exaggerated enough to convince the viewer you are not their grandfather, but not so far out that you are seen to have disregarded the rules. I would expect that if this forum had existed in the 1910s it would be full of discussion of minor variations in tie or buttoning or the latest trends that in society would be considered daring. Therefore I suggest you react against the constraints this form of dress has imposed on you through a desire for ‘insouciant dressing’ – at heart you seek to be a peacock because interested in clothes yet the form is conservative because historical. I sense slightly this tension between the good taste and the peacock thread.

    An alternative theory – about the time men went to church every Sunday and the poorest labourer had only one formal suit: his ‘Sunday best’ that irritated him and made him fidget and rearrange his starched collar, only the wealthy were used to regularly wearing formal clothes of a good quality and fit. Thus, to show they were of the right class they might ensure they showed comfort and a feeling of being at ease in their armour through little touches of self-confidence and laissez-faire attitude. If not perhaps they would have seemed as though being too obvious, portraying themselves as of a class to which they did not belong. An analogy might be to forms of speech that supposedly reveal class to those in the know – the social climbers ‘pardon?’ as apposed to the more at ease ‘what?’ of the upper-crust. For those interested in clothes one could not step out of rank to a large extent in a sartorial sense unless a) they were very brave, b)unconcerned with reputation, or c) important enough to make and break rules of dress (royal family etc). Little touches of expressionism might be allowed though and perhaps be an inside code, a signal of belonging, and good taste, distinguishing the old money from the new.

    Thirdly, the tall poppy syndrome (TPS). As we all aware us English love nothing better than to bring down a man who has overreached himself. Overstepping the line, striving too hard for something, or showing pomposity, are all grounds for a beasting from the press or one’s peers. Displaying an insouciance suggests one does not care, is not bothered, has other things one one’s mind, and allows one to withdraw slightly from above the parapet, to reassure the viewer he is not in the company of a bore or prat (TPS).

    Fourthly, the English style and the Italian style have become merged and neither are worn exclusively but they are not complimentary in their philosophy. To grossly over-stereotype, and repeat a traditional cliché, the English style seeks to understate and views anything else to be uncouth; while the Italian seeks to show off, to present in the best light. If the two are mixed one might feel to some extent suppressed wearing the English style, and worried about being in good taste in the Italian.

    All of these I’d argue have created a shadow and influence over ‘gentlemanly fashion’ and what is considered in good taste and perhaps create such a mania, but I have naturally over-extended myself in this post so I expect a resounding cry of 'b*llocks' should you reach this far.
     


  11. 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.
     


  12. 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


  13. 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.
     


  14. 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.
     


  15. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Jewfro 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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