Why the rules for men's clothes are obsolete

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Film Noir Buff, Aug 9, 2008.

  1. jcusey

    jcusey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I thought a rouÃ[​IMG] is a cad, a wily old skirtchaser. Never heard about it used interchangeably with roux.

    If you're such a thumping dullard as not to understand how rouÃ[​IMG]s relate to roux, there's really nothing that I can do for you.
     
  2. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    If you're such a thumping dullard as not to understand how rouÃ[​IMG]s relate to roux, there's really nothing that I can do for you.

    eat a bag of penises.
     
  3. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    eat a bag of penises.

    They come in bags now?
     
  4. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    All that advice in those clothes books you've been reading is largely obsolete. They are valuable mostly as curios. Are there some interesting nuggets in them, sure? Is it important to reference the past? I think so. But the actual formulae a lot of classic clothing authors have written about are gone. And those who are convinced there is a formula and it is completely covered by the past are trying to pretend the world they remembered is not gone.

    This overstates the case considerably.

    1) A great deal of the advice in clothing books is not just about rules. It covers fit, proportion, pattern, color, history, fabric, models, style, regions, you name it. That advice is surely not obsolete. In fact, it not even really advice. It is information. Information can be used in any number of ways. Close emulation is only one. Most intellectually curious people would argue that it is better to have more information than less. What one does with the information is another matter. For instance, a very conservative dresser may never wear an ensemble depicted in (say) Boyer's Rebel Style. But he may nonetheless be glad to know that style, and those examples, to broaden his own mind and perhaps to draw inspiration. The reverse is true as well: the rebel is well served by knowing the classics. Classical proportion and harmony are translatable into modern terms, to say nothing of the fact that almost everyone runs into occasions when he must dress classically, whereas fewer are obliged to attend occasions where modern(ist) dress is expected.

    2) "those who are convinced there is a formula and it is completely covered by the past" is a straw-man. It is the standard "anti-rules" position on the forums, but no one holds it. Not even Sator or tutee. People who are uncomfortable with the idea of any rule like to say that the mere statement of a rule amounts to normative proscription. But that is not true. Rules once existed. They still do, if in an attenuated form. Knowing what they were/are is valuable to some people. It valuable if for no other reason than as historical knowledge. The transmission of those rules is not ipso facto the attempt or wish to enforce them like laws. Those who always leap to that conclusion, methinks, doth protest too much.

    I will leave aside the obviously non-arbitrary date that you cut off books of "import." Fine, let's take Flusser, Boyer, and to a lesser extent Roetzel, Lenius, Keers, and Viallarosa & Agneli.

    It is a great overstatement to say that these books "copied or relied heavily on dressing styles from the 1920s and 30s." None of them pay any attention to the '20s at all. Flusser is the greatest advocate of the '30s, but his admiration is expressed in a narrow way that makes sense. He uses a lot of AA and Esquire illustrations to give readers ideas. He argues explicitly (in his second book, published in 1985) that the '30s were the 20th century's best-dressed decade for men. But he nowhere says that the '30s can or should be copied, or that the illustrations should be mimicked by rote.

    The fact is that men's clothing runs in cycles, or epochs. The epochs usually last a century, or less, but not much less. Right now we are still in the lounge suit and tie epoch. It may well be coming to an end. I happen to think it is. But so long as we are in it, we can drawn guidance and inspiration from its beginnings. The "rules" or principles or guidelines for how men's clothes should be made, shaped, and worn were all set back then. Yes, they have been modified, sometimes in epicycles, ever since, but they are still mostly intact, if decayed and brittle. But until the lounge suit, collared shirt, and long tie get-up dies, the rules that originally defined it will still be relevant. Which is why people who care are interested in them.

    To take an architectural example. We are probably past the waning days of the modernist school. It began in Germany in the '20s and fully flowered in the US in the '50s. Since then (and to be fair, before then, but never mind that now), various "neos" have sprung up in reaction. Now, the modernist or Bauhaus school had its "rules" or founding principles. Architects seeking fresh directions for the style, decades after its beginnings, went back to those beginnings for inspiration and to be sure that the understood the foundations correctly. Then they did new things with it, or at least added new twists. But they could not have been nearly as successful with their updates had the not understood the foundations thoroughly.

    That is really all that is at stake with the return to the '30s for clothing aficionados. They (we) are not trying to relive the past, or play dress up; we are just trying to dress well in the modern world, and using the "wisdom of the ancients" as it were for guidance and inspiration.

    I think most of this has been answered, above. But not all of it.

    It is not true that no one expects men to dress "correctly" any more. The expectation is much weaker than it used to be, but it still exists. Fewer industries and businesses require the suit every day. That much is true. But the suit is still expected for certain occasions, and on those occasions it helps to know what traditional usage has been. That does not mean that one is obligated to follow it. But as a practical matter, the few who care about suits on the right occasion are likely to know what the traditional usage is, and to notice deviations. So before you deviate, know what you are doing and make it a conscious choice, rather than an unwitting error.

    Not just that he can afford it -- that is a rather nebulous standard. "Afford" can mean anything. It is far from impossible to amass the cash necessary for a fine suit, even on a limited income. It all depends on how one chooses to spend his resources. If you are willing to cut corners elsewhere for the sake of style, then good suits are within reach.

    But what I take to be your basic point -- that as the suit becomes less widely expected, and thus less common, those who stick with it do so because they care about it more, and are thus more likely to invest time, money and effort into it -- I agree is true.

    I do not think, however, that the suit and tie is yet "costume." Rather it has become something like what daytime formal wear was in the 19th century up through the Edwardian Era: a marker of the aristocracy of importance and aspiration, and of clerks.

    This is a conventional explanation, and there is much to it, but it runs into a chicken-egg problem. To what extent were those factors cause and to what extent effect?

    As I argued above, I believe the lounge suit era is ending. I believe the end started long before the '90s. I think it can be traced to the Second World War at least, and to many other factors (e.g., the rapid population of California and the disproportionate influence the state had on men's style in the post-War era). As that effect wore on, it is at least as probable to say that it created the dot-com casual culture than that said culture created the trend all of a sudden.

    In any event, the rules did not die on a single day. In fact, they are still not dead.

    The hat died for a number of reasons. It would take too long to go into them all now; Neal Steinberg at any rate explains it fully. I suppose by "obligatory decorum" you mean that men got tired of being expected to wear a hat, and so quit in protest. That was part of it, but a small part.

    The number one reason men, or most or some men, came to dislike tailored clothes was because they found them uncomfortable. Wrapping a piece of silk around your neck, under a stiffish collar, is indeed less comfortable than wearing an open-necked polo. Who wants to wear a wool suit jacket in the summer? Etc.

    There is some truth here: to the extent men feel obligated, some feel resentment.

    But the idea that all dress codes are dead is not true. Dress codes are still with us. They have simply evolved. Relaxing the standards has become something of a perq. But the standards are still there. What you wrote implies that "anything goes" but that is not the case. There are still standards, and there is still a line which cannot be crossed.

    You overlook a significant problem. The abandonment of suits was not a boon for all men. Yes, some prefer the casual style and the comfort that it entails. But others -- by no means all suit-loving dandies -- preferred the predictability of the suit and tie get-up. The simply don't know what to wear in a business casual environment. In part because, ten years at least after the phrase had become universally known, it is still maddeningly vague. No one really knows what to wear. In my experience, business casual in practice just means "no tie." Men still wear their dress shoes, dress shirts, suit trousers, and sometimes even their suit coats. They won't be caught dead at the office in khakis and polos. But they don't feel comfortable in their suit get-up sans tie either.

    This points back to a reason why tradition -- why a return to the roots -- can be so valuable. At the beginning of a style's life cycle, its integrity is whole, intact. All the rationales for every element are fresh. Later deviations tend to lack the original's holistic integrity. Hence, the guys who wear the suit get-up for business casual, but skip the tie, know that something is missing, that what they are wearing is not "right" in an aesthetic or cultural or historic sense. They just don't know what else to do.

    Because "business casual" is still a part of the lounge suit era, which even if it is in its dotage and decline, it still reigns. Perhaps some new style is coming down the pike that will launch a new era, and be emphatically its own thing, but business casual is not it. We have not seen it yet.

    "Enlightened" is the wrong word here. Those who followed the English style were not really enlightened, or if they were, that was not the reason that the followed the English style. The fundamental reason that they did so is that they were of English origin themselves, or they wished they were, and sought to ape the English in order to elide the fact of their true origins.

    America's Anglo upper class long had a sense of cultural inferiority to the mother country. Hence it was only natural that they aped that style. It was also a way of signifying class differences in a supposedly democratic and classless society. Dressing like the English was a way of saying, in our hearts, we are English, even though our mouths speak republican nostrums. This was not enlightened. In fact, it was the opposite.

    As to pink shirts, they are everywhere. It is just not true to say that one does not see them outside the Eastern Seaboard.

    Pink shirts are also not a particularly English style hallmark.

    I entirely agree that rules based on aesthetics still apply.

    But what does that mean, practically? Few things are more subjective than aesthetics. De gustibus non est disputandum. The person who denies that 2 + 2 = 4 is insane, or a fool. The person who denies the beauty of School of Athens ... does he suffer from bad taste? Or different taste?

    This is a hard one. We all have our preferences. I have tried to rationally explain, to the extent possible, why mine are not arbitrary. My argument boils down to frame of reference. Certain things have an inherent, internal integrity. Play with them too much, and you spoil them. We have all seen (for instance) neo-classical houses done spectacularly well, and cheesy McMansions. I vastly prefer the former, in part because they get the inherent idea of the style right, even where they deviate from history.

    But in the end I cannot prove it. All you or anyone else needs to say is "I don't like it." And you cannot be wrong, and I cannot talk you into seeing it my way.

    I also agree about the virtues of the slouchy character of American shoulders. I would only note that this is a hallmark of the Scholte/A&S/Rubinacci style that gets criticized a lot on the forums, not on intrinsic grounds, but because those who espouse it are said to suffer from "groupthink." It would be nice if that particular criticism started to wane.

    The bolded parts highlight the contradiction. The "rules" were/are all about helping men achieve the first sentiment. So to say that rules have died is to say that there is no longer any guidance for avoiding "superfluous adornment ... gaudiness ... radical cuts ... styles or details."

    If so, by what standard does one judge? Nature is no guide here. By nature, we are naked. Artifice must necessarily come into play. That artifice is found not just in how clothing is procured and made, but in how it is styled. And it is styled by convention. And those conventions are set by "the rules" for lack of a better term.

    Which, I would note, the second bolded quote implicitly acknowledges.
     
  5. edmorel

    edmorel Quality Seller!! Dubiously Honored

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  6. Douglas

    Douglas Stupid ass member

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    This thread is useless without pistols.
     
  7. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    I was not aware that this was a "my dick is bigger than your dick" thread. I will whip out just enough to beat all you guys so that we can move on.

    Look, man, I told him that if he wanted to have a rational discussion, 100% polite, I would oblige. I am making good on that.
     
  8. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt The Liberator Dubiously Honored

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    They come in bags now?
    Not in my religion.
     
  9. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    Not in my religion.

    I thought you're an atheist. So you don't believe in bags.
     
  10. edmorel

    edmorel Quality Seller!! Dubiously Honored

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    Look, man, I told him that if he wanted to have a rational discussion, 100% polite, I would oblige. I am making good on that.


    Fine but this is easily one of the most boring threads ever, already. Even the penis jokes aren't funny in this one.
     
  11. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    Apart from the threads with penises in them or by penises, this has been a pretty cordial thread.
     
  12. Caomhanach

    Caomhanach Senior member

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    I've heard tell some gay community confectioners offer gummy worm penis candy. Now we can retire the popcorn brought out for such exchanges.[​IMG]
     
  13. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    I've heard tell some gay community confectioners offer gummy worm penis candy. Now we can retire the popcorn brought out for such exchanges.[​IMG]

    Only if you can make that into a smiley.
     
  14. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    You are in the south? I thought you were out west...

    Thought the dry air might help my consumption. Born in Griffin, Ga.
     
  15. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt The Liberator Dubiously Honored

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    I thought you're an atheist. So you don't believe in bags.
    The mohel had more to do with the decision than I did.
     

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