But Is It Art?

The Museum Of Modern Art here in New York has a new exhibit entitled “Is Fashion Modern?” I went to check it out on Friday, when the museum is free in the late afternoon. The scene was a perfect illustration of the genius behind the law forbidding yelling fire in a crowded building. I deftly weaved through the throng of glazed-eyed people wearing their backpacks on their chest (#frontpack) until I found what I sought: Brooks Brothers buttondowns.

That’s right, the everyday staple you’ve been wearing for decades (or have been recently converted to) were there in all the bright sterility of a modern art museum. An icon, the Brooks buttondown surely is, but to paraphrase the old philistine’s cliché, is it art?

Here’s the accompanying labels:

Also included in the exhibit were polo shirts by Lacoste, Polo and Fred Perry:

The museum items themselves may not be art, but the act of dressing most certainly is. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

14 Comments on "But Is It Art?"

  1. Mitchell S. | October 8, 2017 at 1:10 pm |

    Men’s fashion is the Rodney Dangerfield of the art world: it gets no respect, no respect at all.

    I’m glad the MoMA is getting with the program. Hopefully they will add the OCBD to their permanent collection.

  2. Caustic Man | October 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm |

    Interesting attempt by the MoMA. I wish I had been able to see it in person. Perhaps a bit of a lost opportunity to say a word or two about class and populism, but it’s neat that they are doing this, nonetheless.

  3. The Lacoste does not appear to have a “tennis tail”. The absence of that feature I very much miss.

  4. Reactionary Trad | October 8, 2017 at 1:55 pm |

    Notice that white precedes blue as the most popular color. I was pleased to see that there are other diehards out there.

  5. “During a corporate merger in the 1980s, the iconic rolled collar was changed to a stiffly starched version; the switch was remedied in 1989…”

    I thought the collar roll was only restored recently (2016 or so), is this a mistake?

    Wianno, that Lacoste shirt looks like a very old French version of the shirt, not the Izod version that was available in America.

  6. It would be fun to visit MoMa with Reactionary Trad!

  7. I bought several Brooks OCBDs (way) back in the early 90s–at a Brooks outlet store. This was when the Brooks outlet store carried discounted clothing and accessories–USA-made clothing and accessories that had once inhabited Brooks retail stores. This is no longer true. Nowadays the outlet stores carry (forgettable) clothing that’s made specifically and intentionally for the outlet stores. The circa early 90s Brooks outlet OCBDs were great. Unlined, nice collar roll.

    Those early Brooks outlet stores carried plenty of sack suits, sack blazers, USA-made (English silk) repp ties, USA-made loafers (Alden and Sebago), ribbon watchbands, USA-made khakis, and made-in-Scotland shetland sweaters. Somebody with a better memory than mine should write an Ivy-Style piece about them. Where lots of guys bought their back-to-campus and first-interview clothes. Nowadays when I see an unreformed, unrepentant preppy wearing 80s-Ivy-revival clothes (they’re still around), I wonder if he was a Brooks outlet store customer before the well-chronicled change. A lot of guys who grew up with Ivy probably bought their last suit, jacket, and OCBD (before retiring) during that period–the early-to-mid 90s.

  8. Too bad you can’t actually buy an OCBD for a reasonable price at Brooks anymore (specifically dress versions not the sport or Red Fleece). They’ve been a staple of my wardrobe for years but $140 is not a staple, it’s a splurge. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any hope in the $50-70 range for a classic, OCBD with decent collars, etc. I’d be curious to see what their sales are like for the new ones. I definitely like them but just not at that price.

  9. Caustic Man | October 9, 2017 at 10:40 am |

    Theodore, Kamakura Shirts has very good shirts for around $75 to $90, depending on model.

  10. Caustic Man – They are nice shirts and I’ve got one of theirs, but I find their collar bands much too short. Maybe it’s just the one that I’ve got, worth another look.

  11. Theodore, they are available for under $100 pretty regularly through sales. I don’t think it is possible to buy an American made (not that you specified that) shirt for less.

  12. Kamakura are certainly great quality shirts. Until my Vintage Ivy Oxford had been washed half a dozen times, it was wearing me.

  13. I love those Vintage Ivy Oxfords, too. Love them to death. The only problem is that I wish the collar points were longer. A quarter-inch would make it perfect, in my mind.

  14. Charlottesville | October 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm |

    I just bought one of the new/old BB oxfords, and the price I paid was 40% off for some reason ($84). For $98, the Ratio shirt also works well for me. I do miss the old Brooks OCBD that as I recall ran around $40 in the late 80s. That would be about $78 today. The referenced to a “stiffly starched” collar in the 1980s may mean the fused collar on the pinpoint shirts from Malaysia? I do not remember that on the regular OCBD. I know that at one point all of the collars were lined, but I think the unlined collar was still available in the late 80s or early 90s. I have a couple I bought in that era still in my closet.

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