This summer G. Bruce Boyer published a lengthy think piece in the magazine First Things called “Dress Up: What We Lost In The Casual Revolution.” I’ve only neglected sharing it here in a post as Bruce and I have brainstormed about recording a discussion about its main themes. Astute readers will recall that I’ve mentioned the idea of starting a podcast on topics related to style; it’s something I’d still like to pursue and will likely revisit when the hibernating months arrive.
The editors at First Things asked me to write a response to Boyer’s piece to keep the discussion going. There was a bit of a confusion, and I ended up writing a full essay when all they needed was a letter to the editor. I also went into full fogey “end-of-the-world” mode, which was kind of fun.
Ah well. Here’s the extended version. You can use the previous link above to read Boyer’s original piece, and this page at First Things has my truncated letter along with Boyer’s response to it.
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“Does the disappearance of dressing up,” the artist Hilaire Hiler once mused, “indicate the passing of Western Civilization?”
Well of course it does, and given the quote hails from the 1950s, how prescient of him to notice. Cue the chords of doom, for casual dress is indeed the result of a kind of entropy, a natural law of rise and fall, birth and death, civilization and decay. Like my friend and colleague the estimable Mr. Boyer, I too have argued that formal civic dress was dealt a fatal blow in 1967, making this year the dubious 50th anniversary of the birth of slob nation.
From opera-goers in track shoes and hiking fleece to professors in flip-flops lecturing students in pajama bottoms, the whole motley throng of lowest-common-denominator dressing face-planted on the slippery slope to slovenliness that fateful year half-a-century ago.
Sixty-seven is also the year everything began to turn topsy-turvy from a traditionalist’s point of view. At the same time that sideburns were creeping down and neckties coming off, anti-establishment ideology was taking hold in the arts, media, and especially academia, turning the university system upside-down through the deconstruction of objective standards of truth, beauty, and everything else. The students who symbolically burned their tweeds and flannels along with their draft cards went on to entrench the postmodernist worldview that now dominates universities, and classrooms today are overflowing with sweatpants and Marxism.
Concurrence does not confirm causality, but a lot of things have been happening over the past 50 years while sartorial standards have been plummeting. Mr. Boyer suggests that too much self-indulgent narcissism and do-your-own thing individualism have led to the loss of formal dress, as well as stirring up a kind of costumed charlatanism in the picture he paints of the man strolling Midtown Manhattan — a “solitary figure of freedom” — speciously clad as a cowboy.
But one could argue that the century-long push for casual dress by the young and educated (thoroughly detailed in Dierdre Clemente’s 2015 book “Dress Casual: How College Students Redefined American Style”), is indicative not of too much individualism but rather too much collectivism, the egalitarian spirit that poet Charles Baudelaire decried as early as 1866 in his essay on dandyism, mocking “the rising tide of democracy…. which reduces everything to the same level.” Technological and social progress have brought us an inevitable sartorial Facebooking, in which billionaire owner and modest minion stand side by side without visual distinction, performing — to use the academic buzzword — equality.
It’s important to view the change in how we dress in directional terms: we are dressing down in relation to how we dressed before. Lamenting the decline of formality assumes a reactionary viewpoint, an acknowledgement that in order for some things to get better, others must get worse. “A democracy which is expressed by everybody dressing down,” wrote the fashion historian Pearl Binder in 1958, “is surely a spiritually impoverished democracy.”
Except, of course, that not everyone wants to see it that way. Some — and maybe they’re the last hope — hold out for a renaissance of formal modes of dress, despite all evidence that it is slipping away before our eyes, never to return.
Over the course of 20 years attending vintage-themed events in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, there is a certain personality type I regularly run into. This is the chronically overdressed “retro-eccentric” who believes he was born in the wrong era, and despises the common masses in their sneakers and jeans. But this sartorial reactionary, who usually owns a large number of hats, is never a conservative. He’s convinced that it’s actually things like free market economics, organized religion, competitive sports, institutional power structures, and other traditional concepts that have corrupted society and made everyone a slob.
The ethos of this style utopian — who looks backward for aesthetics and forward to the revolution — was colorfully expressed by a commenter on a menswear message board some years ago in a discussion of the Ivy League Look:
I want a messy, ugly, funky multicultural world with everyone in no socks and Weejuns grooving along to Jimmy McGriff. It’s a new hippydom based on proper shoulder line, half an inch of oxford cloth at the cuff and real selvedge 501s.
The key word, of course, is “everyone.” If only we could get everyone to act like we want them to! If only we could engineer a society based on rational principles, then everyone would behave rationally! It’s the sartorial expression of a sentiment dating back to Rousseau and the Enlightenment, the belief that if only the state could solve all of mankind’s problems, everyone would freely don the uniform of the utopia.
In contrast, believers in Original Sin will note that man is irrational and perverse, and that it’s stable social norms that clothe his body with dignity and elevate his spirit above the beastly. We are all sinners, and, if given the indulgence, will dress as poorly as we can. Especially if we no longer believe we are worth redeeming — nor in the concept of redemption itself. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
It would be interesting to find out when 501s ceased to be real selvedge. We hardly noticed the change.
I too would date the decline of dressing well to 1967. A good place to watch the end is to review episodes of “Bewitched” (1964-72) where Samantha and Darrin dressed in quiet good taste in the first few seasons, to the end where the hippie era had taken over.
But here the author would like to infer that the pigs took over because of the left. “At the same time that sideburns were creeping down and neckties coming off, anti-establishment ideology was taking hold in the arts, media, and especially academia, turning the university system upside-down through the deconstruction of objective standards of truth, beauty, and everything else. The students who symbolically burned their tweeds and flannels along with their draft cards went on to entrench the postmodernist worldview that now dominates universities, and classrooms today are overflowing with sweatpants and Marxism.”
That might have been true in 1967, when anti-establishment long hair, mini-skirts and wide neckties swept across the elite sections of liberal America.
But today we face the biggest slobs in the red states. Here we have an epidemic of obesity, tattoos on everybody, complete absence of propriety in presenting one as a normal weight sized human who can wear tailored clothing. The Walmart Generation of letting it all hang out might also have brought Trump to power.
And many countries far more liberal in social policies, far less religious than America, far more willing to vote for socialism than the US, dress far better: France, Italy, Japan, Argentina.
Here in Los Angeles, the best dressed people are immigrants: Korean-Americans who take care of their skin, their figure, their face. This is as true for men as women.
The casual era really began in the 1940s when women started wearing slacks, into the 1950s when sportswear and suburban living took over with Bermuda shorts, khakis, and the early 1960s when JFK made men discard hats.
We were better before 1967, but the easy answer of blaming the beatniks doesn’t really answer why.
Wonderful stuff. This is the kind of thing that separates Ivy-Style from other blogs. That is, the ability to foster nuanced, lengthy, discussions on topics we’re interested in.
Was the Vietnam war the main guilty?
Without the Vietnam mess counterculture would remain a minority of eccentrics as the “beatniks” of late 50s?
Was instead the British invesion in music and fashion?
Well i note that until 1966 the British scene was characterized from “peacock fashion” and new Edwardian stuff.
So i think that without the “damn little piss-ant country” (cit. Lyndon Johnson) i think that the rise of counterculture would have been more slow and less invasive.
“But today we face the biggest slobs in the red states”
I think you live in a coastal bubble. Slobs are everywhere, as are Wal-marts. I shop at Wal-mart for shotgun shells, occasional car battery and motorcycle oil. I see all kinds of people, of all income and dress levels, that has always been America. Do you think the people making cars, building homes, etc. should wear bespoke tweeds and gaberdine to work. They never have, but most students at premier universities dress like dog shit and most office workers dress like they’re heading for a picnic. But, hey, those deplorables in Red states. 😉
Here in Van Nuys
It’s a myth that JFK made men stop wearing hats. He wore a top hat to his inauguration, but like all Presidents before took it off prior to his speech, like ever President before him. That’s call good manors. He was the last to wear tails to an inauguration.
It would be hard to find Ike wearing a hat with the exception of the military or golf course. LBJ like wise with the exception of campaigning in Texas or on the ranch (same thing). Truman was probably the last to regularly wear a hat, he walked a lot.
I’ve always thought the decline of hats has mostly to do with the rise in automobile ownership and decline of public transportation use. This seems to support that.
I’m not sure whether the phrase in that last post (“damn little piss-ant country”) was directed at Vietnam or “This Sceptred Isle”.
I don’t think however you can blame the UK for the rise in casual-ism. By the late sixties, we may have had middle class hippies, but working class thugs still wore crombie coats and royal brogues (Dr Martens came later…)
Anyway, I’ve always thought of the Ivy league style as a sublime mix of formality and casual-ity.
Cotton twill trousers (chinos, jeans) and Shetland jumpers would have been seen as strictly working wear earlier in the century.
As someone born in 67 and grown up suffocated by the shrill individualism of the baby boomers (“talkin bout my generation…”). In my eyes, it’s not about left or right, but rampant consumer driven self regard, that paradoxically has given rise to fashion label clones.
Truth in that, but the post war Beats didn’t have the war In Nam, although they did have the Bomb. From the Beats to Antifa there is a common thread, Marxism. The same ilk are financing it now, except now the Soviets are no more. Let’s not forget the political domestic violence in both the US and Europe of the 60s and 70s. I fear we are close to it now.
Lyndon Johnson turns one day on the Army Chief of Staff: “Bomb, bomb, bomb. That’s all you know. Well, I want to know why there’s nothing else. You generals have all been educated at taxpayer’s expense, and you’re not giving me any ideas and any solutions for this damn little piss-ant country. I don’t need ten generals to come in here ten times and tell me to bomb. I want some solutions . . .”
There is no doubt that opposition to the Vietnam War was the catalyst for the Baby Boomer revolt against what we now call the Greatest Generation.
The Boomers felt betrayed. In their view, the Domino Theory was BS and the enemy didn’t threaten our native soil. Why do I have to die for that? Fight over politics?
Up to then, a man was rewarded for his participation in social rituals and order; in 1967, it could get you killed. The swift and strong response by the Greatest only hardened the Boomers’ opposition. And anti-war movement provided support for the civil rights and women’s rights struggles. They were all fighting The Man.
To be honest, we Boomers were pretty soft. We had not been hardened by the Great Depression or WW II. We were the children of those GI’s who got college education and moved up the economic ladder. And our parents were awfully pissed that their children didn’t respect their sacrifices.
However, I believe we have moved on into a new era. I agree that people are grasping for kind of order, some collective sense of right and wrong. Oddly enough, I think that Trump’s recklessness and the re-emergence white supremacists will only increase that desire. They want an order that preserves their safety and promotes opportunity and inclusion.
But don’t think of it as a return to the past. “These kids today” will draw elements from the past to create a “mash up” that, theoretically, illuminates a larger idea. If that sounds like bell bottoms and button-downs, you could be right.
This might explain why young folks dress like children.
‘The developmental trajectory of adolescence has slowed, with teens growing up more slowly than they used to,’ said lead author Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University.
‘In terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4898600/Todays-US-teens-three-years-70s-generation.html#ixzz4t98sh2v2
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“We are all sinners, and, if given the indulgence, will dress as poorly as we can. Especially if we no longer believe we are worth redeeming — nor in the concept of redemption itself.”
I think you nailed it. The change isn’t just sartorial or cultural, but an embodiment of the philosophic and tectonic shift from classic and modernist philosophies to the postmodern world of relativism.
…And everyone wore what was right in their own mind.
Part 3 of Ken Burns’ PBS doc on Vietnam tonight, it’s been great so far. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWFzaUlZz-k
There were a helluva lot more Hippies than Beats. Every generation has its subculture like the Beats, but few spawn a nation-wide movement. I don’t think 400,000 people ever showed up to a poetry and bongo drum session.
Great piece, Christian. I enjoyed Mr. Boyer’s article when it came out, and I’m glad the editors sought out your take on it. As you know, I am firmly on the side of the righteous fogeys in all matters sartorial. I would guess that 90%+ of my wardrobe would have passed muster in the heyday, allowing a bit for fluctuations in lapel and tie width over the years at Brooks and Press, and making some allowance for a few “British-y” items from Polo here and there. I am inclined to go with those commentators who point to the baby boomers, beginning with hippies and anti-draft protesters, as the biggest factor in the downfall. As they got older and got tenure, became executives and professionals, and took over grown-up responsibilities, with no older generation demanding adherence to a dress code, the mass of men who never really cared one way or the other, stopped bothering. It is not universal, but is definitely the dominant mode. I went through a jeans and ratty army jacket phase in my teens, but snapped out of it fairly soon. Thankfully, when I started paying attention to clothes, there were still some great men’s stores and role models to inform my taste. Today, absent a bit of luck or a rare non-slob parent or mentor, most kids never have a chance to see anything beyond the dreck available on Main Street.
I think they all ended up in no-iron Dockers and Arrow shirts. Those young guys with millennial mo-hawks (bouffant on top and super short on the sides), handlebar mustaches, and skinny jeans call them dad clothes. I know that’s hard to view as progress, but at least they give a hoot about what they look like — even if it’s kinda dumb.
The late sixties/early seventies was a watershed era not just sartorialy, but also economically and socio-economically. Unlike you, I believe that people did not consciously choose to be slobs, but rather the economic decline in America at that time combined with the rise of fast food culture combined to cause an explosion in rates of obesity that precluded dressing conscientiously.
Let me explain…Since the late sixties the economic system in the U.S. has been in a steep decline. This, I believe is the reason for the growing popularity of McDonald’s, cheap burgers and unhealthy sodas. The rise of fast food culture and soda consumption mirrors the explosion of obesity rates in the U.S. Most likely the culprit is aspartame in diet sodas and high fructose corn syrup in colas. If you compare photos from 1967 to photos from 2017 what is most striking to me is that you never see any obese people in photos from fifty years ago. Never. What you see are mainly well-dressed, well-disciplined people.
As people’s waistlines and rates of diabetes increased, their culture and norms changed as well. This is reflected in changing tastes in music, food, as well as fashion. Casual clothing is not just considered less expensive, but also more flattering if you are a man with a forty inch waist. Elastic waistbands (as in sweatpants) replaced regular waistbands and neckties, dress shirts, and other constricting formal wear were replaced with casual clothing made with spandex and elastane.
One point I agree with you is that I don’t see any end in sight to the tremendous onslaught of Slob Nation. Thanks for being the refuge in the storm, as it were.
“…precious bodily fluids.”
Great piece, CC, I read Boyer’s article a while back and enjoyed it as well. The part about people essentially playing dress up these days struck a cord with me. Ralph Lauren’s philosophy is that a man should always dress the part, whether it be a rancher out in Colorado, or a buisness man in Manhattan. I too like to think that a man can be both, if he wears his clothes their respective natural habitats. 😉
Mr. McConnell, Levi’s stopped making 501s out of selvedge in 1984 and began making distressed jeans. *shudder*
Here in Los Angeles, you bring up an interesting point about rednecks but the difference is they didn’t contribute to the cultural decline; hippies did. Blaming “red state… slobs” for the overall sartorial decline (though they dress as workers should) isn’t correct.
In the years I’ve been following Ivy Style, I’ve noticed your writing getting better and better. I can tell you take great care to get the words just right. You are a worthy heir to Mr. Boyer. Bravo!
Thank you, Don. Bruce calls praise like that “jam on one’s toast,” and that’s pure marmalade, with some maple syrup thrown in. Gives me inspiration to get back to my magnum opus, which I hope to share with you all in a couple years’ time!
Good piece. You are on a roll, Christian, since I criticized you re: You know what. I think that both Mitchell S and whiskeydent make good points. I’m a pre-Boomer (born in 1944) dressing up was still often requisite in the 1980′-90’s ( yuppies, the Wall Street movie look) IMO, most ‘hippies” were conformists, but spurred on by drugs, anti war sentiments and the popular culture (Easy Rider, the book “The Greening Of America) adopted the hippie look-and also perhaps to aggravate the parents (don’t trust anybody over 30) Now we do live in a pretty much slob world- look at how most ‘celebrities” dress in real life. Actually, the D.C. area is rather “dress-up”, as most government workers I see are in jacket and tie. BTW, my private club has a strict coat and tie policy.
What was political in the ’60’s is now across politics-lefties and righties both show up in jeans, t-shirts and tats.
I believe the Beats were the seeds of discontent, without them you don’t get Hippies or Yippies or the New Left or the Weathermen. Those movements, at least for their leaders was Marxism, it wasn’t just about the war and the draft. Cheap drugs, easy women can draw a crowd and who couldn’t get a C average with rampant grade inflation to keep their draft deferments.
Beats were more literary- Ginsburg, Corso, Kerouac etc.
Hippies were mostly music- rock, psychedelic etc.
Whitley Bay Wonder “I don’t think however you can blame the UK for the rise in casual-ism”.
Whitley,i not blame UK,and i think that the so called “British invasion” is not the guilty for the rise of “casual-ism”.
In 1964-1966 the new British fashion was amazing; the peacock revolution and the new Edwardian style were a smart way to dress.
Look this cover from a Life magazine issue of 1966:
These guys are not “ivy” but are not slob hippies or kids of today in t-shirt and flip flop.
The guilty is the Vietnam war that boosted the counterculture,and before that, the murder of JFK in 1963.
Kennedy was more conservative of LBJ,and in his agenda had fiscal cuts and nothing of so extreme as the “great society” of LBJ.
Remember also that in his days the Kennedy administration was see as a return to formality,good taste and elegance.
So if Kennedy was not shot (or if Nixon had won in 1960) and without a, American involvement in the Vietnam war i’m firmly convinced that the counterculture ( the apocalypse hippies) would not spread becoming mainstream in late 60s.
The Vietnam war ripped our country apart at the seams. We have not yet recovered. I will remind you all that during that war there were over 58,000 American boys killed. Young American flocked to the streets shouting “hell no I won’t go” and “hey hey LBJ how many kids did you kill today”. The last thing we were thinking about was our clothing.
Quote: “The last thing we were thinking about was our clothing.”
Perhaps that’s exactly the point. The WW II generation still “thought about their clothing.”
If you permit, may I add that, while I had strong objections to a previous post due to what I think were cheap and unnecessary political shots, I think the discussions regarding politics on this thread are perfectly germane, considering the tenor of te times and its affect on things sartorial
A Gallup poll in 1968 showed that 46 percent of Americans approved of the way LBJ was handling the war. I venture to say the other 54 percent including many World War II veterans were think about the youth of America dying in rice paddies as they knotted their ties in the morning in 1968 and the years that followed!!
Excellent analysis from both Christian and Bruce, and it’s interesting to see how modes of dress relate to (or reflect) larger changes in society, norms, and expectations. I can’t imagine the effort it takes to continually produce content for a site like this, and like Don mentioned above, the writing keeps improving.
At the university where I work, many of the professors and other staff in the boomer cohort seem to have adopted the following uniform: a synthetic polo or non-iron shirt with curling collar points tucked into baggy khakis or wool-blend trousers, topped off with exceptionally ratty hiking shoes or white athletic sneakers.
I subscribe to the psychological effects of clothing – the act of dressing appropriately makes me feel more comfortable and competent in my job, and reflects my respect for the position I have and the institution I work for. It’s been a tricky progression since I finished my degree and entered the workforce, but I’ve been fortunate to work in an environment that makes the adoption of ‘Ivy-Style’ elements fairly easy and suitable. I wish I had developed my interest in style earlier in my 20s, and that sites such as this had been around during my undergraduate years.
I can only speak of what I witness and heard growing up in an active military family during the war. Most, including general officers were not happy being the world’s police force. Most were not happy about the escalation early on, especially the massive deployments. These guys never trusted JFK and hated LBJ. Being military men the decision was not their’s to make, their attitude as always was to win it if possible.
aMac I graduated from HS in 1968. It was a tumultuous time.. I was caught up in the new found world of trad clothing and the excitement of college and later law school. May we never make that mistake again. If we are going to send our young people to fight, we need to win, decisively. On a happier note, I’m 67. I think I would stack up in the heyday.
You hit the nail on the head. LBJ , the Democrat, and Nixon, the Republican, refused to allow the U.S. military to run and win the Vietnam war.
Nixon was supported by the military, he promised to bring the boys home and he did. The deployment numbers deceased precipitately starting soon after inauguration day. He did listen to the Generals, see above post, ““Bomb, bomb, bomb!
I would say socialism, rather than Marxism.
You’re a year a head of me. I was lucky I always dressed this way. My father and much older sisters were a great influence on me, although my sister thee years older than me did go hippie. Don’t worry she pulled out of the dive. My sister six years older was engaged to SDS leader at MU, they both dressed ivy.
I never knew how my father pick up the look, he grew up poor in a large family before becoming a Amy Air Corps cadet. I never thought to ask him, but I imagine someone influenced him, he dressed well out of uniform. Just like I influence most of my family members, frat bros and clients when I sold clothing.
It didn’t hurt having an Ivy shop three blocks from my HS.
The same thing just different degrees. One begat the other.
A 40″ waist is no excuse for dressing like a slob. Thanks to age, genes, and metabolism, some of us have a 40″ waist that no exercise or dieting can decrease. That does not prevent us from dressing properly.
I don’t think it’s waist lines, buy a old traditional Brooks Bros OCBD. It’s bigger through the waist than any tee. No I think it’s about the expense, the middle class has been hammered over the last two or three decades, the lower class even worse. That and some don’t care, some have to dress that way for work.
My nephew who I taught how to dress, graduated from university, got a job with a major corporation. Third day of work was told not to wear a tie and lose the blazer. Seems it offended upper management. WTF! This in a town that the better restaurants wouldn’t allow you to eat without a coat and tie in 1980.
I have a confession to make, I dressed like a slob today. I took the day off to finish painting a bed room. At 1:30 I got a call from my partner saying he was not going to make an appointment to run a payroll. I hit the shower, threw on some Polo drill shorts, a Triumph tee and TopSiders. Made it to the office on time and did the deed. The client commented that she had never seen me without a tie. But to be honest, I sometimes work on the weekends wearing 501s and a tee because it’s nearly impossible to get dead june bugs out of worsted. 😉
Try telling that to a Scandinavian. We live quite comfortably as socialists without knowing about or caring about Marx.
What are there like three Scandinavian countries, all very homogeneous ethnically for now. All actually very capitalistic mixed healthy economies. Very business friendly.
Today, everything is relaxed fit, expando waist. True story. Back in 2009, I bought a pair of khakis, my correct waist, on sale. Really nice pants, had the 4″ extended waist I didn’t need. Bought another 6 pairs online from the same company soon afterward. Those pants wore like iron, worn almost exclusively (I’m retired, they paired nicely with the navy blazer, etc.), all horribly worn by last year, except one pair for special dress up (HA HA).
Ordered a bunch of pairs of regular waist khakis and golf pants in October 2016, and even a seersucker suit in my historical size 44L. I couldn’t button any of the pants, or the jacket of the suit. Shocking, my weight had increased and my waist reflected my need for the extra 4″. I’ve been athletic all my life, even at age 65.
Immediately, I began to diet, just eating less, no cola, chips, fast food, a couple slices of bread a day, instead of 6-8. ( I never ate fast food much.) Eating sensibly is the key By April this year, I lost all the weight that I mindlessly put on. Those damn fat boy pants were an immediate cause. They were SO comfortable. I’m determined to keep my weight as now, no more fat boy pants.
In a society where fast food is supersized, and the “normal” clothing is made for comfort and expandability, is it a wonder that obesity is rampant. People will continue to look like slobs, and capitalism loves it. Food sales increase, medical profession gets more patients, insurance companies increase premiums, undertakers, all benefit, except the poor slob who gets sick, due to all the “It’s OK to be fat.” End of rant.
The missus is overweight, not horribly so, maybe 20 pounds. She attributes ( and excuses) her weight gain to hormones and other female nonsense. To paraphrase Al Bundy, when asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?” he replies, “The dress doesn’t make you look fat, the fat makes you look fat.”
My true story.
It could be argued that George Plimpton, on merits of lineage, education, and style, was the paragon of preppy. His tastes ran 100% Brooks, but this didn’t prevent him from happily mingling with athletes, hippies, beatniks, and Greenwich Village artists of all kinds. This, I think, made his style all the more charming. Boy-oh-boy did he stick out. There, like an island in a sea of black leather (think Warhol and Velvet Underground) and hippies, he stood tall and bemused, favoring his tweeds, OCBDs, flannels, and repp ties.
Ah, context. Consider it. This sort of sartorial incongruity may be compared with other sorts: the blazer- wearing fogey walking among a crowd of mid-level managers who have been seduced by the bland force of Casual Friday; the Shaggy Dog-and-corduroy combo in the midst of the all-too-ubiquitous fleece-and-jeans unions; the cracked Weejuns in a sea of–(the gag reflex has been prompted–new “running shoes.”
Why bemoan the fact that so few people embrace Ivy? Be thankful they don’t! Embrace the nearly non-stop opportunities for contrast. You don’t look like the hippie, the beatnik, the suburban peon who buys his clothes at Dick’s Sporting Goods, the foppish urbanite who overdoes everything, or the bearded, skinny-jeaned hipsters.
Delight in the dissimilitude. Now that dressing Ivy is as rare as driving an MGB Roadster or majoring in classics, the opportunities are aplenty.
Excellent comment about Plimpton as a classic prep type. Amateurism, rather than professionalism, is the trad way.
Thanks, Mr. Meyer. And yes, so true about amateurism.
I neglected to mention one of the more accessible opportunities for paradox: long hair paired with trad clothes. Again, we look to Plimpton. Behold:
aside: looking the photo CC posted (above), I would be delighted to see a photoshopped version: in the midst of the crowd of dancing, peace-declaring hippies, a chuckling, Brooksy Plimpton taking it all in–one hand in pocket, another holding a drink.
I agree with you that having a forty inch waist is no excuse for dressing like a slob, but you have to be really obsessed with fashion to not dress like a slob. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that many clothing manufacturers simply ignore overweight men. Fashion designers just don’t manufacture items like jeans or khakis past a certain waist size, usually size 36. Another reason is the ubiquity of stretch fabric like spandex or elastane in clothing today. These fabrics tell wearers that it is normal to gain four inches around the waist and not have to modify one’s diet or exercise. Finally, I think most American men have just thrown in the towel and are just resigned to dressing like slobs just because it is cheaper and requires less thought.
So, there will always be a niche of overweight men who dress well, but it will be a shrinking subset of men. Most guys I know just aren’t interested in style or consider someone who is interested in fashion effeminate. That’s another reason America is Slob Nation. However I feel most of the blame is due to the declining economy and the resulting fast food culture that have led to rampant obesity over the last five decades.
Don’t you guys realize that men with a forty inch waist are not obese, just overweight?
On the subject of tubby fellows, I note that one of the best dressed men I ever knew was an African-American, Republican lawyer in the late 1980s. He wasn’t rolly polly, but was definitely plus sized. While he was not an Ivy-leaguer, he was always impeccably dressed in Brooks Brothers suits, OCBDs and repp ties, or some similar classic Ivy-style ensemble, and he wore them naturally and well. He was a partner when I was a new associate, and was always very kind to me when our paths crossed. He went on to be a federal judge, and is now retired. He would have been college-age in the Hippie/Viet Nam era, but somehow avoided being a slob and even achieved elegance. Quite the gentleman.
Levi 501s come in size 58. O’Connell’s sells pants to size 46 at least. One of the best dressed men I’ve know was a five nine pudgy guy working at Woody’s in Manhattan, Kansas. A very tasty guy, who was poached by the Salvatore J. Cesarani of Country Britches fame in the late 1970s. Before I hear the parochial laughter, Woody’s sent more than one to work with Ralph in NYC. So yes fat men can dress well, taste transcends body type. Think of all the wealthy perfect bodied Hollywood types and how poorly they dress.
I thought everyone over forty had plus two inch “post holiday / winter hibernation” trousers hanging in the back of their closets.
So after almost 4 decades of neo-liberalism the USA is having serious problems, including sartorially, and the culprit is . . . Marxism. In what is possibly the world’s most right wing country.
Back in the day you had the GI Bill and unionised labour. In other words, good educational opportunities for the majority, and workers’ right – 2 concepts that are regarded as tantamount to communism by neo-liberal economists, and which show no sign of ever returning to your shores.
It is irrefutable that the initial phase of the break from the 1810s-1950s century+ of more or less socially-uniform standards of sober but tailored dress with an accent on propriety was fomented by various strands of essentially ‘leftist’ counter-culture. It can, however, be argued that with the drift towards a post-modern culture, the aesthetic-authoritarian vs. an-aestehtic/libertarian divide on the issue of clothing no longer maps very well along the economic left/right divide.
I think the reason this confuses people is that many conflate the current ‘left/right’ with the old ‘feft/right’ divide. I would argue that the latter was along pre-modern/modern lines while the altter is along pre-modern/psot-modern lines.
You’re taking that out of context. I was talking about the leaders of the Peace/ Youth movements. Name one that’s wasn’t. We’re talking almost five decade ago. Yes the New Left has taken over institutions, they couldn’t build themselves.
Unions committed suicide with the exception of the service industry, government and education. In most cases the legacy cost are unsustainable in manufacturing, most plants have had a two tiered lower pay system for new employees for the last twenty years. The government schools are a travesty destroying another generation of low income Americans, but the union is healthy.
Back in the day we had the only plant and equipment not destroyed in WWII. It took decades for the rest to catch up, even with our help.
Unions are still legal in America, you just can be forced to join them in some states. Like the GI Bill, join the military, my guess is that a free education is at your finger tips paid for by the government.
The battle in the 60s actually had little to do with the right. The battle was between the rational Old Left and the much further left New Left. The New Left in the end won, the Old Left are the now dead Democrats many on this site revere or at least respect. They believed in the Bill of Rights.
Sartorially, I think my generation was just lemmings when it came to our cultural icons. Christ, just check out record album covers from 1965 to 75. Few of us liked the music, but did let them set the hook. 😉
I hear you, Mr McConnel, there is definitely a point there (though as a yurropean, some of the chaps I think you are referring to as ‘old left’ would not be considered left at all, here)
I personally know dozens of people who were active in the anti-war movement and are not, nor have they ever been, Marxists. And yes, I’ve known a few who were or still are communists. One differentiates himself by saying he was a “Chi-com.”
Marxism is a loaded term, and you appear to be painting people with a very broad brush. In particular, socialists are not necessarily Marxists/communists. For example, the Western European countries are all multi-party democracies and support free enterprise.
As a European you had you own taste of it, Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof, PLO, even Marxist factions of the IRA. Revolution is sexy till you blow yourself up.
I agree, I think we experienced the same times and probably have the same kind of friends and family scared to death of the draft at the time. Although my exposure was only at the tail end. I’m talking about the leaders, many now in academia or dead that blew shit up.
I don’t have a problem with mixed economies, although markets should take priority. mostly because markets are more efficient, less prone to graft.
Definition of socialism
1 :any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a :a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b :a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3 :a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done
We’re good. I don’t know if you recall, but I’m a USAF brat too. My dad commanded a special operations wing in ’69 that did SAR’s and, as my dad used to say, didn’t bomb Laos every day.
I hope your dad is still around, mine left ten years ago. Funny they never talk much about their exploits, most of what I know I learn from ease-dropping on late night poker games or on the golf course when they didn’t think I could hear. I never knew he’d been shot down over Manila till a ran across a newspaper clipping in my grandfather’s scrape book. Imagine the stories they could tell, what a generation.
@Mac I, too, was a member of a frat and sold trad clothing while in college.
Mac Mc Connell
My father served in the 10th during WWII and fought in the Po Valley. Never talk about it with non veterans. About 12 years after my dads passing, I learned by accident that he was decorated, three medals awarded in combat.
I blame rich people.
Their massive ego to stand out as mavericks or their outright indolence to dress sloppily, or worst, their patronizing desire to be “like everyone else” ruined it all.
It’s funny, most men I know who dress relatively well (by these type of fashion blog standards i.e. borderline fops) are regular living check by check guys–myself included.
Here’s why Americans fought and died in Vietnam:
I guess that’s what some of the commenters on this blog mean by “fighting Communism”.
Plenty of young people who wore madras, penny loafers, chinos, and button-downed oxfords protested that misguided, poorly planned nightmare of a war.
Here are the Shaggy’s:
My dad passed in ’96. Fortunately, he was a talker, particularly after a few scotches. A couple of the stories were hair-raising (hoping the intel was right and the school he was about to bomb was actually a VC hideout), but most of them were hilarious escapades (the Aussie pilot who drunkenly drove their jeep into a bar).
Interesting for this crowd, he briefed a touring WF Buckley about what they weren’t doing in Laos. I have a photo from the visit, and WFB was wearing a turtleneck!
Was It Warhol who said, “Be rich, dress poor”?
But, it was the “Best and Brightest” that planned the war. OK, they worked for that micro managing military genius LBJ. In their defense, I think they thought it was going to be easier than Korea and just one more skirmish of our policy of containment in the Cold War.
All I can say is I’m glad I work in a bulge-bracket Investment Bank here in Manhattan, where wearing ties and suits is still the norm for men. There is an ad agency on one floor in my elevator bank, though, where the sweats-n-slob look prevails. You should see the reactions from the IBankers when the ad agency casualistas get off the elevators and the doors close. Hilarious!
I had the pleasure of meeting my father’s WWII crew chief at a squadron reunion in 1990. This very old guy thought my father was a god. He told me that after being shot down my father fought with the Filipino guerrillas for six months, the Navy finally rescued him, of course the guerrillas receive a bounty. Normally pilots in those circumstances go home, my father refused and continued flying missions.
He flew in WWII, Korea and for a short time early in Nam.
Like most of us who didn’t serve in Nam, we only hear from family and friends that did. Some are heart stopping funny, many are heart breaking tragic. We always honor our warriors in America, they aren’t the deciders, civilians
Wonderful note! Would love to explore the theological implications a bit more.
I wouldn’t trust a banker that didn’t wear a suit and tie. Same goes for an attorney. I’m just prejudice.
Of what ? Rosh Hashanah?
My great-uncle fought in Vietnam, never thought to ask him about his service. Something scarring must have happened as he refuses to go on another plane. Wonder if he was shot down. But he did bring home a wife so some good came out of his service for him.
True war bride story. I mentioned before that my older sister was engaged to the Haspel seersucker suit wearing leader of the MU SDS anti war group. Well he graduated and got a government job with the organisation that runs the military PX s world wide. Guess where they sent him? Saigon. He and my sister broke up, he ended up bring home a Viet bride. Two years back in country she stabs him while he’s asleep. Sadly they divorced.
That’s actually the only sad story I know concerning war brides. Having been a military brat I’ve been exposed to many. Most are beautiful and wonderful human beings.
Sometime I’ll tell you some stories about Gerta, my 1970s German alteration lady and a WWII Nazi motor pool mechanic. Not only could Gerta totally reconstruct a jacket, she could tune up an antique BMW motorcycle. Great gal!
Mr. McConnell, that’s a rough tale. My great-aunt’s a sweet and quiet lady. Guess my great-uncle picked a good one. With stories like that you should write a book! By the way did you get my latest email?
Yes, sorry I have a bad habit of only checking the company email and not my personal. Email me a description of the 77. Oh! Call me Mac.
I just got around to checking out your “Here are the Shaggy’s:” post link. Plimpton is in that year book, his hair fits right in with the students’. Actually the students don’t look that bad considering the year. I’m not giving demerits for the lobster bib ties or the hang glidable lapels. 😉
Thanks for the link, old year books always a hoot.