Everyone Is Right Wing When It Comes To The Things They Care About

Years ago I came across a quote that goes something like, “Everyone is right-wing when it comes to the things they care about.” I think it may have been attributed to the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, but my attempt to track down the quote via Google came up with nada.

The argument goes that when people are passionate about something — baseball, poetry, clothing — they tend to venerate tradition, to wish to conserve and maintain established standards of excellence, and to resist change. I’ve been around everyone from surfers to pipe collectors, opera lovers to clothes-wearing men of every taste, and guys who are otherwise open and liberal can be the most dogmatic, narrow-minded, snobbish and judgemental cranks when it comes to their particular hobby.

I share this quote in the context of a new post by Derek at Die Workwear! that references trad, Ivy and prep. The essay is called “Progressives And The Suit” and sets out to counter the association of fine suits with power and patriarchy. After all, Gordon “Greed Is Good” Gekko, one of the most iconic sartorial figures of the past few decades, was no Socialist.

I think Derek may be a tad paranoid about guilt-by-association, writing, “Every time I read one of these [suit-wearing far-right extremists], I want to burn my entire wardrobe,” and later, “good tailoring is for everyone.” That shouldn’t need to be justified, especially in an age when the new establishment wears sneakers and hoodies. Twenty years ago I profiled a punk rock singer who wore suits every day in suburban California, his way of signalling he was a “parrot among the crows.”

In his post, Derek writes:

I also think about the people who inspired me to wear tailored clothing in the first place – mid-century jazz musicians, postmodern French philosophers, and writers such as Robert Lowell and George Frazier. All wore their clothes in that dégagé way I think makes tailoring look especially good. Tussled hair with unlined, floppy collars and three-roll-two sport coats. Even if the style is kind of prep school today, they put it together in a manner that felt edgy.

Derek and I have corresponded frequently and spoken on the phone, and I know he has wrestled with feelings of bad faith for having a love of quality clothing while half the world is starving. Justifying finery is understandably harder when you have a compassionate heart as opposed to a Grinch and Gekko-sized one.

Head over here to read the piece and especially to check out the extensive image gallery, which features a plethora of photos from mid-century. — CC

30 Comments on "Everyone Is Right Wing When It Comes To The Things They Care About"

  1. However, I also see the opposite almost as much among those who, out of passion for their particular interest, are most interested in what’s new and cutting-edge, that which takes their area of passion forward into new territory. I am this way myself in things like music, literature, art. I revere what’s been done, true, but I also enjoy what is current and anticipate what is to come. What’s going to happen next is one thing that, I think, keeps most of us going.

  2. Brooks Brothers, from what I’ve heard and read, used to be that way. It was conservative clothing for fairly conservative people. They offered the same goods year after year, as evidenced in their catalogs. Now they’re seemingly unpredictable.

  3. You might be thinking of Robert Conquest. “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Conquest#Robert_Conquest.E2.80.99s_Three_Laws_of_Politics

  4. Boston Bean | May 25, 2017 at 12:16 pm |

    “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.”
    Robert Conquest

  5. The quote was relayed in a book but I can’t remember the book to go find the quote.

    I’ve never heard of Robert Conquest, so suspect the same sentiment has been expressed different ways. His is certainly more pithy than how I remember the quote.

  6. Mitchell S. | May 25, 2017 at 12:48 pm |

    “Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.”-Jorge Luis Borges

  7. The quote, regardless of its author or specific wording is indeed apt. I consider myself decidedly open-minded in most areas and perhaps even iconoclastic in others. That said, I become a complete reactionary when it comes to tailored clothing and baseball (very good inclusion on that one, CC, as there are more than a few of what my father calls “Shi’ite seamheads” out there).

    I do think that a certain awareness among fans of tailored clothing is a good idea in 2017. Richard Spencer and Donald Trump may very well do what even casual Friday and the Sexual Revolution could not- kill the business suit. Outside of some news and sports anchors, their ilk are the most-photographed suit wearers in 2017. Spencer is despicable to the point of toxicity. Trump is many things to many people but, even among his supporters, “stylish” and “cool” are not among them. DJT may be to the necktie what JFK was to the hat, albeit for slightly different reasons.

  8. I recently took the Big Five personality test, a standard in the field of psychology. I was a bit surprised to score in the 96th percentile for Trait Openness, which covers intellectual curiosity, aesthetic sensitivity, variety, and in touch with feelings.

    I knew I was high in all those qualities, but not so extreme as to be 96th percentile.

    But there’s plenty to be reactionary about here on this site when we compare certain aspects of the past to the present and the past comes out the clear winner, albeit subjectively of course.

  9. You should read Conquest, CC – a first-rate historian of the Cold War.

  10. “…dégagé way I think makes tailoring look especially good. Tussled hair with unlined, floppy collars and three-roll-two sport coats. Even if the style is kind of prep school today, they put it together in a manner that felt edgy.”

    For reasons I can’t fully explain, this is very much spot on.

    Thing is, it’s not prep school today. It’s a safe guess most prep school kids dress as badly as their fathers. By badly I here mean boring. No taste.

    So many people are so dreadfully boring. God, it’s a syndrome. It’s as though midwestern blandness has spread like a disease.

    The “conservatives” who receive attention in circles such as this had a sense of style. Taste. They weren’t boring.

    WFB Jr. said of conservatism: “temperamentally I am not of the breed.” Exactly. He preferred the company of interesting, tasteful liberals to many self-professing conservatives. On matters of taste, he was a snob.

  11. It’s right about now I’d like to see Andy Warhol eating a Burger King burger while sporting a Brooks Blazer and repp tie.

  12. Blue Pinpoint | May 26, 2017 at 12:28 am |

    S.E.
    When everyone else is dressing like a circus clown, it’s a form of civilized rebellion to be “boring” in one’s sartorial choices.

  13. Vern Trotter | May 26, 2017 at 1:52 am |

    Robert Conquest, one of the Downing Street Irregulars, and a heavyweight historian of the 20th century, was a personification of your theme. A former communist, he became one of the foremost anti-communists. The saying, “A reformed whore sings loudest in church” comes to mind. He was fond of reminding us that Stalin did more harm to the world than did Hitler.

  14. Vern Trotter | May 26, 2017 at 2:12 am |

    On the Die Workwear gallery, except for Buckley, Heston and Hitchens, they are all far left wingers.

  15. The God That Failed is a 1949 book which brings together essays by six of the most important writers of the twentieth century on their conversion to and subsequent disillusionment with communism.

    Link to the entire book:

    https://rosswolfe.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/the-god-that-failed.pdf

  16. Joe Strummer of lefty punk rockers The Clash, rocking a very bankerly double-breasted shortly before his death.

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/fe/31/32/fe31322c3780aaf1d6e9af14621256a3.jpg

  17. Vern Trotter | May 26, 2017 at 11:19 am |

    @DD,

    THE GOD THAT FAILED is a classic that I read back in the 1950s. Whitaker Chambers, then one of the editors of TIME, turned down a chance to write a chapter. Just ordered a copy. Thanks for the reminder.

  18. whiskeydent | May 26, 2017 at 11:25 am |

    Omphaloskepsis.

  19. whiskeydent Word of the Century

  20. The middle class is a placid sea of blandness. Yoga pants, Nike sneakers, nondescript polar fleece. And that’s just the women. For men, cargo shorts, hoodies, and “ball caps” seem to rule in the suburbs. Oh yes, let us not forget jeans. When they dress up for work, it’s the hideous spread collar poly-blend shirt, non-iron “chinos,” and, below, something like this:

    https://www.ghbass.com/product/hudson+loafer.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=fn&selectedOption=208413

    To my surprise and dismay, seems it’s only slightly better in the tony parts of the South. Two weeks ago I visited a few shops in the West End of Richmond (for those in the know, the Grove & Libbie area). Twenty years ago, you would have seen all kinds of trad and preppy cool. No more. Again, a mind-boggling collection of yoga pants, running shoes, and more-or-less Jos. A. Bank catalog kit.

    Which makes anyone who’s still interested in old school Ivy clothing just plain eccentric. Which is fine with me. I’m fine with eccentric. Three Cheers (!) for eccentric. But all the more reason the look now belongs as much to the creatives and the intellectuals and the artists. It’s no longer what Chip the Yale-graduated Investment Banker wears to white shoe firm during the week and to the yacht club on the weekends.

  21. whiskeydent | May 26, 2017 at 11:55 am |

    Thanks @DCG. It’s right up there with ecdysiast.

  22. Vern, serious question; was JFK really that far left? As for the best dressed, I say Buckley wins with his seersucker sport coat paired with weejuns. And we all know just how progressive he was. 😉

  23. whiskeydent | May 26, 2017 at 12:16 pm |

    JFK was definitely to the right of Adlai. A big part of his campaign was about the “missile gap” with the Russians. What made him “liberal” was his general call for change and progress.

  24. Vern Trotter | May 27, 2017 at 2:46 am |

    @GS,

    In my opinion, JFK would now be called center-right. His patriotism, anti-communism, Christian faith and evolving economic and tax beliefs are not found in today’s Democrat party. He grew to be heavily influenced by his Republican Treasury Secretary and personal friend, C. Douglas Dillon, much to the chagrin of his Keynesian economic advisors. Two decades later, his Revenue Act of 1964 (signed by LBJ after the assassination) was compared with the Ronald Reagan tax cut.

  25. I absolutely agree that JFK would not recognize the modern Democratic Party and that he was a true patriot. His stance on equality is now widely accepted though it may have been progressive at the time.

  26. whiskeydent | May 27, 2017 at 4:47 pm |

    JFK would wonder why the Republicans let Joe McCarthy take control. Back then, most Republicans were pragmatists who wanted to restrain government growth but to also make critical investments (Interstate highways for example). Today’s GOP wants to tear down government and their contempt for it runs so deep that they do a terrible job of simply trying to govern. And the 50’s-60’s Republicans certainly weren’t cowardly xenophobes looking for a wall to hide behind. They were unafraid of engaging the world.

  27. Love the picture. Great movie btw.

    JFK was a progressive in some respects but article below explains how Bobby and Teddy’s views have bled into JFK’s legacy; those flaming Kennedy liberals.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/opinions/five-myths-about-john-f-kennedy/2013/11/13/bf1d1442-4b1a-11e3-be6b-d3d28122e6d4_story.html

  28. whiskeydent | May 28, 2017 at 8:30 am |

    @WFBjr

    I would be careful about relying upon Larry Sabato. He is largely an elections prognosticator and “non-partisan” quote machine who has a great instinct for self-promotion.

    In this article, the writer unravels the idea that Kennedy was somehow a supply-sider such as Reagan. Though Kennedy was certainly cautious, he was Keynesian, not laughably Laffer. Tax cuts were part of a mix with spending, not the sole prescription.

    https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2011/01/26/the-myth-of-jfk-as-supply-side-tax-cutter

  29. Vern Trotter | May 28, 2017 at 10:24 pm |

    A couple of good recent ones that detail JFK’s evolving away from the Keynesian ideas of his professor advisors and toward the ideas of C.Douglas Dillon as to tax cuts and economic policy during his truncated term of office.

    JFK And The Reagan Revolution: A Secret History Of Americam Prosperity by Lawrence
    Kudlow and Brian Domitrovic. (2016)

    JFK CONSERVATIVE by Ira Stoll. (2013)

    Quick reviews of course available on Amazon. All would find informative.

  30. Vern Trotter | June 1, 2017 at 2:46 pm |

    I just noticed that in this picture Bill has his trousers cuffed, as he should, while Vidal does not. One more strike against GV.

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