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