Read through the comments yesterday, and while this is throwing the editorial calendar a little bit out of whack, it got so interesting I thought the conversation should continue. If you disagree, go back to the Andover Shop post, and apply for a job. They are really hiring, fyi. To submit your candidacy, please contact Tucker Mscisz at (508) 922-8546 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some readers think Alan Flusser is funny. I don’t see it. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t. I used to belong to the cigar club at The Greenwich Tabaconnist. It was a crazy time, I think I told one story from there about how we were sitting around on a Friday night and some lady knocks on the door, we open it and she asks if anyone has a plane that can fly her groundskeeper to North Carolina where there was a hospital that could reattach his arm that he lost falling through the roof of her greenhouse. And somebody had one.
Anyway, when the cigar club met (every Friday, EVERY Friday at 6:00) the shop would close. So Jimmy (owner) is closing the door and this young man and his girlfriend come through. We are groaning because you can’t break out the whiskey until the store is closed. And the kid is holding hands with his girlfriend and they are poking around (NEVER hold hands with anyone in a cigar store unless you are begging to be eye-rolled when you leave). There are about 10 of us, all in suits and Trafalgar braces and we all lean back on leather couches and watch this kid stick his beak in one box after another. No one is talking, because we don’t want the kid comfortable. God forbid he sit down with his girlfriend. Finally he turns to Jimmy and asks what cigars are good. Jimmy says, “Kid, a good cigar is one you like.”
If you think Flusser is funny, you have my support. I am the same about humor as I am about love, unless it impacts someone else’s dignity, I don’t care where you get it from.
There were some references to Flusser’s own taste, and how the levity and joy are reflected there. Agreed, too. Funny dresser, not a funny writer.
Which isn’t to say there isn’t style there. In fact, I think Flusser is a man of great style.
Here is what style is, as it pertains to clothing. Three things. First, it is a reflection of you. Your vertebrae. Your jelly. If your clothes don’t reflect that, you are at a masquerade ball. When people write about me wearing an earring AND a repp tie, they often say, “it’s fine but it is just not me.” PERFECT. If you know who you are, then you can have a style. Second, style is a transaction. After all, other people see your style more than you do. Right? So style is an exchange between your impressions of yourself and others’ impressions of you. It is a dialogue of I-care-or-I-don’t/You-care-or-you-don’t. The heft and product of that dialogue is style. Thirdly, style is aesthetic, which is quantifiable. By effort. Style is effort. Slapping things together, nice things even, isn’t style as much as it is doing a jigsaw puzzle. Sure, everything fits, but did you make a statement or solve a problem? Style is quantifiable as good or not-so-good by answering (1) is it you? (2) does it engage other people in a positive way and (3) did you work at it or just Garanimal it?
My point about Flusser’s book is that unlike Boyer’s it presumes to tell me what proper style is. What looks good, what does not. Based on what he likes. That’s not a guide, it is a manifesto. And because Flusser markets with photos of himself (so do I to be fair) and breaks his own rules, it comes off as a disingenuous manifesto. But because he labels everything, the book has technical merit.
Think of it this way. You can (and MUST) read Boyer’s book and walk away knowing everything you need to know about how to dress well in Western Civilization in 2022, then you can look at a Dashiki and say, “Now THAT is style. You read Flusser’s book and walk away with knowing what Flusser thinks is proper, then you can look at a Dashiki and say, “Now THAT is called a Dashiki.”
Tomorrow, the Andover WOCBD.
Hadn’t we had enough of Mr. Flusser after this:
“ The sack suit… was not called the sack suit for nothing. … For those seeking anonymity in their clothing or wishing to hide an ungainly figure, this may be an acceptable style. But for anyone else, the sack-style suit is woefully inappropriate.”?
I agree with you and highlighted the same quote. But… diversity of opinion. – JB
For those seeking attention in their clothing or wishing to display an awkward, clumsy, inelegant figure, this [sack suit] may be an unacceptable style.
JB, I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I know I’m not alone in saying that Mr. Flusser definitely has plenty of wit, joy, and yes…humor.
In an interview, Mr. Flusser says that his main aim for the future is “to be part of it.” https://alanflusser.com/press/the-rake-lifetime-achievement-award
It’s obvious to me that you hate the man, and by association, anything that he wears. It’s also obvious that you’re gaslighting him when you say that his book is a “manifesto” and you feel he is yelling at you and talking down to you.
I have watched many videos of him on YouTube and that is not the impression I get.
Hi Mitchell – I don’t hate the man. Never met him. As I say in the piece, if you think there is humor there, then that is great. I don’t. I also said, in the same piece, that I think he has style. It isn’t my style, but who cares? I don’t wear Dashikas either. “Gaslighting” doesn’t mean that. That’s how I really feel. The man does say, as you see in the comments and in my piece yesterday, that a sack suit only looks good if you don’t like your body. That’s a pretty big middle fashion finger to the Ivy world. I also say that (because I have watched the videos too) he seems like a nice guy. One doesn’t have to be funny to be nice. Being funny is a tool to keep interest in what you are saying. If you want to write, and you aren’t funny, you just need another tool. But you do need a tool. Mr. Flusser chose to write without one. His Lauren book, on the other hand, was pretty good, but that is because that is a story about something else other than Mr. Flusser’s own thoughts. I also said he knows clothes. … … as an aside, that “my goal for the future is to be part of it” line is an old job interview joke. I’m not blaming him for using it, it is a good line. But it isn’t his. My point being that if you are going to write a book of original thought or opinion, and you want it to be interesting, you have to write it interestingly. – JB
You break it down with humor and clarity JB. OK, I’ll concede your point is well made and made well. It’s honestly been ages since I read Flusser’s Dressing The Man. I don’t remember the writing well enough to know whether I’d fully agree with your characterization of the book (really the earlier version, which I haven’t read, though I am given to understand has overlapping content) as a manifesto over a guide. It sure had a big impact on me, in any case. I do look forward to reading G. Bruce Boyer’s book. Yesterday’s post reminded me to find a copy.
I just looked at Mr. Flusser’s site, and he has some socks I’ve been seeking for ages. Understated, yet not plain, adorned but not gaudy. I prefer dep’t store OTC nylon? socks, because they are comfortable for me, make it easier to slip into grown man shoes, and seem to be indestructible. Mr. Flusser’s socks are cotton, so I wonder how long they would last. I also noticed that Mr. Flusser’s site features what I would consider to be pretty darn conservative, all things considered.
The only Flusser book I ever read was the 1985 “Clothes and the Man”. The book was basically an encyclopedia of origins and history of clothing items. His advise was to purchase classics and find your own style.
Did I deam this? I seem to remember a Esquire “Black Book” of men’s clothing from the 1960s. It was an actual encyclopedia. It usually set on the counter at what we called “soft shoulder” clothing stores in Kansas City.
It’s often helpful in this kinds of discussions/debates to ask – what is the goal you are after?
Flusser’s goal clearly isn’t to be Ivy. That said, he laid out principles in Dressing the Man that are agnostic of genre, yet very useful and timeless. The latter seems to be his goal.
Imagine trusting a cigarette-smoking cardiologıst, an out-of-shape personal trainer, a tone-deaf pianist, etc.
The editorials in this blog are becoming as snarky as the readers comments can sometimes be.
Fashion/style/clothing books, magazines and blogs are not by their nature comic strips although some might see humour in the writings. I do not know Mr. Flusser nor do I know Mr. Boyer. But comparing these two gentlemen in the recent manner is not what I (thought) this column was about.
Let’s get with the programme.
Becoming? Where’ve you been? – JB
@MacMcConnell The encyclopedia you’re referring to is Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashion–one of if not the best books about menswear out there. It’s pretty expensive to buy one now but I have a copy my father gifted me!
Style is personal, as is everything. Nothing is really perfect for all because we’re all shaped different and none of us are exactly alike. Offering one’s opinion of art, literature, and style in a manner that recognizes the impact, and the affect of the offering is a review. It’s snarky to call Ivanka Trump a feckless C, it’s a critique to comment on someone’s accomplishment not being “my cup of tea”.
I own clothes with AF’s label. I wouldn’t own everything he made or endorsed. Giving an honest opinion without slander is an act to be celebrated, we’re not judging food for ratings. AF has had an impact and offerings that were IMHO honestly reviewed.