GTH = Gone To Heaven

The recently deceased dandy author Tom Wolfe will be forever remembered for his signature white suits — as well as his purple prose. And in Tradsville, for still another colorful reason: his coining of the adjectival phrase “go-to-hell” to describe the trad/Ivy/preppy sub-genre of blinding, rainbow-colored leisure clothing, which, in the digital age, became part of our lexicon through the acronym GTH.

Here’s the famous GTH passage from his 1976 Esquire article “Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine.

[Bostonians on Martha’s Vineyard] had on their own tribal colors. The jackets were mostly navy blazers, and the ties were mostly striped ties or ties with little jacquard emblems on them, but the pants had a go-to-hell air: checks and plaids of the loudest possible sort, madras plaids, yellow-on-orange windowpane checks, crazy-quilt plaids, giant houndstooth checks, or else they were a solid airmail red or taxi yellow or some other implausible go-to-hell color. They finished that off with loafers and white crew socks or no socks at all. The pants were their note of Haitian abandon… at the same time the jackets and ties showed they had not forgotten for a moment where the power came from.

For more on the history of go-to-hell clothing, see my 2010 article for The Rake. Tom Wolfe’s white suits will harmonize perfectly with the celestial light of heaven. And his writings will live on in eternity. — CC

20 Comments on "GTH = Gone To Heaven"

  1. RIP, Mr. Wolfe. Quite a character, whose prose and style will never be forgotten.

  2. Looks like purple paisley up there had a little accident.

  3. RIP, Mr. Wolfe. I hope that he’s GTH (gone to heaven).

  4. Ron Broughton | May 17, 2018 at 1:01 am | Reply

    It’s quite clear from this passage that Mr Wolfe was reflecting the attitude of people who wore those outlandishly garish combinations of colors (“I don’t give a damn what you think”) when he used GTH to describe them.

  5. “Go To Hell” was indeed Mr. Wolfe’s coinage. However “GTH” (a term quickly taken up by O’Connell’s) was coined on Ask Andy About Trad. We do not mention who used the acronym on there first.

  6. Thomas Mukherjee | May 17, 2018 at 8:15 am | Reply

    @ Jefferson.

    As I recall it was Harris who coined the term. If my memory does not deceive me, young Harris was a key player in the ‘Trad’ movement at one time.

  7. Down Tradden | May 17, 2018 at 11:49 am | Reply

    @Jefferson and Muckergee

    Harris was an interesting character. Kickstarted Ask Andy Trad and then dematerialised!

  8. It’s the pants and their color that is described as “go to hell,” not the attitude of the wearer. Knowing Wolfe’s prose style, I maintain that he intended “go-to-hell” as a synonym for outlandish and garish.

    WASP patricians have no need to tell each other to go to hell (Wolfe calls them tribal colors), nor any social inferiors they may encounter on those rare occasions when they’re in their festive country club clothes but, say, have to pull over for gasoline.

  9. Down Tradden | May 17, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Reply

    Managed to find the ‘historic’ AAAT thread from 2009.

    http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/threads/go-to-hell-clothing.51390

  10. Down Tradden | May 17, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Reply

    Sorry:
    Managed to find the ‘historic’ AAAT thread from 2006.

  11. “The pants were their note of Haitian abandon…”

    “Haitian” is an interesting choice of word. Does he mean to imply that the wearer might be standing around quite sedately while the pants are throbbing with the enthusiasm of a voodoo-induced trance?

  12. Mitchell S. | May 17, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Reply

    @Christian: I have to disagree with your comment about how WASPs neither wear GTH pants to impress their peers nor their inferiors. This makes no sense at all.

    Loud, garish pants were (and still are to some degree) an ostentatious display of conspicuous consumption. Much the same way peacocks use their brilliant plumage to attract females and warn other males (go to hell) of their strength and fitness. So, wearing GTH pants is a way of signaling to one’s peers, potential mates, as well as other males and social inferiors who are not part of the WASP tribe.

  13. @Cameron

    I’m guessing back in the day Haiti was associated with bright colors. Check out the set decor and costuming in the Fred Astaire number “I Left My Hat In Haiti,” I forget from which musical.

  14. “GTH” was not “Harris”. It was the other unmentionable Ask Andy author who also reminded people of Wolfe’s other coinage “The Boston Cracked Shoe Look”.
    “Harris” was soon called on his stupid trolling and soon desisted. The Unmentionable One reveled in his trolldom and now runs probably the most expensive bespoke Ivy tailors in the West End of London and on the Left Bank of Paris.
    I loathe him, insert smiley face.
    I owe him roughly 3,000 Euros and he never shuts up about the fact. The last I heard he wanted to take my car to settle my bill.
    However, my suit is perfect.

  15. Down Tradden | May 18, 2018 at 7:46 am | Reply

    @ Lawton

    I don’t wish to be rude, but what the dickens are you talking about, Lawton?

    Hang on, though…Lawton? Oh, yes. You are the alter ego of the disgraced former moderator of that silly FNB Talk Ivy site.

    With respect ‘Lawton’, go to *ell!

  16. Henry Contestwinner | May 22, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Reply

    Christian, “I Left My Hat in Haiti” is from Royal Wedding, which co-starred my fellow Portlander, Jane Powell.

  17. @ Down Tradden

    No, not me. That silly Talk Ivy site also made the same mistake. Such fools they made of themselves in the process.
    My post above was just a bit of ancient online history I made a bit of a micro study of for my Media Studies degree. Then I became a client of the monster in question. My car remains in my garage.

  18. Down Tradden | May 23, 2018 at 7:39 am | Reply

    @ Lawton

    Apologies, Lawton. I have just visited that ‘silly’ ( and might I say pointless site ) and looked closely at the threads you contributed to including the one where you bullied and then banned by that weedy igent who wears badly fitting thrifted clothing and revels in using the usual igent lingo such as ‘paired with’,’pull the trigger ‘ , ‘outfit’ and so on.

  19. @ Down Tradden

    No need to apologise. You are a gentleman, not an igent!
    This is the difference between Ivy Style & Talk Ivy.
    The recently coined term for what went on at Talk Ivy is “Algorithmic Subservience”: The misapprehension that if it quacks like a duck then it is a duck. This has never been true, especially in our online age. Think of Salem in 1692: It was just as untrue then as it is now. However I can appreciate that it is an easy trap for the unsophisticated (not you) to fall into. Wishing you well –

  20. Thomas Mukherjee | May 27, 2018 at 6:09 am | Reply

    @ Lawton

    I agree totally that we need to distinguish between igents and gentlemen. As you correctly point out, this site is for the latter, whilst the former is indubitably for the Ivy igents. Ironic really given that a once prolific poster on Talk Ivy coined the term.

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