Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal ran a piece that cause quite a bit of discussion in our Facebook group. For starters, there’s the headline: “Why admiring Cary Grant’s style ages you.”
Apparently the concept of timeless style has turned out to be a false one. Alan Flusser coined the term “permanent fashion” to refer to the so-called rules of menswear that were largely codified in the 1930s, but the Journal reminds us that everything in the universe is in flux, and the only thing constant is change. And so the pantheon of menswear icons — many of whom wore elements of the Ivy League Look — should be viewed as irrelevant relics. Why? Come on, you cranky relics, you know the answer. From the piece:
IF THERE WERE a Mount Rushmore of men’s style icons, Steve McQueen, Cary Grant and Paul Newman would probably be chiseled in stone. Not all men have looked up to this predictable trio since the 1950s, but many have. Whenever mere mortals faced closet conundrums, these heroes’ celebrated wardrobes provided answers: What do I wear to that pitch meeting? A dark gray suit, polished black shoes and a tie a la Grant. Or, how can I look cool? Just put on whatever Newman wore during his downtime. While their pulchritude was not achievable for everyone, their outfits were.
But many decades have passed since these and comparable names ruled pop culture. And in the ensuing time, men’s fashion has become more diverse and, happily, more inclusive. As handsome as Grant’s Savile Row suits and Newman’s preppy canvas sneakers were, they’re relics in an age of pervasive streetwear and changing gender norms. CEOs amble into work wearing T-shirts, jeans and hoodies; male models stomp down runways in lace blouses.
Then there’s the following:
We are not all white, fit, hetero men with dashing good looks, and the range of style icons men reference has come to reflect that… Who you look up to is a personal thing. As it should be.
Amen to that last part. As for the first, the problem with classic menswear — as with history in general— is that it’s filled with a conspicuous number of white, fit hetero men. As to whether or not they had dashing good looks, you decide. — CC