As mentioned in the San Francisco prep story recently posted, I’ve been writing for the SF society mag The Nob Hill Gazette, which I did some pieces for many years ago when I lived in the city. My latest is on a few proud peacocks in the Bay Area’s tech industry who defy the unofficial uniform of puerile casualness. You menswear omnivores out there might enjoy the piece.
Symbols of hierarchy are a coded language some men obsess over (the book and film American Psychoprovides delightful black comedy on the subject), and yet one of the most astute analysts of sartorial semiotics was an Englishwoman named Pearl Binder, author of the 1958 tome The Peacock’s Tail: An Examination of the Purpose and Meaning of Male Dress, an erudite exegesis on the history of masculine panache.
Writing during the postwar years of gray-suited company men, Binder noted that male attire had become drab and dreary, which tells you, she argued, precisely how modern men feel about themselves. Men feel emasculated and demoralized for having, among other things, created machines to do their work for them. This was the era when the IBM corporation became a symbol of bland conformity, a punchline for beatniks and comedians. But the company’s strict dress code of gray suits and white shirts (never blue) is positively flamboyant compared to the puerile garb of today tech titans, whose sneakers and sweatshirts mark them not as Promethean gods and more like children playing with fireworks, blissfully ignorant of the consequences.
Yet amid the tech industry’s new hoodie-clad sartorial punchline (and paunchline) are a few rebel souls challenging the status quo by actually dressing like the affluent adult males they are, with respect for standards of personal attire above the lowest common denominator, and running the gamut from subdued to proud assertions of personal elan.
Casual attire may seem limiting to the novice who cannot envision anything beyond khakis and golf shirts, but it is in limitation, as Goethe observed, that the master reveals himself. Ian Anderson, who boasts a master’s from Stanford and has worked for several e-commerce startups, has a casual wardrobe with impressive variety. “I usually wear chinos and jeans with a casual shirt of oxford, chambray or flannel, with a smart piece of knitwear or a sportcoat,” he says.
Coming soon: more RL mannequins for your inspiration/defenestration, some home decor ideas in time for the holidays, and a long-gestating Q&A with a singular trad legend. — CC