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