How To Identify What Is Cool

I am not an Ivy native. The university I attended is surrounded by endless wind rumpled prairies. The time I spent there was informed by the rise of The Flaming Lips, R.E.M. and Public Enemy. I reference pop culture because it is where I got my clothing education. What I learned, what pop taught me, is how to identify what is cool. And wearing cool is cool.

Over the years my clothing evolved into an athletic/work-wear look. I’m sure you would recognize it. It’s a look that is hard to bear on the middle aged man I have become. Several years ago I became aware of something — I could pick out what was cool, but that did not mean I liked it. When I was honest, I was not sure what I liked. Some reflection led to some pruning; some identification of what I am not. I am not an elitist. I am not an alpha male. Leadership has little interest to me. I have always felt the equality of everyone. I don’t set myself above anyone (or below). I recognize we have differences. I happen to be smarter than a lot of folks. It doesn’t make me better. I am not a provincial. I have been places, done things, and experienced a lot. Again, I am not elitist, but these things make me distinct. To pretend otherwise is to dishonor my life experience.

I decided that the way to dress, so that my outside reflects the inside, is a middle way, neither elitist nor provincial. The word I settled on to describe this is cosmopolitan. This is a traditional Americana style exemplified by a few corners of Ivy Style. From the feet up, my wardrobe is now built around a core of; brown derby’s, khaki chinos, blue dress shirts, and three button sport coats. With adjustments, I can go anywhere. No, there are no clean slates. I can’t erase the past, but I can change how I am now, using what I’ve learned. That is what I have done. These ideas occurred just before the pandemic. It’s what I’ve been wearing for the last year and it felt right from the beginning. Here are a few observations from living inside these clothes.

Ivy is surprisingly frugal. Dress shirts and chinos are available for the same price as other clothes. Sport coats and blazers are cheap on ebay. I’ve had good luck with ebay seller Saveasuite. They measure things well, have a large inventory, and I like how they are helping folks. With careful measurements I manage without alterations. During the lockdown every time I left the house felt like an occasion. Dressing up is a gratitude, respect, and thank you to the still essential workers among us. Like wearing clothes to the doctors. A nice surprise — women like it! It seems universal. Women of all ages are more friendly. I’m not a rake, and I don’t want to be, but this friendliness adds a pleasure to life. 

The last thing I have noticed is wearing these clothes gives me a public persona. Yes, it is a uniform of sorts. It means that everything is not exposed. A thing I’ve learned from the internet is there are trolls in the world. These clothes give me some boundaries. They allow some healthy anonymity and help me remain detached. I think Ivy Style is under-appreciated Americana. It is aesthetic, pragmatic, frugal, and a help to living well. I’m glad I found it. — GRANT LACQUEMENT

8 Comments on "How To Identify What Is Cool"

  1. How does this relate to the congenitally elegant Alain Delon?
    For me his best film was M. Klein was was also an essay on
    elite Parisian clothes circa 1942

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsieur_Klein

  2. Cool is just something a person likes.

    The problem is a lot of people do not know what they like, because their parents did not care what their kids liked and suppressed the kids’ self-esteem.

    A good psychologist can solve that issue.

  3. How nicely said.

  4. Seems you’ve come full circle Grant!
    R.E.M. was beckoning you years ago.

    “Stand in the place where you live
    Now face north
    Think about direction, wonder why you haven’t before””

    Thanks for your reflections.

  5. I get your point, and agree with you, but using the adjective “frugal” to modify clothing, style, and the like doesn’t sound right to me. How about a different adjective?

  6. The vintage tarheel | July 21, 2021 at 2:31 pm | Reply

    Perfect summary of the ivy value proposition. The opposite of insatiable consumerism.

  7. I think that when it comes to “cool,” the most important thing is feeling comfort in one’s own skin, regardless of what one is wearing. I appreciate this article — it’s authentic, personal, and honest, which is always welcome when a lot of writing about clothing can come off as artifice or posturing. I might even call it “cool.”

  8. I don’t set myself above anyone (or below). I recognize we have differences. I happen to be smarter than a lot of folks. Yes you obviously don’t set yourself above anyone else……..ha ha

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