The Magic Of Clothes

To paraphrase an old adage, some men are born with the sense for clothing, others acquire it, and still others have clothing thrust upon them.

I was born with a feeling for clothing: that part is fixed. What isn’t fixed is the protean part, the urge to explore and express with different items, combinations and looks. This leads some men to build vast overflowing wardrobes with every conceivable item of menswear, but as I’ve said here on many occasions, I’m more of an editor by nature, and have always valued purging “what was I thinking?” items as much as acquiring something new.

Coming back to my hometown after 20 years away, I feel like I’m recapturing the simple elegance I cultivated in my mid-twenties before going off on a kind of extended sartorial expedition. Of course I’ve picked up many things along the way, clarifying, refining and strengthening how I wish to present myself, which of course is now more than ever for myself as much as it’s for my fellow man at this dark moment in time. I’m dressed in white, black and gray like a painting by Whistler: gray five-pockets, black cable cashmere crewneck, and white OCBD. Around my neck is a wool paisley ascot — because at this point who the hell cares? — while on my feet are the velvet slippers I wear around the house, which will likely be changed to some beater bit loafers for a lunchtime stroll in the old cemetery behind my building. That’s right, when I said dark times I wasn’t kidding. With most everything closed, I’ll get dressed just to smoke my pipe and read for a bit among the departed, kind of like a live-action role playing of “Dead Poets Society,” since surely someone buried there was a bard.

As several writers have opined here since the pandemic struck, keeping up sartorial standards has an enormously ameliorative effect on morale. It’s important to feel like yourself — your true and best self — all the time, as the effects can be truly magical.

The wisdom tradition that sometimes goes by the name of “magic” comes down to understanding how the universe works: the law of attraction, how effects on the material plane have causes that are invisible, and things of that nature. A primary focus is on cultivating the ability to change inner states of mood and mind at will, because why feel dour and gloomy when you can feel creative and positive? In fact, I’ve heard tech companies are developing mood-regulating devices that plug into your body, once again showing that the “magic” technology confers is democratic and therefore unearned, as opposed to that acquired by long toils on the royal road of initiatic wisdom.

Which leads me to this curiosity I discovered this morning over coffee: an incantation to recite before getting dressed! It goes:

O Most High, I am wearing the immaculate vestment that is the symbol of my purity. I beseech you, let purity remain within me and shine with your light and with your help.

Perhaps we should run a contest for the most entertaining Trad-Ivy-Preppy incantation. We need to keep ourselves amused before we can once again gather for gin-and-tonics. — CC

32 Comments on "The Magic Of Clothes"

  1. Well done friend! And I have my pre Gin and Tonic mantra. Gin. And Tonic.

  2. Is a photo of Danno from Hawaii Five—O?

  3. Is it possible to condense your thoughtful and instructive words into the following: Make and let your clothes make you happy as you are responsible for your happiness, to depend on others to make you happy forfeits your potential. Just a thought.

  4. That is indeed Dano; James MacArthur, his most well known role of Hawaii Five-O. For four decades an actor of stage, TV and movies. Dropped out of Harvard sophomore year to act. The adopted son of playwright Charles MacArthur (The Front Page) and actress Helen Hayes. He really had a lot of roles. Died in 2010. In the 50s and 60s seen a lot as was one who was Ivy Style and a lifetime Brooks customer. Shown above in Harvard Yard, I believe.

  5. I thought that was Dano! Well, this isn’t an incantation, but it does speak to the special quality of dressing properly. When I’m wearing a tie that can’t be seen under a crewneck sweater, I always say that I know I’m wearing a tie and so does God.

  6. Vern Trotter | February 26, 2021 at 2:23 am |

    The blazer he is wearing here looks like J. Press or others, not Brooks. Not patch pockets.

  7. Vern Trotter | February 26, 2021 at 3:14 am |

    Just received an e-mail saying, “Book ‘em Danno!” is considered as maybe the most memorable or close to it line in television history. Huffington Post has it in the top 10. Some stiff competition: Walter Cronkite, Jackie Gleason, George Burns, others.

  8. Old School Tie | February 26, 2021 at 7:08 am |

    No Steve McGarrett though. The shoes are interesting. Split toe, not quite venetians but nor are they penny loafers. The shirt collar could have splendid roll but obviously he did not want it.

  9. “Perhaps we should run a contest for the most entertaining Trad-Ivy-Preppy incantation”

    Here is a modest contribution:

    O Most Ivy, I am wearing the perfect-roll OCBD that is the symbol of my preppyness. If you wouldn’t mind awfully, let an insouciant sense of fun remain within me and shine with your weekend Bloody Mary and with J. Press’help.

  10. Here’ my contribution: ‘I will not resemble a basket of sweaty, soiled laundry with legs. I will not resemble a a basket of sweaty, soiled laundry with legs. I will not resemble a basket of sweaty, soiled laundry with legs. . . Even when at home alone with the door closed.’ Rinse and repeat. Nothing especially ivy or trad about it, but there we are.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  11. I don’t think one can do better than Robert Burns, at the end of “To a Louse, on seeing one on a Lady’s bonnet at church”:

    O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as others see us!
    It wad frae monie a blunder free us
    An’ foolish notion:
    What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
    And ev’n Devotion!

  12. Charlottesville | February 26, 2021 at 1:13 pm |

    It is good to hear from you, Christian. Very best to you in your new/old home.

    I think most of us here in the comments section would agree that dressing with care and in keeping with one’s own personality lends a bit of uplift to one’s outlook. As Jeeves put it in The Code of the Woosters, “[I]t is, of course, merely a palliative — but it has often been found in times of despondency that the assumption of formal evening dress has a stimulating effect on the morale.” For me today, that effect comes from the more casual outfit of brown herringbone Shetland 3/2 sack, blue OCBD and repp tie, all from Brooks Brothers of a happier age, with chocolate brown flannels and Church’s semi brogues that long ago entered the Bostonian cracked-shoe stage.

    On another subject, I knew I had seen that picture of James MacArthur before and I was able to find it in the September 1958 issue of Esquire. He would have been 20 years old at the time. It was a tie-in to the release of The Light in the Forest, a Disney film shot during his summer vacation from Harvard, and some of the pictures also featured his co-star from that film, Carol Lynley. The photo spread was shot at Rutgers, and showcased Esquire’s idea of what the contemporary college man should wear. The blue and gray plaid wool flannels that Danno is wearing are from Paul Stuart and the olive jacket is from Robert Kirk, Ltd., a predecessor to Cable Car Clothiers of San Francisco. I regret to report that no ID was provided for the shoes, button down or tie.

    Best wishes for an enjoyable weekend, gentlemen.

  13. Lest anyone think that the comment leaver has a photographic memory and even remembered the date of the Esquire magazine, here’s where the photo above (and photos with Carol Lynley) are found:

    http://www.jamesmacarthur.com/Esquire/EsquireAlbum/pages/Esquire7_jpg.htm

  14. A person of faith always stands (acts) before a much larger audience: God and the saints of heaven. This constant awareness (Schleiermacher called it “God consciousness”) grants (infuses) a meaning into daily life/living, including the most seemingly mundane of activities (like “ dressing up”), that no secular ritual, mindfulness, meditative practice or ‘spirituality’ can replicate or even approximate. Pity the atheist, the agnostic, the skeptic — at the bottom of their quests for meaning (happiness/contentment) is a loneliness that’s unrelenting. And the root/cause of Western despair for hundreds of years.

    Stand before your God — tall, shoulders back and high, chin up.

  15. Oh, good grief. Osama bin Laden was a person of faith. How about urging people to worship as they wish. Period.

  16. whiskydent,
    Hear! Hear!
    The Christian terrorists who stormed the Capitol were also persons of faith. Some of us don’t need faith at all: We’ve got OCBDs, chinos, rep ties, and penny loafers to provide us with happiness and contentment.

  17. MacMcConnell | February 27, 2021 at 5:02 pm |

    whiskeydent
    Hear the one about Osama bin Laden coming to Gov. Cuomo in a dream. Osama was bragging about be the GOAT for killing New Yorkers. The Gov. replied, “Hold my beer”.

  18. MacMcConnell | February 27, 2021 at 5:06 pm |

    Jack Ancker
    The unarmed “Chistian terrorist” were “mostly peaceful”. Citizens trespassing at the Temple of Democracy.

  19. Quote: “Some of us don’t need faith at all: We’ve got OCBDs, chinos, rep ties, and penny loafers to provide us with happiness and contentment.”

    Spoken like a true materialist! May you be a well-dressed, 21st-century soulless cyborg throughout the decades to come!

  20. Thank you for the excellent post, Christian. And also Cville and a couple others for the poignant comments relating to Christian’s fine writing or the photo from a better day. If only others could refrain from staining the white long-staple cotton of this site with their polyester political comments.

  21. Is it better to believe an imaginary friend will save you or that only you can save yourself? If you believe in the Christian God, is it right to condemn those who don’t?

    Mark 11:25
    And when you stand to pray, if you hold anything against another, forgive it, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your trespasses as well.

  22. Hi whiskey

    Not sure if you are responding to my post eschewing political comments on a style site, but you have intrigued me nonetheless. First, while I understand what you mean, there really is no “Christian” God, or any other “kind” of God. There is only God, who chose to exist in the form of three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. He had a relationship with the ancients, Adam, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, and a young girl named Mary, and told them all that one day He’d be with them in a very present manner.

    Second, other beliefs in God are man’s attempt to climb up a mountain and reach that God. Whereas, in Jesus Christ, God came down the mountain to reach man even though we had continually rebelled against Him. That is the very essence of God, when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    Just ask Him

  23. whiskeydent | March 1, 2021 at 2:04 am |

    JDV, I wasn’t responding to you. I will now.

    Personally, I think Heaven is how you are remembered by the people who knew you and knew about you. I think the Sermon on the Mount, parts of the Koran, and Buddhist teachings are beautiful ways to live a life. I think the things I can see, hear, feel, taste and smell are far more compelling and meaningful than the supernatural. And I think it’s a damn shame that so many religions make believing in God more important than following his teachings.

  24. MacMcConnell | March 1, 2021 at 9:20 am |

    “And I think it’s a damn shame that so many religions make believing in God more important than following his teachings.”

    I’ve never ran across a Christian religion that encouraged its followers to not follow his teachings. If a menber doesn’t follow the teachings that’s on his soul.

  25. Jack Ancker | March 1, 2021 at 11:17 am |

    Hardly a soulless cyborg, CC, I’ve got Julie London to keep me warm, rather than spiritual mumbo jumbo.
    Enjoy:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIjkI_B_bbE

    To each his own.

  26. whiskeydent | March 1, 2021 at 11:24 am |

    Mac, that’s not what I said. I said belief was more important than behavior.

    Lemme put it this way: Under many mainstream religions, can you get to Heaven without believing in God? No. if, moments before he’s executed, a mass murderer genuinely accepts Jesus Christ as his personal savior and asks for God’s forgiveness? Yes. Is Ghandi in Heaven? No..

  27. @Jack

    Julie London is merely an anima projection. She is Sophia, Athena, Venus, an angel serenading you with reassurance.

    You can deny but you cannot escape the gods! And the more denunciatory a man is, the more certain his future awakening.

    C.

  28. Charlottesville | March 1, 2021 at 5:22 pm |

    JDV, Whiskeydent, Mac, Christian and Jack – I think most readers of the comments on this site over the years know more or less where I stand on the matter of faith in Christ. However, while we may not agree on all things, I must concur with Jack that, anima projection or not, Julie London is a lovely, warming presence and with Old Bostonian that whether or not he knew the secret of life’s mystery, Bing had a very soothing voice.

  29. Whiskey, sorry for misunderstanding. Very sorry, indeed. Truly, the teachings are key, but as an effect of faith, not a substitute for it. Works are the evidence of faith, or they should be. The book of James reads that faith w/out works is dead. He said one cannot really follow them w/out knowing Him on a personal basis, via faith. Hebrews repeats the principle. And as for being remembered by others, that actually is a verse in Proverbs 10: The memory of the righteous is blessed. So, lots to agree with you on here. I even agree with the Ghandi comparison statement.

  30. whiskeydent | March 2, 2021 at 10:33 am |

    JDV, there is no need to apologize and I appreciate your comments.

    Looking back through this thread, I should apologize for being too harsh in places. I want to make it clear that I respect people of faith. I’ve personally seen the good works many times. I can see that faith brings peace to many, and what could be wrong with that?

    I love these open disagreements without open warfare. I learn a lot from when I am forced to defend my preconceptions. As we all know, such discussions are in short supply these days.

    I also learn when I acknowledge my mistakes. In fact, I’ve come to believe that I won’t learn much from one unless I own up to it. A little humility goes a long way.

  31. Nice, Whiskey. If only our society were as civil as this site. Good “talkin” to ya.

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