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