Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why I Love Clothes-Why I Write About Them

I had an interesting conversation with one of my childhood buddies today and the issue of why I take time to write about clothes came up. I’ve already professed in my profile to be a dilettante and I stick by that admission. Declaring oneself a dilettante kinda lets you off the hook for any level of authority or credibility and since this is a creative-goof off outlet for me-that’s how I like to roll. This blogging endeavor is one of the most enjoyable distractions in the world. The only downside I’ve discovered so far is the fact that I no longer write in my journal.

I’d first say that I don’t like clothes in general. I like classic traditional clothing. I’m not sure what the genesis is for my passion but I’ll ramble on about it and we’ll see what we get.

Genetics: Could be. I don’t much buy into this as a predictor but I’ll speculate a bit. My father was a clothes fanatic. I’m gonna do a post about him and I have the pictures all queued up for it but I’ve not been able to muster the guts to write it yet. Every time I think I’ll just keep it superficial and clothing related, I realize that I won’t be able to help but write deeper stuff about him. But he was crazy about clothes. He died in 1976 at the height of triple knit polyester. My brother and I sometimes talk about exhuming the old boy and redressing him in natural fiber wrappings…he’s looking down on us but from an aesthetics perspective, he’d probably appreciate his remains being retrofitted with more natural swathings.

The Haberdashery: I worked in one that opened in 1927. I told you a bit about it in my post about Shell Cordovans. This place was so steeped in Trad that one couldn’t help but want to emulate the style. I’ve always said that I learned as much about life and how to thrive in the world through my work experiences there as a gained through my formal education.

Dopamine: Folks I’m not kidding here. I’ve settled on the belief that Dopamine is the glue that holds the world together. This neurochemical plays a role in our ability to derive feelings of pleasure and reward. Neurobiologists and behavioral scientists have long since correlated lower dopamine levels with addictive and risk taking personalities. When I walk into an ever so scarce these days-well appointed haberdashery I know that my dopamine levels rise. They especially pop when I’m on the fourth floor of the Flusser Shop in Gotham because through the adjacent wall is the Scribners Building. Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ office was just through the wall-literally.  And when I think about him over there cajoling Fitzgerald-Hemingway-Wolfe and others my dopamine levels really jump.

My Love of Lore-History-Tradition: Maybe. I’ve been wired to love a good story since I was a little kid. My imagination is a gift and I can remember marveling as a kid when I would stand on historical sites and speculate about the event that occurred there. I’d rather read about the genesis of khaki or Savile Row or the Brooks Polo collar than almost anything else. It’s the back story that intrigues me and you don’t get much of a sartorial one outside of trad clothing.

The WASP Thing: Gotta admit it. With all of its antiquated-xenophobic-nepotistic characteristics, there’s just something about that class in decline and how they kitted themselves out that caught me a long time ago. And I may be a bit closer to WASP-hood than say, Ralph Lauren but I don’t come from WASP stock which probably makes it even more intriguing.

Reverse Snobbery: Or as Tom Wolfe described it…and I’m loosely paraphrasing here…Counter-Bohemianism. His white suit strategy aligns with this. I’d like to think that I reserve judgment of someone’s character until I get to know who they are and what they’re made of. I’ll give a guy or gal with a bolt in their nose a break before I rush to judge them and I like to challenge others to offer me the same latitude. I enjoy wearing trad clothes with a bit of an edge so that people speculate. Blue shoes-green suede tassel loafers-Stubbs and Wooton or Belgians…popped collars. Strap it on and let people wonder.

He’s gotta be “closeted” or some Country Clubber who lacks any depth. Probably never smoked a joint-has such a conformist-surface orientation that he can’t feel life too deeply right? I enjoy for some reason, creating a dynamic where people have to take a little effort to sort me out.

It requires the same effort involved in taking the time to not write off the individual with a bolt in their nose or doorknocker piercing in their eyebrow. I think about what a mind blower it probably is for people who don’t know Giuseppe over at An Affordable Wardrobe when they see him decked out in an ultra trad rig and then see his incredible tattoos on his forearms. Bohemian trad with an individual edge keeps people guessing and I like that.

The Fratty Boy Holdover: I liked hanging with an ultra trad crowd. There was something then and for me there’s something now about having enough pride in the way you put yourself together that people notice. It’s about deportment and style. It’s about a code that says deportment and style are important.

Style and Elegance: Used to be masculine traits. One need not be a fop of ambiguous sexual orientation to take clothing and bearing seriously. I’m thinking Cary Grant-Steve McQueen-Fred Astaire-Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Where are they today? Sartorial aplomb is a dying art and the remnant of its attenuated code is mostly misinterpreted or bastardized.

So as long as I find things sartorially that interest me-I’ll write about them. I’ve probably got another year’s worth of drivel to pile on you.



L.A.S said...

I have "The Fratty Boy Holdover" written all over.

Barima said...

Happy New Year to you too. And I like that you're so assured in your reasons for doing this. Keep it up

ADG said...

Barima...are you back from Africa? Happy New Year.

LAS...Happy New Year

Michael said...

You keep writing, I'll keep reading. Always a pleasure to stop here on my daily blog trawl.

Mal said...

Of all the blogs I read on Men's style, clothing, etc., I've never read a better statement. Being from Alabama and a UA graduate, the Fratty Boy Holdover rings so sadly true.

Thanks for your efforts--

James said...

Great post, all I can or would add is amen brother, amen!

JRS said...

I'm with L.A.S and Mal - 'Fratty Boy Holdover'. Book it.

mike in Laguna said...

Maximinimus - thank you for your blog. It's one of life's internet enjoyments. I have learned a lot from you and not just about clothing. With your talent for writing when are you going to do a bio on Richard Merkin? I don't seem to find one on Amazon and your interest and admiration for him would make you the best choice of a biographer. Just saying! Thank you again. Mike in Laguna.

Anonymous said...

Well said, as usual!

Toad said...

If you have a year, I do too.

Paul said...

With all that background and sartorial blood runnning through your veins - I confer a professorship upon you. This first year has been Maxminimus 101 for me.

ADG said...

L.A.S. …Thanks.

Mal...God bless you for trying to stamp out ignorance in Alabama. My sister lives in Birmingham.

James ...Amen to you brother!

JRS ... It’s booked.

mike in Laguna ...Thanks. I’ve got another book idea floating around and as much as I love Merkin-I don’t think that one’s in the cards for me.

Toad ...A year? I hope we have several, if as the Cordial Churchman said one time…”The Lord Tarries”

CeceliaMc said...

There's something lazy in me that would very much like to attribute everything in the world to neurotransmitters and tribalism, but I think you've more than aptly affirmed that psychological associations and genetics are the stuff of stardust too.

foobella said...

I love reading your writing about clothes. ;)

I must say though, that to me..... One of these things is not like the others...

"Cary Grant-Steve McQueen-Fred Astaire-Douglas Fairbanks Jr."


Pat said...

Bring it on ! and I hope there is at least another year worth in you to read. One of my 2010 resolves is to comment more so that bloggers realize they are heard. So, great Blog ADG.

Anonymous said...

The authoritative point of view