Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Trad Deportment-Andover-Frazier-Davidson…Damn!

Last Friday's Andover Shop post ended up being rather evocative and I always appreciate everyone’s comments. I generally try to acknowledge each contribution and in this case, two comments have motivated a following up post.

LPC…Lisa from Privilege posited…

“But really the question always in my mind is this. To what extent does the value system, one I hold to this day, require the aesthetic? And to what extent does the aesthetic support the values?”

I respect you immensely Lisa and I love your supposition. And my answer is that the value system doesn’t require the aesthetic. I tried to articulate my perspective on this in a post a good while back. I said in my feeble way, that I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt regardless of how they are swathed, shodded, inked, pierced or whatever. Let’s not kid ourselves…everyone…regardless of their degree of transparency about it…makes judgments and often times, inappropriate conclusions about people based on appearances. I’ve met well dressed WASPy assholes and I’ve met lovely, generous people of stellar deportment who didn’t care much about their sartorial contrivances. I’ve also experienced the converse. And certainly, the aesthetic doesn’t necessarily support the values. It might be a collateral variable or corollary to some behavioral mores and social/leisure endeavours but I don’t think there’s a strong link to values per se.

Further from Lisa…

“My father graduated from Harvard in something like 1951. He dresses Trad, I suppose, but is the least dandiest human I know. That said, while he wouldn't disdain a dandy, nor even a slob as long as it wasn't someone's funeral, he would disdain a guy who never showed up on time, didn't know how to take care of family, and insisted on having temper tantrums.”

The fact that your father wouldn’t disdain a dandy or a slob speaks to his integrity as a man—independent mostly, of his High WASP antecedents. And certainly, as a professor, your father has encountered academics, students, intellectuals and poseurs of all stripes and coverings. My hunch is that after all these years; he probably has a rather finely tuned and equitably screened sieve for sorting people out. And it would be intellectually sloppy of him to cast aside people of value just because of their adornments or lack thereof. Trad purists of your dad’s era are often times indeed, the least foppish in the room. But in my opinion, that patinated anti-dandy look is the truest and purist form of Trad. Again, regarding your father and his lack of tolerance for vulgar behavior…it speaks to the man—not exclusively to his tribe. 

I remember being told respectfully, by an African American man who worked for my father, to “go inside and put on a clean shirt…you know your daddy wouldn’t let you go looking like that.” Interestingly, my father had been dead for over a year. He was suggesting that I clean up a bit not just out of respect for my father but for reasons also grounded in his own code. I share this feeble example to support my belief that common courtesy, deportment and decency at one point in our history, could be found across social, financial, ethnic and class boundaries. This particular man who worked for my father surely never finished high school. Bottom line Lisa, is that your dad sounds like a decent man and there are other fine men and women who come from profoundly less WASPy backgrounds who possess a similar code of decency.

And finally from Lisa….

“Does that even matter? Does that kind of guy matter? Excuse me. I spent the day with my sister's kids, and one still has babyflesh, so I am a bit sentimental. But I do wonder.”

Yes it SHOULD matter. At least how I understand your statement. Common decency—high standards of personal accountability and conduct do matter. Unfortunately in my humble opinion, we’ve lost our way—our compass regarding where these things should be in the code…in the priority queue. And this isn’t a WASP thing—it’s macro societal thing.

And Lisa, regarding the babyflesh experience that may thankfully, at least for a moment, tenderize us…I left this comment over at your blog… “ The defining "baby flesh" moment for me was when LFG at I suppose, maybe four or five months old, could kind of latch/clamp/grip her little arm around my neck to steady herself while I held her. I can feel it in the memory of my neck as I type this. It is a moment of connectedness that still weakens me in a parentally sublime way when I recollect it.”

And then “Anonymous” weighed in. Perhaps he’s commented before and based on this particular comment, I hope he’ll not be a stranger.

Anonymous said...
“(You are much too romantic.)”

Yes I am, Mr. Anonymous and I thank God for that gift regularly. I’ve always felt life deeply and I’ll take the amplified pain that comes with said territory in exchange for what I believe to be; on the mostly happier times, a blessed lens through which I see the world.

“1) Forty years ago, I had a five-year stretch where 90 percent of my clothes came from The Andover Shop. They were nice, but they weren't all that. The stock of shirts was very poor, mostly Troy Guild of the O'Connells type -- nothing like what you saw the other day. And the after-purchase tailoring of the MTM suits and jackets was nothing to write home about. After a bit, I had the finishing done elsewhere.”
Nothing to debate here. I worked in one of these shops myself and concur with what I’ll net out to be for these types of shops a “middle of the road” definition of their caliber of inventory and in your experience at the Andover shop, service as well.

“2) When The Andover Shop opened up an outpost in Back Bay, many long-time customers went there instead just to avoid dealing with Charlie Davidson. (That patented suck-up, piss-down routine wore a little thin, particularly after he got sick.)”

Again…I’m long on lore and am batting zip—zero—nadda on actual experience and interaction with Charlie Davidson. Therefore I can’t do anything but acknowledge your assertion and accept your personal experiences as accurate. And why not? According to legend, your impression of, and experiences with him are consistent with what others report. On balance though, if he was an unswerving turd to everyone who walked the earth, I’d bet his shop wouldn’t have survived.
“3) J Press was just as empty 40 years ago as it seems to be now. Perhaps they're only there to launder money for Whitey Bulger. (Joke ...)”

Do ya think Whitey is still alive? I just finished reading The Gardner Heist and there is speculation that Whitey knew where the paintings were stashed. I’m not an Irish Mafia lore fan but it was interesting to learn a few collateral facts about Whitey in the Gardner Heist book. Seems he had bank accounts all over the world. As for laundering money through J. Press…the strength of the dollar v. the yen would probably dictate the go/no go for laundering via Press. For we all know that if it wasn’t for the Trad obsessed Japanese, J. Press would have shut the doors years ago.

“4) Tintin’s stomping on kids who "wiki" their take on "trad." But you two are kids, too, babies. You weren't there in the Fifties or the Sixties, and you didn't wear this stuff. It was just clothes -- really, I promise. Making a fetish of a largely defunct fashion is borderline "object sex." Of course, if that works for you, well, fine.”

Thank you ever so much for referring to me and Tintin as kids. I suppose it’s all relevant no? As a middle aged guy, I’ll take that compliment all day long. We all have opinions…certainly Tintin included and I’m also known to posit a bias or two on my blog from time to time. Maybe Tintang picks on the young’uns more than me but it’s all harmless…I think. Now don’t get huffy about my next comment but…your logic is flawed regarding the “you weren’t there and didn’t wear the stuff in the fifties and sixties” thing. I might be stretching it a bit but what I think you are saying is that if one didn’t live in the fifties and sixties and didn’t buy these Trad things back then, their observations and opinions are less credible, relevant and perhaps baseless. Alden has been selling, without modification, their tassel loafer since at least the 1930’s. Does the fact that I didn’t live and buy mine in the 1930’s impeach my credibility regarding my observations about their enduring style and design? I think not.
And I DID begin “wearing the stuff” in the late sixties as soon as I, a little kid, was large enough to don the smallest sizes offered. Evidence the OCBD that I’m sporting in my first grade school photo. I’ve recently posted a picture of me wearing a three-two roll sportcoat when I was four years old. 
And there’s the picture of me at nine years old in my first DB navy blazer. With the exception of a thirty month aberration during my preteen and early teen moments when I wanted to be a hippie, I’ve worn NOTHING but Trad togs since I was four years old. 
My pediatric Trad beginnings give me no more or less authority to speak on Trad clothing, style and deportment than anyone else. Just as it gives you no more or less authority to do so just because you frequented these venerated stores in the fifties and sixties.

And yes, it is/was “just clothes”. You don’t have to promise. But a car is just a car. A shotgun is just a shotgun. A book is just a book. I get your point. However, I know people who are just as passionate about the lore, tradition and back-story related to each of my aforementioned examples. They collect them, blog about them and regale like-minded people with their stories and opinions. I’m always fascinated by people who collect things and who also find the associated erudition rewarding. Even if the nicest shotgun I ever owned as a kid was a Flight King .410 from K-Mart, I reveled in stopping by James Purdey on South Audley Street almost twenty years ago to get a copy of the Purdey history signed personally to my buddy, the shotgun fanatic, by the Managing Director. I could give a damn about shotguns but I was dead on correct in my assumption that my buddy would behave almost as if I’d given him an actual Purdy gun. I felt the same way when Alan Flusser gave me his bespoke Poulsen Skone crocodile loafers that are on the front cover of his first book...Clothes and the Man.

“Object sex”…I’ll accept that. And finally, Trad isn’t a “largely defunct fashion”…mainly because it isn’t fashion at all.
 “5) A & S, until recently, made better clothes than ever passed through The Andover Shop. Charvet still makes better shirts. Alex Kabazz will make you the trad shirt of your dreams, but you'd have to skip a mortgage payment to make it happen. And George Frazier over-egged every pudding he met. (When he died, among the people who actually knew him, only Ellen Goodman seemed genuinely distraught.)”
Mr. Halsey
Mr. Halberry
Mr. Hitchcock
I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the Anderson and Sheppard assertion. Even with their probable slight decline after the retirement of Managing Director Norman Halsey and Head Cutter Dennis Halberry, I’m sure their goods are still stellar under the guidance of Mr. John Hitchcock. (I can’t say with authority-I never had clothes made there under the stalwart leadership of Halsey and Hallbury…or ever for that matter) The Andover Shop was never, ever in that league. I was merely referencing my feelings; comparatively, when I shared my reactions regarding my visits to each hallowed institution. Plus, my maiden visit to A&S at 30 Savile Row was accompanied by LFG’s mother and she would have bitch-slapped me had I gushed too much while on premises. And I also agree with you regarding Charvet and Kabazz.
And finally, regarding George Frazier’s over-egging and Ellen Goodman being his sole mourner…I’ll allow your opinion on his egg use. I will though, admonish you to admit the silliness of your gratuitous assertion that Goodman was the only one who grieved his passing. Specific to the Globe, indeed he had copy editors and production/printing associates and probably peers that were exasperated by him and maybe some who even loathed him. He also had others at the Globe who realized his talent and value and indeed, mourned his passing.

Frazier had an ass-load of enemies, detractors and those that I’m sure, were just weary of him. In a very basic sense, at least for me, I’m suspect of anyone who is the proverbial “loved by all” personage. They generally don’t stand for much. Frazier gave Sinatra hell in a column or two but when Frazier” died, his son Pepper received a handwritten personal condolence note from Sinatra, who signed it “Francis”. Sinatra could carry a grudge further and longer than Frazier and when he signed a note “Francis” he did so with great affection.
Here’s what Richard Merkin said about Frazier in his June 1988 Merkin on Style column in Gentleman’s Quarterly… “Paradoxical to the core and capable of being both a horse’s ass and a son of a bitch, he was simultaneously kind, generous, enormously entertaining (when sober) and simply the most elegant man I have ever known. For the better part of seven years when he was commuting between Manhattan and the Boston Globe, he was my friend, mentor and even surrogate father. Stylish as hell and mind bogglingly informed, George was a boon companion, and since many of our concerns were the same, we always seemed to have a great deal to talk about: books, jazz, baseball, and boxing, slanderous gossip and as Hemingway put it, “how the weather was”. And clothes, of course, about which he was never wrong. Understand please, that not everyone felt about George as I did; his was hardly a life of universal approval.”

Hardly the empty rhetoric of someone required to say a kind thing or two about an acquaintance passed. Brilliant people are sometimes difficult and average people like me are sometimes crotchety. I won’t pretend to deconstruct any of the yin-yang dark side of genius tortured artist crap as it may or may not relate to George Frazier. What I will conclude in saying is that I’ll take half a Frazier all damn-day-long over twenty hail fellows well met. Shut up.

Thank you Lisa-LPC for your thought provoking comments. And here’s to you Mr. Anonymous whoever you are…please continue reading and commenting on my drivel. For it’s the provocative comments from folks like you that make this scrivener happy.

Onward. In One Freakin’ Hundred Degree Heat.

ADG,II – Travelling


James said...

Your anonymous friend reminds me of a friend I had years ago. A mutual friend described him as having the soul of a picnic table. I'm glad you have a romantic streak. It seems to be tempered with a dose of reality, that is what makes your writing what it is, for better or worse.I may not always agree with you, but I enjoy how you present your views. While some of his logic is, as you pointed out, somewhat flawed, he does show that there are many different views on Trad.
I have always been bad about "if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck". I have often been surprised that every thing that waddles ain't necessarily a duck. You'd think I'd learn.

tintin said...

I don't feel I'm holding onto tradition as much as I'm indulging in my own incomprehension of what's going on.

Suburban Princess said...

"Yes it SHOULD matter. At least how I understand your statement. Common decency—high standards of personal accountability and conduct do matter. Unfortunately in my humble opinion, we’ve lost our way—our compass regarding where these things should be in the code…in the priority queue. And this isn’t a WASP thing—it’s macro societal thing."

"Be faithful in the small things. If you'll be faithful in the small things, the big things will take care of themselves (Luke 16:10)"

I am disappointed you didn't help educate the kid in the store. His father/grandfather most likely would've appreciated another man's infulence. Helping youth with the small things goes a long way.

Suburban Princess said...

I should've finished my thought before hitting enter...

In other words, have we gone off the rails society-wise because no one holds anyone to a standard? No one teaches standards? No one cares about standards?

Anonymous English Female said...

ADG - I feel Beau Brummell may well have agreed with your definition of the truest and purest form of Trad. And I wonder if Mark Twain may have challenged the assertion that a value system doesn't require an aesthetic ?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another thought-provoking post.
You never disappoint me.
Well, almost never.

LPC said...

Thank you so much for this generous and gracious answer to my question. Romantic is good, especially for a Southern writer. That's how I see you first and foremost, because of your language in the context of a tradition of ornate and enjoyable sentences. And deep attachment to our children, that's more than good.

I know almost nothing about men's clothing. Every time it's my father birthday, or father's day, or anything, I tend to get him slippers. So if you ever need a Trad slippers expert, I'm your gal. And I don't mean them Belgian thingies either. My aunt wore them. My dad doesn't:).

Again, thank you so much for your reply.

NCJack said...

Having first graced the planet in 1950, I was there, and they weren't "just clothes": there was always some sort of statement to be made, usually "I;m older than I look, and cooler too". And while my Dad, and the other dads I knew, also accorded respect based on substance rather than style, they acknowledged that presentation was indeed a part of it. I heard "tuck in that shirt" from a non-parent
PS, just back from Alaska and Yukon Territory, average hi temps in the mid/upper 60s: now dying in Charlotte

In The Littoral said...

Oh my! This is the best post you have ever made. A well thought out response to both Anon and LPC. Bravo. As to LPC, she has given me pause for thought and caused me evaluate my actions vis a vis my value system. As always the question is, am I able to look myself in the mirror every morning and be proud? Thank you for hosting this forum. God bless you and your beautiful daughter. Dave

Anonymous said...

I might be stretching it a bit but what I think you are saying is that if one didn’t live in the fifties and sixties and didn’t buy these Trad things back then, their observations and opinions are less credible, relevant and perhaps baseless.

You're stretching it the same way Mick Jagger does when he goes out to front what is undoubtedly the greatest Rolling Stones Cover Band in the world.

(But I won't labor the point. You and tintin are having fun, and putting up things that many people, myself included, enjoy reading. Nothing else matters much.)

"Anon too romantic"

heavy tweed jacket said...

This has been a very enjoyable series. I'm ready to give up blogging and just read this. HTJ

SPN said...

Surely the essence of Trad is timelessness, whether you were born in 1778 or yesterday; and one of the underlying precepts is a respect for oneself and others manifested through elegance and decorum, to use use a more generalised word 'style'. That ADG and others - Tintin, Guiseppe et al remind of this is their own individual and unique way on a daily basis is something to be celebrated and truly grateful for.

cdclaycomb said...

I composed a comment to your last post; left it in the box awhile, edited it a couple of times and I just couldn't find the words to express how I felt about it and the subsequent conversation in the comments.

And then you posted this follow-up piece and all I can say is that you are undoubtedly my favorite blogger.

You write in the best tradition of a southern man who can never be overly romantic if he is authentic. And you are authentic.

Thank you for always being a lovely or funny or thought-provoking accompaniment to my morning coffee.

Safe travels,


ADG said...

Debi...thanks very much. I doubt that I can contrive this type of drivel often enough for you to have new stories for every morning's cup of coffee but I'll keep chugging along.


HeavyTweed...don't EVEN think about it. If you quit-I'll quit. So there...we have a standoff.

AnonTooRomantic...so you think Mick and the boys should give it up?

NCJack...did you go on some kind of Alaska Cruise-ground tour thing? I've heard people rave about how stunning it is up there. Yes, I too heard the tuck your shirt in from every other parent in my neighborhood...everyone kinda looked out for each other's young'uns...we couldn't get away with sh_t.


LPC-Lisa...I didn't ask permission to use your first name in my posts but took the liberty-since you've used it and it was used over at Reggie's. I hope it's ok. As for the "P"...LFG and I used to love reading the "Arthur" books and I think-Arthur was a kids cartoon on BBC. We used to giggle in tandem at one of the little girls' "P" name when we heard it. Prunella. Yes, that's it. Lisa Prunella.

Anonymous...sorry for those moments when I have let you down. Shut up.

AnonEngFem...Beau was a fop and Twain was witty and humorous. That's all I know.

PrincessSuburbianOne...yes, as I've said, I think we've lost our way-standards wise. Everyone gets a trophy these days.

tintin...but the way you articulate your incomprehnsion is good. really good.

James...your looks/acts Duck strategy has probably served you well more often than it's inhibited or limited your view of the world. Thanks as always for your nice comments.

LPC said...

In The Littoral - Thank you so much. And ADG - yes, I'm Lisa all about town these days. Prunella. Why the hell not. My aunt, the one who wore the Belgians? She was Priscilla. Prunella's cousin. Standards, IMO, are best when used to raise everyone, rather than keep some out or down. You are fabulous.

SouthernProletariat said...

Nicely done

Kathie Truitt said...

I have never said this and I don't know why I am saying it now especially since I'm going to get in trouble but here goes. I read many different types of blogs every day, and as I am an equal-opportunity blogger I post many varieties and styles on my blog list. The ones I enjoy the very least are the ones where the writer does nothing but boast about their lifestyle, trying to convince everyone how fabulous they are, how 'preppy' or 'wasp-y' or 'how much money' they have. I've just never had much use for behavior like that. People should just be who they are and be the best they can be at who they are. I know women who won't buy something they absolutely love because it doesn't 'fit in' to what the crowd they are either in or want to be in are (is?) driving/wearing/living in, that they completely pass it by. How sad. Life is too short. I don't believe 'living well is the best revenge.' When people do that they're not living for themselves - they're living for everyone else to see what they've aquired. To me that is a very sad existence.

Proprietor said...

We are one moment in front of universal indifference.

The effort of applying order (read: standards, aesthetics, value system, you pick...) to chaos keeps the indifference at bay. As long as your own personal "order" doesn't hurt anyone else, knock yourself out...

Also, in reference to my own shortcomings and shallowness, I know to fight my physiological response to organize the data I consume - sometimes, I draw conclusions on the "how something looks" data as opposed to it's galactic value... Guilty (or, should I say gilded) as charged.

Sartre said...

ADG: Been lurking for quite a while. Helluva time to come out of hiding, I know, but your posts are so dense that by the time I finish reading (and absorbing) them I feel I cannot possibly match your energy in reply. I don't know if that's good or bad...if you are going for the tour-de-force thing you are certainly scoring an A+.

But I digress. I had so many reactions to this series -- primary of which was that I had my own "aha" moment with respect to the Andover Shop about six months ago, and decided that they will be getting much, much more of my business than heretofore. Started with a sage green, cashmere plaid 3-button jacket made to order. It doesn't suck.

The chaps who say the Andover Shop (or anyplace else) is "not all that" -- I mean, c'mon, man. That's pure snobbery: the guy who doesn't like your Audi because it isn't a Porsche, and your Porsche isn't all that because it isn't an Aston Martin, and I suppose one can go on (tiresomely) from there. As if the pursuit of things so-called trad or Ivy were a pursuit of the finest, as opposed to the pursuit of something of perhaps a certain character (into which the whole "romantic" thing comes in).

For many of us this style is all we've known (as you've rightly shared about yourself). Most gents are unselfconscious about it. For others, like you and maybe me, we are also simultaneously involved in an hommage to a whole set of intangibles that are contained in your post(s). So to disparage an Andover shirt because it isn't a Kabbaz just...isn't...getting it.

ADG said...

Sartre...man, I miss your well assembled words. You should consider writing something once every ten days. Maybe? Tour de force...please...you've lost your objectivity. I just can't edit anything therefore my drivel manifests by the truckloads. Thanks for your comments, with which I agree 100%. I'm doing a fair amount of work in Horsham and Malvern. We should try to have a drink sometime.

Proprietor...I think we are losing the battle. Indifference is winning.

Kathie...you are never in trouble over here. You know that.


LPC...Prunella...spot on as always except your last comment. You too, have lost objectivity. But thanks.

NCJack said...

ADG: went on the Green Tortoise (look 'em up, this is not your bluehair/drunken singles "cruise") "Trad" meant Carhartt's on people who really work.

A.E.F. said...

ADG - Beau Brummell was no mere fop even if he did polish his boots with champagne. His love of beauty, desire for the best of everything and disdain of anything vulgar lead to his cultivation of an elegant understated manner of dress; beautifully cut yet simple garments of the finest cloth. Of Brummell Lord Byron is said to have opined 'There is nothing remarkable about his dress save a certain exquisite propriety' Am I wrong in thinking Brummell laid some (but not all) of the ground rules for 'Trad'? My reference to Mark Twain: pure conjecture based on his remark 'Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.'

ADG said...

AEF...I'm wrapping this in love but...Brummell ended up in an insane asylum. And naked, especially in this weather, is good.

NCJackman...I will look it up. Stay cool.