written for: Parisian Gentleman
THE MALE ELEGANCE CLIMATE
The male elegance climate appears to be simmering to a boil lately (compared to a mere five years ago). While we are seeing a boon in men dressing well with a growing penchant for style and quality, at the same time we notice a collapse in the frequency of spotting the quintessential middle management man with scuffed-up shoes and a dilapidated leather belt with belt-hole notches shaped like inverted amebas (of which he seems oddly proud to announce that his belt notches chronicle his weight loss and gain history since 1990… hence you deduce that his belt must be around 13 years old).
These days, it is more likely for a man to feel good about having immaculately polished shoes and to find satisfaction in knowing that a belt is rarely needed with a suit in the first place, since the complete body line of a man looks much better when he opts for trousers designed for no belt, thus avoiding the “cutting of the man in half” visual effect that a belt causes.
Yet even if men are speeding towards sartorial excellence at an alarming rate, we continue to see the occasional breed of the sartorial counter-culture set fanning the embers of the spirit of the 1980s “casual Friday movement”, perhaps most by those who feel trapped as time-watchers living for 5 o’clock and for the promise of another weekend—leaving us with the impression of a lost ability to feel intrigue for any day except Friday, Saturday and Sunday…with even churches replacing dress standards with the come as you are mindset.
France (even with its obvious population of sartorial-gifted men and women) gives us a more direct example of a diminishing regard for the work week by introducing “Half-Day Fridays “, or more specifically a reduction of the hours in the workweek from 39 to 35 hours, since the year 2000. At this rate, in the year 2052, we can project an introduction of the two-hour workday–with potential daily perks such as Tie-Less Thursdays, Facebook Wednesdays, No Need to Tuck Your Shirt In Tuesdays, and Don’t Bother to Show Up Mondays.
This passive attitude towards how we present ourselves creates a piggy-back effect that biases these same time-watchers towards the belief that the reason dressing casually is better is because it is easier. And, once it is perceived that the daily goal is to make things easier, then the possibility of sartorial glory is lost. And, if a sartorial atheist believes that Monday through Thursday constitute corporate enslavement, forced dress-codes, and a general sense of misery, then we accept that we are unlikely to see a glowing sartorial result within this cultural realm.
However, the incredible point that may be easy to overlook, is that the sartorially-inclined man can use Casual Friday to his advantage as an optimal opportunity to come to work in business-only attire, which causes him be noticed in a way that helps communicate his own unique persona while at the same time, nurturing career advancement potential and boosting the chance for success in his social endeavors.
Dress for the job above yours…and rethink casual Friday. Business Insider, 2011
Although many may consider disregarding Casual Fridays to be somewhat hardcore, in actuality, dressing well is a moderate gesture that pays great dividends.
THREE SARTORIAL RENAISSANCE CATALYSTS
When considering the perpetual turnaround from style nonchalance to style concern, it is curious to consider what is causing the intensifying energy behind this sartorial revival that is winning eager converts by the hour. There are at least three catalysts causing this resurrection of interest among men in all-things-sartorial:
First, the influence of television shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, as well as Hollywood movies featuring gangsters and spys no doubt play a pivotal role in the perception reversal from sartorial indifference to sartorial passion that is occurring among men. By simply watching episodes of shows and movies with images of men dressed in fine-tailored clothing causes our minds to take sartorial notes; and put simply, our visual pleasure centers are repetitively rewarded with images of impeccably dressed actors—which eventually results in giving us an impression that dressing well can be…pleasurable.
- From the 2012 film “This Means War”—In the movie, the leading characters location is traced by a villain through a torn patch of South American vicuna , a relative of the llama shorn every three years and considered to be very rare and luxurious. The scrap of fabric is identified as coming from “Savile Row’s finest tailor”. The mystery question of the real-life suit’s origin? Chris Pine’s suit is Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label and the Brit’s Tom Hardy suit is Paul Smith (with a signature narrow lapel and slim leg).
A second pop culture influence (as covered in the PG article (A défaut de fin du monde, la fin d’un monde ?) comes from more and more ad campaigns capitalizing on the mesmerization with bespoke tailoring by featuring models in authentic, not so glamorous bespoke tailoring workshops. These campaigns create an awareness that something more exists in the world of style. Perhaps the man who gains a glimpse of the Savile Row tailor’s life in an unexpected print advertisement stops for a moment, and asks himself “What is that??”. Once this question is posed, many men find themselves on a journey to the sartorial promise land, with the only regret being that they hadn’t started the trip sooner.
Even though for some of us, it can be funny to notice that some of these advertisements greatly exaggerate the quality and origin of many products, we can still appreciate the awareness that is created as themes such as the tailor’s dusty workshop, continues to grow among ad agencies promoting male elegance. In the same vein, numerous ad campaigns are also promoting men’s style by featuring men who look as if they have stepped into a frame shot from another time era (usually ranging from the mid-1800s up until the 1960s) which brings on a sentiment for hand-tailoring, or at least encourages a sentiment for items that relay the spirit of being hand-tailored.
As fresh as it looks…the town coat is firmly grounded in history, owing a great debt to that forebear, the frock coat. It may surprise many, but back in its mid-19th-century heyday, the frock coat was as “it” as it gets, having come into fashion as a more subdued (and less froufrou) alternative to courtly attire — the Helmut Lang of its day. But by the dawn of the 20th century, it itself had come to personify the calcified rigor of aristocratic European society…NY Times, November, 2011
The third influence may be very familiar to the readers of PG. Men and women alike from a vast array of different backgrounds, who have experienced a sometimes unexplained interest in how men dress, are now writing about their sartorial thoughts, impressions, and experiences. And with the internet in place, these voices are now able to reach the bulk of the world, where like-minded people assimilate in sartorial thought and spirit.
The writers that are rising to acclaim realize that writing about how we dress has as much to do with emotion as it has to do with knowledge. And where there is emotion, there is meaning. This specific element of a writer evoking sentiments, combined with a scholarly approach to dressing well, appears to be fundamental in rallying the interest in male elegance by a growing population of men.
And so, as a man’s attitude sets the stage for the development of his appearance, indeed there seems to be a new awareness among men that time is short—a knowing that living life well each day is infinitely more rewarding than waiting for the perineal Friday to roll around. Most notably, men in their 20s are recognizing that a striking sartorial style quickly sets them apart from a league of other men who have overlooked the shaking effect of developing an unforgettable persona.
Now we can say with strong certainty, that we have entered a completely new sartorial age–where quality matters and a return to style has become important in people’s lives.
Part II will examine this mass attitude shift and attempt a cultivated way to understand the emotion a man feels as he develops his sartorial persona—as well as how the women around him may perceive and react to him.