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What do you think of Emily Post?

emily post iconicallyrare

Back in the 80s (1880s), Emily apparently was tall, pretty and spoiled. I’m not sure how she became an authority on the delicate path of  becoming a lady or gentleman.

Just how did Post come by her words? Maybe we aren’t privy to some of the suffering and stripes she earned…or maybe she was just a brilliant writer with perspective.

Let’s take a look at a few of her revelations to see if her magic has aged well:

From Emily Post (1873–1960).  Etiquette.  1922 [see more at bartleby. com]

FAR more important than any mere dictum of etiquette is the fundamental code of honor, without strict observance of which no man, no matter how “polished,” can be considered a gentleman.

The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles; he is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless, and the champion of justice—or he is not a gentleman.

I admit I’m suspicious to know if Emily copied this stuff from someone else or if she pulled it out of her own head. Well, if the words are hers, hats off to Ms. Post.

Integrity is a a rare organism in this world and a quality which I stand in awe of when I’m graced with the presence of a person who makes a decision for integrity.

OK. I just took a five minute break to scan part of Post’s bio, and it’s safe to say she did indeed face a few tumultuous challenges.

Suddenly, I’m a fan of Ms. Post and feel a little twitch to read more. So I end with some advice for the ladies. If you find yourself bitten by her candor, do continue to investigate:

 

THE INSTINCTS OF A LADY

The instincts of a lady are much the same as those of a gentleman. She is equally punctilious about her debts, equally averse to pressing her advantage; especially if her adversary is helpless or poor.

  22
THE HALL-MARK OF THE CLIMBER

Nothing so blatantly proclaims a woman climber as the repetition of prominent names, the owners of which she must have struggled to know. Otherwise, why so eagerly boast of the achievement? Nobody cares whom she knows—nobody that is, but a climber like herself. To those who were born and who live, no matter how quietly, in the security of a perfectly good ledge above and away from the social ladder’s rungs, the evidence of one frantically climbing and trying to vaunt her exalted position is merely ludicrous.

  24

  All thoroughbred women, and men, are considerate of others less fortunately placed, especially of those in their employ. One of the tests by which to distinguish between the woman of breeding and the woman merely of wealth, is to notice the way she speaks to dependents. Queen Victoria’s duchesses, those great ladies of grand manner, were the very ones who, on entering the house of a close friend, said “How do you do, Hawkins?” to a butler; and to a sister duchess’s maid, “Good morning, Jenkins.” A Maryland lady, still living on the estate granted to her family three generations before the Revolution, is quite as polite to her friends’ servants as to her friends themselves. When you see a woman in silks and sables and diamonds speak to a little errand girl or a footman or a scullery maid as though they were the dirt under her feet, you may be sure of one thing; she hasn’t come a very long way from the ground herself.

Jean Shrimpton — What is it That Makes a Woman Elegant?

After publishing dozens of articles on male elegance here and on Parisian Gentleman, Iconicallyrare is opening a new chapter, exploring the mode of women’s elegance.

Kept in a simple format, we focus on one elegant woman at a time, trying to understand the concrete elements that makes us perceive her to possess that elusive concept called ‘true elegance’, all the while remembering that it’s never really about the clothes…

JEAN SHRIMPTON

In her article “The Man in the Bill Blass Suit”, Nora Ephron tells of the time when Jean Shrimpton posed for a Revlon advertisement in an antique white Chantilly lace dress by Blass. Minutes after the lipstick placard was displayed at the drugstores, the Revlon switchboard received many calls from women demanding to know where they could buy the dress.

As one of the first true supermodels of our time, Jean Shrimpton graced the covers of numerous high-fashion magazines and appeared in a few good films. Raised as a Buckinghamshire farm girl, she later became dubbed as the “it girl” and as “the symbol of swinging London’.

What sets Jean Shrimpton apart from the others, other than her obvious beauty? Take a look at her style preferences to get a few clues:

1. Fabric Colors and Patterns – One base color

Colors are mainly one strong base color (usually black or white). Patterns favored include a simple floral, or a basic geometric design.

 

2. Fabric Cut / Fit – Fabric is cut close to Body with a Flat Front around the waistline.

Fabric is generally cut close to the body, with a fit that is snug, but not tight.

A round or V-neckline is standard.

The front of the blouse or dress is typically flat, with little or no pleats at the waist area.

The fabric on the underside of the shoulder (the armpit area) is cut high and adequately covers the skin, with few exceptions.

3. Daywear – Very few accessories, a simple ensemble, and pumps.

Accessories are kept to a minimum, ranging from no accessories to two accessories, maximum, with a definitive pair of earrings often being the accessory of choice.

Pumps are the standard for shoe wear, in a variety of solid colors.

A soft print blouse with a solid skirt is the go-to ensemble.

4. Unique Expression – The headscarf and long gloves

The headscarf serves as a staple style-element that sets her style apart from others.

Gloves that extend up past the wrist are worn liberally.

5. Business Wear – Conservative suits and dresses, avoiding excessive accessories that age the look.

To avoid looking “Grandmotherly”, conservative suits and dresses fit closely and are kept fresh by foregoing excessive jewelry, pins and scarves that add age to the overall look. No more than two accessories are worn at a time.

A simple black-banded watch gives a vibe of permanent elegance.

Bags are medium in size with little ornamentation and of a solid color.

A more daring hat with a clean circular line tops off the look.

The suit cut has soft shoulders, a generous lapel, a defined silhouette, and the suit coat has slightly short sleeves.

5. Evening Wear – Keep it simple. Keep it black.

Black is the go-to color.

With evening wear, accessories can be quite strong, but the number of accessories is limited no more than two with evening wear.

The neckline is horizontal, running from shoulder to shoulder.

A plunging backline amps up the formal factor.

Sequins and shiny material is kept to a bare minimum.

6. Make-up – It’s all about the eyes.

Eyebrows are darkened with a defined shape with highlighter likely applied below the brow.

Eyeliner is bottom-heavy with a light wing drawn with eyeliner slightly above the natural line of the eyelid.

A patch of lashes are applied directly to the middle of the eyelid.

Other than the eyes, the rest of the face is natural with no evidence of makeup being applied.

 

A JEAN SHRIMPTON MOMENT OF STYLE CONFUSION

We all have them, those moments when we wear something that goes against the grain of our defined personal style. Whether you like or not…body assets here are shown freely with a dress made of netting and a high fashion fabric.

******

This is a first attempt to answer some requests from my readers for a source on female elegance. Any advice on how to improve along the way will be fully read and honored, if you find yourself motivated to comment.

~Sonya Glyn Nicholson

 

 

 

 

 

For the Love of Proportions! Ties, Lapels, and Shirt Collars


It’s a simple formula worth knowing:

The widest part of the lapel and the widest part of the tie should be similar in width.

We especially like this illustration by BlackLapel.com :


The next time you wonder why someone looks so good in a suit, note the lapel/tie width ratio and see if it is influencing your positive perception.

HOWEVER, one caveat exists for the man who craves ‘ more lapel ‘ (reminiscent of SNL’s pop culture ‘ more cowbell ‘ catchphrase):

It can be ridiculous to try to match the width of a tie to that of a super-wide lapel, and so the law of diminishing returns applies to just how wide the tie should be. In this case, match tie-width to shirt collar width (being careful to choose a more substantial shirt collar and tie when working with large lapels).

CARRYING THE PROPORTION THEORY EVEN FURTHER

Eyeing the shirt collar before putting on a suit, and choosing a shirt collar width similar to tie width, can be a real help in balancing proportions.

Case in point — media mogul Keith Olbermann is referred to as a master of proportions. Unbeknownst to many, Olbermann is quite a large man…but, his attention to proportions has kept this point fairly mute among the public.

In this GQ photo, we notice Olberman’s consistency in keeping his tie width somewhat similar to his shirt collar width (as his lapels are so expressive that matching tie and shirt collar width with the size of the lapel would be absurd). We also witness on the left, what happens when overall proportion details go wrong. The good news is that with a little education and some attention to what he is wearing, the man on the left can transform his entire appearance.

Olbermann’s shirt collar and tie (widest part of each) measurements are similar. Also note the finer point of how the shirt collar edge is slightly covered by the waistcoat, compared to the free-floating shirt collar on the left.

TIE DILEMMA OF THE KNIT TIE

Knit ties can be quite dapper, but it can be confounding to know how to use them in a suit ensemble. But, when factoring in the proportion formula on matching tie width with the lapel and/or the shirt collar width, suddenly knit ties begin to work better with suits. The problem with knit ties is that most of them are just too skinny, and this fact alone throws off the overall proportions of the suit.

But, once we purge these skinny knit ties, and opt for fuller, wider and more cleverly designed ones, then the proportion problem vanishes, and knit ties become a real viable option to add texture to a suit.

 

Spread Your Wingtips? Selecting the Right Wingtip Design for Your Foot


Gaziano & Girling

Brogue and spectators shoes alike peacock their wingtip designs, begging to be noticed for their clever perforations of twists and turns that channel thoughts of a certain fountain in Paris, or a delicate flower extracted from a crest displayed on a castle wall. While the people who hold their noses a bit high may say that wingtips originate from the countryside, and are too banal for their taste, the esoterics and the bohemians in spirit find this fact to be part of the charm of the semi-formal wingtip shoe.

And, for the those who haven’t noticed…all wingtips do not look alike. To look close, it’s easy to see that the designs on wingtip shoes vary wildly.  But even with their differences, all wingtips have two consistent similarities :

* All wingtip shoes have a W shape on the top of the shoe, and

* All wingtip shoes have decorative perforations.

A POSSIBLE EUREKA MOMENT

We have been binge-viewing countless websites and magazines lately, featuring brogue and spectator shoes. A couple of hours into our binge-viewing session, we begin to notice something that we haven’t noticed before…

Changing the type of W on the Wingtip changes the perceived proportions of the foot.

It was kind of an aha moment… and it seemed to deserve a closer look to see if it is possible that the design pattern on top of the shoe could cause the foot to look bigger, smaller, more narrow or wider. There were photos to share, but it felt rude to show photography of men with big trouser legs with tiny feet underneath, or men with skinny legs and feet so huge that their feet looked more like flippers, not to mention the wide-footed man whose feet looked almost square instead of oblong…you get the picture.

In putting together a few theories about how wingtip design relates to body proportion, we wondered if perhaps we were going a bit too far with it all (i.e., focusing so much on the feet in regard to overall body proportion). After all, we are just talking about…feet. But then, we remembered the possible universal truth that the first thing someone looks at when he or she meets you is your face and your shoes. We remembered the countless photos on Style Forum of men photographing their socks. And, we remembered how a certain group of men fondly refer to looking at shoes as…porn. And then, we decided to investigate.

In the initial findings, we stayed with two key points to analyze wingtip shoe design and its affect on perceived foot proportions:

1. Where is the W positioned on the wingtip? … high, medium, or low ?

2. Is the center of the W pointed or more flat?

BIG W OR SMALL W ? (affects how LONG the foot looks)

The positioning of the W on a wingtip shoe can range from high to medium to low W positioning. Here are examples of each of the three positions:

1. HIGH – W : the W covers more than the half of the front of the shoe (vamp + cap, starting from the throat line).  See also above opening photo by Gaziano & Girling.


Scarpe di Bianco

2. MID – W : The W covers slightly less than the half of the front of the shoe.


Ivan Crivellaro with a mid-position W. source: The Shoe Snob

3. LOW – W : The W covers only around 1/3 of the front.


One of the Corthay signature designs, The Vendome with a low-position W

SOME IDEAS

SMALL FEET :

* Select a low-W positioning with bold perforations on the toes.

As seen in the Corthay wingtip shoes just above, the low-W lengthens the appearance of the foot and the bold perforations draw the eye all the way to the tips of the toes, lengthening not only the overall appearance of the shoe, but also lengthening the appearance of the legs.

side note: With small feet, keep trouser legs more narrow and perhaps fractionally shorter than usual so that trousers don’t hide the length of the foot.

AVERAGE FEET (anything goes) :

* Since there are no disproportions with average feet, anything goes when selecting a wingtip design (unless the design itself creates a disproportional look).

Any shoe size between 8 – 10 (British) and 9 – 11 (American), is considered average. Here, Hugo (average foot size) is wearing a Corthay Low-W wingtip brogue. The design adds a nice lengthening affect to both the feet and the legs.


Photographed by Justin Fitzpatrick : The Shoe Snob

EXTRA-LARGE FEET:

* Select a mid or high W position, without a lot of “attention-grabbing” perforations

For those born with disproportionately large feet, a mid or high-positioned W with minimal perforations softens the appearance of oversized feet. The Gaziano & Girling brogues below are a nice example…and although it can be delicate to craft shoes for extra large feet, the design elements of the G & G brogues feel simple and elegant.


Gaziano & Girling … keeping it elegantly simple.

THE CENTER OF THE W : POINTY OR FLATTENED ?

Affects how WIDE the foot looks.

Some men have extremely wide feet, which can make the foot look more square than oblong, Other men have super narrow feet, which may look disproportionate with wide trouser legs.  The wingtip design can make a shoe appear more narrow or wider than it really is.

FOR NARROW FEET :

When the design of the W is more flat, this makes the foot appear wider than it actually is. In this photo, the W is completely flattened to form a U-Cap, which widens the look of the foot.


Roberto Ugolini Bespoke U-Caps

FOR WIDE FEET:

Select a pointed W, which makes the foot look more narrow, as shown in this pair of shoes (that you probably won’t forget):


New kid on the block, Clarence Clifford

Thanks to Justin Fitzpatrick and his incredible blog “The Shoe Snob” for vast visual inspiration in writing about wingtip design.

Sonya Glyn Nicholson, Senior Editor.

Links :

The shoe snob

Gaziano & Girling

Corthay

Ivan Crivellaro (facebook page)

Roberto Ugolini

Scarpe Di Bianco

Clarence Clifford

The Class Above the Upper Class : The TOP Class

Fellows-b635b
It is a mad world when the rich and famous are checking into rehab centers and the people of the working class feel anxious about whether they will be able to hold on to the very jobs that they dislike doing. Sometimes the world feels a little upside-down and the unimportant gets confused with the important.  And sometimes we even ask ourselves exactly how the art of dressing-well and finding one’s personal style fits into the grand scheme of things?

We know for sure that it isn’t necessary to find a study or statistics to tell us that it feels good to look good. And it is a bit of a revelation to realize that looking good does not mean being a ‘ natural-born-beauty ‘ as much as it means defining and refining a personal style. And regardless of how rich, handsome, tall or fit a person may be, style does not play favorites, but waits to be embraced by anyone who has the knowledge and will to express him or herself well through behavior, grooming, and clothing.

Some of the most stylish men in history have not been beauties (Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Peter O’Toole or the elegance naturelle de Francois Truffaut). Incredibly, even after some of these men are no longer alive, still their strong sense of personal style emanates  and is remembered and referred to, even to this day.

Many believe that it is the upper class that dresses the best and has the strongest sense of personal style. Notice that this perception can once again, work to everyone’s advantage since even the man from the most humble beginnings can pull himself far above the masses simply through the way he behaves, dresses and grooms himself. And, while a man of royal decent can look and behave as a buffoon, at the same time, a man of meager means can exemplify the meaning of elegance through his actions and through attention to his wardrobe.

Even though the ability for most every person to dress well does ‘ level ‘ the playing field between the wealthy and the working class, strangely, most people do not take advantage of investing in fully developing his or her personal style. Perhaps the goal seems beyond the reach of many, or laziness sets in, or more likely, there is an ignorance of the power that dressing well can bring to our lives. And, the goal to express personal style is typically not to look as if a person is from a certain class, as much as it is to show that a person has class.

Edmond Rostand, who wrote about aristocracy and beauty (or the lack thereof) in the iconic play “Cyrano de Bergerac”,  says this about elegance:

“I have a different idea of elegance. I don’t dress like a fop, it’s true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples, or an insult that I haven’t washed away. I’m always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper then the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs.” — Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

And so we agree, that elegance first begins with the character of a person, and only then, is rounded out with grooming and dressing well.

A STUDY IN BEING DISCREET…THE CLASS ABOVE THE UPPER CLASS : THE TOP CLASS

An important distinction can be made between the Upper Class and what author Paul Fussell terms the TOP Class, in his 1983 book entitled “A Guide Through the American Status Systems”.

Those from the upper class often draw attention to themselves through the cars and homes they purchase, the jewelry and clothing that they wear, and the events they attend. In a general sense, members of upper class care very much about the messages they are sending through the possessions that they choose. And although the Upper Class may fail to be discreet at times, still, they seem to exercise discretion in one specific area: they generally prefer older items and antiques over things that are newly produced. They have an appreciation for heritage and tradition in regard to dressing well, and this preference shows up in the things that they own, ranging from vintage cars and watches, to wearing  accessories like antique cuff links, and tie bars and pins, and even tattered clothes (more on that later).

A different group altogether, ranking even higher than the Upper Class is the TOP Class. Members of the TOP class are the uber elite and prefer to remain anonymous while attempting to blend with, instead of stand apart from society. Having a  massive estate with 42 rooms and a butler is an anathema to the TOP elite, since guarding the secret of his or her wealth and retaining privacy are key motives. In short, a life unhampered by the public eye is a constant focus and discretion is of paramount importance. In a strange way, a TOP elite seeks to be emancipated from the chains that his or her wealth has created, and paradoxically begins to identify with the things that really matter in life. Being discreet is preferred to showiness, and there is overall, less of an attachment to things, with the exception of family heirlooms and rare items that generally hold some type of meaning or purpose.

My own experience with a TOP class person has been enlightening. When I knew her, as a fourth generation member of a wealthy family and coming from what we consider ‘old-money’, Margaret lived in a nice but relatively modest home in a very good, but not extraordinary neighborhood. She drove a car that I barely remember and her jewelry consisted of a wedding ring (of what appeared to be just under one carat), a clean, black-banded Timex watch to be worn for everyday, in place of her Cartier, and a strand of her Grandmother’s pearls. She had custom clothes, but also clothes from Land’s End and Ralph Lauren. She was straight forward in her speech, and I found her to be a basically good and genuine person with naturally correct posture and an easy elegance. I also had a glimpse into her character…when she was going through a bad divorce, she was gentle and discussed her feelings honestly, but at the same time, her resolve was impressively strong to work through the difficulty.

And so, it is intriguing to take note of what some may consider TOP class gestures. Here are some nice, specific practices of the elegant, that is usually not written or spoken about explicitly:

1. Frayed Edges on Clothing

To be embraced, is signs of wear on clothing. The upper echelon detests shopping and readily accepts, even prefers, signs of wear on their clothes, including moth holes, small tears, piling and fraying, as this practice of accepting minor defects not only defines the behavior of the class, but also, wearing items that have been “broken in” can feel more natural and comfortable. It is considered a good thing to eschew the image of the parvenue in favor of patching, mending, and sewing worn spots on timeless pieces. One practice that has been relayed to us is the practice of estate owners instructing their valets to wear the owner’s shirt for a while in order to “break in the shirt” so it is more comfortable and in order for the shirt to appear less “new”.

2. Old Things Trump New Things

An antique or family heirloom, or anything with a history or a story, surpasses a newly produced item.

3. The Color of the Carnation

A red flower symbolizes that your mother is still living, while a white flower means your mother is no longer living.

4. Equal amounts of Shirt Collar and Shirt Cuff Showing Beneath a Jacket (with no Proletarian “Prole” Gap).

The amount of shirt collar and shirt sleeve that is shown beneath the jacket (typically around 1/2 inch) should match in area  (e.g., 1/2 inch shirt extending out from beneath the coat collar and 1/2 inch shirt sleeve extending out beneath the coat sleeve). No “prole gap” (collar gap) is imperative, as a gaping area between the coat collar and the shirt is considered a characteristic of the lower class proletarians, who are perceived to have little knowledge about good tailoring.

5. The Tailor’s Label — Hidden inside the Coat Pocket

There was a time when the name of one’s tailor was kept confidential, perhaps to protect a person’s privacy or even to prevent others from copying a look, or more likely to demonstrate discretion. Placing the name of the tailor inside the coat pocket so that the only way to read the tailor’s name is to peek inside the suit jacket pocket is an ultimate gesture, in terms of being discreet.

6. A Handkerchief Inside the Jacket Pocket.

Gentlemen at one time made it a point to carry a handkerchief in the suit coat pocket to handle things on the spot, like cold symptoms, spills, and teardrops.  And, a prepared gentleman equipped with gestures such as this, almost always left a lasting impression.

7. The final shirt buttonhole on a tailored shirt is sewn horizontally

Some swear by the practice of instructing a shirtmaker to sew the final buttonhole of a shirt horizontally instead of vertically in order to help secure the last button in place and as a discreet signal that the shirt is handmade (since no one sees the horizontal buttonhole except the wearer of the shirt and those closest to him).

8. Regimental Ties — Worn with Caution

Regimental ties, whose stripes represent a certain regiment, club, or private school, are only worn to functions associated with the entity that the tie represents. To wear one’s regimental tie to any other venue other than those events associated with what the regimental tie represents, is seen as a need to show off or broadcast a person’s membership. When wearing a striped tie with a suit, stripes should point up towards the right shoulder to avoid indicating that a person belongs to a club of which he has no affiliation (since true regimental ties generally point upwards towards the left shoulder).

9. All Sleeve Cuff Buttons are…Buttoned

To leave a button open on the coat sleeve cuff is not even considered, since quality is assumed with this class, and there would be no reason to announce that your buttons actually work on your coat sleeve.

10. A good watch ‘ peeks out ‘ beneath the shirt sleeve, but is not fully shown

Fully exposing a nice watch underneath a shirt sleeve would be seen as peacocking and as a way to get your watch stolen. Also, thrusting a watch forward  for display when posing for a photograph  is not an option.

11. An aversion to high fashion labels (with the exception of a few favorites specific to the individual)

Old money families steer clear of high fashion flashy labels (associated with “new money”)  but welcome a few personal labels into their wardrobe, some of which can be surprising to others, for example, choosing a black-banded Timex watch to be worn on certain days, in place of a finer watch.

SOME SIDE NOTES

How to participate in a «Toast»

Raise your glass with everyone else, when clinking glasses with an individual, always make quick eye contact with the individual, and…never cross wine or champagne glasses with anyone at the table.

Restrict Compliments since Quality is Assumed

Reserve the amount of compliments given to the elite…quality is assumed and mindless compliments are usually seen as unnecessary flattery that holds little meaning.

While these observations may only skim the surface of some elegant practices generally known within an exclusive subset of the population, the spirit of these subtle gestures come through– and brings some nice insight about being discreet and the some of the intentions behind why we dress the way we do.

Zero Collar Gap: The Third Signal of a (good) Handmade Suit

A screaming collar gap ... such a pity for a promising look

Collar Gap Offender


It’s surprising to notice that so many people with exquisite taste fail to notice the importance of a good collar fit with no “collar gap”. In my own experience, I have been slow to pay attention to collar gaps on suits, especially when mesmerized by an otherwise incredible look of an ensemble.

Compared to many readers, I am fairly new to the world of tailoring, with only about two years of suit-making self-study. Yet I have noticed, after spending many years in surgical wear and fabric design (with patents on a major surgical fabric product) that I have gained a real fascination with the dynamics of garment appearance, fit and function. Out of all the components of suit making that I’ve learned to date, it is particularly interesting to watch how collar fit affects the front and back fit of a coat.

Collar fit is such a strong component to the overall look of the suit, and if we start paying attention to different collar presentations, then we can quickly spot examples of a properly sewn suit collar and a poorly constructed suit collar. Here is a prime example of a poorly constructed suit collar that may be “fault elusive” to many. It is a pinterest sensation that is hard not to like, with a real problem–a shouting collar gap:


Even our dear Prince Charles, in his earlier years, made the mistake of wearing a suit with the dreaded collar gap in one of his portraits. Here we see a photo of the Prince years ago, with a text book example of how a collar gap contributes to the front V-Tug of the suit coat. But, not to worry since in the years that followed, prominent Savile Row houses such as Anderson & Sheppard promptly corrected the problem with technical precision. Take a look at the Prince’s before and after photos.


In this photo, we see:

1. an obvious coat collar gap with the jacket pulling away from the shirt,

2. the shirt collar is showing fully underneath the coat collar on the back of the neck, instead of less than 3/4″ (or less than 2 cm) of shirt collar fabric that should extend from the coat collar.

3. the classic front panel V-tug, and “fabric collapsing” in the chest area,

4. a secondary collapsing gap created between one of the lapels on the coat and the shirt itself, causing the lapel to lose its intended straight line.

Of course, the prince does have his hand in his pocket, which can affect the overall look, but since he is doing so carefully while choreographing his pose, we can conclude that his pose probably has minimal affect on the front drape of his coat.

And now, notice the corrections in this suit:


In this photo, we see the following corrections:

1. the suit collar follows the shirt collar closely, with what appears to be around less than 3/4″ (less than 2 cm) of shirt collar showing,

2. there is the correct amount of tugging of fabric around the chest and waist area of the coat, and

3. the overlapping lapel does not rise and curve against the shirt, but lies flat at a straight angle.

THE PHYSICS OF A SUIT COLLAR


To understand the physics of fabric draping that occurs when there is a collar gap, perform a simple exercise:

First, take hold of the back of the collar of the shirt or coat that you are wearing now and pull the collar backwards. You will notice two things that happen:

1.The front panel of your shirt or coat will pull up upwards, creating a “V-Tug” appearance with some fabric collapsing around the chest area.

2. The back of your shirt or coat will “bunch”, creating fabric folds.

When the collar is working in the opposite direction of the neck, an opposing upward pull occurs on the front of the jacket, and fabric is pulled up and “bunches” around the upper back.

Yet, when the collar is sewn properly and hugs the neck, these problems are eliminated.


To illustrate the point, pull your collar downwards, towards your neck, and notice the dynamics that occur in correcting the chest and upper back fit.

In this situation, the fabric on the back of the jacket is secured flush against the body and the fabric in front works with gravity to create a nice drape with the correct amount of tugging around the chest and the waist of a well-sewn suit.

Compare the different upper back results in the following two suits:


Upper back “Bunching”


Smooth upper back

Here, the close fit of the collar is vital in helping the fabric across the upper back lie smoothly against the body.

HOW UNEVEN SHOULDERS CAN CAUSE A COLLAR GAP

Most of us are not exactly evenly proportioned. And, it’s not unusual for one shoulder to be lower than the other shoulder. When wearing a ready-to-wear suit, the person with uneven shoulders can see a few problems occur:

If the left shoulder is higher, as seen below, in a ready-to-wear suit that is uniformly sewn,

* a collar gap will form, usually around the shoulder that is set lower, and

* fabric bunching will occur that moves in the direction the higher shoulder (as seen above)


In the photos of Prince Charles above, his right shoulder appears lower than his left shoulder, and the collar gap is showing against his weaker shoulder. In the photo that follows, it appears that his tailor has made the corrections necessary to even out the appearance of his shoulders.

Other than slightly adjusting the coat button positions (moving the buttons a fraction higher or lower) on these problem-suits which are pulling either to the left of the right, or a valiant attempt to slightly pad the lower shoulder, there is little that one can do to correct this type collar gap problem on a ready-to-wear suit. A person with offset shoulders should whenever possible, have his or her suits handmade.

IT’S ABOUT AWARENESS

As we take notice of how the collar fits around the neck, we develop an eye for fine tailoring.

Here are some contrasting examples of the bad and the good:


Collar gap with classic V-Tug with collapsing fabric and a curved (instead of straight) left lapel.


And now for the good:


PG Director Greg Jacomet in Cifonelli (who worked with an uneven shoulder). Here there is no collar-gap, around 2 cm of shirt collar showing in back, a straight lapel angle, and the correct amount of front tugging.


Stefan Bernard in a Zegna jacket. Notice the close collar fit on both sides of the neck, and the correct front panel tugging. The lapel angle is intentionally curved instead of straight, with both lapels curved and angled evenly.


Pal Zileri. A nice RTW specimen on all counts.

There are a few things you can do to improve the situation of dealing with a collar gap, ranging from wearing wide-spread shirt collars to mitigate the appearance of the collar opening to looking at having a tailor build up a weak shoulder on the coat, to making a subtle shift in button placement to improve a pull of the coat to the left or to the right (again, usually indicted by uneven shoulders). But, of course, having the collar correctly made to form to your neck from the beginning will save a lot of trouble in the end.

Any fool can know, the point is to understand- Albert Einstein

Sonya Glyn Nicholson

sources:

Dress Like a Grown Up

The Garment Doctor: The Collar Gap

Garment Doctor Series

Bespoke Suits in Singapore: Kevin Seah

Kempt: How a Spread Collar Can Improve a Collar Gap

Pomp and Practicality

aaaRemember the one in school who always seemed to dress right–the one indubitably awarded  “best-dressed” by popular vote–and who won so easily that his title was never in question? I often wondered if this dapper young gent’s mum should have had the real credit for his ease and fortitude, and whether his actual award should have been that of “most obedient son”.  Or, on the contrary, did this soldier-of-style have an innate talent to present himself eloquently almost from the time of his birth? I remember having admiration for these types who gave us the impression that they were well-bred  and knowledgeable, if only through the way that they dressed.  Even decades later, I recall the tailored chocolate brown velvet blazer that my classmate, Terrisina O’Neal, wore in Grade 7, and the yellow and blue wool argyle v-neck sweater with the bronzed-yellow tie that Chels Norton paired with his tan pants and polished loafers in Grade 10.

This fascinating point of being able to recall a style choice (years later) stays with me, because of the simple fact that, if these two former classmates did not dress as they did, I doubt that I would even be able to recall their names today.  And, if dressing well causes a person to be memorable, can these well-dressed soul’s “pomp” be more practical than we could have imagined?

Of couse it’s obvious that men have a greater challenge than women when it comes to making style choices that causes them to be remembered (most preferably in a good way) because there are fewer choices available in the sheer number of accessories and clothing pieces offered for men versus women. But even so, we see men who, ever-so-slightly, push the envelope in order to nab a definitive style for themselves. Yet with men and women alike, the feeling is the same when it comes to the satisfaction of  “owning your style” and in finding your own rite-of-passage in the field of elegance.

There is a bit of a awestruck feeling that occurs when seeing men take more daring style choices and carrying off their choices with ease (perhaps because we’ve seen the epic style failures of checks and stripes that are proportionately ill-mixed, the dizzying effect of over-accessorizing, as well as the intentional clashing of colors that makes us recognize the clothes well before recognizing the man). And isn’t it true that if it looks like a man has tried too hard to pull himself together, then he appears more like a walking window display, rather than a persona in his own right? After all, while persnickety tailors can be the best of the best, persnickety men can be the worst of the worst. But still, you may agree that we can’t help but enjoy a little pomp, while being spared the act of being “pompous.”  

The word pomp can be misunderstood.  The first definition of pomp connotes “dignified”, while the second definition connotes “vanity”.  These two definitions provide a confusing (even intriguing) dichotomy of meanings.  While we can safely refer to pomp as meaning dignified, most likely we can also agree that thinking of a pompous person brings on thoughts of  someone who is “irritatingly self-important”.   The root of the word  “pomp” is the Latin “pompa,” meaning “procession”, which gives the word a regal feel. And, the phrase “pomp and circumstance” has been preserved by Shakespeare in his play Othello, Act III, scene iii with the words “Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump, The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife, The royal banner, and all quality, Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”

What gives a man a little “pomp”…just enough to be remembered? Here are six examples that tend to leave memorable impressions.

THE POCKETSQUARE, THE FINE DETAILS,  AND A TIE TWIST

Tie Twist, Pocketsquare, Fine Detail (red button-hole)
Tie tie-arch, the pocketsquare, and the fine detail of red button-hole stitching

There are three things that I notice right away about this style: the arched tie, the pocketsquare, and the contrasting button-hole stitching.  This look feels like it is understated but still holds a strong sense of style.  And, this combination of style elements definitely allows for focus on the man instead of his clothing.  It is not overdone, but nonetheless displays a lot of flair and individuality.  The pocketsquare itself is not a duplicate of any other color or pattern (over-matching a pocketsquare to other fabrics and patterns worn comes off as looking fussy and unimaginative), but is simply white in color with interesting stitching–a fine complement to this overall look.  A properly arched tie does not fail to intrigue…it makes me wonder how it was managed and just how one uses a tie slide…and what special twist or push or positioning caused it to look so steeped in 19th century tradition?  I adore this way of wearing a tie and it is pleasing to see this effect carried off well.  The red stitched button hole is bold and shows a willingness to take risks and seems to communicate at slight sense of adventure.

Even waist deep in hot water, Draper pulls off the ultra thin tie with ease.
Even waist deep in hot water, Draper pulls off the ultra thin tie with ease.

Another tie twist is opting for the ultra thin tie, inspired by  the 1960s era to complement a suit. Don Draper from the series Mad Men has become an icon for sporting this retro look.

THE BOUTONNIERE  

Perhaps no one has carried off the rose buttonniere better than Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, whom, on the day of his funeral, caused a sell-out of roses at local florists because of the volumes of men who sought rose buttonnieres on that day in order to commemorate his memory.Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Perhaps no one has carried off the rose boutonniere better than former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, whom, on the day of his funeral, caused a sell-out of roses at Canadian florists because of the sheer volume of men who sought rose boutonnieres on that day in to commemorate his memory.  This little article of nature seems to be worn by men in a class of their own. If this look is worn consistently, it is hard to imagine anyone who would not be impressed with the fortitude of the man donning a boutonniere, especially considering his effort in arrange for something fresh to be worn regularly that also gives pleasure to others, most of whom can appreciate the beauty and simplicity of a single flower.

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A working lapel button-hole with a boutonniere latch

A working lapel button-hole with a boutonniere latch raises the bar in the world of boutonnieres. I find this small touch to be impossibly elegant.

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scarlet carnations

One of the most understated choices for the boutonniere, the scarlet carnation. If you like to hold strictly to tradition, wear a red flower if your mother is living and a white flower if she is not, as is the custom in several parts of the U.S. and abroad.

douglas-fairbanks-jr-1933                                                                 Douglass Fairbanks Jr., 1933

a nicely worn boutonniere
a nicely worn boutonniere
A more modern twist on the use of the lapel notch.
A more modern twist on the use of the lapel notch.

THE WATCH

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Obviously, an amazing timepiece is something that can bring great pleasure to a man. Yet, it can be of benefit to a man to notice how he wears his timepiece. For example, it isn’t becoming of a man to pose for a photograph after noticeably pulling one sleeve higher than the other, thrusting his wrist forward and tilting his timepiece ever-so-towards the camera. This move is blatantly apparent to others who look at his picture. Even when a man is not posing for a photograph, constantly extending the arm forward to show off a timepiece smacks a bit of of desperation, and can be off-putting to others. However, when catching an accidental peek of a fine timepiece worn by an elegant man, that man is more likely to be viewed as a person of deliberation and success, not as ostentatious and overly proud. Conversely, a discreet man seems to enjoy functionality and style, and is more than adept at expressing himself well, even in regard to his selection of jewelry.

A discreetly worn timepiece
A discreetly worn timepiece

Finding a fine timepiece can be a memorable life experience. The research, anticipation, and finally, the reward of owning an item that is both a technical and beautiful, as well as a constant companion, can provide great satisfaction for decades to follow.

THE HAT

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Frank Sinatra

It seems as if it would have been a waste for Frank Sinatra not to wear a hat. There can be no question that this man was made to don un chapeau.  It is also a bit of a loss for many other men who have the correct face shape and dimensions to forego placing a fine Fedora, or the likes, a top of their heads.

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AN EXTRA TOUCH

My father always carried a freshly laundered handkerchief in his inside jacket pocket. He would offer the handkerchief to those closest to him, should they have a slight spill, need to wipe their hands, or find themselves unexpectedly emotional. This sentiment of offering a handkerchief to someone remains with me. It is these small subtleties that causes a man to become memorable and is testimony that real pomp comes not only from outward appearances, but also from subtle and sincere gestures of grace.

Endymion: A Men’s Fragrance to Remember

It is the final day in Brussels at the esteemed House of Degand, which I am attending for the book signing of the stunning talent, James Sherwood’s “A Perfect Gentleman” book (celebrating the rich history of men’s style).   Just before departing, I acquire an unforgettable men’s fragrance called Endymion, created by London’s House of Penhaligon’s…

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Some may think it’s odd to get wrapped up in the thought of discovering a killer fragrance; but, perhaps you know what it’s like to search for a fragrance you love—only to discover that five years later, you are still looking?

Yet, some things are just right.  And you know it instantly.  Such is the men’s fragrance Endymion from London’s house of Penhaligon’s.

Endymion

Created in 2003, Endymion is a sensual fusion of citrus, spices and leather.  It opens with a burst of sweetened mandarin wrapped gently in sage and leather, then settles and smoothes gently into a dark coffee heart.  As it warms up, mysterious resins rise up with hints of creamy nutmeg, cardamom and the softest leather.” Penhaligons.com

SCENTS ARE STILL MADE IN ENGLAND USING THE FINEST RARE INGREDIENTS; FROM HAND-SQUEEZED BERGAMOT, TO JASMINE AT TWICE THE PRICE OF GOLD. . . House of Penhaligon’s

After being completely allured by Endymion’s discreet ability to catch my attention, later I decided to poke around online in the attempt to find a bad review on the fragrance.  One man lamented that he wanted the scent to linger longer…yet the other reviews that I read sang tabernacle-like praises about the wonder of Endymion.

In fact, most every review sounded more like a love story between a man and his cologne instead of a critique.  And, I believe that this particular fragrance is relationship-material for a man as it calls out to be revisited regularly to ritually bathe the senses in a most pleasurable scent…so that the event of putting on cologne becomes pure pleasure in a world where we crave a certain aesthetical boost, whether we realize it or not.

Only twice in my life have I been frozen where I stood by a scent. To cut a long and embarrassing story short, I followed a guy off the London underground when I had no idea where I was, to find out from him what his scent was. And I’m usually pretty shy. The scent was Endymion, and I couldn’t help but inhale it the way you inhale a lover’s scent with your mouth part open to catch every facet and reflection. Warm, earthy, dreamy yet authoritative and potent. The effect on me may have been exaggerated because the man wearing it was probably the most beautiful man I’d ever seen – either that or his scent made him seem that way. It just made me want to pull his shirt off. I didn’t tell him that bit… but I did go and buy his perfume. –a review by Lucy2shoes@basenotes.net, November, 2012

SPICY BEGINNINGS

The year is 1860; the place, London.  A Cornish barber named William Henry Penhaligon moved to London and soon became Court Barber and Perfumer to Queen Victoria.

William lived in an age of decadence, excess and flamboyance.  He found so much time to self-actualize, that he began relating experiences to fragrances.  His trade remained strong during his lifetime and was carried on by his uber-stylish son Walt Penhaligon.

In the 1940s, the business faded into oblivion, only to reemerge in the 1970s and today, Penhaligon fragrances are coveted by men who, down to their bones, feel an appreciation for the highest standard in life and living.

William's son, Walt Penhaligon displaying stunning style in 1907.

William’s son, Walt Penhaligon displaying stunning style in 1907.

There is something old-worldly about this Penhaligon fragrance.  When you breathe in the cologne, you feel the purity of the perfumery trade permeate your senses.  What I find particularly pleasing is that the fragrance seems to develop beautifully (even elegantly) on the skin and that there is no offensive reaction of feeling overwhelmed by its intensity, even if a man enjoys lavishing himself with this perineal potion.

Although Endymion is classically masculine, before it develops, it feels distinctly unisex, and I admit that I like it so much, that occasionally I’ve doused myself with this brilliant brew of woodsy orange and eventual sophisticated mix of sage with only a slight hint of lavender.

For me, the scent creates an image of an eternally stylish–yet slightly rugged man toting a leather satchel by his side, taking a clever short-cut through a patch of woods before reaching his rather elite address, simply because his sense of adventure requires him  to do so.

 Founded over 135 years ago, Penhaligon's is the ultimate ole-world perfumer with an impressive patron list including fashion God Tom Ford, Britain's great Statesman, Sir Winston Churchill and the Royal family, who long before blessing the brand with two Royal warrants from Prince Charles and his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, employed William Penhaligon as Court Barber and Perfumier to Queen Victoria.

“Founded over 135 years ago, Penhaligon’s is the ultimate old-world perfumer with an impressive patron list including fashion God Tom Ford, Britain’s great Statesman, Sir Winston Churchill and the Royal family, who long before blessing the brand with two Royal warrants from Prince Charles and his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, employed William Penhaligon as Court Barber and Perfumier to Queen Victoria.” (From Localspotter.com)

The bottle pleases the eye and is William Penhaligon’s original design: clear glass with a distinctively Victorian ribbon-wrapped top. And, as a final note, the bottle itself is of immaculate construction, as I confess to have dropped it from a 5 foot shelf onto a tile floor with no damage other than a temporarily racing-heart.

How the Necktie Conquered the World

The necktie is a powerful gesture and sometimes we may underestimate its effect.  After being commissioned by Parisian Gentleman to write about this complex “strip of fabric” that can say so much with so little, I found the necktie’s story to be more captivating than expected.

Brioni, The Regiment Tie, Purple. The Regiment Tie communicates respect for convention, seriousness, straight-talk, and perhaps a little “frat boy” churned into the mix. Serious or relaxed…a perfect choice; but, be careful not to infringe upon a regiment or club and wear a regiment tie that has been designed to represent a specific organization.

Consider the power of a rather small piece of apparel such as the necktie.  This slice of fabric can make or break a job interview, determine admittance or rejection into a fine restaurant and be a key factor in whether a man is to be taken seriously, or not.  And it is fascinating to consider that a man’s choice of a necktie may give insight into his personality.

Stefano Ricci, Lavender Gray Paisley. A nice paisley conveys boldness and when well chosen, displays a strong flair for style (and perhaps even a slight penchant for the flower power era).

The vintage Sulka Tie is now an ultra rare deadstock item that the most every tie aficionado may seek to own.

From Drakes, London: “There’s a touch of sartorial audacity in a silk knitted tie that’s oddly liberating and we’re proud that our knits continue to set the standard. Starting with the finest quality spun raw silk they’re knitted on hundred year old looms that produce the distinctive crunchy ‘cri de la soie’ hand, the true mark of quality and authenticity in knitted silk ties. Spots are sewn on by hand. Made in Germany, 100% silk, 7cm width”

AN UNLIKELY BEGINNING

The first known version of the necktie is located in the massive mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Shih Huang Ti (buried in 210 B.C and whose tomb was unearthed in 1974 near the ancient capital city of Xian).

Inordinately afraid of death, the emperor wanted to slaughter his entire army to accompany him into the next world. Persuaded by his advisors to take life-size replicas of the soldiers instead, astonishingly, his tomb contains 7,500 life-size terracotta replicas of Shih Huang Ti’s regal fighting force. Reproduced in painstaking detail are their armor, uniforms, hair, and even facial expressions of the soldiers. Each figure is different – except in one respect: all wear neck cloths.

Other records indicate the Chinese did not wear ties, so why the emperor’s guards wore carefully wrapped silk cloths around their necks is unknown.  With silk looked upon as a great luxury, the neck cloths were likely a symbol of high honor and prestige.

THANK YOU, CROATIA

Hats off (or on) to Croatia for the contribution of introducing the necktie globally. As early as the mid-1600s, during the European Thirty Year War, from around 1618-1648, Croatian soldiers fought in various regions of Europe. The traditional Croatian military dress included a noteworthy scarf tied around the neck, which is very similar to the style in which the necktie is worn today.

The setting is now in Prague; the year, 1618.  Some Prague agents of the Holy Roman Emperor were in a state of dissent when a group of citizens threw the agents out of a window. The agents landed on a dunghill and happened to survive. Being foul tempered because of this angst with Prague, it is said that the 30 Year War ensued soon after. which gave way to an immediate need for Croatian mercenaries. Although these Croations were rough-and-ready fellows, they held fast to making a style statement by displaying notable neckwear.

The word “‘cravat” is a derivative of the word “Croat”. It is an enigma as to why the Croatians exacted such imitation.  Still, as these Croatian soldiers were stationed in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV, the Croatians’ overall style greatly impressed their French counterparts and French men rather quickly borrowed from their sense of fashion–most notably when it came to neckwear. “.

The tie gained entry into the bourgeois style circle of that era as a sign of elegance and the cultivated elitism, and soon after the rest of Europe fell at the cravate’s feet. Of course today we witness the power of the necktie in practically every culture, with 85 different tie methods and a wide array of materials and colors.

A SIGN OF OUR TIMES: OLD IS NEW

After a few generations of aiming towards exaggerated convenience in most every area of life, recently we have witnessed a hunger for handcrafted items. We have grown fatigued with all of the computer and machine generated merchandise.  Herbs and natural remedies often are favored in place of chemically produced drugs.  Handwritten notes are more valued than the common email.  And, a taste for meticulous custom-clothing has caused a case of amnesia when trying to remember the need for a shopping trip to the mall.

Today, the celebrated necktie has seen a specific revival in the house of Passaggio Cravatte, founded in 2010 by Gianni Cerutti and Marta Step. The shop is located in Robbio, Italy (near Milan and the Malpensa airport) and uses the rare practice of hand-cutting the entire necktie from a single piece of fabric, then the tie is carefully hand-stitched and meticulously hand-folded using a seven-fold method form the early 1900s to produce a newly made vintage piece.  Even the fabric is taken from 90 percent real vintage cloth and is hand printed with patterns that are hard to find and virtually unobtainable.

Passagio Cravatte seven fold passaggiocravatte.com

The result?  Nothing short of magnificent.  While a Sulka tie can be an amazing find, now there is a chance to take the pursuit of a “magical tie” a step further by experiencing firsthand the traditional necktie original construction–simply because of a dream transposed into reality by two determined Italians to return to the tried and true method of producing a work of art that can be selected, cut and sewn on demand.

THE NECKTIE: NOT TO BE FEARED

And so, whether you resent having to dress for an occasion or find pleasure in doing so, we must admit that the necktie is a wondrous opportunity for a man to express himself in a way that makes people take notice.  The necktie can give a man the chance to portray power or humility, seriousness or humor, status or convention.  If more men looked at the tie as a tool (and we know how the male species loves tools), then maybe we will accelerate even further this era of a a return to style.

The Thing About Awards

I’m not an awards-type person, but like having the chance to recommend addictive blogs.

These awards on WordPress seem strange because how can you win an award just because one person says so?

Still, this “Addictive Blog Award” is appealing.  I suppose if someone is addicted to your writing, it means that you’ve tapped into something good that resonates with and is recognized by someone who finds himself or herself wanting more.  This is a great compliment, I can’t deny it.

Coincidentally (or not if you believe there are no accidents), two bloggers sent me this specific award in back-to-back comments on my Iconicallyrare “About” page…

…And, it felt like the stars were somehow aligning, and I needed to respond, so here goes.

“Heaven’s Path” in Ireland…where the stars appear to line up with the path (courtesy Gagbay, Heaven of gagbay addicts)

To accept, I must post the awards on this page, tell who sent the awards, write about why I blog and then recommend others (up to 10) and notify them that they have been awarded.

“Thanks” for the award goes to GNOSTIC BENT who has been Freshly-Pressed early on in his blogging experience and continues to write features that will grab your attention immediately after the first sentence.

And another thank you for the award goes to  Dear Ms. Migraine who writes with abandon about the challenges she faces when her body’s refuses to cooperate with her own desire to be healthy and happy.

Why do I write here? The reason is a bit intense, but I’ll tell you why:

I write or I die.  It sounds dramatic but the thing is that writing is my voice…if I stifle my voice I can feel myself fade and wither and become part of some distant group of atoms that are absorbing into a world outside of myself, and becoming lost like bubbles popping and blending into a distant atmosphere.

When I write I become distinct, my fuse contacts its source, my charge is amped up to full capacity, my cerebral self feeds the core of my soul…and I feel like I more than exist, I more than survive–now I am alive.

And now for the most important part…recommending writing that is stellar and iconic, and yes, addictive.

The Addictive Blog Award goes to:

1. Higher Thinking Primate – Hands down the most diverse blogger I’ve read here.  I’ve never received a return like or a comment from Higher Thinking Primate and sometimes wonder if he or she is a man/woman/ or machine… but with quality like this, who cares?

2. Unbound Boxes Limping Gods – Cheryl Moore is pure genius.  I visit her stories and illustrations, and find it difficult to leave.  Once you open the door and view her creations, you will understand.

3. Making a Movable Feast – Some people write so clearly and use pictures so well that you feel like you lived their words.  Emily does this for me…An ode to Hemingway, and thank you, Emily.

4. The Monsieur – Classic information on men’s style with visuals that have a timeless sharp edge.

5. Parisian Gentleman – Kind enough to feature me as a guest blogger, this monumental online men’s magazine has had almost 4 million hits and is a (if not the) key reference on how to be a gentleman.  Motto: First learn the rules, then break them.

6. Through Healing Lens – Robyn Lee will bend your mind with her story of being a gorgeous woman with a bountiful life and the moment that everything turned on a dime, but didn’t change her indomitable spirit.  She tells how she persevered  through insurmountable challenges and is finally finding a place of peace.

7.Alexandra Nour – This person is hilarious and sometimes I need to laugh.

http://iconicallyrare.comgoogle-site-verification: google59bc993c55136ba0.html

The Massive Character of Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran liked to keep his personal life…personal.  It was not until his cousin and others wrote a biography about him that more intimate details about his life became known to the public.  He is mainly recognized for his 1923 book “The Prophet” (26 essay-style prose poems, delivered as sermons by a fictional wise man in a faraway time and place.  This work has been translated in 40 languages).  Some may not realize that Kahlil Gibran’s book had a cool reception by the critics; yet, sold surprisingly well, becoming extremely popular in the 1960s counterculture. Gibran is the 3rd best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you…“–Gibran, Sand and Foam” (1926)

Gibran in 1902 (18 or 19-years-old). Told by priests that he was a mystic—even “a young prophet”—he began to see himself that way. Photograph by Fred Holland Day.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. ~K. Gibran

How does a person write a feature on Kahlil Gibran? The minute I promised a reader I would do this, I felt an immediate twinge of regret.  But, I have a feeling that after meeting the mind of this great poet and artist, there will be no regrets.

It’s too bad that I completely missed the love-fest mentality of the 1960s when the resurgence of universal love became suddenly cool and lent Gibran’s work to the likes of song lyrics borrowed by John Lennon in his song “Julia” (1968), and even quotes used in an inauguration speech by JFK.

But, even so, right now seems like a good time to tap into a timeless fascination with Gibran, and drop by to visit this madly successful poet and artist…and I am beginning to wonder what has taken me so long to do it?

As I began to get knee-to-knee with Gibran, I started to imagine what type of child Kahlil must have been…

Born in 1883 in the village of Bsharri in  modern-day Lebanon, Gibran lived in a time when Lebanon was part of Syria, which was part of the Ottoman Empire.  Photograph by Fred Holland c. 1896 (Kahlil at 13 years old).

Thanks to Gibran’s cousin who wrote a biography “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World.” (and who was named after Gibran) we know a little bit about Gibran’s childhood.

Apparently, Gibran often brooded as a child, and was described as soulful.  He had an extreme penchant for drawing.  Painting was his first interest and most of the time trumped his interest in writing.

Near Kahlil’s hometown, Qadisha valley, courtesy of literary locales sjsu.edu. During stormy days, Gibran liked to go outside.

He adored nature, and whenever a storm would come, he would rip off his clothes and run out into the unsettling weather in a fit of ecstasy. His mother, Kamileh, let her boy relish in his strange ways and persuaded others to leave him alone.  “Sometimes,” Gibran’s cousin said, his mother “would smile at someone who came in…lay her finger on her lips and whisper, ‘Hush. He’s not here.’ ”

A portrait by Kahlil of his mother. Kamila, daughter of a priest, was 30 when Gibran was born and Khalil’s father was her third husband.[wiki] As a result of his family’s poverty, Gibran received no formal schooling during his youth. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible, as well as the Arabic and Syriac languages.

In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song. ~K. Gibran

A FATHER THAT DISAPPOINTED

Gibran’s father owned a walnut grove, but too often neglected to show up for work. Instead he drank and gambled too much and eventually landed a job as a tax collector, but a short time later, he was arrested for embezzlement. At this point, the family became destitute.

When Kahlil was eight, his father, was convicted of tax evasion and sent to prison as the Ottomon authorities confiscated the Gibrans’ property.  In 1895, Gibran’s mother Kamileh, had enough.  Unbelievably, her third marriage had just fallen apart.  She packed up her four children—Bhutros, Kahlil (12), Marianna, and Sultana—and sailed to America.   The events that led to the family exiting their country could have been the first great source of pain that Kahlil experienced in his life.

The family settled in the South end of Boston (known today as Boston’s Chinatown) in ghetto-like conditions but with a relatively heavy Lebanese population nearby. Kamileh, true to her Syrian roots, became a pack peddler and she went door to door, selling lace and linens out of a basket she carried on her back. It took her a year to save enough money to set Bhutros up in a drygoods store. The two girls worked as seamstresses. Kahlil’s only responsibility was to go to school.


–Kahlil as a young man.  

GIBRAN’S EDUCATION, MENTORS AND INFLUENCES

In Boston, Gibran enrolled in an art school at a nearby settlement house. His teachers introduced him to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day who supported Gibran in his creative endeavors. At that time, a publisher also used some of Gibran’s drawings for book covers in 1898.

Kahlil adopted much of the philosophy and attitude taught to him by his mentor Fred Holland Day. Day treated Gibran as a young prince and as you can imagine, this was really something for a young man to experience after coming from a destitute early life.  As a result of this strange confluence of struggle mingled with privilege that Kahlil experienced in his life–he adopted an emphasis on suffering, prophecy, and the religion of love, which became his modus operandi.

From wiki”:

At the age of fifteen, Gibran returned to his homeland to study at a Maronite-run preparatory school and higher-education institute in Beirut, called Al-Hikma (The Wisdom). He started a student literary magazine with a classmate and was elected “college poet”. He stayed there for several years before returning to Boston in 1902, coming through Ellis Island (a second time) on May 10.[11] Two weeks before he got back, his sister Sultana died of tuberculosis at the age of 14. The next year, his brother died of the same disease and his mother died of cancer. His sister Marianna supported Gibran and herself by working at a dressmaker’s shop.[3]

Two other key people who influenced Gibran include:

 

Abdu’l-Bahá, Kahlil was greatly impressed with the leader of the Bahá’í Faith during his travel to America in the time period 1911-12. Gibran admired his teachings on peace. His famous poem “Pity The Nation” was written during this period.

Mikhail Naimy, a distinguished master of Arabic literature, whose child became Kahlil’s godson–was a great friend and influence in Gibran’s life.
As the above quote reminds us, around 1902 and within a time period of about 1 1/2 years, Kahlil lost his mother, his sister, and his brother to illnesses.   Since wiki presents this information as so matter-of-fact and somewhat banal in style, I wonder if we fail to grasp the intense sense of loss and emotional pain that Kahlil must have felt during this time of seeing three of his closest family members die within such a short time?

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ― Khalil Gibran

THE LOVE STORY OF KAHLIL AND MARY

It was 1904, when 21-year-old Gibran held his first Boston art exhibition of drawings in Boston at Fred Day’s studio. During the exhibition, he met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a school headmistress. Mary was 10 years older than Gibran and the two began a friendship that lasted until his death.

Kahlil’s portrait of Mary Haskell

New Yorker writer Joan Acocella recapped a general account of the Kahlil and Mary Haskell love story based on a biography written by Robin Waterfield.

And, there is no way I can tell the story of the type of love Kahlil and Mary had, better than this…

On a More Personal Side…

From Author Joan Acocella on Kahlil Gibran and His Possible Muse, Mary Haskell:

 

Mary Haskell, the headmistress of a girls’ school in Boston, was a New Woman. She believed in long hikes, cold showers, and progressive politics…She was not rich, but by careful thrift—the school’s cook, who also had some wealthy employers, sneaked dinners to her from their kitchens—she managed to put aside enough money to support a number of deserving causes: a Greek immigrant boy who needed boarding-school tuition, and another Greek boy, at Harvard. Then she met Gibran, who would be her most expensive project.

In the beginning, her major benefaction to him was simply financial—she gave him money, she paid his rent. In 1908, she sent him to Paris for a year, to study painting. Before he went abroad, they were “just friends,” but once they were apart the talk of friendship turned to letters of love, and when Gibran returned to Boston they became engaged. It was apparently agreed, though, that they would not marry until he felt he had established himself, and somehow this moment never came. Finally, Haskell offered to be his mistress. He wasn’t interested. In a painful passage in her diary, Haskell records how, one night, he said that she was looking thin. On the pretext of showing him that she was actually well fleshed, she took off her clothes and stood before him naked. He kissed one of her breasts, and that was all. She got dressed again. She knew that he had had affairs with other women, but he claimed that he was not “sexually minded,” and furthermore that what she missed in their relationship was actually there. When they were apart, he said, they were together. They didn’t need to have “intercourse”; their whole friendship was “a continued intercourse.” More than sex or marriage, it seems, what Haskell wanted from Gibran was simply to be acknowledged as the woman in his life. As she told her diary, she wanted people to “know he loved me because it was the greatest honor I had and I wanted credit for it—wanted the fame of his loving me.” But he would not introduce her to his friends. “Poor Mary!” Waterfield says. Amen to that.

Acocella links this way of interpersonal behavior to his writing:

Then, there is the pleasing ambiguity of what Almustafa (in “The Prophet”) is saying… namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite. Such paradoxes, which Gibran had used for years to keep Haskell out of his bed, now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by their seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes

Although this account is somewhat confusing as to Gibran’s true intentions toward Mary, some believe that Kahlil loved Mary in a profoundly immersive, fathomless, and truly spiritual way that few two people have experienced or will ever experience.  Still others think that Kahil mainly felt an eternal kinship with Mary, that was absent of sexuality.  The dynamics of this relationship are truly mysterious.

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation. ~K.Gibran


HIS MESSAGE

One thing we know is that Gibran played down the pursuit of material possessions and things with empty meaning, in favor of pursuing a mind-bending, extraordinary, hyper-evolved state of love itself.  He offered instruction from the heart on finding and receiving this give-and-take sort of nirvana love that seemed to always need a loose-hold on love’s wonder in order to survive and flourish.

His emphasis on mystic spirituality surfaced throughout his life and the way he examined spiritual matters has had a profound influence on a multitude of spiritual “truth-seekers”.

Today, in the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a literary and political rebel. His Romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature, breaking away from the classical school of thought. In “The Prophet”, Gibran is concerned with unifying mankind.  His themes of drawing close to one another, kindness, and forgiveness are communicated in a way that sparks the senses and causes a sudden understanding.

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. ~K. Gibran

HIS DEATH

Khalil Gibran died on April 10, 1931 in New York City of cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis. Gibran wished to be buried in Lebanon and this wish was fulfilled in 1932, when Mary Haskell and Kahlil’s sister, Mariana bought the Mar Sarkis Monastery in Lebanon, which is now the Gibran Museum.  Prior to his death, Kahlil left instructions on the specific epitaph that he wished to leave behind…

I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you. ~Kahlil Gibran’s self-authored epitaph

HIS LEGACY

Gibran’s contents of the studio went to Mary Elizabeth, where she found her previously written letters there. She gave the letters to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library and her personal art collection of art by Gibran (more than 100 pieces) to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. This is the largest public collection of Gibran’s visual art in the United States. It constitutes five oils and number of written works depicting the artist’s lyrical style. His hometown of Bsharri still receives the American royalties from his books

EXAMPLES OF HIS WORK

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.― Khalil GibranThe Prophet

Kahlil Gibran, The Summit from Sand and Foam, c. 1925, Watercolor and pencil on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches, Telfair Museums, Gift of Mary Haskell Minis, 1950

Works Originally written in Arabic: Works originally written in English:
Spirits Rebellious (1908) The Madman (1918)
The Broken Wings (1912) The forerunner (1920)
A Tear and A Smile (1914) The Prophet (1923)
The Procession (1918) Sand and Foam (1926)
jesus, the son of man (1928)
posthumously: selected shorter works: 
The earth gods (1931) The new frontier
The wanderer (1932) i believe in you
The garden of the prophet (1933) my countrymen
lazarus and his beloved (1933) satan
you have your lebanon and i have my lebanon
your thought and mine

“All things in this creation exist within you, and all things in you exist in creation; there is no border between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things. In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence; in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.” – Kahlil Gibran.


“A man’s true wealth is the good he does in the world. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran had a monumental heart and was relentlessly moved by the unceasing and mystical power of love itself, and his mind was open to learn about spirituality and growth as a human being, both individually and as part of a community.

Most importantly, Gibran was not lazy.  He did not daydream his life away.  He told whomever would listen what he learned in life and what he believed to be true.  And this, in itself, could be the greatest message of all by Kahlil Gibran.  If we are all a mirror of eternity, then much of our potential lies dormant within, ready to awaken whenever we give the signal.

All that spirits desire, spirits attain. ~Kahlil Gibran

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