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Posts from the ‘Culture’ Category

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 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.


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.


  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.

The Class Above the Upper Class : The TOP Class

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.


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.


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.

An Accidental Street Shot–Amsterdam, Summer, 2012

Man on a bicycle. An accidental street shot, Amsterdam, July, 2012.

I didn’t intend to take a street shot.

I was only trying to capture the beauty of this amazing city of Amsterdam with a quick iPhone  photo, a few weeks ago.

And yesterday, I looked at my photos and guess what had suddenly appeared in the frame?

A fairly well-dressed gentleman, biking to his destination (as most people do in Amsterdam). And, I’m pretty sure that this pocket square fold would have been quite nice if it were a little more in focus.

Courage Changes Every- thing

The Ernst Leitz Sr. Optics Company, founded in 1869 in Wetzler, Germany, was ahead of its time and had a tradition of enlightened behavior toward its workers.  Leitz hired people based on ability, without descrimination, and provided sick leave, and health insurance.

Following his dad’s example of altruism,  Ernst Leitz II risked his own–and his family’s safety by putting into place a wildly successful plan to help Jews escape Nazi Germany. He is known for designing the first Leitz camera lens

What can a wealthy business man (himself a Christian) do to save the lives of a large number of Jews living under the oppressive state of Hitler’s regime?  How about hire hundreds of Jews in his business and then send them on overseas assignments? This simple and brilliant plan was made a reality by Ernst Leitz II, and for his effort, countless Jews today have this courageous man to thank for life itself.  The Leica Freedom Train was a rescue effort in which hundreds of Jews were smuggled out of Nazi Germany before the Holocaust by Ernst Leitz II of the Leica Camera company, and his daughter Elsie Kuehn-Leitz.

Dr. Elsie Kühn-Leitz was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught at the border, helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed, but endured rough treatment in the course of questioning. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who were assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s.

Incredibly,  the Leitz family wanted no publicity for their heroic efforts. And, only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the “Leica Freedom Train” finally come to light.

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort. –Sydney Smith

…and suddenly I want to buy a Leitz camera.

Is there any regret worse than not acting on our core convictions?  I believe that the first leap of courage in doing what seems impossible, may feel insurmountably difficult…but what follows soon after is pure liberation from fear and from living life as an imposter. …and speaking of courage (and inspired by Elsie)…a song I’ve added to my list.

Don’t Believe All That You See — Alison Jackson Makes Her Living With Fake Photography

It’s a fake! This is work done by photographer Alison Jackson, whose métier is to get look-alikes of famous politicians and entertainers to pose in intimate situations. Alison Jackson has “photographed” the Queen of England on the toilet, George Bush and Tony Blair chatting in the sauna, Osama Bin Laden playing backgammon, and Monica Lewinsky lighting Bill Clinton’s cigar.



Iconically Rare — Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, self-portrait. In an interview during this year (1979), he said “You can do anything you want, anytime”.

The Prince of Pop Art, an avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author, and public figure known for his membership in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats.

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol by Jack Mitchell

It’s a little off the beaten path, but I felt like writing about Andy Warhol today.

Born in 1928, he was a sick child and was diagnosed with something called St. Vitus’ Dance disease in third grade which affects the nervous system causing involuntary movements (perhaps a complication of scarlet fever). He was painfully shy, but loved to practice drawing and to experiment with photography. Andy was the only member of his family to go college and in 1945 he went to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, declaring a major in pictorial design.

Later, he moved to New York, where he coined a hyper-exaggerated style of drawing and painting, based on the belief that everything is beautiful.  He expanded his creative genius into the areas of printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music.  Throughout the 1950s, he became a greatly successful illustrator, winning numerous awards for his work from the Art Directors Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Andy’s clients included Tiffany & Co., The New York Times, I. Miller Shoes, Bonwit Teller, Columbia Records, Harper’s BazaarVogue, Fleming-Joffe, NBC, and others. A bulk of his commercial work was based on photographs and other source images, a process he would use for the rest of his life. He often employed the delightfully quirky handwriting of his mother Julia in many of his works in this period.

Andy as a child with his mother and brother. Pittsburgh photographer unknown.

Andy with his beloved mother, Julia. His mother has been said to be the single most influential person in his life.

Andy had an intellectual brilliance with the ability to communicate the workings of his mind distinctly.  An example:

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” -Warhol

In 1962, Warhol was criticized for being a commercial “sell-out”,  But, the criticism barely fazed Warhol as he seemed to seize opportunities to interject his talent into mainstream media.  Later, he became respected for his rigorous commitment towards his own preferences and disregard for others who wanted to dictate his direction in life.  (This is inspiring to me).  But alas, Andy recognized what he considered the error of his ways as he grew tired of the whole commercial scene.  He was noted as saying:

I’ve decided something: Commercial things really do stink. As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market it really stinks.
-Andy Warhol 

Perhaps my recent interest in Andy stems from my slight fetish for The Velvet Underground.  Andy became The Velvet Underground’s manager in 1965 and suggested they feature the German-born singer, Nico, on several songs. Warhol’s reputation gave The Velvets a higher profile and Warhol helped the band secure a major record contract with MGM’s Verve Records. As manager, he gave The Velvets free rein over the sound they created.  With the band providing the music, Andy became part of a multimedia roadshow called Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

During 1965 and 1966, Andy became enamored with Edie Sedgwick, an American actress, socialite, fashion model and heiress. Sedgwick became known as “The Girl of the Year” in 1965 after starring in several of Warhol’s short films in the 1960s.

Ciao! Manhattan is a 1972 American avant garde film which centers around Sedgwick’s character and deals with the pain of addiction and the lure of fame.  Warhol is featured in the film at times.  Here is a clip of the offbeat semi-biographical tale:

It appears that Edie may have inspired Warhol to step up his focus on style during the years of 1965 and 1966, as he suddenly had a new energy in his appearance and selection of clothing and spent many outings with Sedgwick, in the public eye.

Although during this phase of Andy’s life, Andy could have considered Edie to be his muse,  Warhol was known to be a homosexual.  In the Warhol Diaries, he writes about his relationships with several men, although he implied to the press he had girlfriend, including one possibly fictitious girl he called “Taxi” who allegedly went for long periods without bathing.

Warhol was gay in an era when America was much less informed about homosexual culture and gay themes in Warhol’s work were often overlooked by a public oblivious to the symbolism of drag queens, cowboys and the other icons and clichés of gay culture.  He claimed to have little libido, and those who knew him have said that being hugged or touched excessively made him uncomfortable.

Warhol’s original New York City studio, The Factory, was in operation from 1962 to 1968 (subsequent studios were also named The Factory).  The original Factory, which no longer exists, was located on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan and rent was only about $100 a year.

The Factory

In 1968, Valerie Solanas, a marginal Factory employee, attempted to murder Warhol with a gun.  She said she felt Andy had too much control over her life.  She fired a bullet that entered his right side and exited from behind.  Apparently, Solanas’ excuse for the shooting was that Warhol did not return a script  she authored because he had lost it.

Andy’s life was never the same after the shooting partly because of physical problems and also because his perception of daily life shifted to a place where he felt he was watching himself live as though he was viewing his life on television.

In the 1970s, Warhol rounded up new rich and famous patrons for portrait commissions — including the Shah of Iran Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, John Lennon, Diana Ross, Brigitte Bardot and of course, his famous portrait of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong in 1973.

‘Silver Liz,’ 1963 using the mass-media technique of screen-printing, Warhol created 13 portraits of Liz during the height of her fame.

” Mao “


Throughout the ’80s, Warhol was again criticized for being a commercial sell-out, but in retrospective, as author Michal Lando put it, Warhol’s superficiality and commerciality could actually be “the most brilliant mirror of our times,” contending that “Warhol had captured something irresistible about the zeitgeist of American culture in the 1970s.”

Warhol’s Campbells Soup, 1968

Warhol adored American glamour and once said: “I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re so beautiful. Everything’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

Although not a lot is known about the friendship between John Lennon, Yoko and Andy, apparently the three maintained a closeness over the years, and Yoko spoke at Andy’s funeral in 1987.   These photos are some of the best known, with one mocking touching each other inappropriately with playful debauchery.

Perhaps surprising to many, especially later in his life, Warhol was a practicing Ruthenian Rite Catholic, and grew up attending a Byzantine style orthodox church. He attended mass at times almost daily in the 1980s. He regularly volunteered at homeless shelters in New York and described himself as religious, although he was secretive about his faith and said he was self-conscious about being seen in a Latin rite church, crossing himself in an orthodox way.

Perhaps Andy had a premonition of his untimely death, as he had a deep-seated fear of hospitals and did not like to see doctors.  Warhol died in New York City at 6:32 a.m. on February 22, 1987. According to news reports, he had been making good recovery from a routine gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital before dying in his sleep from a sudden post-operative cardiac arrhythmia.

Warhol dictated that practically his entire estate would go to create a foundation dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”.  The NY Times reported on July 21, 1993 that Warhol’s estate was valued at $220 million, much of which goes to the quite spectacular Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.

On Ease and Fortitude

The art of being concise, well-demonstrated

Let’s be blunt…being too precise can ruin an honest attempt at emanating style.  And, being too precise is tiring for others to see, as well as for the person who is attempting to express him or herself.  On the flip side, being concise opens the heavens of self-expression and leads to an effortless “feel” of communicating style.

When precision and concision have a face-off, concision will win every time.  And so, I use this writing as an excuse to think back on one of my favorite films, “A Room with a View”.  If you examine the characters in the film, I think that precision looks like this:
while concision (at the same time ignoring the oversized jacket) looks like this. 

Just by a glance of some period films, it seems obvious to know which of these characters have a true ease of style and which of the characters are putting an almost painful effort into trying to present themselves as practically pompously perfect.

Wikipedia describes Concision as referring generally to brevity, or the practice of using no more words or effort than necessary to describe an idea.  Concision is perhaps an attitude as well.

Playing on period films a bit more, I am inspired by how these examples present themselves as being concise, and how the characters that follow, bring an ease of their persona to us (drawing us to them and making us want to know them more as we perceive a presence of personal magic that gives off a magnetic quality that is difficult to resist).

Faye-Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, 1967, costume design by Theadora Van Runkle

The Age of Innocence, costume design by Gabriella Pescucci

Fumbling with clothes, expressing discomfort, and constantly checking for correctness communicates precision issues. And, on a more humorous note, oddball tactics like popping collars or overdoing fashion logos can signal “precision gone haywire.”  But on a less obvious level, being too precise can result in looking overdone.

It seems to be a basic concept that if the clothes and accessories trump the person him or herself, then precision has won out over concision.

The effort for concision doesn’t have to limit creativity and scope in regard to appearance, as conciseness can be achieved with grandeur as well.  Here is a great example of creative self-expression done right.

Ozwald Boateng, Former Creative Director of Menswear at Givenchy, learned the tailoring trade on Savile Row, the fount of London’s leading tailors. Boateng opened his first shop on Savile Row at the age of 23. In 2008. Ozwald’s new flagship store and headquarters was launched at No. 30 Savile Row.  He is now known as one of the “Savile Row new establishment leaders” alongside Richard Anderson and Richard James.

And, speaking of effortless…

–Maggie Gyllenhaal making a vest look like a natural extension of herself.

Is it even possible to communicate the concept of conciseness as a practice?  I think the concept of conciseness is elusive but it is something that is worthy to be examined; and, if the philosophy of conciseness can be communicated, then it can be learned, even if it is not naturally present.

Instead of looking at the industry word concision, I prefer the term ease with fortitude.  I find the term ease with fortitude motivating when attempting to stay steady in character and dress.

The combination of ease, (absence of unseemly difficulty and effort) with fortitude (courage in the face of a challenge) is what I see in certain people which I admire.  I see shining examples of ease and fortitude in not just outward appearance, but also in kind behaviors, great resolve, or even a subtle expression in the eyes.

And so this concept of style is of course much more than thread count, design and colors.   It is strange to realize that communicating style is not even a choice. Unkept or overdone, concisely put together, or just rolled out of bed…we communicate style nonverbally the moment we make contact with another human being.  Even so, it should not be a point of stress to show our style to others, but rather a simple system or process of presenting ourselves, that brings pleasure to us and whomever else we happen to meet along the way.

The Enduring Fedora

Put on a hat and people will notice.  And if you can wear a hat and make it look like a natural extension of your wardrobe, then you have found your hat groove.

The fedora is a massively appealing style in hats.  This medium-brimmed hat comes either with a C-crown or indentation at the top of the hat for a roomier fit. The brim follows the entire base of the fedora and often a hat band or ribbon is featured just above the brim.  Hat materials include traditional felt, canvas and straw.

What you may not know is that a woman (not the men of the 1920s-60s) prompted the enduring style of the fedora. Victorien Sardou introduced us to the fedora hat in a play written for Sarah Bernhardt.  Bernhardt (Princess Fédora) plays the heroine of the story and this possibly began a general fascination by women which still lingers today.

The fedora is associated with Prohibition, the Great Depression, gangsters and savvy detectives.   Humphrey Bogart is the iconic example of donning a fedora in Casablanca. The hat is also recognized in the productions of The Spirit, Daisuke Jigen, Freddy Krueger, Dick Tracy, Rorschach and Indiana Jones; and, the fedora is particularly closely associated with film noir characters.  More recently, Leonard Cohen may be best known for his allegiance to the hat.

Some spectacular examples of the female and male fedora:

As for the men, I particularly like how most of the men (with the exception of Russell Brand), have mastered a nice tilt at the front brim of the hat, which adds more overall interest.

In this example, while Depp carries off the Fedora look with his hat selection and brilliant tilt, Brand obviously misses the mark.

Jacket Buttoning Ritual – What Men Already Know

The ritual of suit and sports jacket “buttoning and unbuttoning” is very simple:  Each time a man or woman wearing a suit or sports jacket sits, he or she unbuttons one jacket button. And every time he or she stands, the person re-buttons the jacket button.

I love rituals.  There is something knowing and beautiful about  participating in the intentional repeating of a pattern of behavior.  Being a part of a ritual allows the ability to communicate volumes with a simple action or series of actions.   We may light candles, do sun salutations, tuck a child into bed a certain way, clink wine glasses while making eye contact but not cross glasses during a toast, or even adjust our wardrobe in a certain way when we sit or stand. The ritual feels lovely and this is perhaps why we enjoy repeating it.

In regard to jacket buttoning and unbuttoning, the practical reason for unbuttoning a suit jacket when sitting is obvious since if the button remains buttoned while sitting, the tension placed on the button-hole and button causes wear and tear on the tailoring work and robustness of the cloth and stitching over time.

The custom of buttoning just one button of the classic jacket could be a little less practical in application.  Apparently King Edward VII, “Bertie”, son of Victoria (1841 – 1910, King 1901 – 1910) was so heavy that he could not get the bottom button of his vest fastened and so His subjects followed his lead and today most men’s suits, sports jackets or vests are not designed to button the bottom button. Or, the practice of not buttoning the bottom button could be a result of early (very long) waistcoat design. So, to allow for more ease during walking, the bottom buttons were left undone.

Men have known this buttoning ritual for ages, but many women are perhaps oblivious to some degree.  Notice how Don Draper in the Mad Men series pulls off the buttoning/unbuttoning ritual effortlessly.

This ritual may vary from culture to culture (e.g., in Japan and China, business people and uniformed students could be expected to fasten all buttons regardless of jacket styles.)

While there are many variations on this detail of unbuttoning and buttoning, the standard sitting while unbuttoning and standing while buttoning is an iconic practice that is worth capturing here.

Many men are often proud to say that they are in touch with their feminine side and we laugh about this and appreciate it at the same time.  So in turn, by participating in what has traditionally been viewed as male culture, women can discover a certain strong appeal and aura of power in experiencing the world of their male counterparts, as well.

True Emphasis

Attitudes direct actions.  Two famously good displays of attitude are expressed by Wells and Wintour:

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles

“Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.”
― Anna Wintour

The way of presenting oneself can be just as much about the attitude possessed as the wardrobe selected.  And the two (wardrobe with attitude) tend to go hand-in-hand.  To get to the point of raising the bar in regard to style, we should possess the will of sincere and real self-expression sans sheep herding, trend-following mentality.  Wells and Wintour display this example of perspective perfectly, and show us how strength of thought which leads to overt action in presenting our best selves, can be a virtue.

One way strength in resolve can be expressed outwardly is by emphasizing a certain physical feature or even a specific article of clothing, while playing down other features or clothing.

For example, some women have an implicit knack for emphasizing either the mouth or eyes.  But notice that precisely one, not both physical features are emphasized at a time.  Here Keira Knightley’s shows a strong yet delicate play on her eyes, while playing down her other features:

Conversely, Michele Williams gives the mouth focus while keeping other facial features subtle:

Hyper-focusing on an article of clothing can most certainly have a memorable effect.  A man with a propensity towards highlighting his tie choice and playing down complimentary garments is a prime result of this method:

Burberry is notoriously good at the art of hyper-focusing, as is the case with Cara Delevingne sporting strong eyes and displaying the Burberry timepiece, with other clothing and features taking a quieter tone:

This art of hyper-focusing can be likened to a solo performance contrasted with an orchestra rendition.  Both are quite good, but it is at times the solo that is most remembered.

Feast Your Eyes – Images from Paris’ Fashion/Style Week 2012

Words fail me…except to say I am more than satisfied with this year’s shoe selection and a few strong and original style-statements.  True style is self-art, and a I find a decent portion of this collection to be adrenaline-provoking.

Feast your eyes on around 150 images!!

Women on the Street and About in Paris, 2012

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