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Posts from the ‘Self Improvement’ Category

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.

 

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

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 Comeback of the Century: Dressing Well Again

Above: Andrew Ramroop’s first suit from 1969. The renowned Master Bespoke Tailor Andrew Ramroop runs Maurice Sedwell No. 19 Savile Row and is the first black tailor to own a Savile Row tailoring shop. Twice he has captured the title of “Best Men’s Wear: Design, Cut and Fit” at the Golden Shears Awards, the Oscars of tailoring. Photo by Gentleman’s Gazette

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DON’T TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY…REALLY?

Perhaps this message to “lighten up” our attitude about almost everything began in the 1980s with the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. This dictum has its merits; but, these days, plenty of men find nothing wrong with taking some things quite seriously — specifically when it comes to dressing well.  And dressing well they do– with willing moxie and pluck, and with no complaints from women.

Choose any point in history and envision that time period.  It is likely that the pictures in your head include how people dress.  We “predate” ourselves in having an earnest yearning to express our individual style and wanting to feel at least slightly impeccable.  Put simply, we want to look our best, whether we admit it or not.

Yet in recent decades–just like the stunning reptile, the Golden Toad, who has not been seen since 1989, somehow our verve for style found itself on the verge of becoming extinct.

A DISREGARD FOR FORMALITY

Like it or not, society cares about what people wear.  Flashback to the year 2009 when Google displayed 9 million entries regarding Michelle Obama wearing shorts as she exited the Airforce One. Although poll results showed that 80 percent found Michelle’s attire acceptable (yes, even with major events occurring in the world, there is poll about the First Lady’s shorts), the truth of the matter is that deep down, people want the First Lady to have a slightly magical and regal presence, and there is a bit of mental confusion that occurs in seeing her appear as a Disneyland tourist.  Notably, since this uproar, Mrs. Obama has been on her best sartorial behavior.

The “Casual Friday” epidemic has found its way onto Airforce One. 

CENTURIES OF GIVING A DAMN

Since the donning of the first loincloth, it is safe to say that we are aesthetic beings.  Men and women alike, appreciate design and function, by our very natures of being.

And if you fast forward from the day of the loincloth to the medieval era, we notice that by this time, clothing became so important, that codes were put into place dictating how people dressed.  At that time, it was a privilege to wear certain items, and what your wore represented your core identity.

Even Medieval peasants had great concern for their garments.  [Medieval bronze caster. Image licensed under Creative Commons by Hans on Flickr]

There were strict rules governing who could wear what in medieval and Renaissance times. The general rule was that the poorer someone was, the simpler their clothes were: a simple belted tunic for peasants…made of wool or linen. Both men and women wore ‘hose’ – leggings like long stockings without feet.

Nobles had access to any fabric they liked, including the exotic silks and velvets brought back by crusaders and merchants, but only royalty were permitted an ermine trim.  (EducationScotland.gov.uk)

THE HEART OF STYLE KEEPS BEATING

Steady as a beating drum, free people across the world continued for centuries to hold the way people dress in high esteem (of course our neighbors in Russia and China and many Arab countries suffered a true repression of self-expression).

In free countries (often inspired by well dressed Presidents and Royalty during the 1700s and 1800s), men and women all over the world savored the opportunity to dress for self-expression, and to dress in order to make an impression.

Dressing well as a way of life, late 1800s. Oregon Public Library historical record.

In the early 1900s, when many-a-man traded in his horse-and-carriage for his first petrol-powered or Model T car, “dressing well” catapulted into a global obsession. Perhaps the glamour of cruising in style in these miraculous automobiles proved to be a motivating factor; but, whatever the reason (with exception of the time period of The Great Depression), for many years to follow, the pursuit of style held strong.

Hollywood brought images to us that inspired and motivated the masses. There was a feeling of believing that each person could create his or her own persona–that “wearable art” is limited only by the imagination. People were happy to present their best selves, as it was a pleasure instead of a burden to do so.

Silent film star Rudolph Valentino, 1920s

WHAT HAPPENED?

Of course the rest is history.  We have all seen the sharp dressed men and women of the 1940s and 50s.  And, television glorifies the rakish working man of the 1960s in shows like Mad Men.

Even the clothing of the 1970s, with all its ‘Make love, not war’ influence, had a certain thoughtful rebellion to its look of playboy leisure suits and bandanas and bell bottoms.

Tommy Nutter design exclusively for Ringo

The 1980s felt like a schlack-coated red candy apple with a lot of Wall Street shine and glory with little substance, but still; overall, even with the overdone braces and oversized MC Hammer suits, the intent to look our best remained.  Throughout the 1980s, we loved to follow the swaddle and swathe of our Princess Diana and somehow, we still cared about what we wore…and then came the 1990s.

BLAME IT ON KURT COBAIN

I like Nirvana.  When a Nirvana song plays, I feel an intense sense of nostalgia and appreciation for a stand-alone (even if troubled) performer.  That said, my first inclination in trying to put a finger on the downturn of concern about style is directly correlated to Kurt Cobain’s preference for grunge wear.

The “first thing to come out of the closet” look

To turn to a more technical theory, analyst have blamed this downturn in concern for style during this period on the recession of the 90s.  And maybe, like the time during the Great Depression, people really did put attention to style on the back-burner because they simply had other priorities.

“The recession came and after that fashion and beauty became more pared down. One of my first jobs after moving to New York was to make up Kate Moss for the Calvin Klein Obsession fragrance campaign and I just used moisturizer.” –Kay Montano, Makeup Artist for Kate Moss

Staying in the musical world for a little while, I am now reminded of the U2 song lyrics “Stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it”.   Even after the 1990s recession softened, in the decade that followed, a polished appearance seemed forgotten and along with the golden toad, the quest for style seemed to practically disappear.

Prompted by a “Skinny Girl” Liquor advertisement glorifying the nonchalant modern-day women, Monsignor Charles Pope wrote a thought-provoking post, lamenting our lax modern attitudes about the way we comport ourselves in public.  Here is an excerpt from his article:

…but as the commercial rolls on, I think we see that we have lost a lot. The picture flashes away from the elegantly dressed woman, careful for modesty and dignity (though excessively portrayed), to the modern scene where we are suppose to rejoice and approve at how far women have come.

And what do we see? Half drunk women, with painted nails and flip flops, liquor bottles in abundance, and the indelicate and boorish behavior of those who have been drinking too much. Further there are numerous displays of immodest dress, immodest posture and unbecoming behaviors. In effect, if you ask me, it is a celebration of all in our culture that is boorish, immodest, indelicate, and excessively informal.

THE GREAT COMEBACK OF THE 2010s

The bespoke tailoring business is on the rise. Men and women alike are becoming more concerned with the form, function, style and quality of what they are wearing. And, counterfeit items are beginning to be seen as lackluster by the general population.

But most markedly, men are discovering the power of developing real personal style and for many males, the allure of the technical and aesthetic side of the style industry is as strong as the fascination for power tools and Monday night football (or a good Rugby match, depending on preferences).

These days, men have found a renewed interest in dressing well, and custom tailoring is no longer limited to the elite and privileged.

What prompted this change away from the nonchalant attitude towards men’s style?  What has ended this long walk in the men’s style industry desert…and brought us to this cusp of an oasis which has thrived for centuries, only to fade and finally reappear?

As I begin to research the answer, I hope to gather other responses and theories about the revival of men’s interest in high-handed style.  A few explanations are evident.

Perhaps the strongest influence in regard to the turnaround from a sluggish to a keen interest in men’s style may be attributed to televised shows such as Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, which have given men a new eye for pocket square folds, vests, pant pleats and cuffs, lapel design, and tie knots.  This phenomenon has been extensively covered by the media and reinforces the idea that with change, in almost every case, the starting point is awareness, followed by knowledge and action.

Another less obvious explanation to the skyrocketing interest in men’s style may be attributed to age we live in, specifically the age of technology.  While swimming in the  world of the internet, we find that almost every convenience is at our “keyboard fingertips”.

In essence, it is possible to exist for years in a single room with a bathroom and have every need and whim delivered to our front door.  Even our business may be conducted from the very bed we fall asleep in at night, and rise in during the morning hours.  We find ourselves in a state of virtual life that many times feels as real as if we were physically somewhere else.  We can skype our family and friends, conduct business, order products and even fall in love in front of a rectangle screen, without stepping foot outside our humble or not-so-humble homes.

In many ways, the internet has replaced the necessity for human contact.

With this cerebral life in full-force with not even a trip to our old-fashioned mailboxes necessary, we long for a real reason to make contact with the outside world.  The fact is that technology cannot produce a tailored-made suit from the confines of our bedroom.

With thousands of combinations possible for design, we can feel the tactile satisfaction of placing our hands on different fabrics, feeling our arms slide into a sample coat jacket and imagining being cloaked in a custom designed piece.

And so it is an intriguing and adrenaline-producing thought to have the very human experience of commissioning a custom ensemble — a quest requiring several fittings with each piece sewn specifically for the individual, until the final product is produced, of which there will be only one of its kind in the entire world.

With this new avenue discovered that produces and unrivaled human experience in the world of style, we fall for the allure of the experience itself.  And it feels right.

THE FUTURE: HIGH-HAND BRANDING AND CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

With the escalation of interest in custom clothiers, the future should see a continuation of what I have termed high-hand branding by mass marketers.

Already, we have seen a broadening and loosening of once sacred terms like bespoke, tailor-made, hand-crafted by order, hand-tailored, by appointment, made-to-measure, custom-made, made-to-order, Fatto a Mano su misura, and sartorial, to name a few.

The result of the misuse of these sacred terms shows disregard and even disrespect towards the skilled craftsman who has spent decades refining his or her art to earn the right to use these esteemed labels and descriptions which have been tagged for exclusive use for the custom clothiers and shoe makers alike.

Mass marketers are likely to water-down quality and use clever marketing terms to reel in uneducated customers, commanding high prices for pseudo quality and even convincing customers that items are “bespoke” or “tailor-made” which in reality, is not the case.

The pursuit of true bespoke quality is growing and the media is paying attention, as demonstrated in The New York Times September 2012 article What’s a $4,000 Suit Worth?

And so, while the custom clothing market continues to grow, attracting a wider age range and demographic group, mass marketers will attempt to ride piggy-back on this runaway train and only the most discerning customers may get what they pay for in the mad world of threads, button holes, and silk linings.

The future may also see a whole new career world opening up for young men and women who are looking for an alternative to the earning the masters degree and securing a corporate job.  As the demand for custom clothing increases, obviously more skilled craftsmen will be needed to produce high level clothing and shoes.  From tailors to cordwainers, the market of custom production will open up to welcome new artistic, financial and managerial talent.

Young Justin Fitzpatrick moved to Europe from the U.S., to learn more about the world of bespoke shoe-making.  He opened his shoe shine concession in Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row and is currently preparing for his ultimate aim to launch his ready to wear men’s shoe collection.

THE ENDURING TRUTH OF TRUE QUALITY

There is a clear celebration occurring which recognizes master craftsmanship and true high quality market offerings. Finally, more of us seem to be developing an eye for quality and at last retiring our cargo shorts and cheap shoes in favor of the idea that less is more when it comes to selecting quality over poorly constructed items.

Moreover, vintage shops with treasures of years past are popping up with fervor and finally, the media is beginning to recognize real elegance when it presents itself. The result is that we find when we begin to select our clothes with the same criteria we may select a car or a home, we just feel better.  And, ten or even twenty years later we may discover that the clothing and shoes we bought decades earlier still perform quite well and that our bank account is also no worse for the wear.

*****

Note: This is my first commissioned article for the esteemed on-line men’s magazine, Parisian Gentleman

Writing Methods: Writer’s Block Combat

Handpainted Cabinet cards (1870s-1920s) by Alex Gross.

It takes sheer effort to create thoughts and ideas.  In fact, the attempt to be creative and original can be exhausting and result in things like “writer’s block”, frustration and “hitting a wall”.

Some would say that many of us work too hard to be creative, and we need to stop thinking so much, and let what is already in our minds flow out in our writing, words, creativity and actions.

The practice of simply observing and reporting what is already in the mind is not new (but sometimes forgotten).  In fact, many great artists have developed their art in exactly this way.

For example, the Expressive Theory of Art simply means communicating the current inner emotional, psychological, or intellectual state of being.  The artist is not trying to “think of” new ideas, he is simply expressing the ideas that are already there.  Consider Tolstoy’s view:

Young Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s definition of art was very much out of the Expressive mould.

Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one person consciously, by certain external signs, conveys to others feelings he’s experienced, and other people are affected by these feelings and live them over in themselves. (Leo Tolstoy)

If we quit trying (expending effort) to develop the words, concepts, and ideas in our minds, and instead observe and relay what is already in our minds, what happens?

Since effort to create takes enormous energy, using this energy to release what is in our minds instead of trying to create what is not in our minds could be a transformational experience.

In the field of psychology, introspection is the method of observing and reporting the workings of the mind.  Iconic figures like Plato and Paramahansa Yogananda were proponents of the practice of introspection:

Plato (427-347 BC), Ancient Greek philosopher. Plato’s spirit of rational inquiry led to today’s scientific method. His writings shaped and continue to have a profound influence on Western thought. He was a pupil of Socrates, founded the Academy in Athens, and taught Aristotle. Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Caption:

Plato may have referenced introspection when he asked, “…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are.

Paramahansa Yogananda

“Introspection is a mirror in which to see recesses of your mind that otherwise would remain hidden from you. –Paramahansa Yogananda

In regard to the art of writing, a key method that produces writing without forced thought is referred to as “stream of consciousness” writing.  Basically, the idea is to write whatever pops into your head, without altering these thoughts in any way with conscious thinking.  It is an amazing exercise to try to write a story by observing the story that is already playing in your head, without even trying to create new material.  As I practice stream of consciousness writing, I find it beautifully but at the same time frightfully rewarding.

By Zapper3095, Deviant Art

 If you try to write a story by just observing what is in your mind and putting your thoughts to paper, then you will most likely know the exact feeling that I am trying to describe when experiencing stream of consciousness writing.

I remember listening once to a screenwriter accepting an academy award.  I recall the screenwriter once saying that he didn’t really try to come up with concepts and stories , but simply noticed what was in his head and spilled out the information on paper, worked with staff, and helped transpose his thoughts onto film.  Remembering his acceptance speech prompted me to start studying this method (it’s strange how an abstract experience like this can stay with you).

And then it hit me. Maybe this is a method that many successful people use to accomplish a great deal of success in their lives. And perhaps trying too hard is at times a fault.  Maybe “try, try again” is not perfect advice; and, instead a better mantra is to stop your effort, take notice of what’s in your head and then act on what’s already there (just waiting to be noticed).

“It’s a funny state,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler, You’re dreamstorming, inviting the images of moment-to-moment experience through your unconscious. It’s very much like an intensive daydream, but a daydream that you are and are not controlling.”

It’s not that hard to grasp this concept, right?  Just look at what’s right there in your head, express it and do it.  It’s so simple–but sometimes there is conflict within a person against this way of being, because there is the belief that an idea has to be conjured up or created out of thin air.

Here are some examples that are possibly familiar to you, where the author used stream of consciousness writing to complete some of the greatest literary works of all time (source:  Stream of Consciousness, Narrative Mode, Wikipedia):

T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was done in Stream of Consciousness (SOC) Style of Writing. Prufrock sheds light on his self -doubting thoughts in lines (37-48) of the poem…
And indeed there will be time            To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”] Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

IF by Rudyard Kipling (SOC Style of Writing)

Photo of Virginia Woolf, Stream of Consciousness is a literary technique which was pioneered by Dorthy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. Stream of consciousness is characterized by a flow of thoughts and images, which may not always appear to have a coherent structure or cohesion.

Of course, I don’t know all of the answers in regard to how to free the mind, but it makes me stop in my tracks when I consider how I may improve my methods of thought.  And I’d like to try embracing the Expressive Theory of Art, the practice of Introspection, and Stream of Consciousness methods in pursuit of living an unbridled life full of truth and authenticity.

Personal Style Personified — How to Do It

Stop and stare.  Yes, Rita Hayworth had this power over millions.  The personal style that she developed for herself, created a feeling of blissful dizziness among those who were lucky enough to know her.  Developing her personal style didn’t happen in a vacuum…Rita made it happen…and each of us can create our own campaign to relay our own, albeit unique, personal style. No need to copy anyone else; your style is your own.

From Wiki: “Appearing first as Rita Cansino, she agreed to change her name to Rita Hayworth and her hair color to dark red to attract a greater range of roles. Her appeal led to her being featured on the cover of Life magazine five times, beginning in 1940.”

Notice, that Rita purposefully created her own image. And once again, she agreed to change.  The agreement with yourself to change can be ground breaking and exciting!  Using her imagination, Rita looked at her body and behavior as a blank canvass that she could paint however she liked.  What a beautiful thought that each of us can express ourselves how we like as well!

Here are four ways to create your own powerhouse image:

  • Be Notable! How are you different?  What makes you a stand-out?  Be able to recite the answer to these questions upon a second’s notice! And be able to tell your story to anyone that wants to know, about how you are different. Perhaps you have the sought after ability to rally a group into action…when everyone else on a team is ready to give up, you can give an impromptu speech and turn the tide from a general sense  of apathy to real group aspiration. In a nutshell, BE MEMORABLE.  And, take it one step further, have one physical feature that defines you.  Rita had her red hair.  Maybe you have amazing lips, piercing eyes, unique nose, perfect posture.  Name your favorite feature about yourself, and don’t let a day go by when you neglect this one defining facet of yourself.
  • Have at least one Mind-Blowing Success Story  Perhaps you were and apprentice under a phenomenally accomplished person (success by association).  Or maybe you pulled off a project successfully that no one else seemed to be able to handle.  Perhaps you were a beauty queen of your small town.  Or maybe you won almost every spelling bee you ever competed in during your life.  Other accomplishments include being a patent holder, making a speech or performing at a major venue, you get the idea. Put your strengths out there, and don’t be shy to share the stories behind them upon a moment’s notice.
  • What is the RISK of doing business with you?  This is an area where you must know yourself and identify that one weakness of yours that could get you in trouble.  Perhaps you have no experience with almost anything in life…you are a complete neophyte.  Or you are a procrastinator, someone who doesn’t finish what you start, a late-starter, moody, or struggle with an attitude.  Now, once you know your weakness, it’s key to identify the strengths and differentiating characteristics that best minimize the risk.  For example: If you have no experience  (Risk: UNPROFESSIONAL), you’ll want to highlight the past project that you have worked on to show that you are DEPENDABLE.  Notice how you can focus on your dependability to negate your unprofessionalism?
  • Dress To Kill This is the number one, easiest way to have an advantage on 95 percent of the population. And so, other than laziness, why not make the effort?  There is no doubt that you will feel amazing when you dress amazingly.  And, the incredible part about dressing well is observing how others suddenly react more positively towards you.  One way to achieve dressing well, is to dedicate a 5-foot section of clothes in your closet as your “best of the best”.  This is called “space organization”.  Go to this 5-foot space regularly to dress and present yourself in the best possible way.

To review, be notable by telling your story and highlight one key physical feature about yourself, be able to tell your mind-blowing success story, and know the key risk about yourself, and be able to balance it with a key strength. Finally, of course, if you want to make a big impression, you must dress to kill.

Sources:

http://the99percent.com/tips/5563/Present-Yourself

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Hayworth

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