Insight from The Crazy Truth and Ryan Gosling in a Well-Tailored Suit

The aphorism has become a staple in modern philosophy and the tumblr The Crazy Truth continues this tradition by mashing up pithy insights on relationships with images reflecting the aphorism’s meaning. Interspersed among these ‘aphorimages’ is an advice column. While this site does target women about relationships, several of the posts are equally valuable to men, and this picture of Ryan Gosling in a suit is a perfect example:

Ryan Gosling in a Well Tailored Suit

Ryan Gosling in a Well Tailored Suit

A well-tailored suit indeed. Gentlemen, you have to wear clothes anyway so why not make them work for you.

 

The Macaroni, The Dandy and Gender Identity

A short explanation before we get started: the term macaroni used in this article is not referring to the Italian pasta, but is related to it. Macaroni, when used in mens fashions, refers to a mid-18th century trend where young men started dressing in the most epicene (androgynous, effeminate) and affected style. They were the metrosexuals of their day. You can find many good examples in fashion plates from that period:

The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple Sitting for his Picture

"The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple Sitting for his Picture"

This trend started with young British aristocrats returning from the Grand Tour (a subject for another time) and the look got its name from the recent excitement around Italian pasta, specifically macaroni. All things uber-contemporary were called macaroni (think Paris Hilton‘s abuse of the word, ‘hot’ and you get the picture.)

The Polite Macaroni presenting a Nosegay to Miss Blossom

"The Polite Macaroni presenting a Nosegay to Miss Blossom" - Delicate Flowers from a Delicate Flower

This trend of dressing more and more garish and adopting various female identified clothing styles increased in popularity among the very rich. And it created a style among wealthy young men that shared the delicate sensibility of women’s fashion of the period.

The Macaroni - The Height of Androgenous Mens Fashion

The Macaroni - The Height of Androgynous Mens Fashion, Tee Hee Hee!

It was the arrival of Mr. Beau Brummel‘s fashion sense that this ridiculous manner of male dress changed. In appreciation I would whole-heartedly support a movement for the canonization of Brummel in the Church of England. Or at least recognition with his own day of prayer (He is most certainly my patron saint of Male Dressing.)

Beau Brummel - Patron Saint of Male Dress

Beau Brummel - Patron Saint of Male Dress

The artifice of the macaroni was an attempt by aristocratic young men (and young men who aspired to be aristocrats) of the time to prove their worldliness in order to affirm their right to the luxury their station provided them. Yet, this only served to demonstrate their disconnection with the wider world; of the coming social and political changes that were about to shatter the aristocratic structure the macaroni so desperately wished to display in their foppish dress.

In counterpoint to this Beau Brummel embraced a masculine look. Gone were the breeches, powdered wigs and all too much lace replaced with trousers, washed flowing hair and silk cravats. The rise of the Dandy was a movement of the middle-class gentleman expressing their masculinity and their disdain for the ridiculous style of upper classes in dress. They hadn’t the money or privilege, but the Dandy had his sense of style with which to shame the silly macaronies.

I make this distinction because all too often a man who dresses well is carelessly refered to as a fop, or as a dandy with the connotation of the fop. This is a terrible misuse of language and blurs the trend I see emerging. The modern Dandy is the masculine answer to the prevalence of the metrosexual look among men.

Men, instead of dressing in a style that teenagers consider ‘cool’  well into your adult years or engaging in the drab and genderless metrosexual look I invite you embrace the Dandy. You’ll thank me for it.

How Not to Dress

Metrosexual? - No. Regressed Man Child? - No.

Steve McQueen Dressing Like a Grown Man

The Cultured Dandy - A Most Hearty Yes! (Thanks again, Mr. McQueen!)

Gentlemen’s Cravats – The Bow Tie: A Brief History

The Pink Bow Tie from Thomas Pink

The Pink Bow Tie from Thomas Pink

The innovation of the cravat allowed for it to develop into several variations of gentlemens neck ties that became distinct types of cravats over time. One of the most familiar is the bow tie. This stylized cravat has come to define a gentleman in every aspect and is, perhaps, the single piece of apparel that defines a gentleman in every situation. Whether in use, or not, the bow tie communicates the situation a gentleman finds himself in (say British super-spy James Bond), whether tied,

Sean Connery as James Bond - Bow Tie Tied

Sean Connery as James Bond - Tied Bow Tie and Ready For Action

or untied,

Daniel Craig as James Bond - Untied Bow Tie

Daniel Craig as James Bond - Untied Bow Tie and Ready For Action

By simply undoing his bow tie a secret agent can let us know so many things. And while these gents look great keep in mind they are professional killers! Imagine what the bow tie can do for the average gentleman.

The well-dressed gentleman has been associated with the bow tie through the modern age. They have instilled confidence in our leaders, from Benjamin Disraeli to Winston Churchill in Great Britain,

Benjamin Disraeli in a Bow Tie and Looking Dandy

Benjamin Disraeli in a Bow Tie and Looking Dandy

Winston Churchill Beat Hitler (Yes, THAT Hitler) in a Bow Tie

Winston Churchill Beat Hitler (Yes, THAT Hitler) in a Bow Tie

to the United States, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt rocked a bow tie into the White House,

Lincoln - Republican Dandy in a Bow Tie

Lincoln - Republican Dandy in a Bow Tie

Roosevelt - Democrat Dandy in a Bow Tie

Roosevelt - Democrat Dandy in a Bow Tie

and of course one could go on and on with men of distinction who donned the bow tie with great effect. We shall leave that topic for another delightful time.

Historically the bow tie settled into the gentleman’s wardrobe in the late Victorian era. The above examples of Disraeli and Lincoln demonstrate some of the earliest forms of bow ties. You can see the connection to the earlier cravats and where the bow tie is about to emerge.

And thank goodness it did! The bow tie has become the pinnacle of fashion for the neck. The gentleman both wears the bow tie in the most formal setting as well as being the pride of the Dandy. They come in silk for the elegant touch and they come in cotton for common touch. Andre Benjamin, help me out here. First, show me the sophisticated formality of the bow tie:

Andre Benjamin Demonstrates the Formal Cool of the Bow TIe

Andre Benjamin Demonstrates the Formal Cool of the Bow TIe

Great! Now, how about the steamy swingin’ look?

Andre Benjamin Demonstrates the Swingin' Heat of the Bow TIe

Andre Benjamin Demonstrates the Swingin' Heat of the Bow TIe

Thank-you, and fabulous use of the straw hat!

Still in doubt about the awesomeness that is the simple bow tie? I refer you to this image of how regal the bow tie makes the gentleman look in the past and present:

Edwardian Gentleman with Bow Tie and Top Hat

Edwardian Gentleman with Bow Tie and Top Hat

from the dignity the bow tie bestows on the Edwardian gentleman to the suave mantle of ultimate cool for Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in Bow Ties and Delicate Mayhem

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in Bow Ties and Delicate Mayhem

Should there still be any foolish debate left, I present how the bow tie works equally well with decorating the female sex with sexy elegance,

Josephine Baker in White Bow Tie Looking Delicious

Josephine Baker in White Bow Tie Looking Delicious

Amber Heard, Naturi Naughton and Leah Renee as Playboy Club Bunny Hostesses

Amber Heard, Naturi Naughton and Leah Renee as Playboy Club Bunny Hostesses

And they even work their magic untied on the opposite sex, perhaps even better than when on a gentleman,

Kate Moss Looking Sexy with an Untied Bow Tie

Kate Moss Looking Sexy with an Untied Bow Tie

Thank-you Kate Moss (and I still need that tie back. Seriously.).

There you have a brief introduction to the bow tie and why you should start wearing them. Stay tuned for instructions on how to tie your own…

Why T-shirts Are the Slippery Edge of the Slope For a Gentleman

It  is a common site on the streets, in the cafe, nightclubs, banks, and even weddings and funerals to see men dressed in a T-shirt as their only uppermost garb. Time was that you only saw a man in his T-shirt when he had removed his actual shirt to do some heavy labour or in preparation for intimate times.

Don Draper Working in a T-shirt

Don Draper in a T-shirt (Work)

Fast forward to today and the T-shirt has become ubiquitous for the male look, regardless of age. It certainly no longer signifies a man about to do anything strenuous. Remember this guy from South Park

Computer Nerd Wearing a T-shirt (South Park)

Computer Nerd Wearing a T-shirt and Playing Warcraft (Not Work)

Why bring this up?

The other day as I was off to my favourite breakfast place out-of-town when a man wearing no shirt, cigarette dangling from his mouth drove his pickup truck ahead of me. After I recovered from this awesome display it occurred to me that the only thing that separates most men from straying into that heinous look is one bad decision. They look down and instead of picking one of their T-shirts to wear they think, “Screw it,” and leave the house without a shirt. A gentleman has his jacket and his shirt to remove before he’s down to only his undershirt. This provides him plenty of time to think about why he is disrobing and to consider the ramifications along the way. The guy who insists on dressing like he did in grade school does not have this style fail-safe.

Oh, and before you start thinking about how a guy driving his vehicle sans shirt is sexy, like this:

Fantasy Shirtless Man in a Truck Smoking a Cigarette

Fantasy Shirtless Man in a Truck Smoking a Cigarette

remember that this is pure fantasy like the seductive nurse or sex-crazed librarian. Reality looks more like this:

Real Shirtless Man in a Truck

Real Shirtless Man in a Truck

I am the last person to pass judgement on what one may find sexually stimulating. That is not the point. What is the point is that a gentleman does not inflict his nakedness on the general public, and certainly never in such a crass manner. In order to avoid this colossal mistake, a gentleman restricts his T-shirt wearing to a minimum and to the select purposes to which they are  best suited. If you’re not sure a T-shirt is appropriate for a situation then don’t. Just don’t.

You’ve been warned.

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The Spirituality of Dress and The Dandy

Our clothes are too much a part of us for most of us ever to be entirely indifferent to their condition:  it is as though the fabric were indeed a natural extension of the body, or even of the soul.  ~Quentin Bell

Quentin Bell, Historian and Dandy

Quentin Bell, Historian and Dandy

It is easy for us to limit clothing and dress to a rudimentary and perfunctory role in our present society, given our general acceptance of consumerism for consumptions sake. “I want it now and I want it cheap!” we cry and in turn, so goes our soul. The Dandy is oft maligned as a popinjay; something that is mere flash and distraction. I would argue that the Dandy is instead the canary of the collective mineshaft of humanity, bearing the inner desires and hopes literally upon his sleeve. The stoic Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote of this connection,

Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.

In truly knowing himself a man becomes a gentleman and presents himself to the world, to intimates and strangers alike, in the manner of dress that signals that he has attained this enlightenment of self. As Coco Chanel put it,

Adornment is never anything except a reflection of the heart.

Coco Chanel, Fabulous Woman and Friend of the Dandy

Coco Chanel, Fabulous Woman and Friend of the Dandy

As you begin, or indeed continue, your inner journey of style and soul you must also brave your unexamined consumption of the mediocre through conscious and conscientious dress. To steel yourself let the words of writer Princess Elizabeth Bibesco reverberate in your soul,

You don’t have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump.  Lace knickers won’t hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word.

Princess Elizabeth Bibesco, Herald of the Dandy

Princess Elizabeth Bibesco, Herald of the Dandy


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Article first published as The Spirituality of Dress and The Dandy on Technorati.