The other day, as I was getting dressed, I went overboard. My clothing, which to me has always been my public face, armour, disguise or just ‘gear’ slipped into costume.
It’s easy for me to do, given my penchant for that period ‘between the wars’ when men could rely on the Fred Astaires, Dukes of Windsor, et al. to lead the sartorial way. A few years ago we had L’Avvocato and maybe even a Bond or a President thrown into the mix to whom we could turn in times of sartorial crisis. Nowadays, I’m sometimes at a loss to find someone whose style bears examination, let alone emulation.
Sure, I’ve got my own style. And I hope it’s relatively quiet. I suspect it isn’t. I’m noticibly absent from the international best dressed lists. It might be because I wear a hat and coat on rainy days. Or, sometimes, a neck scarf with an open collar.
I don’t know.
I’m not a dandy as most people think of the word. The artist Richard Merkin might qualify, and I think he looks great. Not the kind of tie I would choose — well, on a daily basis anyway.
Today, as I went to my local coffee shop to buy a pound of espresso, I met Happy the Artist. He stopped me to pet my dog (who promptly attacked his mild mannered and very pleasant beagle) and to “look at me.” I was in a suit and tie — nothing unusual there. But as it’s a little chilly, I wore a hat, scarf and gloves.
There we were, the artist and the blogger, the only two people in sight wearing hats. Happy wore a curly brimmed felt bowler. Mine was a brown Borsalino waterproof trilby. Which of us was more absurd, you might ask? Most would probably say I was the odder of the two. Happy, is an artist, after all. As conservatively as I am dressed, I stood out. That’s why he stopped me.
So what is it that keeps me from crossing over into full blown 1930s splendor? The same thing that keeps most people from trying at all. The fear of being seen as foolish.
It is important to develop your own inner editor, as important as developing your eye and aesthetic. And the best way to do that is to start small. In The Man’s Book: The Indispensable Guide for the Modern Man, author Thomas Fink writes:
“First learn to wear with ease a plain navy suit, white shirt and solid navy tie, which is not as easy as it sounds.” (p. 53)
The sentence appears in a section on buying a suit and Mr. Fink goes on to stress the importance of fit. And, I will add by way of paraphrasing, of fitting in.
After all, Halloween is over. But there is always our local Easter parade to look forward to — among all the funny hats and costumed dogs, spectator shoes don’t seem so out of place. So keep ever vigilent, reign in that impulse to don a cloak and deerstalker until a more appropriate time. (I’m still working at it.) Stick with clothes that are appropriate for your build, tailored to fit, nicely appointed and well-kept.
Or wait until you become famous and let loose. Then they’ll call you “colorful.”
4 thoughts on “I Feel Like An Idiot…”
It was a statement applied to interior decorating, but the late great Mark Hampton
once remarked on the knack of doing something tremendously styish without looking ridiculous. Your ensemble on that particular November day did not sound in the least over-the-top. But I do sympathize with your quest for balance.
You don’t really aim for dandyism, so far as I can glean from your essays.
It can only work in certain rarified settings anyhow~I recall spotting a guy on the streets of London, wearing 1900 style clothes and sporting a monocle!! How he managed to reconcile his appearance with the harshly real world around him, is anyone’s guess….but it was appreciated, that look.
Oh believe me, in my small town, I am dangerously close to being an eccentric. As you rightly point out, I am no dandy. I could never maintain my sange-froid to such as degree as to qualify. I have been called a “young fogey” (too old now), and a “metrosexual” (ridiculous.) Invariably the ones who ask me if I am a metrosexual ask how I would describe myself. I usually answer “well-dressed?” Or “well-mannered, I hope.”
These are strange days indeed for gentlemen.
I imagine that your English dandy simply smudged the lens on his monocle and smiled as he made his way through his world.
Yes, E&E, it’s all about “smudging the lens” of that monocle! As usual, you’ve hit on the essence of things. It takes a genuine act of willpower to sustain some of our fancies. Some days one simply lacks the requisite energy. Yet I get the feeling that Mr E&E is consistently Well Mannered and in today’s world that is a rarity.
Thank you Mr. W. . I am far from perfect, though I try. As long as one makes the effort, I give full marks.
And I have to admit, it’s sometimes easier to sustain the fantasy by dressing the part. As Jack Nicholson said to Michael Keaton while in the make-up trailer: “Well kid, sometimes you just have to let the suit do the acting.”