Horse Nation mocks clueless fashion photos depicting models pretending to be equestrians posing dangerously, nonsensically, or in preposterous attire.
Camille Paglia follows in the tradition of Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes by producing brilliantly written pieces of high criticism of ordinary elements of contemporary popular culture.
Helmut Newton, whose superb fashion photography was suffused with the perverse world view of his native Weimar Berlin, captured the disturbing complexities of the high heel in Shoe, a picture taken in Monte Carlo in 1983. Here we see the fashionable shoe in all its florid delicacy and dynamic aggression. The stance, with shifted ankle, seems mannish. Is this a dominatrix poised to trample her delirious victim? Or is it a streetwalker defiantly defending her turf? Or a drag queen scornfully pissing in an alley? The shoe, shot from the ground, seems colossal, a pitiless totem of pagan sex cult.
The luxury high heel as status marker is directed not toward men but toward other women—both intimate confidantes and bitter rivals. The high heel in its dazzlingly heraldic permutations (as dramatized in Sex and the City) is beyond the comprehension of most men: only women and gay men can tell the difference between a Manolo Blahnik and a Jimmy Choo. In full disclosure, I never wear these shoes and indeed deplore their horrifying cost at a time of urgent social needs. Nevertheless, I acknowledge and admire the high heel as a contemporary icon and perhaps our canonical objet d’art.
At the Neiman Marcus department store at the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia, a visitor ascending the escalator to the second floor is greeted by a vast horizon of welcoming tables, laden with designer shoes of ravishing allure but staggering price tags (now hovering between $500 and $900 a pair but soaring to $6000 for candy-colored, crystal-studded Daffodile pumps by Christian Louboutin). Despite my detestation of its decadence, this theatrical shoe array has for years provided me with far more intense aesthetic surprise and pleasure than any gallery of contemporary art, with its derivative gestures, rote ironies, and exhausted ideology.
Designer shoes represent the slow but steady triumph of the crafts over the fine arts during the past century. They are streamlined works of modern sculpture, wasteful and frivolous yet elegantly expressive of pure form, a geometric reshaping of soft and yielding nature. An upscale shoe department is a gun show for urban fashionistas, a site of ritual display where danger lurks beneath the mask of beauty.
I find the millenial perspective interesting, though I frequently do not in the least agree. So, instead of quoting him, I will just comment and respond.
Loafers are fine for casual wear, but for business? Especially for investment banking??
My own opinion is that, no, sonny, loafers have not really become appropriate. What has happened is that more tasteless ethnic louts confusedly think the high prices associated with Gucci loafers make them formal and appropriate.
Men walking around offices in loafers will strike the genuinely critical observer as adolescent.
For serious occasions, and banking is serious, a man ought to wear serious adult footwear, with laces.
GSE has lots of money. He ought to get his shoes custom made.
He is right about using shoe trees, but I find his inclination to get his housekeeper to polish his shoes impressively self-entitled. My cleaning women, I think, would typically have either rebelled or done a poor job. I favor getting one’s shoes polished at a shoeshine stand at the station or one’s club.
One other note: Bostonians believe that only waiters swear black shoes. So in Boston, be sure to carefully match fine shades of brown or cordovan to one’s blue and grey suits. Since neither you nor I are actually from Boston, we cannot possibly do what an old school Bostonian would and wear brown shoes with a black suit.
If GSE has seen some Brits running around flashing pink socks, he probably should be told that the proper term in “cerise,” and those gentlemen are subtly boasting about belonging to the Leander Club, the home away from home of aging crew jocks.
No cuffs on full weight formal woolen suits? God forbid! You omit cuffs on summer weight suits, on poplin, khaki, seersucker. But only spivs and ethnic gentlemen with more money than taste wear conventional suits without cuffs.
Pleats are entirely a matter of ephemeral fashion and individual taste.
If you don’t wear a belt, you will have difficulty carrying a handgun. Your trouser waistband will not provide adequate support. Besides, trousers without a belt buckle concealing the top closure look too informal.
Obviously, no gentleman should ever wear a visible haberdasher’s logo on anything but a polo short (and, personally, I used to remove Rene LaCoste crocodiles with a razor blade when I was really hard-core).
I think all bespoke trousers ought to come with suspender buttons. I’d say that one ought to wear, in most cases, both a belt and suspenders: the belt purely ornamentally to complete the look of the trousers, and the braces for actual support.
In general, one should avoid white collared coloured shirts. Most men simply cannot pull them off. They are naturally expressive of vanity and excess. And they shout aloud: “I have been to a custom shirtmaker.”
I have my doubts about custom shirts in general. In most cases, they are not superior in fabric, tailoring, or even cost to good men’s off-the-peg shirts, but they are fussier. I have had shirts custom made, but I found that I actually don’t like tailored sleeves which closely hug the wrist, and I’m perfectly content with standard Oxford cloth white shirts from Brooks Brothers, J. Press, or Paul Stuart.
I tend to associate the precise shape of the collar and whether or not the shirt has a pocket with exactly which traditional men’s shop sold me the shirt.
Those of us who attended certain universities tend to wear button down collars in all but the most formal of diurnal circumstances. If one understands these things correctly, one understands that men’s style is timeless. There are no 1990s. There are no 2020s. If Cary Grant came to work at Goldman’s wearing the grey suit he was wearing in North by Northwest (1959), he’d look better than anyone else and he’d be perfectly in fashion.
I think cufflinks are excessive most days, and French cuffs too much trouble. But this sort of thing is within the realm of individual taste and expression. But, if you are going to wear cufflinks in the daytime, they had better be discreet and in careful good taste.
You have to tie a Windsor knot if you are wearing a wide collar and/or if you happen to be using a thin tie. Very old neckties often lack good linings. Well-made contemporary neckties, on the other hand, typically form an excellent knot when tied simply in the four-in-hand knot. A Windsor knot will be too big for many collars, will not suit a lot of modern ties, and is liable to identify you as an egotistical Bond villain to any observant agent of MI6 in your vicinity.
If you do not know how to form a tie with what, in my circles, we called a “wimple,” you don’t know how to tie a tie properly. It is an essential ingredient in any properly tied necktie, and if Al Sharpton ties one and you don’t, it may be very sad indeed, but Al Sharpton is right and you are wrong.
I don’t understand all the Hermès folderol. I own a few Hermès ties, but there is nothing in my eyes magical about that brand of necktie. In fact, I tend to frown upon wearing Hermès because its tie designs are commonly just like Ferragamo’s, and I dislike wearing ties which identify their brand via their design. I only own a few Hermès and maybe two Ferragamo ties because those examples are witty club ties, jokingly alluding to various equestrian activities, so they’re useful to wear when I’m working as judge or the like at an event.
I think GSE overlooks more interesting tie questions like: do you wear the currently preferred width of tie, or choose your own? Do you wear club ties in the office? Or are they too hearty and informal? What brands and styles of design do you find intolerable? Do you wear seasonal, humorous, or holiday ties at all, ever? And where do you stand on the bow tie question? My own view is that some people like bow ties and can pull them off, but most of us cannot.
Two button is down market, moderne, not good. The three button jacket is classic. Some men are obliged to wear two button suits due to problems with their figures, but if you do not have to, you should not.
He’s right about grey and Navy, but black suits are also possible. We all have to go to funerals occasionally.
If we are all working at Goldman, then we are all rich and we can all meet with visiting London tailors. GSE fails clearly to warn against allowing them to talk you into any of the excesses of contemporary British tailoring (other than peaked lapels). Buy the US-style sack suit, not the double-breasted, nipped in at the waist, big-lapeled Prince Charles suit. But there does remain room for individual expression. Do you want the stiff, fully-tailored Huntsman military uniform look? Or the Anderson & Shepherd softer tailored look? Hook back vent (American), side vents (British), or no vents (Continental)?
Do not do business casual.
Rolex and Audi may be cliches, but Rolex is the least expensive very high end watch, and people who own expensive watches tend to look at other people’s wrists. In some circles, if you aren’t wearing a Rolex or above, you may lack financial credibility.
GSE obviously doesn’t understand cars. Audi is making better cars than BMW or Benz these days.
I don’t myself believe in rules about watches, but you can count on it that some people will see that Rolex or Royal Oak on your wrist and condemn you as a frivolous waster afflicted with vanity, while others will look at anybody without a top tier timepiece as a probable pauper.
I guess he’s right. The generation that has trouble figuring out how to tie a tie had better dispense with pocket squares.
Brooks Brothers (who wants to sell you some) details the (alleged) history of the penny loafer.
The loafer itself was invented in the early 1930s; inspired by an Esquire Magazine photo series featuring Norwegian dairy farmers and their distinctive slip-on shoes. The Spaulding family of New Hampshire, purveyors of leather and lumber, began producing a leather slip-on they called a “loafer”; named after the area on a dairy farm cows “loaf” around in prior to milking.
In 1936 G.H. Bass Shoe Company began producing its famous Weejun, a name meant to give the flavor of the shoe’s NorWEGIAN roots. Mr. Bass’s wife, who sent her husband off each morning with a kiss on the cheek, inspired the distinctive strap detail. Shaped like a pair of lips or the perfect lipstick stain, the new design left just enough room to squeeze in something round and flat.
Two cents won’t get you much these days. There was a time, before the debit card and ATM, when cash payment required the correct dollars and cents. That time is now long gone and the copper penny (now 97.5% zinc), literally, costs more than it’s worth. Back in the 1930s the recently popularized outdoor payphone or “phone booth” cost a paltry two cents. The new loafer design allowed just enough space for a penny in each shoe, equaling the cost of an emergency phone call, thus the penny and the loafer were united, never to be torn asunder.
The penny loafer had its heyday in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties. The shoe became a pervasive trend on Ivy League campuses.
I wonder if the pennies-for-a-phone-call business is true. I’m awfully, horribly old, but I don’t remember pay phones costing less than a dime. My impression was that high school kids put pennies in the slot in the front of the shoe, simply because they would fit there.
We commonly wore penny loafers at Yale in my day, but nobody ever put any pennies in them.
Brooks Brothers is out of luck selling any to me. I still have several pair of so far unused penny loafers purchased from Barrie Ltd. in New Haven, the best purveyor of men’s shoes, now gone, put out of business by the evil Yale Administration in 2003.
On the female front: I expect the popularity of Jane Austen explains the rise of Emma. Sophia is a lot more problematic, though similar in period quality. Exactly why Ava is doing so well in Vermont is seriously intriguing.
On the male front: At least Jared and Justin have faded, but Jacob is still hanging in there in popularity in a few states. Jaydon?!? What is Florida’s major malfunction? The other big question is where the heck did Mason come from?
Could be worse, though, Mohammed is not on top in any state.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Emmaland or Sophialand, but if you’re reading this in the United States, there’s a better than 90% chance that you live in either one of these two curious nations.
The former is made up of the 31 states where ‘Emma’ was the most popular baby name for girls in 2012. In spite of that institutional majority, another girl’s name proved more popular nationwide. ‘Sophia’ also came out ahead in 16 states, including America’s three most populous ones.
Last year, a total of 20,791 Emmas were born in the United States. The size of that cohort was only surpassed by the 22,158 Sophias added to the US population in 2012. Together, both names came out on top in 47 of the 50 states. The exceptions were Florida, where baby girls were most likely to be named Isabella (#3 nationwide); Idaho, where new parents preferred Olivia for their girls (#4 overall); and Vermont, where new parents favoured Ava for their newborn daughters (#5 in the national ranking).
Few aspects of anthrophonomastics are as eagerly discussed as the names people give their children. Perhaps because few acts are as simultaneously intimate and public: the name you give your child reveals something of the hopes and ambitions you have for your progeny, not to mention the tastes and traditions you inherited from your forebears.
In the last half century, baby-naming has become a lot more agonising. Until the mid-20th century, the popularity of baby names was less prone to variation and fluctuation. Fitting in was a greater priority than standing out: if you weren’t named after a family member of a previous generation (often your godfather and/or godmother), you were still most likely stuck with a name from a canonical list of biblical and classical names.
The Romano-Egyptian socks were excavated in the burial grounds of ancient Oxyrhynchus, a Greek colony on the Nile in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. They were given to the Museum in 1900 by Robert Taylor Esq., ‘Kytes,’ Watford. He was executor of the estate of the late Major Myers and these items were selected among others from a list of textiles as ‘a large number of very useful examples.’
Particularly intriguing about these “very useful examples” is the technique used to construct these red wool socks. Called nålbindning, or single-needle knitting, this time-consuming process required only a single thread. The technique was frequently used for close-fitting garments for the head, feet and hands because of its elastic qualities. Primarily from prehistoric times, nålbindning came before the two-needle knitting that’s standard today; each needle was crafted from wood or bone that was “flat, blunt and between 6-10 cm long, relatively large-eyed at one end or the eye is near the middle.”
We don’t know for sure whether these socks were for everyday use, worn with a pair of sandals to do the ancient Egyptian equivalent of running errands or heading to work—or if they were used as ceremonial offerings to the dead (they were found by burial grounds, after all).
For sandals? They look to me to have been made for someone (the ibis-headed god Thoth?) who had feet like a stork.
“This university believes that the way of the amateur is the only one to provide satisfactory results.”
—Master of Caius College, “Chariots of Fire” (1981).
As the Wall Street Journal reports, a Baltimore hairdresser is proving the college master right.
By day, Janet Stephens is a hairdresser at a Baltimore salon, trimming bobs and wispy bangs. By night she dwells in a different world. At home in her basement, with a mannequin head, she meticulously re-creates the hairstyles of ancient Rome and Greece.
Ms. Stephens is a hairdo archaeologist.
Her amateur scholarship is sticking a pin in the long-held assumptions among historians about the complicated, gravity-defying styles of ancient times. Basically, she has set out to prove that the ancients probably weren’t wearing wigs after all.
“This is my hairdresserly grudge match with historical representations of hairstyles,” says Ms. Stephens, who works at Studio 921 Salon & Day Spa, which offers circa 21st-century haircuts.
Her coiffure queries began, she says, when she was killing time in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore back in 2001. A bust of the Roman empress Julia Domna caught her eye. “I thought, holy cow, that is so cool,” she says, referring to the empress’s braided bun, chiseled in stone. She wondered how it had been built. “It was amazing, like a loaf of bread sitting on her head,” says Ms. Stephens.
A hairstylist by day, Janet Stephens has become a “hair archaeologist” studying the intricacies of ancient Greek and Roman hairstyles. As WSJ’s Abigail Pesta reports, she’s been published in the academic community on her research, which she says proves the intricate hairstyles were not wigs.
She tried to re-create the ‘do on a mannequin. “I couldn’t get it to hold together,” she says. Turning to the history books for clues, she learned that scholars widely believed the elaborately teased, towering and braided styles of the day were wigs.
She didn’t buy that. Through trial and error she found that she could achieve the hairstyle by sewing the braids and bits together, using a needle. She dug deeper into art and fashion history books, looking for references to stitching.
In 2005, she had a breakthrough. Studying translations of Roman literature, Ms. Stephens says, she realized the Latin term “acus” was probably being misunderstood in the context of hairdressing. Acus has several meanings including a “single-prong hairpin” or “needle and thread,” she says. Translators generally went with “hairpin.”
The single-prong pins couldn’t have held the intricate styles in place. But a needle and thread could. It backed up her hair hypothesis.
In 2007, she sent her findings to the Journal of Roman Archaeology. “It’s amazing how much chutzpah you have when you have no idea what you’re doing,” she says. “I don’t write scholarly material. I’m a hairdresser.”
John Humphrey, the journal’s editor, was intrigued. “I could tell even from the first version that it was a very serious piece of experimental archaeology which no scholar who was not a hairdresser—in other words, no scholar—would have been able to write,” he says.
He showed it to an expert, who found the needle-and-thread theory “entirely original,” says Mr. Humphrey, whose own scholarly work has examined arenas for Roman chariot racing.
Ms. Stephens’ article was edited and published in 2008, under the headline “Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (Hair)Pins and Needles.” The only other article by a nonarchaeologist that Mr. Humphrey can recall publishing in the journal’s 25-year history was written by a soldier who had discovered an unknown Roman fort in Iraq.
Read the whole thing.
The mystery was elucidated by Richmond University of Law Professor Kevin C. Walsh, who explained:
The hat is a custom-made replica of the hat depicted in Holbein’s famous portrait of St. Thomas More. It was a gift from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia. We presented it to him in November 2010 as a memento of his participation in our 27th annual Red Mass and dinner.
It is not unlikely that Justice Scalia was intentionally making a reference to his own support of religious liberty in connection with the Obama Administration’s attempts to force Catholic institutions to act in opposition to church teachings by mandates requiring funding of employee birth control and abortion.
Even more bizarre was the newly-inaugurated president’s appearance at Inaugural Balls incongruously wearing a white bow tie with a dinner jacket.
There must surely be White House specialists in protocol available to advise the ill-informed on what is and what is not correct in matters of this kind.
One correspondent of a list I read suggested that President Obama may have intentionally chosen a white tie (sometimes worn to indicate status as staff with a dinner jacket at evening events) as a kind of riposte to former President Clinton’s unkind 2008 remark to the late Senator Kennedy dismissive of Senator Obama’s candidacy: “A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”
Of course, it also might simply have been a casual expression of modernist contempt for traditional norms and customs.
The ineffable Yoko Ono marches on. This time applying her unique talents to men’s fashion.
Yoko Ono launched a menswear collection on Tuesday that she says was inspired by John Lennon’s “hot bod.” Among her designs are pants with large handprints on the crotch, tank tops with nipple cutouts, a flashing LED bra (yes, for men) and that pair of pants with a sheer backside.
The collection of menswear for Opening Ceremony is available the company’s U.S. stores in New York and Los Angeles now, its London store on Nov. 30 and its Tokyo flagship on Dec. 9.
Ono’s clothing line is based on a series of drawings she sketched as a gift for Lennon for their wedding day in 1969. ...
Prices run from $25 for a poster to $200 for a jock strap or $750 for boots with an incense holder or open toes.
As Kurtz used to say: “The horror, the horror.”
From Fashionably Geek:
The pretty model can sort of walk in these things, but they seem to make her knock-kneed, and they make me wonder why she would want to.
Hat tip to Leah Libresco and Tristyn Bloom.
The L interview:
I’ve never worn sneakers or sweatshirts in my life. And I wore blue jeans—pretty much the same pair of blue jeans—every day, throughout college. And I decided the moment I graduated from college that I would never wear blue jeans again. And I have never worn blue jeans again.
Unlike Whit Stillman, I have worn sneakers and sweatshirts: exclusively while working out in health clubs, never on the street or at home. I think I was just very slightly older than him when I too came to the conclusion that there was no place in adult life for blue jeans and switched permanently to khaki slacks for informal wear.