Thursday, February 24, 2011

Whatever Happened to Style?
That's the million dollar question. It's hard to find nowadays, real style. It's not something you can buy from Target, Tiffany's or Chrysler. It's something we learn or are born with.

In the olden days folks dressed up. To go to the movie theater, to the grocery store, downtown, on a trip. To go for a walk on a cool Spring evening. Just to dress up, to look nice, to be stylish. Or as stylish as one could be.
Whether their best was rags or bespoke, people wore their best.

Looking good makes us feel good. Watch how a Marine struts in his Dress Blues or how a man carries himself when wearing a well-fitting classic dinner jacket: confidence, pride, enjoyment.

It's the same with glamour. Too few women today are glamorous, but maybe that's the point.

It wouldn't be stylish or glamorous if everyone did it or was that way.

I think Chrysler did it right with that commercial, at least until the end when they equated style and glamour with their lifeless monotone plastic cars. Aesthetic simplicity does not equal style nor glamour though at times they do go hand in hand.

I enjoy cruising in my car with the windows down and wish more folks would go for a drive just for the sake of going for a drive. But that would make the roads more congested and I do enjoy an open road...


Ethan said...

I disagree with your assessment of Chrysler, I agree with your assessment of people's styles, but in a different way. The word style has many connotations, so let me offer my thoughts.

On Chrysler, I disagree simply because the 300 matches the definition of "Classic American" style so well. Style is inherently related to fashion, which changes with time. A lot of your dress on this blog is based off the definition of fashion from the first half of the 1900's. Which is totally okay, because many people still use that definition for men's fashion.
Similarly, the Chrysler 300 matches the 1950's definition for what's a fashionable car: a huge obnoxious engine wrapped into a more refined package. The issue is, the definition of what's fashionable has changed. It's no longer fashionable to drive the biggest muscle from Detroit, it's fashionable to drive the latest technology from Germany or South Korea. I don't think this is a good or bad thing, it's just different. I think the Chrylser 300 has style, but I think that very few people today would consider it stylish. As for the 200 and Grand Caravan, well, minivans have always been more about practicality than style.

I agree that few people today have "classic" style, but I think more and more people have a personal "style". Classic style comes from people's desire to communicate class and elegance with their dress. In "the olden times", if clothing wasn't functional, it almost always tried to communicate class.

What's changed is that people today dress to communicate many things other than class. Someone with a POW/MIA jacket is communicating that they have strong respect and support for our troops. Someone with a t-shirt with a tech company logo on it communicates they have an interest in technology. Someone with in prep clothing with brightly colored "go-to-hell" pants communicates they went to the Ivy League, and are proud of it.
This is different from the older focus of dressing simply to impress, which I'm actually okay with. As long as you've put thought into what you're communicating with your clothing, I have at least some respect for you.

As a young person, I hesitate to say that things have gotten worse or better; I haven't been alive long enough to really assess that. But there are two things I think are currently missing from the modern standard of dress: a minimum standard, and "steez".

You see plenty of people in public that are dressed lazily, and clearly don't care that they are communicating that. If you're walking around the mall in a torn and stained sweatpants and sweatshirt, you communicate that you really don't care if you appear dirty or lazy. People should respect themselves enough that they don't want to communicate that.

The second thing that I feel few people have a handle own is a word the fashion blogosphere seems to have created(?), "steez", or style with ease. When someone is so good at communicating style and elegance that it looks like they aren't even trying, they truly have mastered style. As you pointed out though, this isn't easy, and few people have mastered it.

I think "steez" is a quality people should strive for, but I feel as far the public is concerned, we first have to convince them to wear properly sized clothing.

Roger said...

It might be more fair to ask 'whatever happened to stylish dress?' There's a lot of talk in the classic dress community that cross-pollinates between manners and dress. I do agree with you that carrying oneself elegantly probably imparts elegance to other aspects of one's behaviour, but there must be a limit.

The move to casual dress, or in some cases simply sloppy dress, is indeed partially related to the change in social relations, the breakdown of class and authority and formality. But that genie is out of the bottle and I don't think it's going to go back soon.
I also accept that the relationship between dressing and everyday social interaction has simply shifted.

"Dressing well" has been overtaken by dressing fashionably as fashion has usurped "style", partly as a result of mass consumerism. As messy as this is, it reflects changing views and choices, perhaps misguided and subtly directed choices, but there we are.

Like you say, the people who appreciate good clothes probably don't really want everyone to follow suit, even the classic clothing community enjoys its little superiorities.

Will said...

I think you said it well.

Pancho said...

I think the commercial is a sign of hope, a little ripple that might help move things overall in a more stylish direction. I hope the relationship between dressing and social interaction isn't weakened, even if it can't remain the same, because I think that connection is one of the things that can help save dressing well from being superficial. ( I should admit, though, that I don't dress nearly as well as I could or should).

I think it's a little sad if we don't want everyone to be stylish on at least some level, even if it's a minimal one. I think style is more likely to thrive if it's available to be shared and appreciated.

What I like about your post is the appreciation of simple pleasures. Going for a drive, going for a walk, etc. Just dressing up is a simple pleasure too, whatever dressing your best is. The great thing about simple pleasures is that they can be accesible to everyone or nearly everyone. They're timeless and on a certain level they have people and not things at the center of them. Even dressing up can be as much about yourself and the people you're with as it is about the clothes themselves.

Gentleman's said...

Thanks for this video!

The Partisan said...

You summarized what I've been fighting against for years.

I hail from Southern California, where absolutely no fashion or "style" exists. The constant warm weather doesn't agree well with layered clothing, and the uber laid-back mindset of the West Coast renders one's outward "appearance" utterly meaningless. Nothing but jeans, T-shirts, and baseball caps as far as the eye can see. Anything dressier than a light blazer and people ask if you're going to a wedding or a job interview.

So bland. So lazy. So unimaginative.
And hot...


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