The dilemma of associations
By André Larnyoh
If you know the photographer Alex Natt (above), you’ll know that he has his own somewhat distinct uniform: a loose oxford shirt, wide jeans or chinos, well-worn cordovan loafers and a baseball cap of some kind. Simple, to the point and he’s made it his own.
He told me of an encounter he had recently in Canada, where a woman asked to borrow his phone. When he said no, she looked him up and down, called him a “trust fund kid” and went on her way. Those that know Alex know that he’s miles away from being one, but he knew it was his clothes that gave the wrong impression. In North America, an oxford shirt and chinos have particular associations with yuppie and preppy culture.
Associations and the context of a piece of clothing have always been tricky things to get away from. Look at what’s been done with military wear over the decades – from being something that was worn by servicemen on the GI Bill, to being adopted by people on the so-called fringes of society as part of sixties counterculture movements, to now being so ubiquitous in fashion that arguably a good 50% of designs take their cues from the military.
If you wear an M65 or a pair of OG107 trousers out and about today, no one is going to assume that you’re ex-army. They’ll just think you like practical, robust clothing.
I have always been conscious of avoiding looking like something I am not. Not always successfully I might add - I’ve been called/heckled a lot of things. In fact it has sometimes been so debilitating that I’ve kept certain items of clothing at arm’s length, or at the very least worn with a huge amount of trepidation. I haven’t gone near an oxford shirt and chinos since someone accused me of wanting to belong to a culture that I had absolutely no interest in being part of.
This is all a roundabout way of saying that clothes carry baggage, not all of which we’re necessarily aware of.
To some extent - and it’s possible I might be diving a little too deep into this, but stay with me - wearing certain things can give you a sense of imposter syndrome. I’ve certainly felt that with particular pieces or outfits. Things that feel alien or clash with my worldview, culture, or even social circles. What you may see as timeless or classic (two arguably very charged words) could strike someone else as formal, preppy or plain old uptight.
An example of this for me was the collaboration last year between Crown Northampton and AWMS, which produced a Belgian loafer with varying animal prints on the apron (above). My interest was piqued by a brown suede pair with cheetah spots, but it was immediately noted in my circle that they were something a Congolese uncle would wear (there’s a reputation there for decking out in head-to-toe animal prints). The cultural stigma was enough to make me um and ah. It couldn’t be unseen.
Still, I do think it’s too easy to get stuck in the safety of the rules of the game. Not that there’s something bad about the structure of things, but my admiration is for those I see who, consciously or not, break form and association.
The people who keep an eye on the rules, traditions and contexts that influence what we wear and don’t only ignore them, but often break them entirely. They bring themselves and their background to the clothes, creating something that is more personal - because at the end of the day we are all individuals.
Of course there will be those that argue you just need to grow a spine, ignore the haters, and wear whatever you like. The truth though, is that it’s not that simple. You need a supreme sense of self to do this, and I’ll be honest in saying that I am only halfway there.
There are various people I personally know that I could highlight, but Moteen Iqbal (above and below) is one I’d pick out. One of the kindest people I’ve met, many will recognise him as the former manager at Drake’s and from his days at Timothy Everest - but it’s when he’s off-duty that the magic happens.
His collection is eclectic – spanning streetwear, technical fabrics and more classic tailoring and shoes – and every piece is treated equally, for all occasions and settings. You can easily find Moteen in wide Needles sweatpants, a loose untucked oxford shirt, Horatio horsebit loafers or Adidas Spezials and one of his many voluminous Stone Island coats. He has that rare ability to make them all work together in ways they shouldn’t. It’s nothing short of uncanny.
When I said to him that I wanted to mention him for this piece, Moteen laughed it off. “I have no rules when it comes to wearing stuff,” he said, and that is exactly why, in my eyes, he is a master. You can tell by looking at him that this is someone who has had a long personal journey with clothing and also, as time passed, has both accumulated more and while narrowing down what works for them and what they like, uncompromisingly.
Rachel Tashjian recently wrote a piece examining the meaning of the word ‘chic’ while breaking down this year’s Bottega Venetta show. It’s worth reading in full, but to make a long story short her argument is that the truly chic individual is one who knows themselves so well that they say something about style in the way they dress and carry themselves.
It is something that comes with time - when insecurities have lessened, when you’ve been through enough of life that the opinions of others don’t phase you in the way they did you were younger. It’s this idea that has slowly helped me gain the courage to start wearing gold-button blazers, for example - something I’ve avoided for years because they remind me of Carlton Banks (below, left).
Today the question I ask myself with those blazers is how can I make them work for me, and with what I wear? Always trying to avoid looking like I’ve studied photos of either King Charles III or Carlton. So I’ll add work shirts, knitwear without shirts, or pieces from more fashion-forward brands. Maybe one of those flowy wrap shirts from King & Tuckfield or a pair of pleated trousers from Homme Plisse, all in an effort to develop something that’s more personal, playful and honest.
In fact I think breaking with the story that comes with a piece of clothing is what can separate individuals who wear their clothes, from those whose clothes wear them.
Why follow the rules of a piece of clothing, or even a subculture? We’re at a point in history where anything goes, certainly outside a work environment, and it’s exciting to see people embrace the chaos, to create something that’s personal and interesting.
Most will take baby steps, but that’s better than nothing. Maybe I’ll end up with some animal print Belgians after all.
Image below taken from the PS piece on André and his style
Might be worth changing the photo or the first line of the story on the home page. It makes it sound like that is a picture of Alex!
Yeah just realized that!
Interesting article. For persons like me, who wish to be more on the safe “conservative” side but do not want to look like a charicature, the – what I consider – central advice of Permanent Style likely works the best: Mix and match.
But,is it really chaos,Andre, or just another set of unwritten rules to try to adhere to. Fashion not style?
Not that I disagree. I love to add colour,patterns and shape to my dress.
Very simulating. Thinking over coffee is always good on a wet Friday. It is really difficult not to feel like cosplay-I felt that during the whole workshirt /carhartt /workpant/workbooks saga we are experiences.
‘work boots ‘ ‘we recently experienced’ …damn autocorrect
I’d happily say that it’s chaos – which include sometimes feeling cosplay – but in that I think someone can really find some gems in terms of how they dress.
Thanks for writing this Andre.
I’m not certain if associations will ever go away. What does it mean to chose one outfit over the other if there aren’t separate associations with each one? In order for clothing to have ideas, those ideas need roots. But maybe it’s really about the associations changing, or being less about “types” of people.
Your last sentence is what I’m trying to say! Respect the roots, and then forget ’em.
I’d never heard about Moteen Iqbal, but I’m impressed by the examples of his style shown here. The second photo in particular shows thorough awareness of his own body shape and – something I tend to forget about – the shape of his head (however odd that may sound). It takes experience and some deliberate effort to really internalise a realistic image of one’s own body type (head and shoulders especially), so as not to be seduced too easily by alluring images of handsome models with romantic hair, while shopping online for clothes. As you may have guessed, I have not been blessed with hair like that – which is partly why I appreciate Simon’s own images on PS so much. 🙂
Great piece, I always love hearing from Andre. I always feel his perspective aligns with my own and I suspect we share many similarities in term of social/ economical backgrounds which is always refreshing on this site as I often don’t feel that shared viewpoint one the features found here.
The older I have got, the stronger my sense that we should, putting good taste to one side for the moment, wear what we want to wear. If we can’t express ourselves through our outer layer of clothing we might as well all wear Mao suits. As to the issue of association, obvioulsy that effect occurs, but really to limit ourselves on this basis is absurd. We wouldn’t, for instance, refrain from eating Coronation Chicken because of its association with royalty, regardless of our feeling for that institution. Of course association and appropriation are in any case evolving concepts within time and location in any case; fluffy and insubstantial things.
Pretty sure Mao suits are very much en vogue nowadays..
Oh… how sad.
Yes its absurd to limit ourselves based off who or what did whatever, yet we do it anyways. People can be sensitive, and no one likes to feel like a phoney. The endeavour is in pushing past that.
(Side note: I can’t stand Coronation Chicken. Don’t understand why people order it. The association attached to it just makes it worse (in my opinion!))
Also, the picture that really blew me away is the one with the two… hippies, I guess. Now that’s repurposing an item of clothing and really making it your own. So stylish. Makes me wish I’d bought my field jacket three sizes larger!
Hello everyone, I am sorry to say this but I do see this article as a drop in quality. The consistency of PS has always been its strength. And the contributions from others are indeed very different in their topics. Also the images the article proposes are very far from the proportion ratio PS has typically expressed.
I am curious to see if I am the only one thinking this.
P.S. (pun intended) I have been a regular reader since 2012 and I still am and I do enjoy a lot Simon’s style and content.
Views always very much appreciated. I think it’s good to distinguish between the fact some of the styles aren’t to your taste, and anything you think is lacking in the article itself – a confusing point, a lack of example etc. Feedback there is useful
To the contrary, I rather applaud what I perceive to be the efforts of PS to transcend a “consistent” “proportion” and ask broader, perhaps more meta/philosophical questions about style. PS has earned that right, if indeed it ever needed to be earned before put out. Moreover, it’s a nice nod to the readership to allow these meta discussions.
In this vein, I wonder whether an article on what it means to, in a sense, “dress for living” may be appropriate. Many of the comments here echo a focus on the details that appears to cloud the enjoyment of and purpose for actually wearing clothes. That is, at bottom, a certain practicality and forgetfulness and perspective is needed. Certain articles on sprezzatura (but that inherently connotes a certain heightened sense of style), loafers with jeans, and flashy vs fuddy have captured elements of this, but perhaps it’s worth addressing head on.
It always something that I think Simon achieves quite admirably which sets him well apart from most in the menswear realm.
In a sense, clothes are much like architecture. They create empty space for one to occupy and live one’s life in, while interacting with others. If done well, it is elevating, can inspire, can alter moods, but must always be relegated to the background for the actual living to take place.
Nicely put MP, and I like the idea
I have noone in my social circle, that cares about clothes very much, so I have noone to exchange broader thoughts on style with.
I really appreciate more free-flowing thoughts from someone as stylish as André and of course all readers on PS. Thanks.
Diego, I agree with your comments here and whilst I enjoy a read, I felt this below par and a little bit more a rambling of personal feelings than representative of the real-world situation. I also dont believe that outside of a Ralphy look-book jeans/chino and OCBD label anyone as a preppy trust fund type of guy, I think we long since moved on from this.
Sorry Andre, for me the article did not flow or feel relevant.
Sorry you feel that way Gary. I do think it’s easy to underestimate the power of those associations though – just because you don’t see it happening, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t elsewhere. Talking to Andre about this piece and others since (and indeed a few readers in these comments) has shown how true that is
Be a strange world if we all thought the same way; I speak for me not the masses.
Talking about this kind of thing is utterly essential. The cultural meta of clothing is what underlies all fashion. Without this kind of awarenes, conscious or otherwise, all you are doing is following laid down rules. However many rules you learn and however much knowledge Simon lays out, ultimately its all fabric and leather and buttons. Without a cultural context a supermarket tracksuit is no better or worse as a look than a bespoke suit.
André’s article dips a toe into a far mores scary, dense idea of fashion. Something that suggests you cant buy it or learn it (a terrifying thought!), rather like any form of creativity it evolves. And like any form of creativity eveyone has an innate hard limit. A limit that can be finessed and moved about but ultimately is immutable.
Paul Feig strikes me as a good example. His look is distinct but feels utterly bound by rules that make almost no sense in his context. By ignoring context while adhereing rigidly to menswear rules he initially appears iconoclastic but by hitting the same note again and again you realise there is no underlying thought process that could in turn evolve further.
Kevin Rowland is a great counter example, someone who seems to know all the rules but has zero loyalty to any of them. They simply exist as tools in service to his greater creative vision. Jockey, drag or Brooks Brothers Ivy three decades before it came back round.
More of this sort of stuff please. The clever, thoughtful stuff that sits brilliantly alongside more baldly descriptive (but still very worthwhile) pieces.
Nice job André!
Re Paul Feig, an alternative possibility to consider is that he genuinely enjoys his bespoke wardrobe, has the confidence to wear it where he decides it’s appropriate to do so, and doesn’t see the value in keeping his style perpetually in flux. Those underlying thought processes seem perfectly valid.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with them, Mark, but it does make him a true dandy rather than a gentleman – someone dressing almost entirely for himself, rather than as part of society as a whole
Simon, I don’t necessarily disagree with your reply—I think Paul Feig would be the first to admit he’s a dandy—but for the “rather than a gentleman” part. That could be seen as gratuitously insulting, given that “not a gentleman” has much wider connotations around manners and treatment of other people, not merely clothing.
It could be seen that way, but I think most people would understand the point I’m trying to make, which is that the term gentleman is too widely and often wrongly used, and in many ways it is actually at odds with the idea of being a dandy. The traditions of a gentleman concern fitting in with the social norm, not making others ill at ease in any way, whereas a dandy by definition doesn’t care about any of that.
Completely OK if it’s not relevant to you. Might for someone else though and that’s who I do it for.
Therefore I shall ramble on! No apologies!
Funny, my first thought on reading was that nothing could be more pertinent to PS than to address this subject, given it underlies all the decisions we make in choosing what to wear, and my second was how beautifully written it is. If anything I think there’s lots more to say on the subject, and I hope Simon continues to explore it.
I’ve always seen PS as being less about dogmatic rules and more about the enjoyment of clothing, craft and learning to dress well in any context. That’s a social skill. Acknowledging the social implications of dress seems right in line with everything else on PS.
More beautiful writing from André, too, please!
I’d like to say that I appreciate Andre’s writing style. Yes he’s different from Simon, so if you come here expecting Simon’s work you’re going to be disappointed with Andre.
I feel that Andre always writes something for the reader to ponder about, but Simon often provides direct conclusions his experience has brought him to. I think both have a place even if someone prefers one over the other.
But most important thing we must ask is: why did he say not to that woman?
Do you mean, why did he not say ‘no’?
“… a woman asked to borrow his phone. When he said no, she looked him up and down….”, I mean why didn’t he helped the woman? (I guess just to make a phone call). Bu it was just a joke (and it’s a foreign language to me too).
He (Alex Natt) did say ‘no’ though, didn’t he? Seems perfectly reasonable too.
Great article and i find the style of Moteen one of the most interesting ones ive seen. Thats exactly what i admire on some people and try, to an extend, to adopt in my style. Its very difficult to have a whole wardrobe full of stuff that go well together but are also not death boring and usual. And at the same time not looking like truying too hard for it. Respect to those people, cant say anything more.
Lovely piece. I definitely recognise the impostor syndrome feeling when wearing something outside of your comfort zone. For me it’s tassel loafers. I love the way they look but I just can’t wear them since in my environment (eastern Netherlands) they’re viewed as an incredibly dandy shoe.
I get that with turn ups on my trousers…South Netherlands .
My wife hates them with a passion . She also regards tassel loafers as ‘pimp shoes’. Talking about associations.
Is “Pimp’ now a bad thing? 🙂
Similar for my wife. A favourite of mine is my Gloverall Monty Duffle Coat, channeling Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea. My wife sees Michael Foot or a Corbynite! Btw that’s not good!
I had similar thoughts when I recently saw a photo of the Asian lady who wears suits (forgotten her name) when she was wearing a boating blazer. The associations with Richard Whiteley are just too strong…
The memsahib also thinks the same, pimp thing, about my ankle length racoon skin overcoat and purple velvet trilby. Women can be so hurtful….
Funny you mention your wife calling them pimp shoes. The first and only time I wore tassel loafers someone called them “ bordeelslippers” or brothel slippers in English. Didn’t have the guts to wear them again. Plus since I’ve got quite small feet, size 6, I feel like loafers make my feet look even smaller. I don’t get any comments for wearing turn ups on my trousers however, I think Suitsupply may have helped the overall acceptance on that part since so many of their models have turn ups as well.
Mixed feelings about this article.
Thought provoking, definitely. Precisely as André identifies, something that I also find often gets lost behind the rationalisations, influences and moments of inspiration of a keenly aesthetic approach to dressing are very much the connotations that clothes can carry. It really does sometimes take someone saying, “ooh have you come as fisherman,” for you to realise that your ‘method’ is just a joke really. I once left the house feeling like I looked a little bit awe-inspiring in my ensemble and got told by a friend that I looked like an upper class pirate. What I find also happens in these soul crushing moments, is that the dam-breaks and the associations come flooding in in a rush of realisation. Of course! I live in the world too! How could I not have seen that I’d been dressed like Adam Ant moonlighting as Paddington Bear. So concerned can you be with colour, texture, tension or subversion in an outfit that the associations go out the window. Only this morning, I was wearing a navy blazer, high-waisted chinos and a baseball cap. My girlfriend told me immediately that I was dressed like a high-school football coach. I saw it immediately. I think for me – and perhaps Andre too – age comes into this and certain aesthetics being either anachronistic, culturally removed or pop-culturally inspired adds a slightly costumey dimension to dressing.
The mixed bit for me are the following: André’s solution and example of transcendent dressing, Moteen. In Moteen’s case, I don’t think the associations of his dress-sense being that much more diffuse escape the constumey trap of considered dressing. To me he looks as costumey as they come. Just I’d not be entirely sure what he’d come as. But the considered ensemble seems to display it’s artifice equally as boldly I think. To me, it doesn’t look natural. It seems like every subversion is so glaring that it simply clashes. For me, I try to consider the overall silhouette of what I wear when I am subverting one item of clothing with another. Is it it congruent or discordant? (My god I need to get out more) That said, maybe the not knowing what he has come as is a sign that he has successfully escaped associations? But at what cost…
Finally, his solution and its application is a little lightweight or overly intellectualising (something you’ll never find me doing!) of something quite simple. The workshirt beneath the navy blazer? I also spend a lot of time on menswear sites and sleuthing through styleforum, vintage sites, PS and dieworkwear etc. These kinds of things to me – along with much of what I wear myself – aren’t really inspired moments of originality. They’re just mimicry. And mimicry is the very source of many of these associations. Therein lies the problem. So essentially, “grow a spine, ignore the haters, and wear whatever you like.”
I think your latter point is a good one Jackson – if Moteen doesn’t remind you of any particular look, then he has transcended any particular association. You may feel he is less subtle than how you might dress, but that is a different issue I think
You’re right. I think I was allowing a personal taste thing to compromise the point at hand slightly. Hard not to with this stuff sometimes, but I suppose at the heart of it is trying to appreciate things that you’d not wear yourself. I find this a lot easier to do with women’s clothing rather than men’s!
TRANSCENDENCE! That is what Moteen does and that’s the aim. I wouldn’t say that he is in a costumey trap at all, the only reason I can think of that it might look so is potentially because it’s outside what you’re used to seeing. Yet if you see him walk up and down the street, he looks completely natural vs those tall people stomping down New Bond St in the latest Balenciaga looking out uncomfortable.
Also I agree, a workshirt under a navy blazer is not original at all. It was late and I couldn’t think of anything else, however, I still stand by it because it was a stepping stone for myself way in breaking the back of a navy blazer.
I wouldn’t say Moteen looks costumey: he looks very comfortable in his clothes which as many have noted is possibly the most important factor in looking good. I wouldn’t say he looks particularly “natural” to me either, the photos here seem like explicit experiments to push the boundaries of what will and won’t combine. I suppose the association I have with that is catwalk or high fashion.
Contrast with the the last photo of André, probably my favourite photo of the article (apart from Carlton obviously…) At first glance I saw just classic, relaxed elegance, bordering on decadent: a guy in a dark suit with an open shirt. Only after time did the more unusual details register with me: brass buttons, collarless shirt, vest, separate trousers with a very high waist. That to me is a great outfit: a world away from Carlton but without the perhaps more obvious subversion of pairing the brass buttons with say, a Motorhead T shirt or workwear.
Both approaches are valid of course but I figure the latter will probably work better for more men more of the time.
This made me laugh. Nothing harder than someone cutting you down when you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone with clothes.
When I wore those Crown Northampton loafers out for the first time (in a plain suede), a less evolved friend of mine said “nice Peter Pan shoes”, and it’s taken me almost 2 years to start wearing them again.
Associations is something I definitely struggle with a lot, part of the reason I never wear baseball caps (was not an issue when I was 11!) Actually, I would expand that to headwear in general – even knit caps/beanies I’ve seen negative associations with hipsters wearing them all the time.
The point of looking like a ‘trust fund kid’ is something I often worry about, albeit in an English form. Or if I dress in more workwear, a poseur. You’re definitely right we can’t let ourselves be fully boxed in – if we let every negative comment dictate our dress we’d probably have nothing to wear at all!
I can’t remember where I read it, but I remember someone (possibly Derek Guy?) saying the way to avoid looking like a dick in certain clothes is to not be one.
I’d agree with most of what’s written here, but it really rubs me the wrong way when someone who clearly cares a lot about the way they dress says “Oh, I really have no rules when it comes to clothing.” Of course they have rules, it’s just that these rules are usually far more complex than “no brown shoes with black pants” or “tuck in your shirt when you’re wearing a sport coat”.
Just be honest about how mich you care about your appearance, is all I’m saying. Have you ever seen men who REALLY have no rules when it comes to clothes? The guys who wear Adidas trackpants with velcro sandals and a sweaty t-shirt that shows off their gut? Those are the only ones who can honestly say they “have no rules about the way they dress”.
I know what you mean Andreas, but I think that’s too simplistic. Those two extremes are not the only options.
If you always obey the rules, it means you never combine some things together. When someone says they don’t have rules, they mean they do sometimes combine those things together. Not that they have no logic or consistency in what they wear.
I think, to quote Pirates of the Caribbean, what they follow is “more what you call guidelines than actual rules”.
Ahhhh, That be the Pirate code; serious stuff but nothing about Harris tweed or no brown in town in it.
Q – Why are Pirates called Pirates?
A – They just arrgh Jim-lad, they just arrrgh
Andreas, trust, it rubs me the wrong way too. Which is why I have no shame in admitting that there are days when I have left my home only to turn back around and change because something feels off.
You are also right- I have my own set of rules and they are far more complex than you could possibly know. Mostly because they don’t exist and get made up on the spot when something goes horribly wrong.
Why did Alex Natt say no though?
Interesting read, however personally I think it’s possible to overthink this stuff a bit. There are to a greater or lesser extent associations (it would be incorrect to think there aren’t), but I not sure it’s something one should overly be concerned about unless it’s to be part of a specific ‘tribe’ be that for example a football fan or part of the landed gentry.
There are some recent articles I have read elsewhere on ‘how to develop good taste’. Who’s to say what is and what isn’t good taste. I really can’t see how to advise on something so subjective- again it’s a form of tribalism. I think your article helps to bust the myth a bit
That said and as example of subjectivity, there is a trigger for me; that’s band collar (collarless) shirts that really should remain the preserve of bad Bond villains, but why would/should anyone care what I think.
A time this may have some relevance could be a job interview when you are try to gain entry to a specific environment, or possibly a first date!
The examples you mention are funny- why on Earth in the normal course of events, would you lend someone your phone? It’s happened to me once waiting to go in my local gym and then the guy implied I had a rubbish phone! And as for your shoes – so what – if you like them, it’s your choice.
I once heard the following in a totally different context – “When you are young you want to be the same as everyone else as you get older you want to be different to everyone else”. I suppose that’s just growing into a mature self confident adult.
Sorry bit of a mind dump but good articles do provide some stimulation of the grey cells.
Good to hear it Stephen.
I think, like many things we discuss, it’s not a case of whether associations matter or not, but that there is a spectrum of how much they matter. A huge amount of what we think about clothes depends on their associations for us (to a generation, a culture, a situation), but few things have such strong associations that we would want to never wear them.
André here is reminding us how powerful associations can be, that they vary considerably between places and cultures, and then that style often comes from pushing against them. The only issue really is how hard to do so.
I agree they can be, however as I mention like taste it’s so subjective as to how much it really matters and the value varies by individual. I see this a lot in interior design perhaps even more so than clothing and I that context I plead guilty!
I agree here with Simon – associations are pretty much what clothing is. To the point of “few things have such associations that we would never want to wear them”; I disagree in a way. From the things we consider wearing, few are like that. But there is a lot more that we wouldn’t if we expanded the horizon. But that’s precisely the power of association. We don’t probably associate togas, foreign tribalwear or tin foil capes as potential stuff to wear, say, to the office.
When it comes to good taste, I’d view developing one as a shu-ha-ri process. There are rules to follow, and follow them you must, but then you can break those when you are learned enough. And maybe, just maybe, with years or decades of practice, you may be able to develop an instinctive personal style that happens freely, without any considerations to rules… or associations. But that’s only because you’ve internalized them to the degree that you don’t have to think about them anymore.
And to take an essentialist position – good taste is good taste regardless of what someone incapable of judging good taste thinks, or rather, feels. And bad taste is not good taste even if it’s someone’s personal taste.
About the subjectivity in taste, let’s consider myself and Moteen Iqbal. My taste is much more… say, conservative. I neither call Mr. Iqbal’s taste bad just because it’s different from mine, nor would I consider everyone in regular width trousers to have better taste than him.
Then there is the communal side to both taste and association. I think most of us consider these, or at least we should. Of course, in familiar situations we don’t need to because we have the association-powered autopilot which helps even the least clothing-oriented person to pick agreeable outfits. Complete disregard of this because of “subjective taste” is brutta figura. Interior design of one’s home is different, obviously, because that’s like it’s your wedding every day – you set the dress code, so to say.
Overall, it’s of course possible to overthink associations. If you’re obsessing about the tiniest of details, it’s starting to sound like a diagnosable condition. But then, everything in your clothing has associations, and those associations have effects on you, and on how people view you. It’s easy enough if you never asked the question, like can I wear these animal-printed loafers, but if you did, you can’t really unask it.
On a side note, I just finished Ametora, and what happened in the 60s with “aibii” style in Japan is a perfect story of the power of associations.
You make a point that taste is entirely subjective (as that whole article series pointed out), yet a majority still spend days fretting whether their new Drake’s tie will imply to their friends whether they have good taste or not. Which is why I’m highlighting it. If one or two people read this and make a realisation that I wish I’d had long ago then my jobs done.
In the grand scheme of things Stephen, worrying about whether someone thinks your a Bond villain should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Prematurely exposing your world domination plans.
Thanks for your reply. I’d be interested in who you are referring to as a majority fretting about a Drakes’ tie. Is that a majority within a small specific bubble?
I do fundamentally agree with the majority of your piece. My angle is coming more from that of treating taste and associations as purely subjective. In the current climate of influencing in social media there can be a feeling of imposition.
P.s now back to world domination over to you Simon!
I feel like if the evolution of your taste and style comes naturally and if you don’t force it then associations shouldn’t really bother you. You have gravitated towards what you like and that’s what you are.
For me Issues arise when something you enjoy has its image forcibly changed in public conscious. For example when Fred Perry polos were adopted as uniform by far right activists.
Or another recent but not fashion related example: HP has a professional workstation line called the Z-Book that has a prominent Z logo on lid. Now I see people express how it’s an unfortunate choice due to recent developments and how they should change it, even though they have used it for nearly 10 years.
Nice point m
Excellent point. Hackett, Burberry, Stone Island, Aquascutum etc. All in their own way good brands in some way damaged by association and sometimes with accompanying snobbery.
Cool Sonny Crockett look in the last photo.
Definitely an issue for a lot of chaps. “I can’t pull that off…” “It’ll make me look like….” “People will think I’m a….”
For those of us who really could not care less, it’s sometimes easy to forget that unwanted associations are an issue for many.
What I might suggest is to not be *too* worried about them and most importantly be willing to explain, politely, to someone among unwonted assumptions, that these are merely clothes that you like.
The navy blazer, supposedly, was originally true sportswear – for throwing on after physical activity or for truly casual use. It seems to me that reclaiming that is one path. In other words, Carlton was never using his blazers to their full, broad potential.
And as I look into the mirror today at my ”Friday casual’ I see the same clothes (although updated) that labelled me to all, stepping of the unit, as the young marine I was 45 years ago. Nothing wrong with belonging to a group.
That will be desert boots, polo and jeans,then Gary👍The default setting for all us ex military.
The boots become darker as the hair becomes greyer
That would be exactly it yes 😉
If the story as related is the whole story, Alex said no because she felt entitled to use of his phone without giving him a reason. Her insulting him (instead of respecting his answer) after he rightly said no confirms her entitlement and his having made the correct decision.
A young lad that worked for me some years ago mentioned that he thought the way I dressed was bizarre (I assume he meant ‘as an adult’) so I said to him, ”Eddie (for his name was…..Eddie) have you ever considered that I think the way you and your boyfriends dress is bizarre”? He gave this some thought before saying ”but we all dress the same”,,,,, ”yes said I, bizarrely” Eddie was of the tracksuit bottoms, baseball cap and tiny Citroen with fat exhaust variety however he did return later in the day to say he had thought it through and he now saw I had a point.
Each to his own I guess and it can take strength to dress different even when that different is the same as so many others.
OK, so I don’t wear anything to “associate” myself with anything or anyone else. I just wear things which I consider appropriate for the environment I find, or will find, myself in.
What seems to be missing here is the way others see you. They “associate” you with some group/class/culture/etc based solely on their interpretation of what you are wearing.
They may or may not be right, but I don’t really worry about that.
I was interested in this contribution on associations because although I do not care personally about them, some people in my close circle do very much – and go on and on about it.
Although I have never been a “trust fund kid” I’ve probably always dressed like one. Polo shirt, jeans or chinos or nice shorts and boat shoes in the summer and oxford shirt, jeans or chinos and proper shoes in the winter. When not in conservative office attire, thirty years later I still more or less dress the same with the addition, very recently only, of sneakers.
I don’t care about any of the associations it may or may not bring and people are allowed to have any prejudices it may bring to their mind. However, I find it a very carefree and universally accepted attire in my part of the world (continental Europe), whether in town or in the country. I also do not wish necessarily to express myself in clothes; they fit or they do not fit, they are appropriate for the event or they are not appropriate for it; they work together or they don’t work together.
I’m therefore a bit baffled about any of the complications of the mind about avoiding any perceived associations. I do not like blazers with brass buttons, so I don’t buy them. I do not like the – political/societal – associations connected to Bavarian/Austrian jackets, so I’ve always resisted the temptation to buy one. Since I do not have the same association with a loden coat, I do wear one.
One is always bound to wear something that somebody else may have associations with, whatever one wears. The trouble with overthinking this subject is that one risks coming across as having put too much effort in it, which is probably exactly how one does not want to come across.
Thanks Willem. Just one question – you said you don’t wear Bavarian/Austrian jackets because of the associations, but then said you ignore associations. Why do those associations matter to you but not others?
Good question. There are not many single items of clothing in continental Europe which places someone so exactly on the political or societal scale as the Bavarian/Austrian jacket. When it is worn as an alternative to a suit or sports jacket, it has an extremely conservative, even nostalgic connotation to pre-WW2 times which I find – as a non-German without any ties to the region – unnecessary to willingly associate myself with. It probably would not have that association if worn in combination with lederhosen and other regional attire in an appropriate local setting.
On the other hand, thirty years ago it used to be – devoid of any such connotation – the fashionable jacket during a couple of years enthusiastically adopted by the “jeunesse dorée”. If I’d be part of that set at that time, I might even have had one not then being aware of the other, more political, connotation.
Since I do like the style, when I was last in Hong Kong, as a modern alternative, I bought a Chinese jacket, which – unusually – was made in flannel.
So, to answer your question directly, it’s not associations with age, social background or wealth that bother me, it’s the association with a certain political outlook.
I see, thank you Willem.
I guess an interesting angle is how many of these associations often are political in some way – eg someone looking like a different class or pretending to do so, or adopting a different culture or race. I would guess there might be some who would think wearing a traditional Chinese jacket in some circumstances would fall into that bracket. If someone mistook you for an English colonial, for example.
That’s only because you did not see the jacket. There’s no mistaking the wearer for an English colonial.
That being said, I do see your point, but then as I wrote in my original message, there’s always going to be associations whatever one wears.
Taking your points further it gets into another contentious issue of cultural appropriation. Not being Chinese, I should not be wearing a Chinese jacket? Not being Afghan, I should not be wearing an Afghan waistcoat? Not being English, I should not be wearing a Duffel coat?
I’ve never quite understood these arguments. We can buy anything else from everywhere over the globe – China (as in porcelain), Afghan carpets, English furniture, but not wear the clothes?
Yes it certainly does – definitely a topic that needs another post at some point though. Again, it’s a spectrum. There is cultural appropriation out there, with brands taking something and selling it with no credit let alone money to the creator. But there is also much that is fine
Well written article big props to Andre , however one point I sorta take an issue with is the woman that asked to borrow Alex’s phone didn’t seem very pleasant, if he did comply with her request his day could have turned out very differently, instead of being called a “trust fund kid” he may have had to file a police report reporting a theft should as she could have done a runner.
I think the reason why style isn’t so big it does allow you to express your personality however we do not exist in a vacuum, I suppose it can act as an informal uniform ( you see this quite a bit in teenagers) and I suppose it can be used to convey a message for instance when Wall Street was booming in the 80s the top players had to present a powerful image hence power suits.
I suppose you can use some of the truths above depending on scenarios you will find yourself in.
I’m going to jump in here and clear up the phone scandal, because it’s actually two separate anecdotes mixed in to one.
It was July – I’d just landed in Toronto for 2 weeks of fun. It was a young guy who asked to borrow my phone. I’ve had my phone stolen like this before, so I said no. “Waste yute…”, he retorted under his breath. The trust fund incident took place a day later when I didn’t stop to give someone money.
For me, as the son of a plasterer done good, now embroiled in the mad world of menswear, being called a trust fund kid is funny.
I hope this clears up some confusion about my incident.
Hi Alex! Love the look, mind telling us who makes those beautiful loafers?
Ha! Associations of dressing classic and conservative are just as hilarious. I recently wore a sweater (not cardigan, just a pullover V neck) over a dress shirt – my officemates associated me with Mr. Roger’s neighborhood! Hilarious! 🙂
They are hilarious! Everytime I walk around certain friends in loafers they start playing the song ‘Classic man’ by Jidenna and the music video is full of Dandies!
If you’re into clothes, you are never safe!
Nice article, by the way.
This is one of the best pieces published on this site. It has perspective and is self reflective. We can all relate. This digs deeper than the “threads” and into motivations and perceptions which are some of the underpinnings of why we wear what we wear.
May I ask what grown man would wear outfits 4,5, and 6? Frankly those outfits look clownish and when you dress like a clown all you’ll find is a circus. I’d suggest that a better idea is to learn to dress in an adult and masculine manner. Refer to men like Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, and Daniel Craig’s James Bond as excellent examples. Whether dressed smart or casual, these men exemplify simplicity and fantastic masculine style which is sartorial freedom.
Scott, we try to keep a friendly tone on here, so please don’t call people clowns. It’s perfectly possible to say you don’t like someone’s style in other ways.
Also, Daniel Craig’s Bond is not someone I’d put in the same bracket. He wears clothes that are tight and not really in the same taste as the others
I’ll retract my clown reference then and just say that those outfits simply look like a grown man trying to look like a teenager. If we can agree on Grant and McQueen that works for me.
I can tell you now, I just did a whole course on clowning and big trousers are a myth. Ankle busting skinny jeans are way funnier.
I’d be curious as to your definition of what masculine is. The examples you’ve brought up strike me as antiquated stereotypes that are increasingly being seen as having no use in modern society. The only one who had any individual style was maybe Cary Grant (that red polka dot neckerchief? *Chefs Kiss*) but even then he’s a product of his time.
I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around why there is still a legion of men who desire to look like those three individuals. A simple reason is that they all end up looking the same! All Steve McQueen did was wear a white T-shirt and abuse his spouse. He just happened to hit the gym here and there.
Also Bond? Gary Oldman’s George Smiley is a much more interesting and stylish example of a fictional character.
100% agree with the McQueen question… never understood why he gets the adoration he does and yes, prima donna and spousal abuse. Small skinny lad, not much evidence of gym there. Also agree with Smiley beating Bond
Interesting last point Andre. I’ve lost count of the number of men’s style websites which say things like “you must own a Harrington jacket, Steve McQueen once wore one in a film a long time ago and looked cool”. And I’m left thinking “so what, that was 50(?) years ago, it would look completely different on me, so what’s the relevance?” One of the reasons I like PS is that the level of analysis is beyond these banal clichés.
Why should every man want to look masculine, especially in the restrictive way you’re suggesting? Silly.
I have to admit that I seem to have somehow not understood the message of the article… starts talking about regional associations of clothes to certain groups and styles, then about people that dont care but the author does and then recommends chaos as the way forward?
I’m also not sure if its “imposter syndrome” in this context… I am not preppy and so if I dress up as a preppy then I am an imposter, there is no syndrome involved. The syndrome normally would be where you are actually preppy but then start doubting yourself and your claim to being such.
As someone grown up with relative middle class conservatism I really fail to see the attraction of some of the praised outfits… there may be individual pieces that look good but as an outfit they tend to look comical.
I fully support that people should be entitled to wear what they want and if you want to dress to look weird or comical or the same mismatched layers the local hobo is forced to wear then go for it. I am conscious of cause that someone always has to be first and those items we now considered old fashioned/conservative were probably outlandish and weird when the first person created and wore a tie. I am not sure its “permanent style” however to try and champion the normalisation of 30″ trouser cuffs
On your last point Bob, I think you recognise that other people have different styles, and I would suggest your points about why they don’t look good would be better served by not calling them weird or comical. The first two terms are certainly used by a lot of people about classical menswear, and they don’t get us anywhere.
I am conscious of other’s feelings but at the same time there does have to be some realisation that if you wear an outfit that materially deviates from the norm then you are going to invoke reactions in people. Some may love it (eg Maurice) and others may think it looks silly (eg myself). As long as no one tries to stop you wearing it both reactions are ok.
As you say, classical menswear is becoming uncommon but probably not yet to the level of some of the photographed outfits. I am sure many of us at one point have had the jibe about if we are going to court, a funeral and/or interview. As André said, there is an element of growing a spine and maturing to realise that just because someone doesn’t like your outfit doesnt mean you shouldnt wear it.
I love my snot green sweater, you may think its an ugly colour… you’re entitled to that opinion and should feel comfortable to express it.
My guess is that PS readership prefer to regard Cary Grant/Steve McQ style as touchstones of men’s fashion.
Question about the uncredited photo of the young people in the field. Was that Max Yazgur’s Dairy Farm in Bethel, New York at the 1969 Woodstock Festival? I grew up near there and have walked that ground – it looks similar.
I’m afraid I don’t know Robert, sorry, it was uncredited where I found it online as well
In style, the photos are very similar to the work of Elliot Landry at Woodstock.
I did a thesis for a photography course, years ago, and looked at many( ! ) of the Woodstock photos, mainly Bill Elliott , Bill Eppridge and Landry. It does look very ‘summer of love’ but I don’t recall seeing it.
Super Friday thread,everyone. Firstly to Andre’s for his thoughts,Simon for skilful moderating, the cut and thrust of readers and ,finally, to Andre responding.
I’m a diligent reader of this site and I think this is my favorite article in some time. While I appreciate articles on specific clothing items, shops, reviews etc. I think ones that specifically focus on the mental side of clothing are some of the most interesting. Great work!
Good article Andre. I’m in my forties finally making an effort to develop my personal style. Sometimes it feels like a minefield, avoiding the appearance of a fashion try-hard. I seem to feel that way when trying an outfit that risks an association with something I’m not. But if the only thing that feels genuine is a polo shirt and jeans, I believe it’s worth it to get outside of my comfort zone a little.
“It’s this idea that has slowly helped me gain the courage to start wearing gold-button blazers, for example – something I’ve avoided for years because they remind me of Carlton Banks (below, left)… Today the question I ask myself with those blazers is how can I make them work for me, and with what I wear? Always trying to avoid looking like I’ve studied photos of either King Charles III or Carlton. So I’ll add work shirts, knitwear without shirts, or pieces from more fashion-forward brands.”
King Charles, like his father and IIRC Edward VIII, wore a 8×6 blazer. Rowing Blazers sold a RTW version until recently. It is more suited to formal wear but Charles also wore it casually with riding breeches and boots. It would not work, IMO, with work shirts or knitwear without shirts – trying too hard. I generally wear my SB blazers (one has gold buttons) with a poplin shirt, chinos or cords and C&J penny loafers. If anyone is offended by what they ignorantly consider to be an elite look, tough!
Well, this is a topic that has come up on the blog before, which is that preppy/Ivy dressing is a “style” outside of NA, but not within it. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that if they walk around Manhattan, Toronto, Washington, SF dressed like a trust-fund kid, they will be perceived as such.
An enjoyable read! And one I can well relate to. Like many here, judging by the comments, I worry about individual items having some symbolism or being a bit outside my station (e.g. wearing loafers as a working-class oik, or an M65 as a wimpy office worker). Then, if I can navigate those initial associations, I wonder if I’m just caught at the second level: rather than aping the upper classes or veterans, am I cosplaying as a cool Instagram Italian? Does it even matter?
It’s reassuring that André, who appears to be such a naturally well-dressed guy, can also have doubts.
I think Carlton has now come full circle and is regarded as a pretty cool cat. So like many fashion association tends to go around and come around. I agree about the transcendence point!
There are surely more likeable examples but this article reminded me of Kanye West when he allegedly explained his reasoning for wearing odd things like a pink polo shirt. He thought (like all his peer) that those were really uncool but wanted to prove that he himself was cool enough to make them cool again just through his persona.
Associations will never go away because social groups will always exist in some form. And when you see clothes as communication (I guess we all do here) then you have to admit that associations are to some extent necessary if you want other people to receive the message.
Not sure what to make of this article. It seems far removed from the basis of this blog.
Sure, the quirky dress style is mildly interesting, but not seeing any “permanent ” style here.
I get it that style changes, but this a little out there to be stylish.
Agreed! Like you, I found the article mildly interesting, but far afield from anything approaching permanent style and thus more appropriate for fashionistas. I’ve also realized that I must be hopelessly plebeian and basic in my dress compared to this new group. For example, today I’m wearing my navy PS Friday button down polo, mid grey moleskin pants, and brown suede boots and love the simplicity of the look. This was the original PS concept of being simply well dressed, whether smart or casual, that I’ve found very useful. Perhaps that concept is changing somewhat as I’ve noticed more of these type articles over the last year or so that I would deem more appropriate for GQ readers. Well, so be it, but I’ll continue to take my sartorial cues from the original PS precepts and Cary Grant’s observation that simplicity is the essence of good taste.
To be clear Scott, that attitude hasn’t moved, it’s just that the spectrum has become a bit wider.
Of course I’m glad to hear this as I suspect are 98+percent of your readers. In this case however, it appears that the spectrum is very wide indeed and, as a result, of very limited value for the vast majority of PS readers who look to you for practical and useful ideas on how to improve their permanent style. For example, if you tried on similar clothes in photos 4 and 5 and looked in the mirror you’d see that this is not the look that either you or your readers want. Of course this is your site and you can publish what you want, but I’d suggest that your valuable is better spent on other topics.
Thanks Scott, and I understand. I think you might be surprised about how many readers find it interesting, given some of the other comments here, and the many people I talk to about this in person. One of the things I’m blessed with on PS is constant and frequent feedback (as indeed you have given kindly).
I also think it’s important to have perspective on quite how wide the spectrum is of casual clothing (much less so with tailoring) and how much adjacent areas have in common in things like colours, textures, and ways of wearing. I get consistent inspiration from women’s clothing, for example, even though it would be irrelevant to what the vast majority of readers actually wear.
Thanks for the discussion.
Yes,I agree completely that it’s important to know about the width of the spectrum of casual clothing. I admit that I find this subject fascinating, just not very useful. So, I wouldn’t go go overboard about this, but keeping your readers informed about the subject on occasion is helpful. Clearly you’ve made a bit of a shift to more discussions on casual clothing which is understandable given the trends. So please continue to help readers navigate the casual environment in terms of permanent style with the bulk of your writing on this matter. Have a productive week!
Thanks Scott, and absolutely will do
It’s a tightrope.
I couldn’t dress like Moteen for the intellectual satisfaction of destroying associations. It would be too eccentric, and to me aesthetically dissatisfying.
I also couldn’t ignore associations for aesthetic satisfaction, if I found it in a perfect costume of a social group or occupation I don’t belong to. That ends up just as eccentric in its own right, and is intellectually dissatisfying.
Dressing for rural Sweden while adoring tailored jackets, I know this struggle better than I would like to.
Thanks Andreas, nice comment and well put. That’s the kind of disagreement I appreciate – not saying someone looks like a clown
yeah i appreciate moteen for pushing the envelope, but to my eyes the style is too eccentric and not aesthetically pleasing. same way i feel about demna gvasalia at balenciaga..i appreciate what hes doing, but it aint for me.
I enjoyed the article. Maybe it’s trite but the older I get the more I think of dressing as a kind of continuous social conversation. ‘Style’ is the skill of navigating that conversation and achieving the desired self-presentation.
I’m also enjoying the gradual tilt away from pure classic menswear on PS towards some more contemporary looks. Watching very stylish historically CM guys figuring out more casual wardrobes is IMO the most exciting thing in menswear right now.
Couldn’t agree more Simon – I think it’s a sign of that world maturing in a way. Of finding their own path.
Nice phrase about social conversation.
Enjoyable article and certainly provoked some interesting responses. Moteen is one of the guys who as far as I can remember has worked in various clothes stores in London; whilst some may say his looks are over stylised I think he wears them well and along with his friendly, relaxed manner they suit him. Streetwear and more formal wear is not and easy combination to get right but he does it with aplomb, regardless of whether he puts effort in or not!
We are leaving permanent style to enter the world of fashion design here, which I personally find interesting too. Fashion is all about absorbing, digesting, recycling and mixing associations, over and over…
I have a very nice below the knees overcoat and it took me a little while to get comfortable wearing it as I felt like long coats had weird class/rank affiliations. Fully fledged physicians wear long coats while medical students wear short ones, officers in various militaries have longer coats than lower ranks, morning dress or white tie have longer coats than business suits or black tie, etc.
This made me laugh so much, ‘Congolese uncle’, the Sapeurs are bold dressers!
Having lived in Japan for 5 years and now currently living in Korea, I suppose I am fortunate that these so-called associations are virtually non-existent to 99% of the people in these countries. Whether I wear an oxford shirt and chinos or a black leather jacket on any given day, all I’ll hear from others around me is that I’m stylish, very well-dressed, fashionable, and the like!
Sounds wonderful Mike. Surprised there isn’t some association with Americans from some of those pieces, but I guess compared to Japan, Korea never had the same relationship?
Actually, now that you mention it, in both countries there is definitely some association that people have in their minds with Americans from clothing styles like the IVY/leather biker I mentioned. However, they’re all rather vague, loose, and more importantly, no one has any negative associations whatsoever, but all positive really!
This is my experience as well.
I wear American tassel loafers around and people just tell me they like my shoes, but I got many more compliments when I wore polished Red Wing Heritage boots around.
Andre what does Chic mean? Nobody ever seems to be able to answer this question… Doesn’t it just mean stylish in French? or French Stylishness?
Ironically JL, a little reading would help there – even just a quick search online would give some background, for example that it has come to mean someone dressed in a classy or simply stylish way, although sometimes with negative bourgeois associations
A couple of points: First, military influences on clothes and styles long precede the GI Bill or the counterculture’s adoption of the M-65 jacket. The very structure of the suit or sports jacket (or blazer) comes from the fact that a military tunic with a round collar, when opened at the top and folded back, essentially created lapels; and the round collar folded down created the collar of the modern jacket. Most of the variations in male clothing (navy blazers, for instance) can be connected in one way or the other to military clothing — or to sports and hunting.
Second, the practice of wearing khakis (chinos) also came from the military and the US practice of khakis being part of preppie/Ivy style is really only the most recent adaptation of khaki into civilian dress. Khaki was invented in the Indian Army, and it was also used by the police and in civilian clothing there for almost a hundred years before its adoption by preppies or college students in the US. I love khakis and wear them very often, not because I am part of the preppie/Ivy culture (I am not), but because, although an American citizen, I am of Indian heritage and like to preserve that connection with the old country.
I would agree that PS – as “world leader on bespoke, craft and luxury” – is exploring internal (semantic) boundaries here. And certainly I wouldn’t follow PS if there were no intentions like this !
Personally, I like each intelligent combination of menswear, which has a certain consistence, quality and authenticity. Attributions – positive like “stylish” or negative like “clownish” – are impossible to count the same way, as this would result in a lack of freedom of expression and discussion.
When it comes to a “dilemma of associations” this is inevitable – like changing situations in life, culture and history. If there were something like a stable, collective perception of dress-codes, there would be no need for PS !
When it comes to situative boundaries of showing, semiotics are needed for further explanations. As a hint: most of James Bond’s bespoke smoking-action ist more ridiculous (outside restricted film-language) than the “clownish” combination of menswear shown here.
I agree. There seems to be a trend for wearing puffer gilets with suits, but I can’t disassociate this look with what the guys working at hand car washes wear during winter.
A truly intelligent and thoughtful piece of writing with many psychological observations that I, personally, have also experienced with clothing. I too struggle with these tensions and possibilities. Certainly less successfully than Mr. Larnyoh — or probably 98% of PS Readers. But like all good writing this article captures a Universal Human struggling with ideas of culturally imposed identity and the search for self definition. The Universal Human is the North Star of the human condition. It’s good to see it, wherever it is, and however it expresses itself. The struggle is a contribution to a universal consciousness. God Bless.
Mr. Larnyoh’s contributions are always worth reading.
Wow. You’ve taken this to a new plane of understanding and in the process somehow summed up my life journey so far. Speechless.
Andre this is a serious question, what’s wrong with dressing like Carlton? He does look quite spiffy wouldn’t you say?
I realise this could come across as facetious, but I think you’d enjoy that side of tailoring if you allowed yourself the chance to embrace it. Chris Modoo is a good example of a menswear nerd who’s a regular citizen and who wears a navy blazer with panache yet without pretence. You could take a leaf out of his book if you like? Your friend Aleks Cvetcovic also knows how to put together punchy numbers with a navy blazer.
Something to consider perhaps.
I think it comes across as a little facetious JL,because it doesn’t really sound like you’ve read the article. The whole thing is about associations, and that look is clearly not what Andre wants the associations of. It would be more useful perhaps to address those points directly
A) Please read the article thoroughly.
B) Carlton was a square. Both in personality and style. No one wants to be a ▪️.
C) Believe me when I say that there is not a world where I would enjoy that side of tailoring. Going around in tartan trousers and a gold button in the life I live is just going to get me beaten up and rightly so.
Having read André’s interesting article thoroughly (I promise), I’m perceiving some unfairness in how commentators are being treated. Scott’s characterisation of Moteen’s pictured outfits as clownish drew an immediate wrist-slap from Simon, despite the fact that this is a post about associations and I suspect that “clown costume” was indeed an association that sprang to mind for more than a few readers upon seeing these photos, even those of us who fully support Moteen’s right to dress as he chooses. In contrast, André’s coda “and rightly so”, re his observation that wearing tartan trousers and a blazer with gold buttons would get him beaten up in his circles, hasn’t elicited a peep of protest in five days. Perhaps André intended—and Simon interpreted—something different from the accepted meaning of that phrase? Otherwise, it would appear that sanctioning physical violence for wearing classic tailoring in the “wrong” place is less objectionable on this site than using a mildly unflattering adjective to describe unorthodox outfits.
Thanks Mark, always keen to keep this useful and balanced.
I don’t really think that I’m sanctioning physical violence by keeping Andre’s comment.
In regards to the clown comment, it makes a difference that this is an actual person, not an abstract group. But importantly, the bigger issue is not using insulting language, it’s the fact that it doesn’t say anything useful, interesting or substantive. I want to encourage people to think more and contribute more, rather than just say something looks silly to them. That is far less useful or interesting.
To clarify, Simon, I meant that André’s “and rightly so” addendum appeared to sanction violence, not that you were sanctioning violence by keeping it. I was not asking you to delete this part of André’s comment. My point was that I found it unfair that André’s language passed without rebuke even though it seems a good deal more extreme to me than the clown comment which did attract your censure—I’m sure we can agree that a broken nose trumps bruised feelings.
Perhaps André added “and rightly so” in the heat of the moment, out of frustration with a reader he believed hadn’t read his post in its entirety. Nevertheless, those three little words turn what was merely a prediction about the outcome of wearing a classic outfit in André’s neighbourhood into a value judgment that said outcome would be deserved. I’m having difficulty seeing how this passes the test of being useful, interesting, or substantive. Your site does such a fine job of encouraging men to expand their range of clothing options and make space for street wear that it is just a bit jarring not to see the same tolerance extended in the other direction.
Thanks Mark. I can see your point – I guess there are a couple of subtle aspects to that. One is that I read Andre as joking there to a large extent. The second is that by definition people are interested in his opinion, as he’s the author. That doesn’t mean he can start, for example, calling people who reply to his article idiots, but it does mean he has more leeway
I’ll jump in here and say that my comment was for the most part a joke and partly aimed at myself. By adding “and rightly so” I’m taking aim at the fact that to wear that kind of outfit to an event where the environment is the complete contrast (a club night in Peckham for example) is to fail to read a room or the occasion.
Now, maybe it won’t literally get me beaten up, but it will definitely attract laughs and negative comments and I say this from (multiple!) past experience. I like to think that people got the gist of that, but I accept that maybe I should’ve made that clearer. In no way am I sanctioning violence against someone for that.
What I will say is that those who do refer to someone’s clothing as “Clownish” or in some other derogatory manner deservedly are rebuked and called out because they are plainly just insulting and attacking that which they either don’t understand or appreciate. Its not productive in anyway and I find it very jarring, childish and disappointing to still see people reacting in such a way to that which is different from what they are used to .
I hope this clears all this up!
I sincerely had not been aware until I read this article and the ensuing interesting discussion that some in the US might take my personal day to day style as in any way “trust fund kid”! Possibly this is because I’ve never had cause to visit North America. In a way my ignorance proves the point that associations are culturally and societally based: I hadn’t been conscious of the associations of the Trachten jacket either, but having Googled a little I appreciate Willem’s discomfort about wearing one in MittelEuropa. (A shame, as they are attractive items in themselves.)
On a personal level, this is a surprisingly timely article – I’ve started to introduce baseball caps into my daily wear, and am constantly (over)thinking of the various connotations this might draw out as I wander about with one on.
I love the Fresh Prince’s jacket in that picture
I’ve worn blue button-down shirts since I was 12 years old (I was wearing one just yesterday). That’s what I’ve always called them. I wore them from elementary school through college. I wore them to work; with jeans, with khakis, with suits. I didn’t learn about something called an Oxford (and the associations with Preppy or Ivy) until about five years ago. My only association with them was – I liked the look. I liked the way I looked wearing one. I’ve seen too many heroes in blue jeans, and too many criminals in 5-thousand dollar suits to put much stock in what a man is wearing.
I, too, used to avoid gold-button blazers because of their association with Carlton Banks. Now, I enjoy wearing gold-button blazers, in part because of their association with Carlton Banks.
But is transcendence really the goal here, Andre? I think for me, associations are just another ‘tool’ to have fun with. Sometimes I wear things specifically because I want that association…I would wear those leopard shoes ironically. I wear Vans with tailored outfits because I like the rock music association. I do a lot of sport, so I find it easy to work track pants and rugby tops into a smarter wardrobe. I also find associations help me narrow down wardrobe choices. As much as I like a trialmaster, or camo print, i just cannot get myself to wear them because I have no interest in motorcycles or the military. That said, thinking about it, there are definitely somethings I want but wouldn’t get because of what others will associate it with..piercings come to mind. Reckon transcendence is a goal in that case. Anyway, great food for thought, let’s see more of this.
That picture of Carlton Banks and Will Smith got me thinking about how they dress in relation to the PS idea of dressing well. I know it’s a sitcom, but stay with me…
Carlton Banks is a twerp. I pick the word “twerp” specifically because it seems like the kind of word he would use, and be slightly shocked that it would be applied to him. He’s essentially born into wealth (people familiar with the show will remember that he was very young when his family began their social and financial journey, and unlikely to remember much of that life), and embraces most negative stereotypes of young, well-to-do people (he also shows several good traits, but that’s an entirely different rant). But from a (permanent) style perspective, he does’t seem so bad. Obviously, his style is a caricature of preppy – California, new money preppy. On the other hand, he essentially wears the uniform of his peer group – he dresses as expected, to put people around him at ease and to acknowledge social conventions and expectations. Not exactly imaginative, and with a butler trained in the UK, you would perhaps expect a more personal touch to the tailoring, but if style is a social language, he definitely communicates who he is.
Granted, he’s a twerp. But I think many of us have stumbled into twerpery as we discovered our own style. And he’s authentically twerpy. He has no need to try and be “cool”, as mainstream society defines it.
Will Smith (the character, not the actor) seems like an aspiring peacock and the most petty of petty rebels by comparison. His entire style is contrarian – he’s not communicating anything except “I’m not like you!” He challenges the status quo for the sake of challenging it, and ironically the only reason he’s in the position to challenge anything it is because of his family brought him into the very social order he rebells against.
When it’s convenient. He may wear his blazer inside out or his tie as a bandana (stating that the academy dress-code requires the tie to be tied with a Windsor knot, but not specifying that it needs to be worn around the neck), but he still stays in the “rich kid” school who’s values he supposedly questions. He may dress up in street style when he goes slumming with Jazz, but he happily retreats back to the Bel Air mansion whenever things get uncomfortable. He doesn’t feel authentic in either role. And he happily mocks his uncle for his weight, showing that no matter your ethnicity or social group, it’s ALWAYS cool to make fun of fat people.
Of the two, Carlton seems by far more stylish, even if it’s not a style I would aspire to.
Then again, I’ve seen every episode of that show at least twice, it was on re-runs in Sweden for probably 20 years. Recycling is apparently big here…
Interesting analysis, Sams! I enjoyed reading your take.
Hi simon im aware horatio gyw loafers are made in asia/China. How is their quality as compared to say carmina or crockett rtw range? I like the horario shape though
I don’t know I’m afraid Shem, I haven’t tried them. The price obviously indicates something about the quality level though
“You need a supreme sense of self to do this, and I’ll be honest in saying that I am only halfway there.” What a beautiful statement!
For my office i usually wear Oxford shirt and chinos as a combination because the dress code isn’t smart and does not require a blazer. I would agree that whenever I have seen people wearing this combination in movies I have inadvertently thought of them as being associated with boring day jobs.
1) If I want to avoid such an association should I go for an Oxford shirt and some dressier cotton pants or wool trousers or maybe chinos with a denim or chambray shirt?
2) Could you advice on how does one avoid such associations if also a very simple combination of an Oxford shirt and chinos can have opinions?
There are lots of things you can do here Kailash. The first is simply fit and quality – have some trousers made, for example, and they’ll seem much more elegant. Or look into better chinos in terms of fit and finish, and they’ll look more put together, less of a boring default.
That’s probably mostly on point 2. On point 1, yes those are good ideas, particularly a light denim shirt – try getting just one, work it into your rotation, and see how you feel after a few weeks in terms of appropriateness and escaping a more standard appearance