Ivory Tower Style
Molapola made the terrible mistake of inviting me to write a guest post on the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney. I tried to make my review at least as vulgar as the show itself. Sample quote:

The blurb next to a shiny statue of Bob Hope tells us that “by transforming his lowbrow readymades into highbrow art and making his historical sources more contemporary, Koons achieves a kind of democratic leveling of culture.” I question how highbrow the art really is (“highbrow” is one of those terms, like “fornication,” that is mostly used by people who have only an imagined relationship with the concept in question), although the Whitney may actually believe that any art becomes highbrow by virtue of its being shown at the Whitney. But leaving that aside, Koons achieves a democratic leveling of culture by selling balloon dogs for $60 mil like Dolce and Gabbana achieves democratic leveling of fashion by selling $900 track pants.

Read the whole thing here.

Molapola made the terrible mistake of inviting me to write a guest post on the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney. I tried to make my review at least as vulgar as the show itself. Sample quote:

The blurb next to a shiny statue of Bob Hope tells us that “by transforming his lowbrow readymades into highbrow art and making his historical sources more contemporary, Koons achieves a kind of democratic leveling of culture.” I question how highbrow the art really is (“highbrow” is one of those terms, like “fornication,” that is mostly used by people who have only an imagined relationship with the concept in question), although the Whitney may actually believe that any art becomes highbrow by virtue of its being shown at the Whitney. But leaving that aside, Koons achieves a democratic leveling of culture by selling balloon dogs for $60 mil like Dolce and Gabbana achieves democratic leveling of fashion by selling $900 track pants.

Read the whole thing here.

FASHION IS DEAD! LONG LIVE FASHION!
The first catechism learned by every aspiring Internet Gentleman (which last year displaced Norm MacDonald’s infamous Crack Whore Trainee as the worst job in the world) is that their interest is in style, not fashion, which is for women, or possibly the gays (NTTAWWT). Style is meant to describe timeless grace, easy elegance, and all that rot, while fashion is about runway shows, new (probably Chinese or Russian) money, and brand whoring. One of the most trafficked menswear blogs is even called Permanent Style in homage to this shibboleth.
The second iGent catechism is that style was brought into its most perfect form at some time in the 30s by men of flawless taste and character, and set down in the pages of the trade publication Apparel Arts so that future generations might receive the good word that the question of what gentlemen should wear had been answered.
Anyone who has ever read even a couple of articles in Apparel Arts knows that this is a ruse.  AA was a trade publication. The main target audience was the retail industry. It was not (mainly) a magazine about how to buy or wear clothes. It was a magazine about how to sell clothes. That’s not to say that the ideas aren’t good or the illustrations aren’t charming. It’s a very well done magazine, the kind that hardly exists anymore. But that’s because today’s magazines are aimed at the customer, not the retailer. Hence the endless coverage of what Ryan Gosling is wearing or which of the fragrances sold at the Duty Free shop are most likely to get you in bed with Kate Upton.
But I digress from my thesis, which is that the first two iGent catechisms are contradictory. Apparel Arts never championed “timeless” dress. In fact, quite the opposite, as shown by this quotation, which I stumbled upon in Gent’s Gazette’s article on the drape cut:

…men have been less inclined to buy new suits simply because, but only when their old ones were worn out. Thus the men’s clothing industry has been in a long decline. For there has been nothing to accelerate suit buying, even when times were good, other than price, pattern, and color—all three very weak as compared to the slate wiping effect of a sudden and complete model change.
The war ended the age of style and inaugurated the age of fashion. That was not apparent at the time, but its truth has become increasingly evident every year since. In other words, the days when manufacturers could with impunity “put over a style,” in disregard of the trend of authentic fashion, were really at an end the moment the period of post-war disenchantment began. Some manufacturers learned the lesson soon, others late, but all learned it, some with greater sorrow than others, as the years rolled by. Fashion, for men, became concerned with minutiae of accessories and embellishments, brooking no change in the basic structure of “coat, vest, and pants”, in which sales, most naturally, lagged behind.
…
Draped clothing must be sold on an entirely new basis. That is the danger—and that is the big advantage. It offers a chance to wipe the slate clean—to batter down all the old conceptions—to make men realize that they need new suits now, not because the old ones are worn out, not because there is lofty economic patriotism in a “buy now” decision, but because, at last, the time has come when one’s old suits are “dated” by something more than wear.

Read carefully here. Not only does the author lament that the basic structure of coat, vest, and pants remains unchanged, he calls this era of ossification the Age of Fashion. And he calls what preceded it - presumably with a rapid churn of different cuts and details, which accelerated suit-buying - the Age of Style. So not only is style not permanent, even the matching of word to concept is not permanent. Apparel Arts, iGent Bible, did indeed advocate for “style, not fashion.” But in doing so it meant the exact opposite of what the phrase means today.

FASHION IS DEAD! LONG LIVE FASHION!

The first catechism learned by every aspiring Internet Gentleman (which last year displaced Norm MacDonald’s infamous Crack Whore Trainee as the worst job in the world) is that their interest is in style, not fashion, which is for women, or possibly the gays (NTTAWWT). Style is meant to describe timeless grace, easy elegance, and all that rot, while fashion is about runway shows, new (probably Chinese or Russian) money, and brand whoring. One of the most trafficked menswear blogs is even called Permanent Style in homage to this shibboleth.

The second iGent catechism is that style was brought into its most perfect form at some time in the 30s by men of flawless taste and character, and set down in the pages of the trade publication Apparel Arts so that future generations might receive the good word that the question of what gentlemen should wear had been answered.

Anyone who has ever read even a couple of articles in Apparel Arts knows that this is a ruse.

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Blaggers

(sung to the tune of ‘Royals’ by Lorde)

I’ve never seen a rental tux in the flesh
I taught the rules of wedding dress to the forums
And I’m not proud of my URL
And the blogs I write, no traffic envy

But every post is like new suit, fresh shoes, selfie in the bathroom,
Sprezz photos, no socks, instakoppin’ Karthoum,
We don’t care, we’re getting reblogged in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Pitti wall, first class, posin’ with your pocket square,
Seven folds, tartans, patina on a Corsair,
We don’t care, we got our own black tie affair.

And we’ll never be blaggers (blaggers).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe swap ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your Tumblr (Tumblr)
You can “like” my selfie
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me wear that Aubercy.

My e-friends and iGents, we ignore la mode.
We count on style and not fashion unless it’s Arnys.
And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this,
We don’t blog for money.

But every post is like new suit, fresh shoes, selfie in the bathroom,
Sprezz photos, no socks, instakoppin’ Karthoum,
We don’t care, we’re getting reblogged in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Pitti wall, first class, posin’ with your pocket squares,
Seven folds, tartans, patina on a Corsair,
We don’t care, we got our own black tie affair.

And we’ll never be blaggers (blaggers).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe swap ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your Tumblr (Tumblr)
You can “like” my selfie
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me wear that Aubercy.

Each of us have the parts of our wardrobe where we feel more adventurous and those where we find ourselves returning to the comfort of familiarity. Maybe it’s not surprising that pants, being the garment that covers the most sensitive parts, are an area in which men are quite risk averse. Most tend to wear blue jeans with casual wear, and gray wool pants - perhaps in flannel for the winter and fresco for the summer - with sportcoats. Add in cotton or linen pants in some shade of beige and you have already described maybe nine out of ten of the non-suit pants worn by well-dressed men.    
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There are good reasons for this conservatism even apart from a desire to avoid promiscuity in what girds your loins. Anything unusual calls for attention, and your lower half is generally not where you’d like people to focus. Consider that the most easily recognizable loud pants are worn for golf, Nantucket, and Ivy League universities, which is quite a powerful troika of douchebaggery.
Still, it might be nice to wear something other than light gray flannels all winter long. So I therefore present to you…(drumroll)…the light BROWN flannel. It’s not light gray, but it’s unobtrusive enough to keep people from staring at your crotch all day long.
It seems like a simple idea, but I couldn’t to find flannel I wanted in the right shade and weight. Luckily I was able to use Greg of No Man Walks Alone to convince Fox to do a special run of fabric for us in a 14/15 ounce weight.*
You can see in picture above the yarn that will be used to weave the cloth. Underneath the yarn is my jacket made of London Lounge oats linen, to provide as a point of comparison a cloth that some of you might know. Since this is a special fabric Fox is designing and making just for us, they had no swatch to send us, and the cost of making a test run proved prohibitive. But I’m expecting it to be just a bit browner than the pants on the smoking mustochioed gent on the right in this picture, from Apparel Arts via Gentleman’s Gazette:

and a little less yellow than the pants on the guy (unfortunately also wearing a neckerchief and playing golf) in this Apparel Arts picture from the 1934 Summer/Resort wear issue (back then, flannel was considered a summer fabric):

The caption confirms that gray flannels were already getting a bit tired 80 years ago: “The fawn colored slack, of course, comes in as a successor to the grey flannel slack, which was just about eligible for a pension anyway.”
14/15 ounces is a pretty hefty weight, but I believe it’s the right one. The extra weight helps the pants fall straighter and move more gracefully as you walk. Or dance, as Fred Astaire does here in a suit made of Fox Flannel (Fox actually held a trademark on ‘Flannel’ until the 50s). Note how the trouser cuffs stay right around his ankles as he jumps around the dance floor with Eleanor Powell. Compare with Obama’s trousers in this video. A mere leisurely stroll causes his cuffs to go flouncing around like a Vegas showgirl. If the leader of the free world can’t make lightweight trousers fall straight, the author of this blog will not even try. So 15 ounces it is. Overheating is mostly a problem on the top half anyway, since that’s where you wear more layers. 
If you want to join me in ordering some of this fabric, send me an email at david@nomanwalksalone.com. Price is $140/m. Delivery is expected in early September, which should give us just enough time to get our pants made in time for the cold weather.  

*Full disclosure: I am the editor the No Man Walks Alone blog, but I receive no commission on sales of this cloth or any other product. I am paying full price for the fabric I ordered, which I hope will become two pairs of pants before winter strikes.

Each of us have the parts of our wardrobe where we feel more adventurous and those where we find ourselves returning to the comfort of familiarity. Maybe it’s not surprising that pants, being the garment that covers the most sensitive parts, are an area in which men are quite risk averse. Most tend to wear blue jeans with casual wear, and gray wool pants - perhaps in flannel for the winter and fresco for the summer - with sportcoats. Add in cotton or linen pants in some shade of beige and you have already described maybe nine out of ten of the non-suit pants worn by well-dressed men.    

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A NEW PLACE
I have moved to New York for a few months, which means that I have an obligation to become completely insufferable to all non-New Yorkers, starting with whichever of you fall into that category. Thus this self-centered, rambling post. 
I have always worried that I’m not cool enough to live in New York. I don’t really know what the young kids are wearing these days. My single, lonely, unloved pair of blue jeans probably rue the day they first went home with me. The very idea of associating blue jeans with coolness probably became obsolete a few years before I was born, but lives on in my anachronistic brain.
There was a brief moment on my last day in DC when I thought my current wardrobe had been granted a last minute pardon from a semester of “why are you so dressed up?” questions. Someone whom I admire greatly told me, “Nobody wears jeans in Brooklyn anymore.” (“Oh?”) But then my hopes were dashed. “Everybody wears sweatpants now.” (“Oh.”) 
I remember just before I went to college telling a (probably appalled) family friend that I looked forward to an opportunity to reinvent myself on a blank slate of complete strangers. There’s a temptation - for everyone, but young people especially -  to believe that if you were just a different person, you’d be so much happier.
This time I’m moving to a place that isn’t so strange and with a self that has grown less malleable. I am not planning a reinvention. But places, like great books, are mirrors, and each distorts our reflection in a different way. When confronted with a new one, we can see ourselves in ways that we didn’t before. As I get to know this city better, I hope I will get to know a new part of myself, too. But I don’t think I’ll be buying any sweatpants.     

A NEW PLACE

I have moved to New York for a few months, which means that I have an obligation to become completely insufferable to all non-New Yorkers, starting with whichever of you fall into that category. Thus this self-centered, rambling post. 

I have always worried that I’m not cool enough to live in New York. I don’t really know what the young kids are wearing these days. My single, lonely, unloved pair of blue jeans probably rue the day they first went home with me. The very idea of associating blue jeans with coolness probably became obsolete a few years before I was born, but lives on in my anachronistic brain.

There was a brief moment on my last day in DC when I thought my current wardrobe had been granted a last minute pardon from a semester of “why are you so dressed up?” questions. Someone whom I admire greatly told me, “Nobody wears jeans in Brooklyn anymore.” (“Oh?”) But then my hopes were dashed. “Everybody wears sweatpants now.” (“Oh.”) 

I remember just before I went to college telling a (probably appalled) family friend that I looked forward to an opportunity to reinvent myself on a blank slate of complete strangers. There’s a temptation - for everyone, but young people especially -  to believe that if you were just a different person, you’d be so much happier.

This time I’m moving to a place that isn’t so strange and with a self that has grown less malleable. I am not planning a reinvention. But places, like great books, are mirrors, and each distorts our reflection in a different way. When confronted with a new one, we can see ourselves in ways that we didn’t before. As I get to know this city better, I hope I will get to know a new part of myself, too. But I don’t think I’ll be buying any sweatpants.     

nomanwalksalone:

FORCED TO TRAVEL LIGHT
by David Isle
Travel rewards improvisation more than inflexibile, even if careful, planning. Something always goes wrong. My current trip began with disaster. After years of assiduously limiting myself to carry-ons for years, the exigencies of two weeks in Naples, one on the Amalfi coast, and a few Pitti-ful days in Florence, followed by a wedding in Rhode Island on the way back home to Washington forced me to check luggage. Which, of course, the airline lost.
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Well, I didn’t exactly plan a two-month lacuna in this blog, but between traveling (see above) and writing for other blogs (also see above, among others), it just happened.
But now I have arrived in Florence and will turn my attentions to Pitti #menswear for 4 days straight on behalf of Styleforum. My introductory post is here, but you can get full coverage from me and Synthese, who will write about Streetwear and Denim, by following the pitti86 tag on Styleforum.
A presto.

nomanwalksalone:

FORCED TO TRAVEL LIGHT

by David Isle

Travel rewards improvisation more than inflexibile, even if careful, planning. Something always goes wrong. My current trip began with disaster. After years of assiduously limiting myself to carry-ons for years, the exigencies of two weeks in Naples, one on the Amalfi coast, and a few Pitti-ful days in Florence, followed by a wedding in Rhode Island on the way back home to Washington forced me to check luggage. Which, of course, the airline lost.

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Well, I didn’t exactly plan a two-month lacuna in this blog, but between traveling (see above) and writing for other blogs (also see above, among others), it just happened.

But now I have arrived in Florence and will turn my attentions to Pitti #menswear for 4 days straight on behalf of Styleforum. My introductory post is here, but you can get full coverage from me and Synthese, who will write about Streetwear and Denim, by following the pitti86 tag on Styleforum.

A presto.

Online discussion forums are like fish colonies - they glisten with activity, attract predators, and have very short memories. Styleforum is no different. I only joined in 2011, so I can’t claim to have experienced the “good old days” as longer tenured members love to do so much. But I have spent a fair amount of time reading threads that predate my membership. The nostalgia for those more innocent times has led to some distortion of what the forum was like back then (mostly there were just more and better inside jokes and snark), but there’s quite a bit of valuable content that has been forgotten. Here are some of my favorite threads from days of yore:
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Sartorial Mythbusting  
Starts off with a discussion on the value of handwork, quickly becomes a technical discussion of tailoring, especially of the Savile Row firm Anderson and Sheppard. Jefferyd stars throughout (side note: a pretty efficient method for finding decent SF threads new and old is just to search through jefferyd’s posts. Also, read his excellent blog). The image I’ve posted above is from his discussion of coat balance here. As an added bonus, you get to hear Film Noir Buff’s views on glory hole clientele, one of his last posts before getting banned.
Navy Hopsack Suit
Mostly valuable for Vox's interesting posts on class in America and its relation to clothing, with Film Noir Buff as a fail foil. There’s also some stuff about hopsack.
Get Foofed

If Styleforum is a fish colony, Mafoofan would be the puffer fish. This post gives you a pretty good idea of how the typical Foo thread goes. But amid all the posturing, Foo also has good taste in clothing and a meticulous attention to detail. The photoshopped “after” pics are actually improvements, in ways that are instructive and generalizable.
Bespoke: The Beginning of the End
RSS, who started this thread, might have more bespoke pieces than any other Styleforum member. The thread includes many prominent members (heh) discussing why they choose to order bespoke clothing, and from which tailor(s).
Kiton - What’s Inside
Unfortunately a lot of these pics are no longer up, but someone cut open a Kiton suit and took pictures of the almost entirely machine-made insides. He meets nuclear-reactor-thick walls of denial as Kiton-lovers insist that the pictures are either a hoax, nothing new, or irrelevant. Six years later, the Kiton marketing pitch hasn’t changed noticeably.
CBD WAYWRN
I can’t make a list of old SF threads and not include a Manton (author of this excellent book) thread. This thread is the more conscientious offspring of Manton’s earlier parody CBD threads, and the ancestor of still-alive-but-on-life-support good taste thread. The typical Manton thread starts with a terrible photograph of him wearing nice clothing, proceeds with scores of Manton groupies posting pictures to face his judgement, and ends dozens of pages of WWMD posts from by these same groupies long after the man himself has abandoned the thread. This thread is no different.   
Critique my Jantzen

Maybe the funniest thread ever on SF.

Online discussion forums are like fish colonies - they glisten with activity, attract predators, and have very short memories. Styleforum is no different. I only joined in 2011, so I can’t claim to have experienced the “good old days” as longer tenured members love to do so much. But I have spent a fair amount of time reading threads that predate my membership. The nostalgia for those more innocent times has led to some distortion of what the forum was like back then (mostly there were just more and better inside jokes and snark), but there’s quite a bit of valuable content that has been forgotten. Here are some of my favorite threads from days of yore:

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pnpfirenze:

A special thanks to David of STYLEFORUM to wrote this great article about us…Please read it and enjoy
http://www.styleforum.net/t/386587/a-visit-to-pn-p-firenze

My story on Styleforum about my visit to PN\P in Florence.

pnpfirenze:

A special thanks to David of STYLEFORUM to wrote this great article about us…
Please read it and enjoy

http://www.styleforum.net/t/386587/a-visit-to-pn-p-firenze

My story on Styleforum about my visit to PN\P in Florence.

Your Online Dating Profile is Boring
I have been resisting writing this post for a while, because 1) I like to pretend I have the shred of self-respect required to prevent oneself from writing blog posts about online dating, and 2) I had assumed there were already hundreds of these types of posts floating around the Internet. Well, apparently whatever is out there already is not yet enough to stem the tide of drowningly dull online dating profiles, because I just read the most boring one yet. 
An online dating profile is a collection of random personal facts that would not be of the slightest interest to someone who did not want to see you naked. Even the best of them are just lists of culture particles hoping to collide with someone else’s list, with inane conversation as a byproduct (“OMG you like the Wire too?!!?”). The worst are those that mean to be clever but are in fact as tired as a plantation mule (“Hahaha I am useless before I have coffee in the morning!” “But you’re also useless after you’ve had coffee…”).
Perhaps we shouldn’t blame the profile authors. The questions on these sites practically beg for insipid responses: “Six things you can’t do without” (“definitely family #1! #soblessed”; “air”), etc etc. The best way to generate an entertaining profile is to ask questions that aren’t personal. It’s the only way to get to know somebody. Personal questions are dangerous because they generate the impression that any fact about someone’s life is intrinsically interesting, which is false. Beautiful women and rich men are the only ones that never discover this. I don’t really care that you’re the youngest of three or that your favorite part of the year is a tie between fall and spring.
My suggestion is to ignore the questions entirely and just talk about something more interesting instead. For example:
"I thought about which six things I couldn’t do without but rescued myself from the brink of suicide by instead thinking about how many french fries could fit in a Volkswagen Beetle. I’m talking about the original design, not the Barbie-besmirched New Beetle 1997 relaunch, nor the fakakta Beetle A5 currently on the market. But I’m going to be filling it with modern-sized french fries. This may seem anachronistic, but finding good data from the 50s on french fry size is difficult, and consider that there are some vintage Beetles out there that could hypothetically be filled with french fries made today…."
And so on. The use of dysfunctional logic and made-up facts is encouraged. But show your work.
Whatever you do, please do not:
Quote Marilyn Monroe. In particular, do not use the quote, “If you can’t take me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.” I’m looking at you, a third of the women on all dating sites.
Also don’t use this quote: “Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free until they find someone just as wild to run with them.”
Or this one: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Everyone else may be taken, but they’re also using the same #inspirational quotes as you.
Call yourself a “transplant.” (e.g. “I’m a Cleveland transplant who moved here for law school two years ago…”) 
Look for a “partner in crime” who can “keep up with you.”
Claim you “love to travel” and then just list all the countries you’ve visited. Better to spend a paragraph describing one travel experience and why it was important to you. (“Machu Picchu is so amazing” does not count.)
I don’t know if it matters much. Most people probably only look at the pictures anyway. But if you’re not going to write something worth reading in your profile, you might as well do the rest of us a favor and just leave it blank. My self-respect has now been renounced, but you can still hold on to yours.

Your Online Dating Profile is Boring

I have been resisting writing this post for a while, because 1) I like to pretend I have the shred of self-respect required to prevent oneself from writing blog posts about online dating, and 2) I had assumed there were already hundreds of these types of posts floating around the Internet. Well, apparently whatever is out there already is not yet enough to stem the tide of drowningly dull online dating profiles, because I just read the most boring one yet.

An online dating profile is a collection of random personal facts that would not be of the slightest interest to someone who did not want to see you naked.

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Styleforum member ghostface recently asked the forum why men often feel somewhere between ambivalent and ashamed of their interest in style. He suggests that the uneasiness lies in the potential for clothes to ignore or hide our inner, truer selves, to clear more space for an outer, superficial self. My response draws on some of the ideas I explored in this post - that the division between a true inner self and a pretending superficial self is a false dichotomy, and that clothes are at least as much an opportunity for self-discovery and self-reinvention as self-deceit. I’m bringing this discussion to the blog because I think it’s interesting, because I hope more people will join into the discussion on the forum, and because if I’m doing all this writing I might as well post it as many places as I can. Just be glad I’m not printing up flyers and helicopter-dropping them on Pitti Uomo.
 Ghostface’s most recent response is that even if we don’t have a complete schism between our self and our style, at least there is a tension. Shouldn’t we be worried that we will be satisfied with just looking the part, without developing the character?  It’s true that Superman’s costume is not what makes him Superman. He’s also a fictional character, presented to us by a comic book. The story writers show us the parts of his life that they consider the most engaging and telling of his character. 
I think we have the same right to exercise some editorial control over how our own lives are presented to the people around us. This, to me, is not a lie - it’s a crucial part of faithful storytelling. Imagine everyone around you could read your mind at all times, so that there was no barrier at all between your thoughts and their perception. Do you think this would present the “truest” version of yourself? Every time you were tempted by some awful transgression you would seem a sociopath. Every thrill from a brief consideration of the long fall from bridge to river would make you seem suicidal. Every casual fantasy involving a random stranger makes you a pervert. But are you really any of those things? The fact that I choose to hide these impulses and present a more artful facade is as much a part of who I am as the fact they exist in the first place. How someone wants to be seen is an integral part of who they are. The performance is its own reality.
The human craving for intimacy will remain unsatisfied with this sort of interaction. We want there to be one golden nugget at the center of every soul, and if we can each just peel off all our layers of ore and pyrite, then we can shine together. We are always disappointed. 
I recently read a book called Joe Gould’s Secret, by Joseph Mitchell, whom I consider one of the best ten writers of the 20th century. It’s the true story of a homeless bohemian who claimed to be writing the greatest work of history the world had ever seen, which he called An Oral History of Our Time, supposed to be thousands of pages long. I’m going to give away the ending of the story - Mitchell discovered in the course of knowing and writing about Gould that his great work did not exist. All he had done was write down four or five stories from his life over and over again. Mitchell ruminates after discovering Gould’s secret:

I suddenly felt a surge of genuine respect for Gould. He had declined to stay in Norwood and live out his life as Pee Wee Gould, the town fool. If he had to play the fool, he would do it on a larger stage, before a friendlier audience. He had come to Greenwich Village and had found a mask for himself, and he had put it on and kept it on. The Eccentric Author of a Great, Mysterious, Unpublished Book — that was his mask. And, hiding behind it, he had created a character a good deal more complicated, it seemed to me, than most of the characters created by the novelists and playwrights of his time. I thought of the variety of ways he had seen himself through the years and of the variety of ways others had seen him. There was the way the principal of the school in Norwood had seen him — a disgusting little bastard. There was the way Ezra Pound had seen him — a native hickory. There was the way the know-it-all Village radical had seen him — a reactionary parasite. There were a great many of these aspects, and I began to go over them in my mind. He was the catarrhal child, he was the son who knows that he has disappointed his father, he was the runt, the shrimp, the peanut, the half-pint, the tadpole, he was Joe Gould the poet, he was Joe Gould the historian, he was Joe Gould the wild Chippewa Indian dancer, he was Joe Gould the greatest authority in the world on the language of the sea gull, he was the banished man, eh was the perfect example of the solitary nocturnal wanderer, he was the little rat, he was the one and only member of the Joe Gould Party, he was the house bohemian of the Minetta Tavern, he was the Professor, he was the Sea Gull, he was Professor Sea Gull, he was the Mongoose, he was Professor Mongoose, he was the Bellevue boy.

In a Herculean act of generosity, Mitchell does not confront Gould with what he has discovered. He remembers something Gould wrote in one of his few published articles:

I suffer from delusions of grandeur. I believe that I am Joe Gould.


Here fantasy and identity form a complete union. In some ways Joe Gould is a pathetic character. He has conceived himself entirely as a mirage. It takes a truly stylish person like Mitchell to see the entirety of Joe Gould, and find some level of intimacy with him by sharing his fantasy rather than puncturing it. 

The fear of discovery surely kept Joe Gould from sharing more of his life with friends. Not everyone can be as generous as Joseph Mitchell. But we all have these delusions, even if not on the scale of Joe Gould. If we can allow each other these delusions as a part of who we are, and together form a more perfect fantasy, we might all find more genuine respect for our fellow humans. This seems to me a better solution than asking for the end of delusion.

Styleforum member ghostface recently asked the forum why men often feel somewhere between ambivalent and ashamed of their interest in style. He suggests that the uneasiness lies in the potential for clothes to ignore or hide our inner, truer selves, to clear more space for an outer, superficial self. My response draws on some of the ideas I explored in this post - that the division between a true inner self and a pretending superficial self is a false dichotomy, and that clothes are at least as much an opportunity for self-discovery and self-reinvention as self-deceit. I’m bringing this discussion to the blog because I think it’s interesting, because I hope more people will join into the discussion on the forum, and because if I’m doing all this writing I might as well post it as many places as I can. Just be glad I’m not printing up flyers and helicopter-dropping them on Pitti Uomo.

Ghostface’s most recent response is that even if we don’t have a complete schism between our self and our style, at least there is a tension. Shouldn’t we be worried that we will be satisfied with just looking the part, without developing the character?

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