Men: What The Hell Happened?

Eric Renderking Fisk | December 1st, 2018

Let me start this by disclosing some of my own hypocrisy in this topic. Doug Palumbo is far too happy to remind me that I told him about one of my own fashion mistakes that I made similar to the man in the right hand side of that photo. For a while back in the late 1980’s I once wore with a fedora a very used and beat up motorcycle jacket, brown spandex pants with a red stripe down the sides, and combat boots. I’m sure that if someone has pictures of me in that outfit, they would try to ransom a neat sum of money out of me for it.

The point of this rant isn’t to tell you the outfit above is horrible, or why it’s horrible, or if characters like that should be allowed out in public and arrested for public indecency. My thesis here is that we have the right to look at something like that and share our opinion, and that I feel a sense of betrayal when those of us in the Jazz Era Retrocentric Community try and chide us for it. I really don’t need the lecture from our own who say we don’t have the right to voice our opinion.

I don’t like what I see, and I don’t want more of it or have that style imposed on me. There, I said it.

Betrayed by our own kind for the sake of "tolorance?"

Bryan Mitchell is the latest Facebook friend of mine to take some friendly fire over this meme that he posted on his profile page. He’s not the first and I’m sure he won’t be the last but for some reason, I was compelled to say something on this topic. One of the things that struck me was how a fellow vintage aficionado took him to task…

Specifically, What irks me more than the outfit on the right side of that meme is how some of our own fellow Jazz Era Aficionados are defending that outfit and chiding us who say that we hate it and we're repulsed by it.

“Vivre et laisser vivre" wrote one person, which translates to “Live and Let Live…”

A second jazz era retro-centric wrote;

“This 'holier than thou' finger-pointing bullshit attitude in the vintage enthusiasts community needs to stop. 'Nuff said. Yes, this outfit is ugly in your standards, but does that mean he's gotta stop everything and start dressing like you think he should? On a side note whoever took this pic is a douche. Happened to me and my sweetheart countless times in the subway to see someone sneaking a picture of us. That doesn't feel good at all and is beyond rude imho. I'm with Ludivine here, live and let live. Rant over!”

A third friend of Bryan's wrote;

You're so right! Posts like that are so childish and easy to compile - and they always ignite loads of pompous and self righteous comments :/ It could just as well look like this:

... Nothing much has changed since the sixties … or the 1260's for that matter. Old people have always tried to make the younger generation sing their own, old tune. If they had succeeded in the 1700's, we would all wear white, powdered wigs

As an aside, I have to agree with this assessment to an extent and admit that some of us do get that grumpy old man mentality and our tone is a bit hypocritical and snooty when trying to defend our own style. But I digress...

Bryan’s response;

“You’re absolutely right. Trends come and go, and many of us stick to what was hottest or what we liked best during one period or another. Many of us change with the times, or simply just create a style of our own. And still many of us fling criticisms at each other for being different.”

As for me, I choose to emulate what I consider to be “the best style and fashion trend in history”—that is, the style of the 1940s—which, by the way, was long before I was even a sparkle in my grandmother’s peepers.

Now, for me to claim on my Facebook page, or anywhere else for that matter—humorously or critically—that the hottest fashion trends of the 1940s were superior to any others in history is about as pompous and pointless as asserting that chocolate ice cream beats vanilla. “Live and let live,” as the wise one above so diplomatically declared.

Tell you a secret, though: I’m actually grateful for people who disagree with me. And I’m especially grateful for those who show their disagreement so vehemently—like that screwball in the Martian clothes I posted above. After all, they help make me look good. Damn good! (Yes, I’m gonna keep on tellin’ myself that, thank you very much. ;) )

Then again, like the Dude would say: “Your opinion, man.” (The Dude dressed like hell too, by the way, but he was still “The Dude.”)

As a jazz-era style aficionado, 30’s and 40’s era retro-centric, and Bryan is a brother in vintage threads I have to side with him for reasons that are obvious for all Fedora Chronicles readers. By agreeing with him and echoing his sentiments with my own virtual I’m well aware that I’m inviting harsh criticism and angry responses and I except the fact that while I’m allowed to have my opinions and post harsh critiques, people are allowed to do the same over what I’ve written here. I won’t be swayed but others will try.

Live and Let Die Style Trends...

I have been a “dieselpunk” since 1982, meaning that I have been mixing my own modern style with elements from the jazz decades for more than 36 years. As the casual reader of The Fedora Chronicles and my other writings will tell you; I’ve taken a lot of heat and received some of my own jabs for it. Some of the comments I’ve received are just as bad – and a lot worse – than what some of our friends said about the wardrobe worn in the right half of that picture.

Those comments used to hurt long ago but I’ve grown accustomed to it and with some knowledge of sociology, psychology, and psychiatry I understand perfectly well why I was the target of some insults. Most of it has to do with the sense of “tribe” and that members of any tribe need to conform to the norms and standards of the group. Only a select few are allowed to deviate from the norm, either the elite trend-setters in the society or the lone wolves who were already expelled from the group or left on their own accord to pioneer new territories and begin a community of their own.

We have an innate revulsion from things that are too far outside the norm, and people who feel marginalized already feel a special level of resentment when someone goes too far in the opposite direction of where we’re trying to go while one our try to defend that. It’s even worse when someone in our own community is trying to encourage us to actually approve and accept that “style.” They believe that because we know what it’s like to be disrespected for our choices, we ought to be the “better person” and gush about how “wonderful” that guy is and maybe we ought to be a bit more like him. Somehow we’re bad people for saying that outfit on the right side of that meme is repulsive. That smacks of betrayal.

Let’s also ignore the fact that as a man with two degrees in graphic design I can site three or four elements and principals of design that make his outfit obnoxious and painful on the eyes. That's not the point this time.

Make No Mistake, You're going to like it whether you want to or not!

Posts like this often invite comments from others that state something to the extent that "this" is where fashion is going, so I might a well get used to it. I'm cutting those people off now by saying... I don't like it and I'm not going to partake. I get to say, no - that's not where I am going.

Regardless of what the other "experts" say, I am allowed to look at a spring or fall fashion line from someone by the likes of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and tell you that I hate it for various reasons or no reason at all. I should post somewhere on Facebook or Twitter and tell you that his line is little more than overpriced garbage you should find only in the dumpster behind second-hand clothing stores. I am allowed to read the article “A Gucci Explainer: Why Everyone Is Talking About the Italian Label Again” by Gregory Babcock and a specific passage and be offended by the insinuation of it.

“And there’s a reason you should pay attention, too; while Michele’s menswear might fly in the face of the uber-cool minimalism in your current rotation, make no mistake: Gucci is coming for your closet, too.”

What is Mr. Babcock saying? My closet is going to be taken over by the designs of a man I regard as an idiot. Just when I thought my wardrobe was safe from the nausea-inducing patters and clunky fabrics of the polyester era, it’s coming back like a horrible case of garment herpes. The “make no mistake” insinuation means that I’m going to become a “fan” of that garbage because I don’t have a mind of my own.

What this really means is that’s where the fashion trend is going, and we are powerless to stop it and we’re going to submit to it eventually so they believe we might as well stop fighting and resisting and go along with it now and just get it over with. It’s the idea that everyone is a mindless drone and everyone “must” submit to a trend even if it causes the same visceral reaction that you get when you catch a whiff of rotting flesh and see a corpse consumed with maggots along the side of the road in the middle of a hot summer afternoon.

We don’t like it, we don’t’ want it. As to many people know I have a problem with being told to submit.

To answer the question of this meme, “what the hell happened?” I’ll tell you in blunt terms.

What the hell happened is that fashionistas and clothing designers decided to take us back in time and do something retro, but they don’t want take us back to a time where we want to go and rather take us to a period men like Bryan and I and our peers the vintage style community are still trying to forget. This takes me to a greater issue that I’ve had for the past few years with many fashion designers who are trying to bring back the “grunge” look of the early 1990s, which was mere recycling of the trash from the leisure/casual wear of the 1970s. There’s a reason why those fashions died a quick death and were mocked for years afterward.

What the hell happened is that these designers to never bothered to learn the lessons that have been taught over the past decades about what fabrics, textures, and patterns work and what others don’t. They have never learned any basic understanding of color theory in society and why some colors work and other’s don’t, why men prefer specific hues and tones and shun others.

What the hell happened is that the "Casual Friday" movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s turned into Casual Thursdays and Fridays... then "Business Casual" for the rest of the week, and then finally to "we're just glad you're not in just your underwear" attitude by employers. Somewhere I have a link to a study that found a link between "casual work culture" at work to a lack of pride in one's appearance and the decline of productivity. It's here somewhere, but I'm too lazy to Google it for you.

What the hell happened is that too many people stopped giving a damn.

But in terms of what happened with those of us in the vintage style community; we have traded discernment for the illusion of tolerance. If we tolerate them maybe they’ll tolerate us. We think that if we allow them to wear what they want they’ll leave us alone but in my experience that’s not the case. As they go further in a direction like that, they’re even angrier with us that we’re remaining further behind. We’re “tolerant” of people who are pushing the boundaries of style and fashion, and that’s a fine and noble thing, but we also need to be sure that we’re respected for the choices we’re making for staying put with our vintage wear.

What the hell happened is that we forgot that since we dieselpunks, jazz era enthusiasts and retrocentrics can take it, we can also dish it out. And dish it out better with style and witty comebacks.

I wish all of us in this genre would unanimously say that everyone has the right to be wrong about their style of dress once in a while but there are just somethings that are just horrible and leave it at that.

I don't like that outfit, I would never wear it, and I'm embarrased by it. Don't try and tell me I'm a bad person for saying so.

The best, and perhaps the only thing to do is say your peace, commiserate with like-minded people, perseverate over this long enough to write a lengthy response or rant, then treat yourself to something really good from your favorite retro-wear vendors. Put your dollars where your fashion sense lies while supporting some of our friends.