So much Fashion, so little style. But it’s always been that way. Fashion is what comes and goes from one season to the next; Style is a certain flair in one’s self-presentation. It isn’t about talent or substance or class. As American journalist George Frazier used to say, to have class you have to be an extraordinarily decent human being, but any son- of- a- bitch can have style. Class is character, style is the polish of self-presentation.
Which doesn’t mean it’s not important because, to some extent, it indicates the outward manifestation of self-respect and pays tribute to those attributes of personality and individuality we show the world. As Lord Chesterfield put it: In society, it’s better to take people as they are, rather than as they really are.
Great men of style develop a sense of how to attune their appearance by learning what works for them, what they should avoid and what they could accentuate. It’s an act of self-creation, a coinage of one’s own minting. It’s no use trying to emulate someone else’s style and make it your own, but you should study others and incorporate. Propriety is one thing, and a certain sense of correctness is important. But it’s those individual details that make life interesting. Style comes from subtlety and from deepening the ordinary in life.
The one thing that’s so often missing is that dressing should be a great sense of personal pleasure. And this is where quality and craftsmanship tend to enter the picture. Quality means the best buy for the money. Two good pair of shoes rather than six cheap ones. The consideration of longevity, not just initial expense. Shouldn’t real luxury mean the least expensive in the long run of things?
I’m fond of quoting John Ruskin, the Victorian era’s leading art critic on this point:
"There is practically nothing in this world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper. And he who considers only the price is that man’s lawful prey."
Best to keep in mind the wonderful phrase lawful prey. Something truly fine, something that becomes an old and trusted friend isn’t just about an initial outlay of cash, it’s about real value.
Images courtesy of The Sartorialist.
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