14 January 2009

Sis-Boom-Bah, part 2

Nothing like the old 1920's football look, especially if (like me) you neither play nor enjoy the sport:This outfit here serves as the example for the opening of two very big cans of worms.

1) Polo Ralph Lauren, and its proper place in the lexicon of American menswear
2) The wearing of numbers and/or crests which are not really yours to wear

For those of us who waste far too much time thinking about these things and then scouring the the Beastly Internet to hear what others think, these are touchy subjects indeed.

Polo Ralph Lauren

It seems that recently the webs have been all atwitter about old Ralph. Maybe its the recent anniversary of the company. Everywhere, you find people who hate the brand and all it stands for, people who claim that it is the province of sissy boy poseurs, or something. But for everyone of those, there's a guy who will wear anything with a pony on it, who feels that department store clothing can make him into something he is not. Both are silly ways of thinking.

I mention it because in the outfit I wore today, my blue university striped oxford, flannel slacks and bright yellow socks were all Polo. Not the right brand you say? Poseur, you say? I say what difference does it make? It's an oxford shirt made of heavy cloth with a really warm pair of grey pants made of very soft wool. Is there a more classic combination? Would you have known if I didn't tell you? Besides, I find that most of the people who launch vitriol at the brand will be the first to tell you that obsession with a brand name is very ungentlemanly. I agree. So then why are they all so obsessed? (I'm making the broad assumption here that readers of this blog likely read the other blogs that I frequent, and know what I am talking about.) Boy, that's a lot of questions.

If you ask me, Polo does a great job of re-introducing a sort of idealised version of the American past( Ironically, the most "Polo" thing about this outfit, the varsity sweater, is actually vintage).And they make a pretty good oxford in a cut that suits me. Mass produced sweatshop goods? Certainly, but if I find one at thrift shop for a few bucks, a shirts a shirt, and who am I to waste it on loosely based principles.

Guys who dress head to toe in Polo and try to ape the distinct style in which thier mannequins and models are dressed look silly, but so do guys who follow any brand so closely. It's because this way of dressing is evidence of a lack of style and confidence. Any chump can just buy the whole outfit. That takes no thought.The brand itself is not to blame. Men of style should know how to see past all that. I think taken piece by piece, Polo items mix perfectly well with things from Brooks Brothers, J. Press or whatever.

Ralph is a kid from the Bronx who understands men's fashion, particularly American men's fashion, in a very profound and unique way. The arguement could even be made (by someone other than me) that if it weren't for Ralph, far fewer American would even be wearing tweed and flannel at all. The stuff looks nice. I only wish it were made here.

Besides, isn't part of the trick to appear as though you don't pay attention to such things (even though, of course, you do) ?

Numbers and Crests

These days fake numbers and crests are all over the place. It is out of control.

Legitimately, such a thing is something to be earned. I mentioned this in a previous post, when I bought the sweater I wore today. A while ago, I had a long scarf from Harvard that I found at a thrift. You know the ones; crimson with white stripes running the length of it, the kind of thing you still see at the Harvard /Yale football game. The thing was warm as hell. But after a while I got rid of it. Why? Because I didn't go to Harvard.

So the how do I explain this sweater? I don't know what school its from, and I don't care. I'm not trying to pass it off as my number, or say it was my grandfathers. Frankly, I generally don't like this sort of thing, butI just think this particular sweater is cool, end of story. Usually, that's the best way to make a sartorial decision anyway.

I invite your comments on these two matters dear readers. Haters welcome.

p.s. sometimes in the summer, I wear a Boston Red Sox cap. I've never played for them.

p.p.s. I purposely avoided linking out to examples from other blogs of what I'm talking about. I suspect some of you know what I mean. How's that for passive aggression?

p.p.p.s. look! my shoes! amazing how "designers" are basically just creative copycats, isn't it? but, who am I too judge.


Cyclo2000 said...

Living in Noble Scotia we have little choice of "classic American Clothing". There is a Brooks Bros in Edinburgh but the selection is awfull (and way overpriced). J Press is available by mail order but if you order a jacket and it doesn't fit or suit it'll take 8 weeks to exchange it so...it's not a real option.
Which leaves Ralph of Long Island.
The RL store in Glasgow is a thing of beauty (currently it features a lifesize horse and a bucket of polo mallets in the foyer). The available selection is Polo with hardly any black or purple label stocked. Personally, I dress head to toe in RL every day - today in pieces from 4 different collections spread over 5 years worth of buying. The cut suits me and although I gotta admit the quality can be dubious on some of the knitwear but the clothing generally wears well.
As for the business of wearing crests, I have noticed folks in bars trying to make out what the crest on my RL blazer is supposed to be. Luckily for me it strongly resembles my clan crest (Gunn, motto "Either Peace or War")so that's what I tell em. My crested jumper from a few years ago is the nearest thing I have to the numbered one you're wearing in your picture and so the one I don for that collegiate look. I do notice poeple squinting at it to see what it says. Actually it's a wee picture of a ski jumper. I have never knowingly ski jumped. Just to be clear...

Anonymous said...

Good looking ensemble. I have no issues with the sweater or polo brand. I think it was wise to ditch the scarf. It's like wearing the tie of a regiment in which you didn't serve; poor form.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, I think it's the man that makes the clothes - to turn that old adage on it's head.

I think some folks who have nothing to say only have their outer-appearance to offer the world. Luckily some of us have charm and clothing sense ;>

Great shoes by the way!

Turling said...

Numbes do not bother me. That sweater is smashing, by the way. Professional sports teams I don't play for don't bother me. I am a huge Tottenham Hotspur fan and can't watch a game without wearing a jersey or, at least, scarf.

The crests, though, do bother me. I'm not sure why, precisely. Perhaps, it is the perception that one is trying to belong to a group which they are not a part of. Granted, wearing a crest from something you actually belong to is perfectly acceptable. Or, the crest may be the logo of the brand name they are wearing and unless I am receiving a royalty, I try not to wear that on my clothing.

With regards to Ralph Lauren, I just think they are overpriced. For nearly identical money, I can visit my tailor and have him make me something exactly how I want it. I don't make a jugment on someone simply because they are wearing Ralph Lauren, unless of course they feel the need to announce continuously that the clothes are Ralph Lauren. In that case, I think they are bringing judgment upon themselves.

Keep up the good work, my good man. You have inspired me to visit vintage shops, although I have not had any luck yet. I have had some good results on E-Bay, but I've also had one disaster. However, it was a $9 disaster. I can live with that.

SCO said...

I don't have a problem with sporting apparel. I can even forgive folks for wearing the athletic apparel of a regional or Division I college they didn't attend. Sure, it's weird in way, but I can't deny that college sports are basically professional teams. Why deny someone the pleasure of supporting a sports team? I'm not so insecure that I can't share.

The sweater you're wearing is not readily identifiable with a specific institution, at least not to me. So I'd just think it was a good looking sweater with an athletic motif. If I were you, though, I'd make up some story about how it's the number of Cassius M. Jackson, the first black rugby player for St. Anthony's Latin.

Crests are another matter. I think it's tacky to wear a crest for a club you don't belong to. Fundamentally, it's pretentious. It's also kind of sad. Be comfortable with who you are.

As for old Ralph, my complaints are threefold:

1) He puts that damn horse on everything. If I'm going to advertise for him, he should be giving me the clothes for free.

2) If I buy up, Purple Label or another of the lines that doesn't feature an ad on the front of it, the clothes just aren't worth the price. I'd rather go to Brooks or Press and get something just as good (or better) for significantly less.

3) By selling "the Polo look" to obnoxious social climbers, RL has become associated with a part of society that I just don't want to be associated with. Maybe that's not fair to RL, but it is what it is.

All that said, if I found a good pair of flannels for cheap, I certainly wouldn't pass them over because they were made for RL. That would be as silly as buying something because it has a pony on it. Hell, if they're good quality, I'd probably brag about getting a pair of RL flannels for cheap.

ms. mindless said...

i love the sweater. it looks pretty darn cool and i wish i had one too.

i am on the fence about crests. i personally don't wear any, and think that they usually look pretentious, even if it is the crest of a club that one belongs to or a family crest. but, many would disagree with me, particularly those who do have the 'right' to wear a particular crest.

on polo: i like their oxford shirts. they fit me well and last a long time. i get them cheap at the outlets once every couple of years when they are on clearance for $20 or less. call me a poser or a WASP wanna-be, i don't really care. i think visible polo labels head-to-toe looks silly, but, so does any other outfit that is covered in visible labels. that kind of look is just plain tacky, no matter the logo.

Armilyn and David said...

I'm not willing to spend any amount of money to buy clothing with someone else's company name on it, be it a fashion designer or sports team.


initials CG said...

Anyone ever seen "Taps"?

Sean Penn, Tim Hutton, a very young Tome Cruise and "PATTON."
Military prep school goes nuts and takes over the Armory...Tim dies...good movie. George C. Scott, "I can't stand civilians...with their goddamn alligator on the tit!"

Lacoste, Polo et al.. please make some stuff without the logo. Please!

Crests... no comment needed. A friend of mine is a Marquis. His great, great, great grandfather is in Tolstoy's War & Peace...,apart from the fact that his family still has pending lawsuits against the Bonaparte's, he has the right to put a crown on his business cards. Actually, he has two sets. One without, for those who don't need to know. One with, for those who will instantly bend over to kiss his ass. Slightly embarrassed, but oh so slyly, he turns to me when it happens, and says "sometimes it's good to be the king"

When you see this in person, you'll never wear a crest again, even if you "belong"...

Frankly Giuseppe, you're "numbers" are discreet, and hell, it's your town!

Giuseppe said...

Thanks, everybody. Allow me to expound on my initial thoughts.

Notice that for all that Polo, there's no logo showing. I hate advertising for people. True, it may be something of a uniform for social climbing boors, but when you consider the alternative it could be worse. At least they're in buttoned shirts and sports jackets.

As for crests, I feel very strongly that not only must you have membership to whatever group the crest stands for, but also that the crest should only be worn in appropriate situations: a school blazer worn at school, a yacht club crest worn on the yacht and so forth. Otherewise its like wearing a military unifrom out of context.


If it weren't for regimental stripes, I'd probably never wear a tie again. It may indeed be poor form, but I am guilty as charged on that count.

Anonymous said...

I'll withhold judgement as, overall, I like your style and it doesn't do to be too rigid about such things.

Giuseppe said...

Thanks for your leniancy, sophie.

We all break the rules sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I don't swear off Polo completely, but generally do avoid their merchandise with one exception. They are one of the better sources for traditional-looking ties.

As for the crests, unless you have a title and suffer from hemophilia on account of inbreeding, I'd leave the crest off the blazer.

Anonymous said...

Cyclo, have you even noticed how much more we pay here for polo stuff (look at the online USA only polo site)? On that note by my estimations the Brooks Brothers in Edinburgh is 3 times(when the exchange rate was $2 to £1) the price of the one in Philadelphia with an awful selection and useless staff. I was really excited by the prospect of BB in Scotland as It was a brand I wore allot in my youth however something has been lost in translation so to speak.

Toad said...

I love the shoes.

As for Ralph, I like the look of most of his clothes, they just don't fit me well.

Badges no!

I had lunch the other day with a pro athlete and asked him about seeing his name or jersey on fat people all over town. He like it , since he got a royalty payment. Somehow getting worked up about a sports teams attire always seemed a bit vapid to me.

Cyclo2000 said...

Re The comments on BB's Edinburgh store...yes I was amazed at the prices. It's easily 3 times the cost of the same goods in the US and when I asked to see a Sack Suit I was greeted with open mouthed incredulity...they had no idea what I meant. The standard button down shirts are nearly £100 each. On the US site you'd get three for $130! Around the corner is Ede and Ravenscroft. Trad Saville Row and half the cost of Brooks with twice the quality. The first thing I bought at Ede's was a heavy Saxony tweed jacket. The assistant (Eleanor) said to me (and this is a direct quote) "the jacket does look good on Sir, and you know with a little care it'll look good on his grandson, too!"

Anonymous said...

As a true Polo fan for 20+ years,I can say most of the gentleman's looks are not plastered with logos and I do enjoy the roughwear pieces as well. I am not ashamed to admit. I do enjoy your blog and reading the different points of view. I wish more people care about how they look in public.