19 June 2010

Authenticity (or not)

"Authenticity" is a tricky concept. Sometimes it is of the utmost importance. Take Champagne, for example. There's the real stuff, delicate, toasty, and ethereal, something truly in a class by itself. And then there's the other stuff. White wine with bubbles in it, often called champagne, but not the same thing, not even close. Nice enough in it's own right, but not even close.

And there are "Nantucket Reds", the coral pink faded cotton pants that have for many years been iconic of true east coast gentility.
I love my reds. Come Summer time, I wear them quite often, especially on hot days. Today we were pushing 90, and all it took was a navy blue tennis shirt and a madras belt and I was both comfortable and well put together. They're like wearing khakis, only better. Tennis shirt and khakis? That's alright, if you want to look like a sales rep from the local beer distributor. Tennis shirt and reds? Flashy enough to be cool without being an over-the-top pushy weirdo (at least in Boston, anyway.)

Part of the attraction of reds has always been the fade they develop when they age. A few years back when I got these pants, they were at least two shades darker, almost the color of the infamous sockeye jacket. Now they've reached a nice medium pink, and fading nicely at the edges of the pockets. Next step, a bit of fray at the hems. But...

...they're not "real". True Nantucket Reds come only from Murray's Toggery Shop on Martha's Vineyard,and are made of sailcloth, and cost a lot of money. Mine hail from Lands' End by way of the thrift store, and cost $4.99. So there not authentic, but who cares? Just tonight, a young lady referred to them as "J.F.K. pants". Good enough for me. I had a pair from Murray's once, but I actually like these better. The cloth is soft like an old pair of khakis. Sailcloth is thick, rigid and coarse, all worthy attributes in a sail, but frankly a bit uncomfortable on a hot day, if you ask me.

Don't get me wrong. Any well dressed guy ought to know the origins and evolution of the clothes he wears. It helps to have context, especially with some of the unusual items. But real authenticity can be of dubious importance. After all, how many of you brought your khakis back home after an honorable discharge from the Army in 1946, or were aboard the H.M.S. Blazer in 1837 for the visit of Queen Victoria, or actually play tennis in a Lacoste tennis shirt? The list is endless. Besides, these pants are really only "authentic" as part of the uniform of an old money New England white guy. Beats me how they wound up in the closet of a tattooed Italian-American three time college drop out who works nights in the liquor store.

Authenticity is good, just don't take it too far. It's only clothes we're talking about here, not Champagne.p.s. The Nantucket Reds currently available from Murray's are "imported". How's that for authentic?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”
—Jim Jarmusch

matthew said...

my reds? $7.18 from the sale rack at Old Navy. yep, Old Navy. why not? sure, they lack the craftsmanship of Lands End (or maybe they're "imported" from the same factory in Malaysia?)
and, i resent your profiling! i do not, in fact, work nights in a liquor store. (but you nailed the "italian-american, tattooed, 3 time college drop out" part)

Young Fogey said...

"... without being an over-the-top pushy weirdo (at least in Boston, anyway.)"

And there we have it! It's a regional thing. I have never seen anyone wear Nantucket reds in real life--only on blogs. Which goes a long way towards explaining my, shall we say, resistance to them--because around here, someone wearing reds would almost certainly be seen as some sort of weirdo.

Vive la différence!

Anonymous said...

Murray's is Nantucket, not the Vineyard. Great post, though.

Kurt said...

That was about as balanced and sensible a treatment of the topic "authentic" as I've ever seen. Nice work.

Enzo AGC said...

Anon - Murray's has two locations and while the original is in Nantucket, there's one on the vineyard as well.

Young Fogey - Sound like you don't live in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the midwest or the South because I've seen plenty of people wearing them all throughout those places.

Glimmer said...

I love everything about this blog. The content, the writing, the originality. I'm a woman and obviously not here for style tips, but simply for the enjoyment of the read. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

The "Champagne" label doesn't somehow indicate better quality, just region of origin. You are just demonstrating that you are a good subject of the concepts taste and "distinction."

Carson Chittom said...

As I've said to many people (albeit in a different context: food), "authenticity" and $2 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Giuseppe said...

Anonymous,

Ever heard of "terrior".

When you're talking about earthly produce, point of origin makes a huge difference. Who stitched my chinos together? Less important.

Paul said...

I say get them anyway that you can. I'm hoping to snag some vewy vewy soon - I am so keen of finding them everywhewe I go!

(stop it Elmer)

Ahem... You're reds rock!

Young Fogey said...

Enzo,

I currently reside in the People's Republic of Mexifornia, though I am native to elsewhere on the West Coast. We don't wear that kind of clothing 'round these here parts.

Now, I'm not defending some of the things that some people do wear hereabouts--Birkenstocks (eww!), ratty jeans, T-shirts, aloha shirts, flip-flops. It's just that well-dressed men on the West Coast are more likely to look like Will at A Suitable Wardrobe than Giuseppe, though with less flair than either.

Terroir indeed.

Enzo AGC said...

Young Fogey,

Its definitely a regional thing, as in the west coast is the only region of America that doesn't get down with reds. I lived in southern California for two and a half years and people used to look at me like I had two heads when I wore them and a tie to my college football games. That said, these same people were almost always wearing graphic tees and university booty sweats. I know northern California is different, but I did not meet a single well dressed person in southern Cal.

John said...

I have a pair of Nantucket reds gym shorts from Murray's. They were made in China. I imagine that at one time the reds were made in the U.S.

John said...

When I posted my message a few minutes ago, I hadn't noticed your "p.s."

David M. said...

I bought the real deal reds at Murray's Memorial day weekend. They seem to be very well made as far as the stitching goes, ect (I've only had them a month). I wear them to work on Fridays and I get a lot of compliments and comments (who the hell wears red pants, right?). One drawback is that they are a bit roomy, but whatever.

Paul said...

Went over the the Lands End site - they have them on sale for $19.99 - $24 and change with regular shipping - I bought!!!!

Anonymous said...

For an, ahem, affordable alternative to Murray's, check out the Nobby Shop. Their 'breton reds' (an older local name for Nantucket reds, I believe) are USA-made, authentic and cost an eminently reasonable $50.

http://www.nobbyshop.com/pants.html

Michael Carper said...

This also makes me think about branding. IE, I have little need for sunglasses that require me to spend $50 extra for a tiny insignia on the lens.