People like to describe things. It's only natural. It gives them a point of reference when conversing with others. A lot of the terminology we use is more than a little silly, in one way or another. I've worked in the fine wine and gourmet food business for years, so believe me when I tell you know a thing or two about silly, geeky terminology. Add to that three years of writing a menswear blog on the internet and I'm practically swimming in it. As a result, I've decided to declare a moratorium, at least temporarily, on the following seven words/phrases as they apply to mens clothing. I intend to treat them like dirty words. Actually, that's not true, I use those words all the time. These seven I tend to avoid like the plague:
This one is the mildest of the bunch, being at it's simplest only an abbreviation of "traditional". As such, I read it to mean just that, traditional, as in "been around for a while", or "if it ain't broke don't fix it" Really, as a dirty word it's pretty soft-core, I'm just not a fan of needless abbreviation. If we used the full word more often, it's likely that we'd tend to use it correctly more often. Besides, Tin Tin is a good guy, so I'm almost willing to give this one a pass...almost.
This word gets bandied about like mad, especially amongst the workwear/fashion, New York Lumberjack set. Everything's just got to be so damned authentic. Drives me mad. True, your Filson tincloth jacket may authentic, your Woolrich blanket may be authentic, and those jeans you paid $400 for that you never wash may be authentic too, in that they're made in USA by some venerable old brand. But all that stuff thats designer, all those collaborations, all those poor people clothes that are priced only for millionaires? No way. There ain't nothing authentic about designer coal mining clothes, no matter where they come from or what the label says. Unless, of course, you work in an actual coal mine, in which case the other guys are likely to beat you up when they hear how much all that gear cost you.
I've got no beef with actual heritage brands. I do love my Bean Boots. But you never hear that term applied to things that actually have some heritage. That's because real heritage is usually content to be quiet, it speaks for itself and it doesn't need a label to tell you. I find that once that label is applied to something it usually means that its an overpriced copy of a romanticized version of the original thing, which was actually a commodity for average people in the first place. (See Authentic, above)
Let's say you walk into a museum to see an exhibit of artifacts recently un-earthed at a new dig site in Egypt. The archeologist found a lot of stuff, but only the best or most exemplary pieces were chosen for display at the museum. You might say that the collection was well curated, and you'd be right. But a store, or these days online store, is not a place to describe as well curated. Stores have buyers who select the merchandise they would like to sell, and then display it in a way which will hopefully get you to buy it when you see it. They create an atmosphere, one that suggests a certain lifestyle or frame of mind to match their wares. It's not curation, it's business and marketing. Actually, the way they've co-opted the term "well curated " has been a pretty good stroke of marketing too.
Before we get all up in arms, I'm not going to get all racist or anything. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants have as much right to be proud of their race and religion as anybody else, and they should. Many of our greatest leaders have fallen into that category, and their contributions are great. But we're talking about clothing here, not religion. Button down collars, striped ties, sack jackets and khakis do not belong exclusively to this tiny slice of the American pie. True, maybe the style did belong to them once, but that's been over for at least 30 year and probably more. Besides, even in the old days, when the sons of the captains of industry were busy combining these elements in a particular way to forge a "style", the clothes they were buying were coming from stores that were frequently owned by Jews, who had as much, if not much more, to do with the development of this style than their customers did. Jacob Press himself came up with a lot of these ideas in the first place, remember? And let's not forget the important role black jazz musician played in making this something that was actually "cool". My point is, race, religion and socio-economic standing don't have anything to do with a striped tie and a blue blazer, not anymore. It's about time we got over that.
Unless we're talking specifically about the places that are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth or the University of Pennsylvania, then the term simply does not apply. We should get over that, too. (see above). Besides, college kids tend to favor shorts, flip flops, and pajamas in public, even at the Ivy League schools.
This is the King Hell Dirty Fashion Word of them all. Allow me to apologize in advance if I step on any toes here. There's no two ways about it, I hate it. Maybe it meant something once, but now it only stands for costume. I'm going to go out on a limb and blame Lisa Birnbach. Why not? I never was a fan of The Official Preppy Handbook (or TOPH as people have taken to calling it in our too-fast-for-anything-but-abbreviations times) anyway. When someone says they dress "preppy", it usually means they've gotten pretty good at looking at ads for J. Crew and Polo and aping the look perfectly. It means they're playing dress up, and it's a term that belittles those people out there who actually get it, the one's who know what they're doing, the ones out there who really have style and continue to nail it on a daily basis. Those people tend not to use the word, tend in fact to be reviled by it. Tommy Hilfiger seems to love it. See my point? I will qualify it by saying that it's exponentially more infuriating when applied to mens clothes. For the ladies, it can be cute and even endearing.
I've had the idea for this post in my head for quite a while now, but I never went ahead with it. I know I'm likely to infuriate some people here, but what can you do? If I'm going to let that stop me, I might as well close up shop.Besides, I'll be the first to admit that I'm as guilty in this regard as anyone. True, I do try my best to avoid these terms, but I'm a sucker for the things they define. Hypocrisy? Maybe, but at least I can laugh at myself.
In closing, please enjoy this guys take on a certain other seven words:
Not safe for work, but funny as Hell.