12 December 2011

A Fusion of Opposites

I recently got caught up watching a lot of old episodes of Firing Line with William F. Buckley over at that gargantuan time-suck known as Youtube. Good stuff, even if you don't agree with Buckley, which I generally don't. In any case, this choice bit featuring Allen Ginsberg in 1968 has me thinking a lot about the mens fashion/blog climate of the last few years, specifically the fact that nearly everything we've collectively been prattling on about is encapusalted in distilled form in these two very opposite men:

On the one hand, William F. Buckley is the very picture of this beast we now refer to as Trad/WASP/Preppy style. Only in his case it's not a "style", because it was 1968 and he actually was a patrician conservative figure. Sack suit, button down oxford, narrow gingham check tie, double soled shoes. All of it crumpled, worn, and slouchy while being perfectly "correct".

On the other hand, Ginsberg, whom Buckley refers to in his introduction as "the hippie's hippie, the Bohemian prototype", presents us with the Well-Curated-Authentic-Heritage-Americana-Urban-Lumberjack-Hipster-Band-Guy prototype. Jeans, no doubt USA made Levi's or some such, probably "selvedge", suede dessert boots, shirt, tie and tweed jacket topped with huge beard and even the requisite heavy rimmed glasses.

What's funny is the fact that as we view the screen, Buckley is on the left and Ginsberg is on the right. (Get it?)

It's not so surprising that we haven't really managed to come up with anything new since 1968. Immutability is one of the hallmarks of most menswear. What is interesting is the fact that fashion has become a fusion of opposites, borrowing heavily from two distinct styles that meant very different things to very different people in their time.

In some way I suppose people are a bit like that these days too, more grey and less black and white. Clothing aside, watching this video I find that I actually like and agree with both men, though they don't like or agree with each other at all. That's the future for you I guess.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop today, more over the next few. I know it's a bit shameless when I end my posts with these little plugs, but business is business you know. Please browse and thank you for your custom.

13 Dec., 7:48 am, Correction: Not "dessert boots", rather "desert boots". Oops.

22 comments:

Jho78 said...

Your plugs aren't shameless. It's your blog, it's your shop. Plug away. I doubt anyone would mind a seperate post every time you add items to the shop with a few words for each item (not that you would want to or should take that much time).

Unashamedly Crap said...

'Suede dessert boots', Wardrobe? Tasty. Made from shoe pastry?

Anonymous said...

Probably one of the best blogs you have produced. Thanks.

Giuseppe said...

Well, the soles of those boots are made of crepe.

Duly noted and corrected.

JoeTheMiddleYears said...

You have to read the article in the new Vanity Fair about style and design in the last 20 years. His theory is that there were rapid changes in clothing, architecture and design throughout the 20th century, but since the advent of technology in our daily lives, we're stuck on a retro, vintage, repeat cycle. Interesting hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Firing Line on TV. I think my father liked to watch it. Now, what I notice most, is WFB's very odd accent. Does anyone in the East Coast talk that way? Dan Aykroyd's character in Trading Places sounded the same, but I suppose it was a take off of WFB.

Giuseppe said...

His accent did at one time exist around here amongst the old money set. These days, it seems all but extinct. It was almost a hybrid language, part upper class British and part Yanke woodsman. In have vague memories of some customers who spoke this way when I worked in a men's shop, but it has been years since I've heard it in actuality.

davidsl said...

On the subject of accents: my great aunt spoke like this. She sounded like Kitty Carlisle only with a stiffer upper lip. Total old money Yankee. Pretentious as all get out, but that's just how they spoke. I kind of miss it....

Mr. Sidetable said...

Buckley's accent was truly an odd mix of upper-class Americanese, Southern elite speech (his mother was from New Orleans), and Oxbridge. He spent his early life in Mexico, but went to school in England, which is where he first learned English.

Much of what we hear as the typical upper-class mid-20th-century American accent (think Katherine Hepburn in "The Philadelphia Story") is a result of elocution lessons, which were intended in part to obscure regional accents.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate it when you plug your shop. I tend to read your blog from my phone and there is no direct link to the shop when viewing the mobile version of your site. Your latest plug as it prompted me to make my first purchase from you!

Philip said...

The accent sounds like a cross between a Yankee and a Tidewater Virginia accent (such as certain of my relatives have).

Anonymous said...

I believe the proper term for Mr. Buckley's accent is Mid-Atlantic English, a category which also includes the likes of the superior Gore Vidal and always magnificent Vincent Price.

Anonymous said...

Mid-Atlantic is the tragic Lloyd Grossman - please don't wish that on anyone.

GP said...

JoeTheMiddleYears has the Vanity Fair reference you need to consider. Can't say I agree with that article, but it is worth noting.

Ted said...

The real style marker in this video is the calmness of the conversation between two people who may disagree about certain issues.

That style has for the most part been abandoned, despite the timelessness of the tailoring.

Giuseppe said...

Well, said, Ted. "Argument" is not a synonym for "fight".

Keohane said...

Well, let's not give WBJ too much credit for civility. He was famously, brilliantly savage in debate, he was just able to be like that while maintaining his cool. Except for the time he threatened to punch Gore Vidal in the face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYymnxoQnf8

Dutch Uncle said...

That was the accent that many educated people aspired to. Now they don't care if they sound like rappers.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that no one picked up on the lloyd grossman accent.

Roger said...

@Anonymous
He sounds nothing like Lloyd Grossman. Grossman has very elongated vowels and often never enunciates his 't' in words like 'matters'. Not like real mid-Atlantic accents.

Old Trad said...

@Dutch Uncle

It's only educated Whites who don't care if they sound like rappers. Educated Blacks want to sound educated.

tintin said...

I'd love to see the rest of the interview. Interesting how Ginsburg stands the test of time with his thinking while Bill sounds like a Model T.