03 February 2014

The Curse of the "iGent"

What a strange world it is that we clothing nerds have created for ourselves via the megalithic beast that is the "internet". We who think, care, and obsess over not just clothing itself but the infinite minutiae of details it entails have found one another, to the relief I'm sure of many a significant other who no longer has to listen to quite so much harping about the roll of a collar or the cut of a lapel. And in large part, this community is a good and wholesome thing. But as with any community, we have our bad side. In #menswear circles, our more embarrassing proclivities manifest themselves in the form of the dreaded "iGent". He's the one who gets all in a twist at the mere suggestion that any of a number of rules in a strict and mostly imaginary code of rules be even mildly transgressed, the one who wails at the very idea of pleated trousers, or flat front, depending on which particular code to which he has decided to subscribe. He's also the one most likely not to have known how to tie a tie three years ago, before this got out of hand.

I won't deny my own indulgence in iGent-ism. After all, I am writing this on a self published clothing blog bursting with self portraits meant to show the extent of my own closet. Nor will I go into too much detail about just what makes and iGent. An in depth (and quite funny) description can be found here. Nor will I rant about the foolishness of such strict code adherence, as I've already done that here, here, and elsewhere on this blog. Instead, I will illustrate the horrors that can take place when the imaginary world the iGent inhabits overlaps too much with the real one where everyone else lives.
Pictured above is a perfect example of a garment that speaks to one particular strain of iGent. It's a vintage 1960s navy blazer made in USA. It's Ivy/Trad/Preppy to the hilt, having natural shoulders, patch pockets and of course, the magical unicorn that the high holy "3/2 roll".
3/2 roll, or what the old guys at J. Press in Harvard Square call "button on center" is a hallmark detail of Ivy/Trad/Preppy whatever you call it. It's a style I like, a lot actually, and I wear it myself quite frequently. You could even say I prefer it, but it's never really been a deal breaker for me if a jacket was two button, or darted for that matter. Just as I like more than one flavor of ice cream, I like more than one cut of jacket. True, I mostly wear a natural shoulder, but that's more because it suits my build and style than because I read about it ad nauseam on the internet. In any case, this is a nice coat, and if it were my size chances are I'd keep it and wear it fairly frequently.
Pictured here is my own latest acquisition, a wonderful jacket made by Southwick for the Andover Shop in Russel Plaid, out of what must be English tweed cloth. Acquired through yet another great trade with Zach of Newton Street Vintage, it is instantly a new favorite. However, it's got just one thing wrong with it. Not a rip, not a moth hole, nothing so accidental as that, but an absolute scar inflicted upon it by the misguided tinkering of a too-far-gone iGent. 

It's safe to say that the Andover Shop is my favorite "brand". The quality is always impeccable, and the fabrics used there are nothing short of things of beauty. The house style is the perfect combination of English and American details, British influence, but always with a soft natural shoulder. This jacket is no different: rendered in thornproof British tweed in a pattern that is distinctly English, it has a two button darted front combined with a center vent and that distinctly American natural shoulder.
Trouble is that some previous owner just couldn't be satisfied with an amazing garment like this as it was, and decided to "improve" it by adding a third button and button hole, badly. The superfluous third button had been stitched on through the lapel, an aberration I removed immediately. The third buttonhole is the real crime here.
At the very least, it's placed correctly, but it's sewn poorly and with thread that is a completely different color than the two existing buttonholes the jacket was intended to have.
Sliced straight through the canvassing, the best I can hope for is that my tailor can at least refinish the hole to look less like the act of Ivy/Trad/Preppy hubris that it is. You'll have to pardon my French here, but seriously, what the f***? Who could do such a thing? Did he also try to paint his wife's eye's with nail polish because someone online said that blue eyes were WASP-ier? Why would anyone do such a thing to such a beautiful garment? Only an iGent.

The fellow who did this was certainly not the one who purchased this jacket new at the Andover Shop in the first place.No, that man would have had taste and sense enough not to spoil his clothes by adding a needless detail like this. He almost certainly purchased this at a thrift store. He saw and felt the wonderful tweed, and it fit in with the narrow but extensive set of rules the internet at large had handed him on how to dress. It was from the Andover Shop, which Googling had assured him was among the accepted brands. But alas, it was a two button front. "Not to worry", he thinks, "I can fix that. I'll just watch a couple of YouTube videos on how to make a button hole. Can't be that hard, right?" You can see this is the result of iGent-ism at its very lowest. He added this detail not because it improved the jacket, but because "3/2 roll" was something that his internet habits of Ivy League/Jazz/Steve McQueen/Weejun etc., etc., had convinced him was an imperative detail. He did this not because he was a man of style, but a copy cat merely regurgitating the things he'd seen on the screen, . In so doing, he has relegated this garment to being a nothing more than a cast off at a thrift shop. I hope my tailor can fix it, but I will wear it anyway, using that silly hole as a teaching tool. Hopefully he is reading this now, hanging his head in shame as tears drip onto the keyboard of his laptop. 

There is a wealth of information and knowledge at our fingertips these days, and it's a wonderful thing, but we need to be careful with it. You may think that by dressing well you are setting yourself apart in some way from the mindless masses dressed in logo sweatshirt and cheap sneakers, and you'd be right. But if you are foolish enough to advertise so obviously as this, at least to those who know, that you really are only doing what the internet told you, then you really aren't any different. It would of course be nothing short of hypocrisy for me to say "Don't be an iGent", have a good time and take it in stride. Just, you know, don't be an iGent.

p.s. Select items on sale now in the AAW Shop. Grab a deal while you can, and help me make room for the piles of new stuff I've got for you.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you're being a bit hard on the poor young man?

Undoubtedly, the "perp" was young. Very likely, he was trying to dress well, and having no stylish relative (as most don't anymore) he went to the internet.

He then went thrifting and found something that almost fit what he was hoping for. Knowing no better he tried to turn thrift store lemons into lemonade, unaware that he had not purchased a lemon, but instead had a ripe lime.

Over time, he came to discover the error of his ways, and no longer being able to look upon the object that had caused him so much shame, he tossed it aside.

And now, it has fallen into your lap, and after some repair, will hopefully find many more years if happy service.

Not so bad in the end, I don't think .

Giuseppe said...

A bit hard, maybe. But to take a blade to such a thing, it's inconceivable.

Dan said...

I actually have an old navy BBMakers sack that may or may not have been a blazer originally. In any case, it is one now, as the old owner has sewn on the UGLIEST buttons imaginable, and even sewed through the lapel for all three buttons. It's frustrating, to be sure, but I found it to add some character. It showed me that someone lived in this jacket.

I would just urge some perspective. You seem to be tearing down another human being (that is mostly composed of imagined, possibly apocryphal characteristics) for cutting a half inch hole in a lapel of yet another garment that you bought at a thrift store. Remember that you have a wardrobe full of magnificent fabrics and labels! Your size is not a rare one, either. I think it's better to just be nice and not have such a disproportionate amount of anger here.

David M. said...

Hard to tell, but did he put a third button on it?

Kal Varnsen said...

I agree with Anon. Seems like an awful lot of handwringing over a buttonhole.

I still think the darts look more obtrusive than an added buttonhole does, FWIW.

Anonymous said...

I also think it is funny about all the rules that iGents put on others. I like to dress well every day. Sport coat, suit or nice sweater. No matter what iGent rules I may break I am still better dressed than 95% of all men I run into each day. The ladies still notice!

Giuseppe said...

The darts are there intentionally.

To cut a hole in cloth this good, for no good reason?

Sorry, can't/won't back down.

Giuseppe said...

As for hand wringing: other blogs will post a Brooks Brothers suit with pleated pants to the tune of nearly a hundred indignant responses. It's that sort of hand wringing that leads to this kind of mutilation in the first place.

Giuseppe said...

David,

There was a third button, sewn straight through the lapel, which I removed immediately.

Giuseppe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kal Varnsen said...

I understand the darts are there intentionally. And I think they look jarring.
Remember, the fellow that added the third buttonhole also did so intentionally.

It's bizarre, but it's almost as if you spent the first few years of this blog talking up the beauty of sack jackets, repp ties and the like and now you've suddenly decided to become the counter-culture to your own movement. "Hey guys, I've suddenly decided pleats and darts are the way to go, and if you don't like it, you're too (insert negative descriptive here.)"

It's wonderful that your tastes have evolved over time but the smug superiority with which you've been making us all aware of it over the past year has been really unfortunate.

How far this blog has fallen.

Giuseppe said...

He cut a hole in Russell plaid from the Andover Shop.

Dan said...

Res ipsa loquitur don't apply to a lapel. :) Isn't it better that this happened than if someone on etsy had glued a bunch of cogs on it and sold it as "steampunk?"

Really though, what are you actually upset at? A good deal of your posts of late have contained shots directed at this iGentry community. How are they negatively affecting your life? Is it just their existence that irritates you? What they represent? The oh-so-numerous single-minded anonymous comments on other blogs?

I truly believe that it'd be best to directly confront your own feelings on this matter as well as this community itself. It's better to seek common ground (which is enormous) with at least some of them than allowing a passive aggressive or superior tone continue to be a theme in your writing.

I understand completely if you don't wish to post this comment, as it comes across as a bit personal. But I really do urge you to consider dealing with this in a healthier manner. Take care.

Anonymous said...

About eight years ago I butchered a suit just like this. Put a third button on it (I was into three button Mod cut suits), tapered the trousers until they were like leggings (I was into Skinhead suits). All this I did with my own limited skill set.
I pity the poor bastard who found it in the charity shop I donated it to once I discovered it was aesthetically and functionally unwearable.

Kal Varnsen said...

"He cut a hole in Russell plaid from the Andover Shop."

I've come across hundreds quality garments in my years of thrifting that were mistreated by their owners far more egregiously than an added third button hole. I'd imagine you've come across the same in your treasure-hunting as well.

None of us would have known the wiser had you not gone on a 1000-word diatribe about it.

Giuseppe said...

Dan,

I have found common ground with so many people and even formed some very solid friendships over the years through writing this blog. To suggest that this blog post, which I meant to be informative and funny, reveals a deep rooted flaw in my character is a bit much. I suppose you skipped the self deprecating parts where I admit that I myself am something of an iGent.

Anon 1:22,

When I was a kid I was all into zoot suits. I used to go to thrift shops and by size longs that came halfway to my knees, then have the sleeves and pants shortened. The amount of suits I sent back to thrift sized for a man three inches taller but with sleeves and hems a mile too short is criminal. We live and learn.

Kal,

I have seen much worse, it's true. I just wrote about this one because it was a good way to illustrate a point. It may have been bit negative and snarky, but thats poetic license, no? Hardly a diatribe.

Zach said...

The issue isn't just the jerry-rigged buttonhole. It's the POORLY jerry-rigged buttonhole. You can tell by the vertical lines on either side that it was done with a zig-zag stitch on a home sewing machine.

Anonymous said...

Judging by the comments, it must be a slow day at Ivy Style.

Anonymous said...

"I pity the poor bastard who found it in the charity shop I donated it to once I discovered it was aesthetically and functionally unwearable"

What do you mean? I wearing it right now, it's great!

Zach said...

Giuseppe's objection seems to be not against the rolled three-button in general, but to the notion that undarted 3-button jackets and darted two-button jackets have an antithetical relationship, and exist in a kind of zero-sum game where they can't coexist in the same wardrobe of the same wearer.

Giuseppe can attest to the fact, having collected clothes at the homes of some affluent, well-dressed New Englanders, that this wasn't always the case, and that well dressed men have had both pleats and plain fronts, darts and sacks, center and side vent, simultaneously.

Why isn't this attitude more prevalent today? I think Giuseppe is right to point out that the internet plays a role, especially in the way young men learn about these things. Young men making preliminary inquiries into trad/ivy style are taught to avoid the dart BEFORE they even KNOW what a dart is. "A trad jacket doesn't have darts. What's a dart? Whatever it is I don't want it."

The 3/2 roll and the undarted front differentiate certain jackets from the mass of jackets out there, most of which are terrible, but part of Giuseppe's indignation comes from the fact that he has the taste and the eye to recognize that the Andover Shop jacket would have been special and beautiful even as a two-button. Only a rube would confuse a jacket that drapes like that, with shoulders like that, in that cloth, for a jacket from the Mens Warehouse or Jos. A Banks, just because the two happen to have the same number of buttons on the front.

Dan said...

"I suppose you skipped the self deprecating parts where I admit that I myself am something of an iGent."

I did notice. However, self-awareness and poetic license doesn't really excuse putting other people down. You can and absolutely are funny and informative in your posts, but your use of snide comments gets in the way of that.

This isn't something you need to apologize for. I just think that positive writing is much more enjoyable to write and to read, and is altogether rare in the online world today.

Giuseppe said...

Dan,

I'm putting down the motivation behind a misdeed, not the person. I don't even know who it is anyway. And while I agree that the internet, especially the blogosphere, suffers from an over-abundance of sarcasm and negativity, I don't believe that should prevent me from saying that something is bad when it clearly is.

I've never been one to revel in a put down. See my post dated 1 June 2013, titled "Square One" for more on how I feel about using the internet to put people down.

http://anaffordablewardrobe.blogspot.com/2013/06/square-one.html

Zach said...

Giuseppe isn't putting anyone down, he is postulating a position and then refuting it. His speculations about why the added buttonhole is there are hypotheses he uses to make his point, which, though opinionated, is subjective. Obviously the only thing we know for sure is that the jacket has a top button, and that button is not like the others. How, why, or by whom it got there is pure speculation.

We are all welcome to invent any number of reasons why that might be the case. Maybe we should invent some to warm the heart:

Maybe the jacket was used in a theatrical production that called for a three-button and at the last second the costume designer hastily and gallantly home-sewed a top button and saved the day!

Maybe it was found second hand by a young man and it was his first real tweed, and lacking the funds for proper alterations due to economic conditions beyond his control, he decided to make due with it as a two-button. But his saintly grandmother, with whom he lived (poor lad was an orphan, you see), knew of his unwavering commitment to the trad 3/2 roll and spent the night remaking the jacket to his specifications. Grandma's eyes weren't so good, so she mistakenly used the wrong color thread. The young man didn't mind though, so happy was he! He awoke to find that two buttons became three!






Anonymous said...

Giuseppe, I wonder what you'll make of this? I have a vintage brown donegal tweed blazer. (from the Harvard Coop, presumably before they switched their focus to "my kid and my money go to Harvard tshirts"). It is a two button, but I feel the button stance is a little low. I have been debating whether I should commit exactly the attrocity you describe here, though hopefully with a better tailor. Is this madness?!?!?

Giuseppe said...

Not necessarily madness. Just be sure that it is a needed improvement and that it be done well by a professional.

Jho78 said...

Hmm... The green thread leads me to believe that the culprit was Tommy Hilfiger.

Anonymous said...

Two quotes from your link to the iGent article at the other blog are:

If your new Alan Flusser book is sitting on top of your old Alan Flusser book;

If you get all dressed up with nowhere to go but online;

Wow! That's rich! Always been a fan of your blog because it's so unpretentious and has a personal touch. Keep doing what you're doing.

Nick said...

Dudes, like totally chillax.

He's tongue-in-cheek,
Making a bit of a joke
Mildly amusing us
Pointing out a foible

Very entertaining post: thanks

Young Fogey said...

There was a fine blogger Guiseppe,
whose postings were often quite peppy.
He posted one time
on a jacket sublime
Whose alterations were completely misstep-py.

His post, though well-intentioned,
said things that shouldn't be mentioned
around an iGent
who is quite intent
on suppressing sartorial intervention.

Ruggles said...

http://admiralcod.blogspot.com/2011/06/guide-to-igents.html

Giuseppe said...

Written by a man who uses an imaginary title of naval rank on the internet.