Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Lauren’

Though this post is filed under the header of “the arts”, that is out of respect for its introductory subject. Kenneth Clark, the art historian, is an eminently readable critic of Renaissance painting; as a protégé of art connoisseur Bernard Berenson, Clark went on to be the youngest head of the British National Gallery. He is best known for his documentary series Civilisation, which chronicles western art.

During his tenure at the National Gallery he faced a staff crisis; some members of the old guard objected to him. In his autobiography, Another Part of the Wood, Clark recounts that during arbitration the head mutineer was asked what he objected to about Mr. Clark’s management:

The only concrete fact that my colleague could think of was that he objected to my neckties. It is true that I am fond of neckties, and when depressed will buy one to cheer myself up, just as ladies buy hats… neckties, albeit to a lesser degree than hats, are symbolic and almost the last thing that link us to the display rituals of birds…

I can relate to both buying ties as gift to oneself and to facing criticism for simply wearing them. I’ve even had former friends ask me not to wear ties around them. (Note the word “former.”) Ties are now typically associated with formality, social conservatism, and the business caste. Funny: I don’t match any of those labels, but I understand that most people are incapable of thinking beyond them. In another era a tie would quickly communicate membership in a club, college, or military unit, but it is because the tie is now such an unnecessary element to dress that it is liberated from any utility at all; it is therefore open to the whims of the wearer’s personality. I’ll confess that sometimes I’m further spurred to wear ties whenever theocratic or social fascists (like the Mullahs in Iran or the executive board of Ikea) go so far as to ban them. These days, it is the conformists who are refusing to wear ties and I find it darkly amusing that neckwear is becoming a symbol of individualist rebellion. Long live the revolution indeed.

In job title, uniform, and as defender of old master art values against 20th century high modernism, Clark appears to be a solid establishment figure. Yet the more I learn about him, the more I can appreciate his singular personality in the world of art. He held unpopular positions on numerous matters: from the defense of figurative art (and western art in general) to – in the mid 1930s era of apathy and appeasement – being loudly and virulently anti-Hitler, both positions would cost him friends and colleagues before the war put that latter opinion in vogue.

At the same time, on the other side of the cultural barricades from Mr Clark, we have pictured above a group of abstract painters know as the “irascibles” who, in the days before abstract art became dogma in university art departments, had publicly complained about the Met’s “modern” American painting show that had somehow overlooked them. With the exception of Hedda Sterne, Jimmy Ernst, and probably Pollack, these anti-art-establishment upstarts are all wearing ties. I’d like to see one our contempo graffiti artistes pull a rattle-can out of their tweed norfolk jacket and tag the side of a Gagosian art commodities office LLC. If only.

I suppose one could argue that subversives have long made effective use of wearing the enemy’s uniform. To that end, artists (and maybe all of us) only wear nicer clothes out of social and ceremonial pressures, desperate to be accepted by the group and thinking the right clown suit will help get us into to the circus. Panem et circenses, so then join the circus and earn your bread.

Here is a wonderful unlined specimen from Ralph Lauren. I’m often a fan of Polo’s 1920s inspired ties. Retro in design and materials, thinner and shorter than the average businessman’s bib, and completed by a slightly cryptic motif. It offers a nice contrast to those bulky swathes of loud bunting which the cable channel sportscasters wear around their necks. I mean the ones among them who have necks.


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As you can see it’s summer here in San Francisco. Standing on my roof in the fog often feels like I’m standing at the edge of the world, and given my proximity to the Pacific, and San Francisco being one of the more westerly oases for the spiritually and culturally exiled, I suppose I am standing on such a precipice. This shot in particular looks like I was waiting for a bus and suddenly found myself teleported to the rooftop. Here I’m clad in my de rigueur rumpled shirt and trousers, with my concave torso at least being disguised in several layers of fabric. The lack of a pocket square is because I fled the house in some haste – tardy, as usual, for what some call work.

The jacket is from the discontinued Polo “University” label; although that bridge line is no longer, there are currently others to choose from. My preference is Rugby – a favorite of Polo’s attempt at “gateway drugs,” though perhaps that isn’t being quite fair to Rugby, which was once the more daring child of Papa Ralph’s. But, ultimately, it is the accountants who control our blue chip consumer goods, not the creatives, so I don’t (usually) blame designers for any lulls.

Ahem, back to me – the sweater vest is Façonnable. I confess some surprise that the fit wasn’t more of a “slim”, you know — with their famous Mediterranean diet and all. Though, with my creeping decrepitude, leaving room to grow probably isn’t a bad thing. The shirt is Cafe Coton and the tie is American Traditions. The latter’s name is open to some interpretation, invoking either “witch trials” or, more probably, “WASPs.” (Both Cotton Mather and Thomas Paine can be perceived as American heroes depending which American you ask.) American Traditions, at least at the time of this particular tie’s birth, was owned/licensed by Superba Inc, a subsidiary of Phillips-Van Heusen Inc, who own nearly every brand you’ve ever bought at a mall. Ah yes, the “comglom,” or in slang: “if an oligarch was transposed into a spreadsheet.” Of course, as Citizens United v. FEC showed us, there is no difference anyway.

Tie: American Traditions
Sweater Vest: Façonnable
Shirt: Cafe Coton
Blazer: Polo
Trousers: BR

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And 100% polyester free. Good and good for you.

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Taking advantage of the summer as mother nature (and an even more savage mistress: my schedule) allows. Given the demise this year of the California drought I really should be modeling a parade of wetsuits, flippers, and snorkels. It may come to that yet. But today’s shot was a bright cloudless day and, as long as there’s a leafy tree to nap under, I’ll take it. Not that I was always this way- about either sunny days or naps. Taoism has it’s lore that says a man is not (perhaps cannot) be ready to receive certain pearls of wisdom until at least middle age. No doubt that was first claimed by an old man, but some tastes are certainly acquired, and a few more bitter ones are acquired with age, whether you intend for that to happen or not. A single malt scotch can be that way; one’s pH balance has to mature to meet a particular whisky or vintage of wine, and voila! What was ash in your mouth at 20 is ambrosia at 40. Sometimes people have aged likewise: a man whose actions I found distasteful in my youth, might begin to appear more favorable by the lamp of my own experience (though this is rarer, as my first sensation of disappointment is usually correct.)

Clothing can be similar. The daily uniform I wear now was anathema to me as an adolescent. But back then anything that wasn’t emblazoned with Iron Maiden or Slayer was unfit to cover my regal pastiness. Of course I still wear those tee’s under my Brooks Brothers button downs. It’s called keepin’ it real people! Then there are outfits I’ve been told I’ve outgrown: diapers, or that I’m too young for: diapers. Hoodies and ascots also fall in these categories respectively, and I wear both of those (but only one of them in public.)

Tie: Rugby
Shirt: Nautica
Vest: Polo
Jacket: Gap
Trousers: BR

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I know you’re thinking well, he’s gone this far, so where is the yachting cap? Fair enough question, though my question is where’s the damn yacht? At least give me an old Cadillac so I can sail a land yacht around the block.

I had never worn a skipper outfit before. The closest I’ve come was a rowing blazer or two, but never before had I assumed the rank of commodore. My inspiration was multi-fold. One was the superstition that if I wear the right sailing clothes I’ll attract mermaids, or at least the barmaid’s attention at the Yacht Club. Another is that if I look like Thurston Howell III’s bastard I might attract “Auntie” Mary Ann’s illegitimate daughter.

Land ho, indeed.

Tie: Polo
Shirt: Polo
Jacket: US Coast Guard
Trousers: Banana Republic

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The black high button vest with grosgrain piping and covered buttons is a dream come true, for me at least, but I have some admittedly odd dreams. That it’s new-ish (uneaten by moths) and in my size is even dreamier. A heavy wool for April admittedly, but it was blustery and raining most of the week, with some very wintry temps thrown in for good measure. Though I have been excited by the coming colors of summer, it was nice to fall back on the blacks and greys to ground the outfit, and then splash some red with a dash of navy, just to wake it up.

The vest, and hair, are reminiscent of Weimar (well, actually, the hair might be more Munich). But the ’20s were a glorious era in American menswear as well, defined by Leyendecker’s iconic Arrow collars, right before mens clothes began, in the ’30s, to solidify into what we (sort of) still wear today. The tie is papa Lauren and the shirt Ralph’s father Brooks: a continuous lineage, except for the lower half, which is collaboratively covered by some Swedes. This is one of those rare (as in unicorn rare) pairs of H&M pants that not only have a separate inseam measurement but pleats too! Talk about partying like it’s 1999! This is crucial because, as I’ve ranted before, this vest, and nearly all vests made in the last 4 years, by everyone, are TOO SHORT by design. Which means that I need those high buttoning, navel covering, old man slacks to cover what vests shouldn’t be exposing in the first place. Kids today! Dammit! Get off my lawn!

Tie: Polo
Shirt: Brooks Bros
Vest: Rugby
Trou: H&M

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View only with protective goggles and never in direct sunlight.

The labels read like indictments.

Excited to wear them all this summer… Just not all at the same time.

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