“The man who only sees fashion in fashion is an idiot”

Jun 30, 2014

Trial

 Can one live outside fashion? In a podcast that was recently published by the Institut Francais de la Mode’s ever so excellent blog “Blue is in Fashion This Year”, Historian Anne Kratz describes fashion as normative and categorically imperative which means that even worse than setting the rules, fashion punishes those who stray.  This was such an interesting definition that it enticed us to go deeper into the concept on our Almanach, applying it to the small incestuous milieu of gentlemanly elegance

There is no such thing as a singular type of fashion so interwoven is it with sub cultures, its architecture divided into eras, influences, social layers and affinities may they be in the domain of the beaux arts, music or politics. Societal movements ignite fashion trends and fashion trends ignite societal movements.  This is why since time immemorial and then in the modern world, encouraging expression of the self and singularization has only reinforced the emergence of countless fashion trends, all of which reveal and express a different realm.

 However it seems that an extra rule applies to Anne Kratz's definition: fashion may be imperative but the force of this imperative is inversely proportional to the number of followers of that trend.

Which leads to the evidence that a global fashion trend shared by millions of people will be regimented by rules less strictly defined than within the parameters of small circles that end up being extremely elitist.  By becoming the very voice of a sub culture, fashion morphs into symbolism and therefore has to stay ”pure” and unadulterated.

The more niche the fashion trend, the harder its codes and rules are. In the narrow milieu in which that classic elegance for men sits, should it be labelled as sartorial, chap or dandy, this definition takes a whole new meaning. Not a single day passes without an anathema being laid upon this or that now heterodoxical custom or other infrigement made to the RULES of elegance. In an environment where the principles decreed by English aristocrats over a century ago are revered as the absolute reference, and based on a now long-forgotten lifestyle, straying from the "royal way" can lead to sartorial excommunication.

The internet is now laden with ill-mannered self-proclaimed elegance “mamamouchis “ (french reference to the obsequious Turkish dignitary in Moliere’s Bourgeois Gentleman), who are capable to casting thunderbolts from the gods of style sitting on the throne that is their blog, dooming you to being pilloried on style forums before Gustav Temple.

Some dandies take themselves extremely seriously, without realising that by doing so, they kill the very essence of their style.Let’s take for example delightful Chap magazine that we have the pleasure of selling in our London store.  Although being based on the principles of the “Anarcho Dandyism”, this publication has seen the rise of communities of followers who are ready to tear each others to pieces about the real definition of “ tweed”, forgetting the very tongue in cheek stance of the magazine as founded by Gustav Temple. This is how you end up taking a genius sketch too seriously by forgetting that in “Anarcho Dandyism", anarchism comes first.

We reject the need to challenge someone to a duel for a fastened button when it perhaps shuld have remained open and vice and versa.  This is but the new masters of elegance’s censorship looking down on you from the top of their moustache, forgetting the amusing and profoundly subversive nature implicit in wearing a three piece suit and a bespoke hand sewn bowtie in the era of the Bangladesh-manufactured, mass-produced track bottom. They’d rather be crucified with tailoring pins than being caught shaking hands with a young chap sporting white socks with black shoes.

Very much the opposite for us at Monsieur London as we claim the right to errors, the possibility to innovate and sometimes the joys of approximation.

Fashion is only the poor relation of elegance – that is timeless – and its guard dogs are laughable, even if their shoes are shinier than yours. One of our dear friends a Dandy of true exception varnishes his nails every year with a new polish colour, a practice that would have many high priests of Sartorial infallibility jump on their seats. We pity these poor souls, doomed to illustrate Balzac’s sentence for eternity:

 “The man who only sees fashion in fashion is an idiot”

Valentin Goux.

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