N.B. The Manolo’s friend, The Legatrix, who always makes the Manolo laugh, offers us nothing but portents of doom.
The Manolo has been gently scaring us straight with his series of blog posts, The Death of Civilization. In that spirit, I offer you a variation on a theme.
You see, I have a theory. Okay, I have several theories, but this is the one doesn’t involve Soviet vodka, rhesus monkeys, and Vaseline.
Certain fashion trends portend widespread cultural decline. I don’t care whether it comes riding in with the Visigoths or on a wave of Stagflation, nothing says “stock up on canned food and good books because the Kardashians are in charge” like bad fashion trends.
Case in point: the Bad Perm.
Julia Titi Flavia
This is the kind of hair you have when your dad just sacked Jerusalem, shacked up with a Jewish Princess, and decided to fix you up with your uncle. Oh, and Rome has just been through four emperors in one year. (On the up side, none of them was Nero.)
And we all know that no good came of the Seventies except for Donna Summer. And fondue parties.
But lest you think the bad perm is a singularly female vice, consider Charles II of England. Sure, Chuck, you may primp that mane to make it more difficult for the executioner to find your neck, like he did your dad’s, but do you know what that coiffure really is? It’s a cry for help. London is burning, everybody is coming down with the Plague, and you’ve got more mistresses than you can possibly afford.
Odds fish what an ugly fellow I am.
At times like these, there’s only one thing to do: put on your tight pants and get a little Super Freaky.
N.B. Several of the Manolo’s internet friends have responded heroically to the Manolo’s plaintive call for help. This post, by the marvelously erudite and witty Sarah, is the first of the guest posts provided by these wonderful friends.
The Manolo is in the rut. The Manolo is filled with the ennui.
The Manolo has brought me such pleasure over the years that I have been reading his blogs, and has added so many touches of beauty to my life that I find this douleur completely unacceptable. It is true that March does have a tendency to bring in da funk, but the Manolo must not be permitted to suffer. I am compelled assist him in rediscovering his joie de blog.
And so, with no further ado , let’s talk about Shakespeare.
The great fashion joke in Shakespeare comes in his play Twelfth Night when a pair of wealthy party animals joins up with a clever maidservant to convince the uptight and unfashionable Malvolio that his beautiful young employer, Olivia, is in love with him. As a sign of his passion for her, he is told that he should wear yellow stockings and cross-garters. Our merry pranksters consider this to be as hilarious and humiliating as Charlie Sheen’s latest antics.
For those of us who aren’t living in the seventeenth century, however, the joke falls a little flat.
Here’s what’s going on. Sort of.
The truth is that even those of us who study this stuff aren’t entirely sure why yellow stockings and cross-garters are hilarious. So really, the most famous fashion joke in history is something of a mystery. But I can give you a few possibilities to bring up the next time Shakespeare comes up in conversation as he so often does.
First, yellow stockings and cross garters look like this:
So that's comedy gold right there.
Second, the flashiness of the cross-garters and yellow stockings is over the top, even for the excesses of men’s fashion in the Renaissance.
Here’s Henry VIII, who was no slouch as a sartorialist. Notice, though, how plain his stockings are.
Hank 8, Rocking the Stockings and Garters
And he was King! Malvolio is just a steward (a high level servant/manager type).
So, they’re funny-looking, and they’re overly flashy.
It gets worse for Malvolio, though. In the Renaissance, great legs were one of the most enticing and macho things a man could put on display. The other, well…. (more…)
Manolo says, one of the Manolo’s internet friends has asked him the question.
I’m working on a small academic paper about fashion, for presenting at the Association of Private Enterprise in Education (APEE) meeting this coming April. Virginia Postrel, who is both your friend and mine, has told me that you’re quite nice and quite classical liberal in your inclinations, so I wondered if I might ask you if you have a brief comment or two on the perennial fashion trend of extremely costly clothing made to look like garbage.
There’s something very interesting going on here with ideas of wealth, price, value, appearance…
At any rate, if you have time to think about it a little, I’d love to know what thoughts you have.
All the best,
Briefly laying aside the matters economic, what is going on here is what the French writer Émile Augier called La nostalgie de la boue, or the “longing for the mud”.
It is the commonplace notion that the primitive, the well-worn and tattered, even the debased are superior in essence to the refined and civilized.
This idea and emotion, as far as the Manolo knows, has been present in all societies and all places, undoubtedly since the humans first left the trees, and then longed to build the treehouse in which they could retreat on the weekends to express their inner australopithecus.
And, as fashion is the art form reflective of society and its traumas, and as it is also the business, it is only natural that the fashion houses would eagerly seek to reflect upon and profit from this universal human desire.
Of the course, the fashionistas, with the few notable exceptions, are not the deep thinkers, and so you will not find complex thoughts expressed about this idea in regards to society, history and authenticity, only variations of the phrase “I think it looks cool”.
And, lest you think such mockery unwarranted…the Manolo gives you the Brother Sharp.
Brother Sharp, Chinese Fashion Icon
But Mr Cheng’s life changed dramatically after an amateur photographer posted pictures of him walking the streets onto the Chinese internet.
His prominent cheekbones and bohemian clothes quickly won him a legion of fans who called him “China’s Sexiest Tramp” and, most often, “Brother Sharp”.
Meanwhile, offers have poured in for him to appear in advertisements and he even did a stint as a catwalk model in the southern city of Foshan.
And now that we have established that we universally long for the mud, especially when the people who are wallowing in it are photogenic, how can we make the money from it?
This is where the Manolo must take you back to Ur, by making the reference to the work of Thorstein Veblen, and his notions of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste.
Throughout the entire evolution of conspicuous expenditure, whether of goods or of services or human life, runs the obvious implication that in order to effectually mend the consumer’s good fame it must be an expenditure of superfluities. In order to be reputable it must be wasteful.
Thus, if one feels the desire to wallow, and yet must maintain or build one’s reputation for being the right sort of fashionable person, one must be prepared to spend serious cash on something whose price cannot be justified by utility alone.
The fashion houses and designers know this and profit from it.
The example of the Louis Vuitton trash bag that costs $1960 for what is essentially the wan joke is prima facie evidence. It is not attractive, nor does it appear to be well made, and yet the person who has purchased it makes the undeniable statement about her status, economic resources, and knowledgeable hipness.
Manolo says, today in the New York Times there is the annotated list of the 41 Places to Go in 2011, which was, as such things usually are, mostly the exercise in status-conscious, Bobo one-upmanship.
Naturally, because the Manolo is both the bohemian and bourgeois, the Manolo was pleased to see that he had recently been to several of the places on the list, including the number one choice, Santiago, Chile.
And, he was extremely happy to see that there was the entire paragraph in the NY Times Santiago entry devoted to the Museo de la Moda…
Perhaps the most remarkable cultural space to open in the last few years is the Museo de la Moda, a privately financed fashion museum inside a revamped 1960s Modernist mansion. It has a permanent collection of nearly 10,000 pieces of couture and memorabilia (of which 800 are typically on display), including a light-blue jacket worn in 1966 by John Lennon and a black strapless gown worn in 1981 by Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Manolo felt that the museum was strongest in the clothing of the mid-20th century, undoubtedly the result of the founder Jorge Yarur’s unusual filial devotion, which has preserved not only the family’s modernist mansion, but his mother’s clothing collection. Indeed, it is the clothing of the mother which forms the heart of this collection, lovingly displayed in cases in the darkened, converted bedrooms and family rooms of the mansion, as if they were the religious objects in glass reliquaries. (As one internet wag said, Jorge Yarur, The Most Fashionable Mama’s Boy Ever.)
Beyond the mother’s clothing, which is good but not great, however, there is the extensive collection of important and historical pieces, including several major Paul Poiret gowns, along with the Diors, the Chanels, and many older items of interest.
The shoe collection was likewise well done, although the Manolo did have the very sniffy pleasure of pointing out that two pairs of the boots had been misidentified, their cards transposed (undoubtedly the error of the inattentive curator).
Of the course, there many more reasons to go to Santiago, but for the Manolo, it was the Museo de la Moda that made the trip.
During the First World War, the Metropolitan Railway, like other services serving the City, was effectively taken over by the government. Its trains were extensively used to transport troops from London to the Channel ports. To replace its employees who left to fight, the Met began employing women for the first time in positions such as porters, ticket inspectors, and guards.
Here is another picture of these boots and uniform on the different woman…
Historians agreed it was the first time they could remember seeing the leader of the free world snapped in a public setting, wearing nothing more than a flimsy strip of rubber on his feet.
Capping off his Hawaiian vacation, President Obama earlier this week sports an uber-casual look finished with a pair of flipflops, favored by his core demographic: college kids.
“I can’t say I’ve seen a president’s toes before. This could be a very usual thing,” said presidential historian Jane Hampton Cook, author of an upcoming children’s book “What Does the President Look Like?”
“But I don’t think this is a big deal. Your footwear belongs to the occasion. If you’re on the beach buying your daughter snow cones, I don’t think you can beat him up for this. Now if he’s wearing flip-flops to the State of the Union, that’d be different.”
Presidential historian Doug Wead concurred.
“In public, no. I haven’t seen the president’s toes,” he deadpanned.
And while most historians couldn’t think of an example of presidential appendages being on such display, most agreed it wasn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world.
Unless you one of those old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy persons who seeks to uphold the standards of dress and decorum.
P.S. If you are the new visitor to the humble blog of the Manolo, please consider following the Manolo on the Twitter, or befriending him on the Facebook.
Manolo says, thanks to the interesting article about the birth of European “fashion” at the History Today, the Manolo has been introduced to the chief accountant to the family Fugger, Matthäus Schwarz, who was apparently the sort of Renaissance Sartorialist.
Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers / And they've been known to pick a song or two
In July 1526 Matthäus Schwarz, a 29-year-old chief accountant for the mighty Fugger family of merchants from Augsburg, commissioned a naked image of himself as fashionably slim and precisely noted his waist measurements. He worried about gaining weight, which to him signalled ageing and diminished attractiveness. Over the course of his life, from his twenties to his old age, Schwarz commissioned 135 watercolour paintings showing his dressed self, which he eventually compiled into a remarkable album, the Klaidungsbüchlein (Book of Clothes), which is housed today in a small museum in Brunswick. From the many fascinating details the album reveals we know that, while he was courting women, Schwarz carried heart-shaped leather bags in green, the colour of hope.
This mania for the clothing reaches its peak at the Imperial Diet in Augsberg.
Matthäus Schwarz had three expensive outfits tailored for himself to please Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria, whom he met twice during the Imperial Diet of Augsburg of 1530, presided over by the archduke and his brother, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. […] Schwarz, who had slimmed in advance and had grown a beard like Ferdinand himself, used fashion to produce an image of himself which made the archduke like and trust him. In 1541 Schwarz himself received a particularly special reward from the emperor, whom he had also had a chance to impress in person; he was ennobled.
Ayyy! Matthäus Schwarz dieted for the Diet!
But, thanks to the age and the marriage, things did not end well for our foppish friend…
To those interested in the history of fashion, mention must be made that, like so may other fashions originating as actual sportswear, the modern suit jacket originated as a hunting coat for riding to the hounds. The seat vent allows the jacket to drape elegantly astride the saddle.
Most sport jackets today appear to have devolved from military uniforms, specifically the flight jacket and the motorcycle jacket.