“'Youth culture, in general, is not always decipherable to those outside of the inner circle,' Alvarez responded. 'In many ways, our dress and our vocabulary and our vernacular becomes powerful because [outsiders] can't understand it.'” — Gene Demby in an excellent essay about sagging pants, and the long history of “dangerous” street fashion.

When New York Fashion Week begins Thursday, two masculine archetypes will be engaged in a lively debate on the subject of manliness: what is beloved and what is rebuked; what is romanticized and what is demonized; what is hot and what is not.

One of these guys is beanpole skinny. He isn’t classically handsome. He might simply be an odd duck — someone with a perfectly imperfect face that is impossible to ignore. His longtime dominance of the fashion conversation is being challenged by the return of a man with muscles and swagger who exists in a cloud of intoxicating testosterone.

If these two extremes have anything in common, it is this: Both types are white. After so many years, that remains the default choice.

Robin Givhan on male models, “aesthetics,” and diversity in the Washington Post.
“The rise of haute couture in the early 20th century dovetailed with advances in communication and travel, and so, too, the public’s unusual interest in this rarefied world. There are well-known stories of Paris policemen and taxi drivers being able to recognize couture, like a cop in the ’30s who refused to arrest a feminist agitator on the grounds that she was dressed by Molyneux. By the ’60s, everyone knew about the latest fashion, if not from Mary Quant, then from the Beatles. But sometime in the late ’80s, fashion discovered semiotics. Clothes suddenly acquired meaning (think of the efforts to “decode” a Helmut Lang show or almost any by Martin Margiela). You truly needed to be an expert to appreciate why a jacket was worn inside out or why a dress that made you look like a bag lady was cool. Susan Sontag described a similar shift in the arts in the mid-60s, noting that “the most interesting and creative art of our time is not open to the generally educated; it demands special effort; it speaks a specialized language.” Today, as high fashion moves closer to mass media — with brand-hosted YouTube channels, films, huge spectacles — there is pressure to simplify. I also wonder whether the surge of new brands — their shows often crammed with weird and banal designs — hasn’t caused elite designers to rethink matters. Hence more straightforward clothes.”

Cathy Horyn in The New York Times.

-Pete

Chief Wahoo, Indians and Rooting For Outfits
Remember the old Seinfeld bit? When you pick a favorite sports team, the players change, the ownership changes… ultimately you’re just rooting for outfits. I’m a sports fan, and I of course care a lot about outfits, so I find myself thinking about sports uniforms a lot. Ask me about baseball stirrups sometime. You’ll get an earful.
Lately, the big news in the sports uniform world has been the controversy over Native American-themed mascots, team names and logos. There’s been a lot of bad news coming out of Washington, where the team name is an outmoded term that in 2013 can only be considered a slur. In Cleveland, though, there’s some good news.
For decades, there’s been debate in Cleveland, in the Cleveland Indians organization and in the larger sports world over the team’s “Chief Wahoo” logo. I won’t link to it here, but you probably know it - it’s a cartoon drawn in 1951 of a grinning Indian brave, with bright red skin and a fat, bulbous nose. It looks like an animated image of Hirohito from WWII or a black person in some 1930s cartoon short. Outside of its familiar context, it’s really pretty shocking. But after sixty years of using it in one form or another, many Indians fans are understandably attached to it.
The team removed the image from its caps in stages over the last few years, and as SportsLogos.net is reporting, they seem to be in the final stages of eliminating it from their identity completely. It’s something I wish had happened a few decades ago, but I nonetheless tip my (Chief Wahoo-less) cap to the team for handling a situation that frankly needed to be handled. Doing it without fanfare is entirely reasonable and genuinely decent.
Should the team change its name completely? I think that’s a thornier issue. Unlike “Redskin,” Indian (and particularly American Indian) is a term chosen by many in the Native American community. Members of the American Indian Movement have fought and died for it. There are millions of people who claim Native identity in the US, and their preferred name is a spectrum - many prefer to be identified by their nation, for example - but we can probably stipulate that Indian isn’t a slur. Whether it’s an appropriate name for a sports team? That’s a very reasonable question.
Here is some important context: American Indians aren’t a historical peoples, and they’re not mythical, either. They live here in America with us, any reasonable measure shows they’ve got it tougher than almost any other demographic group.
The overwhelming majority of mascots are mythical or historical (49ers, Wizards) animals (Hawks), or more abstract (Sonics). Do you think a real group of people is comparable to, say, Bobcats? Do you think it’s fair for a group of people historically stereotyped as savage and violent to object to being admired solely for their courage in battle? Powerful people who aren’t Indians have defined the idea of Indian-ness in the American consciousness for hundreds of years. That’s a tough spot to be in if you’re the one being defined.
Let me say this: I’m sure that the folks who say Indian nicknames are intended to be positive are sincere. It’s just that that’s not the whole issue. One of the great fights American Indians face in contemporary America is defining themselves as a living people, rather than historical-mythical characters. Being a mascot is essentially the opposite of being human. It’s about creating a narrow, broad-strokes identity. That’s the whole point of a team identity. It’s pretty much either fun or badass.
Are there ways to genuinely honor people through sports teams? One would hope that teams with Native-inspired names would at the bare minimum actively engage Native communities, so those communities have a real voice in they way they’re represented and can take real pride in the teams. Florida State, whose team is called the Seminoles, has taken steps in this direction. There’s also another alternative: just pick a name that won’t be hurtful to a real and significant group of people. That’d work, too.
But anyway, back to uniforms, because uniform-wise, there’s great news for Cleveland fans. The new caps, which have a few variations, are handsome as all hell. They’ll need to be integrated better into the uniform identity system, which is very “Baseball Script” heavy, but if you’re looking for a cap to wear out and about, you could really do a lot worse. One of the best new cap styles in recent years. And truly: I tip it in the direction of Cleveland.

Chief Wahoo, Indians and Rooting For Outfits

Remember the old Seinfeld bit? When you pick a favorite sports team, the players change, the ownership changes… ultimately you’re just rooting for outfits. I’m a sports fan, and I of course care a lot about outfits, so I find myself thinking about sports uniforms a lot. Ask me about baseball stirrups sometime. You’ll get an earful.

Lately, the big news in the sports uniform world has been the controversy over Native American-themed mascots, team names and logos. There’s been a lot of bad news coming out of Washington, where the team name is an outmoded term that in 2013 can only be considered a slur. In Cleveland, though, there’s some good news.

For decades, there’s been debate in Cleveland, in the Cleveland Indians organization and in the larger sports world over the team’s “Chief Wahoo” logo. I won’t link to it here, but you probably know it - it’s a cartoon drawn in 1951 of a grinning Indian brave, with bright red skin and a fat, bulbous nose. It looks like an animated image of Hirohito from WWII or a black person in some 1930s cartoon short. Outside of its familiar context, it’s really pretty shocking. But after sixty years of using it in one form or another, many Indians fans are understandably attached to it.

The team removed the image from its caps in stages over the last few years, and as SportsLogos.net is reporting, they seem to be in the final stages of eliminating it from their identity completely. It’s something I wish had happened a few decades ago, but I nonetheless tip my (Chief Wahoo-less) cap to the team for handling a situation that frankly needed to be handled. Doing it without fanfare is entirely reasonable and genuinely decent.

Should the team change its name completely? I think that’s a thornier issue. Unlike “Redskin,” Indian (and particularly American Indian) is a term chosen by many in the Native American community. Members of the American Indian Movement have fought and died for it. There are millions of people who claim Native identity in the US, and their preferred name is a spectrum - many prefer to be identified by their nation, for example - but we can probably stipulate that Indian isn’t a slur. Whether it’s an appropriate name for a sports team? That’s a very reasonable question.

Here is some important context: American Indians aren’t a historical peoples, and they’re not mythical, either. They live here in America with us, any reasonable measure shows they’ve got it tougher than almost any other demographic group.

The overwhelming majority of mascots are mythical or historical (49ers, Wizards) animals (Hawks), or more abstract (Sonics). Do you think a real group of people is comparable to, say, Bobcats? Do you think it’s fair for a group of people historically stereotyped as savage and violent to object to being admired solely for their courage in battle? Powerful people who aren’t Indians have defined the idea of Indian-ness in the American consciousness for hundreds of years. That’s a tough spot to be in if you’re the one being defined.

Let me say this: I’m sure that the folks who say Indian nicknames are intended to be positive are sincere. It’s just that that’s not the whole issue. One of the great fights American Indians face in contemporary America is defining themselves as a living people, rather than historical-mythical characters. Being a mascot is essentially the opposite of being human. It’s about creating a narrow, broad-strokes identity. That’s the whole point of a team identity. It’s pretty much either fun or badass.

Are there ways to genuinely honor people through sports teams? One would hope that teams with Native-inspired names would at the bare minimum actively engage Native communities, so those communities have a real voice in they way they’re represented and can take real pride in the teams. Florida State, whose team is called the Seminoles, has taken steps in this direction. There’s also another alternative: just pick a name that won’t be hurtful to a real and significant group of people. That’d work, too.

But anyway, back to uniforms, because uniform-wise, there’s great news for Cleveland fans. The new caps, which have a few variations, are handsome as all hell. They’ll need to be integrated better into the uniform identity system, which is very “Baseball Script” heavy, but if you’re looking for a cap to wear out and about, you could really do a lot worse. One of the best new cap styles in recent years. And truly: I tip it in the direction of Cleveland.

(Source: jessethorn)

What is the Meaning of a Hole in a Shoe?
If you ever needed proof that dressing is social and cultural, not absolute, or that you dress for those around you, not simply for yourself… it’s here.
A reader named Jonathan sent me a fascinating AP story about Jeffrey Franks, the International Monetary Fund’s envoy to Romania. When the IMF helps bail out a struggling nation, they send an economics envoy like Franks to guide the austerity plans that they hope will bring the country back from the brink. Franks, with an undergraduate degree from Princeton, a master’s from Oxford and a PhD from Harvard is one such envoy.
Romanians, it seems, are upset not just by those unpleasant austerity measures, but also by something smaller - literally smaller. Specifically, a hole in Franks’ shoe. The hole is visible in the picture above, and the AP says this has become a major point of contention in Romania - along with Franks’ black suit and cheap digital watch. I don’t have to outline the ironies here - a nation, chafing under outsider-imposed austerity measures, mocks the austerity of the outsider.
This kind of sartorial austerity is hardly anything new, either. Witness the patched shoes of Prince Charles, for example. In the context of great wealth, a disregard of outward signs of wealth can, contradictorily, be a powerful symbol of wealth. This is particularly true in places which combine the Protestant ethic with deep-rooted money, like the Northeast United States, or England. Nantucket reds, the famous faded red trousers of moneyed WASP vacationers, are another example: they could be replaced, but instead the fading demonstrates the leisure the wearer has enjoyed.
This isn’t even the first political shoe-hole controversy. In the 1950s, presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson caused a furor when a photograph was taken of the hole in the sole of his shoe. Stevenson came from the patrician Northeastern tradition that suggested that the greatest demonstration of class wasn’t to wear the finest clothes, but to wear your clothes until they were unwearable. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, only has two pairs of work shoes, and they’re both loafers.
Whether or not Franks comes from a patrician background, he’s certainly been steeped in what’s left of that world. And education at two Ivys and Oxford will do that. He may well have a touch of the contemporary version, brought over from Silicon Valley - a true technocrat has no need for clothes, his skill will do the talking.
What Franks missed, here, was that his values, whether they’re patrician, technocratic or just slovenly, aren’t shared values. He serves as a type of diplomat, and as a diplomat messaging and trans-cultural communication is part of his job. He has to understand that when he dresses, he sends a message. Given the baggage he enters every room with - “here comes the imperialist, telling us how to run our country” - he needs to be extra cognizant of how his choices will be received.
He also needs to stop wearing loafers with a business suit. That’s tacky in any country.

What is the Meaning of a Hole in a Shoe?

If you ever needed proof that dressing is social and cultural, not absolute, or that you dress for those around you, not simply for yourself… it’s here.

A reader named Jonathan sent me a fascinating AP story about Jeffrey Franks, the International Monetary Fund’s envoy to Romania. When the IMF helps bail out a struggling nation, they send an economics envoy like Franks to guide the austerity plans that they hope will bring the country back from the brink. Franks, with an undergraduate degree from Princeton, a master’s from Oxford and a PhD from Harvard is one such envoy.

Romanians, it seems, are upset not just by those unpleasant austerity measures, but also by something smaller - literally smaller. Specifically, a hole in Franks’ shoe. The hole is visible in the picture above, and the AP says this has become a major point of contention in Romania - along with Franks’ black suit and cheap digital watch. I don’t have to outline the ironies here - a nation, chafing under outsider-imposed austerity measures, mocks the austerity of the outsider.

This kind of sartorial austerity is hardly anything new, either. Witness the patched shoes of Prince Charles, for example. In the context of great wealth, a disregard of outward signs of wealth can, contradictorily, be a powerful symbol of wealth. This is particularly true in places which combine the Protestant ethic with deep-rooted money, like the Northeast United States, or England. Nantucket reds, the famous faded red trousers of moneyed WASP vacationers, are another example: they could be replaced, but instead the fading demonstrates the leisure the wearer has enjoyed.

This isn’t even the first political shoe-hole controversy. In the 1950s, presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson caused a furor when a photograph was taken of the hole in the sole of his shoe. Stevenson came from the patrician Northeastern tradition that suggested that the greatest demonstration of class wasn’t to wear the finest clothes, but to wear your clothes until they were unwearable. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, only has two pairs of work shoes, and they’re both loafers.

Whether or not Franks comes from a patrician background, he’s certainly been steeped in what’s left of that world. And education at two Ivys and Oxford will do that. He may well have a touch of the contemporary version, brought over from Silicon Valley - a true technocrat has no need for clothes, his skill will do the talking.

What Franks missed, here, was that his values, whether they’re patrician, technocratic or just slovenly, aren’t shared values. He serves as a type of diplomat, and as a diplomat messaging and trans-cultural communication is part of his job. He has to understand that when he dresses, he sends a message. Given the baggage he enters every room with - “here comes the imperialist, telling us how to run our country” - he needs to be extra cognizant of how his choices will be received.

He also needs to stop wearing loafers with a business suit. That’s tacky in any country.