I’d written this little poem on my 65th birthday, taking the hint of an image from both John Updike and R. L. Stevenson. Of course, as the rime is so pedestrian and the rhythm limps along like a three-legged mule, I take full blame for the whole of it.
The Clotheshorse Unseated,
My Birthday, 2006
Here so quick at sixty-five,
But glad to know I’m still alive.
Having taken more than ever given,
And never for any of it striven.
Sitting here and looking back,
Remembering what I tried to pack
For my little unessential trip
In the hold of my unsteady ship,
I thought I had the clothes I’d need
For any clime and any deed
For which I’d see myself embark
On almost any little lark.
Today I find, to my dismay,
Those things I’d packed just yesterday,
Thinking them prerequisite,
No longer even seem to fit.
I guess it’s all as it must be,
Others have found it much like me,
That when our ships have crossed the bar,
After we’ve gasped our last au revoir,
We’ll sail along the River Stix,
And leave behind the blows and licks,
To find, as we hear Charon’s call,
We really need no clothes at all.
“Home is the hunter, home from the hill, / And the sailor home from the sea.”
And home the sartorialist, closet forlorn, his wardrobe on E-Bay just short of free.
– G. Bruce Boyer
HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Let your imagination lead you, not your brain. Try to see the world as you did when you were a child, capturing images spontaneously without thought. Put those images together and let your eye be your guide. Have fun, laugh and make others laugh with you! If you can do these things, you will be at the doorstep of style. The last few silent movies on DWS were created to illustrate just this point.
We pass from the joys of innocence into the turmoil of experience. We are taught to be builders. To survive we must use our brains, design, lay foundations, add infrastructure, elaborate, furnish, render things useful with logic and reason.
Do you dress yourself like a builder, layering clothes one upon the next? If so, does the result appear studied, forced, can your intent be read and blunt the apparition of style?
Put down your measure, let the ruler fall from your hands, close your eyes and imagine the walks you took when you were a child, the smells, the colors, the textures, feel the breeze and your mother’s hand. Now look at your dress with the same enlivened eye.
“Most traditions are just a succession of bad habits…lesser actors imitating the affectations of bigger ones…I don’t believe in tradition I believe in the living practice of things.” -Orson Welles
Style is seen in the living practice of things. It has no heritage, no father, no paradigm, it simply is.
Great dressers have style before they ever step into the tailors or a shop, where they go to buy clothes. You cannot buy style. No one can make it, craft or package it. It has nothing to do with your physique or tailoring manuals. It has to do with you.
In this video you will see one way to prepare and wear a handkerchief in the breast pocket of a coat. The idea is to make the handkerchief look as natural as possible, simply placed in the pocket with no thought.
The linen or cotton hanky is a functional instrument of dress and not a decoration, something all too often implied by the idea of a “pocket square.” Avoid complicated folding techniques that render a studied and dwelled upon look. The ideal handkerchief should look like it is growing out of your pocket.
We will also look at how to knot a cravat or ascot using a simple “four in hand” technique. Once again, the ascot, like this one made of moleskin, is a functional and often necessary item of dress, it keeps the neck warm on cold days and helps avoid those nasty colds and sore throats in winter. You would like that, right? We will be looking at how to wear a full sized silk scarf as an ascot in an upcoming feature.