Read or re-read part I here.
FTDF: Do you believe that the community emerged because at some point a generation of fathers or grandfathers stopped teaching their sons and grandsons how to dress?
RJ: There’s a necessarily political aspect to a question like this. This is not the Paris of Père Goriot, lacking fathers and father figures. What I mean is that many of the people asserting that a generational break is a reason for why we dress so badly are theorizing that this generational break is why the world is going to hell today, that we turned our back on authority, tradition, morality and all sorts of other values in the 1960s and 1970s and that this is why things are so fucked up now. They play coy when asked what the particular bad things that contributed to this and that should be rolled back are: whether it had to do with women no longer being only sex objects and caregivers, or with dark-skinned people no longer knowing their place, and so on.The thing is, the same rat races, obsessiveness, one-upmanship and solipsism exist in forums dedicated to all kinds of topics, not just men’s clothing – in fact, any male-dominated internet forum, whether for stereos, martial arts, lovers of certain musical instruments, watches, and so on. Part of male psyche is to have this obsession over needlessly trivial. It does not spring from one generation’s abandonment of elegance – which is not the same thing as the simple ways of how to dress, which is the insinuation. Between 1960 and 1990 we did not forget how to put on clothes or wear them, even if we turned our back on elegance. And forums are not the surrogates to those missing fathers. Perhaps to missing paragons of elegance, but that is disturbing. So we are not the Paris of Père Goriot, but that of Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes (An iGent High and Low), missing our lost fop Lucien de Rubempré.
FTDF: How would you describe your personal style?
RJ: Alas, I think that any of us who have earned reputations on the Internet will be classified as dandies or fops, whether we like that title or not, for the simple fact of caring how we dress and taking pleasure in our clothes. So I would describe my personal style as dandified, because all of us are; colorful; slightly over-the-top.
We all want to see ourselves as the last holdouts for some lost idea of elegance… or perhaps that’s just me and my atavistic fantasies. But I daresay I don’t quite come across that way, not as elegant as I would like to be.
FTDF: How much of an impact did the internet have on your knowledge and on your personal style?
RJ: It’s obviously been influential in terms of the interactions I’ve had with people who were knowledgeable and information received that I could empirically test and verify. The Internet brought me and us into contact with a variety of people we never would have been able to meet otherwise, many with a great deal of knowledge. Still, as always, there’s a need to test and consider the source through personal experience and preference. I occasionally got taken in by the forum vogues, like the one for fresco in 2006 and the cordovan thing in 2008, among others. Japanese knives, too, in 2009. And nowadays, it’s useful to see what new developments there are at various shops and makers I’m interested in, reading between the lines.
FTDF: What is elegance as far as you are concerned?
RJ: That’s a surprisingly difficult question. I’ve been thinking of a definition of style as I’ve been working on my book, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that style is inspiration, no more and no less. I’m also reminded of Bryan Ferry’s rather neat definition of what makes a gentleman, 20 years ago: “good manners and handmade shoes.” I would submit that in that case handmade can include hand-guided through machine, as with Edward Green. But elegance? I’ve thought of one hypothetical definition: the ability to dress with the greatest care and the greatest inspiration, and then to forget what you have on and simply be yourself. But elegance doesn’t always involve care. Outside of clothing, it implies simplicity and clarity, like a good mathematical proof. But in clothing, a complicated ensemble (to avoid using the dreaded word “outfit”) can also be elegant in some circumstances. So it’s rather more complicated or ineffable than I would have thought. Handsome is as handsome does, as the old saying goes.I can’t stand them now, but I often think of the line from an old Jane’s Addiction song, “I wish I knew everyone’s nickname, all their slang and all their sayings. Every way to show affection, how to dress to fit the occasion.” That sort of control and flexibility, to me, always seemed something to aspire to – some ideal of courtesy and near-omniscience, in order to be obliging to one’s fellows. Perhaps that in some degree is a kind of elegance.
FTDF: You have met and been a customer to many tailors and shoemakers, what can you tell us about the relationship one is to develop with craftsmen/artisans?
RJ: What is most important is trust. Find someone you can trust, and then trust him or her and don’t second guess him or her. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to find a maker you can trust. Trust doesn’t mean unquestioningly accepting whatever someone produces for you. It means trusting that person to get it right or make it right.
Some people have suggested that a good craftsman is one who is unfailingly polite and accommodating, while others have suggested the opposite, that real craftsmen are brusque and brutal. I have known genial artisans and gruff ones who each carried out great work, just as I’ve known artisans both good and bad who bad-mouthed their competitors or who were always gracious about them. As a customer, not a trained craftsman, I know that no matter how much I have learned about how something is made, I am a layperson. Thus, I have to rely on the maker and cannot keep second-guessing him. Unfortunately, whether you can trust someone or not is not something you always find out before you receive your order. In the end, you have to rely on the opinion of someone you can trust.
When something goes wrong, as it inevitably will, a good craftsman will make it right, if you give him the opportunity to.
But, also inevitably, you will never get exactly what you wanted in a bespoke order, because you can never fully communicate the image you had in your mind to the person who will make it. It is important to recognize that ideals are always different from their execution, imperfect because it is real. That does not mean that something artisanal must be badly made, imprecisely made or irregular in order to be craft-made or artisanal. That is a lie of long standing perpetuated by the Internet.
FTDF: How do you feel about Savile Row nowadays?
RJ: I like it. Why not? Where else has a neighborhood survived where several dozen different tailors have their shops and can make you each something beautifully handcrafted in the traditional manner? From Henry Poole to Meyer & Mortimer, through so many others. The real bespoke tailors left in Paris can be counted on one hand and certain of them I would not trust as far as I could throw them with that same hand. It’s very easy to dismiss it, as some of the professionally motivated bloggers have, with rumors impugning the tailors of offshoring or anything else. But there are still a number of very good tailors in and around Savile Row who will make a wonderful bespoke suit, hand cut, hand canvassed and hand sewn in the important places. What almost all of them, or almost all of the larger ones, have had to do to survive is find a secondary revenue stream. In the case of Anderson & Sheppard, it is their new haberdashery selling ready-to-wear. In the case of Gieves & Hawkes, it has been numerous ready-to-wear licenses, foreign licenses in the Far East, diffusion lines of trendy ready-to-wear, and so on. Henry Poole had for a number of years a Japanese ready-to-wear license. Gieves & Hawkes and Kilgour have foreign owners with deep pockets willing to bank on them. Norton & Sons has an MBA owner who launched a trendy, inaccessibly priced ready-to-wear line and raises their profile by appearing on reality shows like The Sewing Bee and so on. At the core of many of the remaining houses is still the bespoke – certainly at Poole, where I was a customer for several years and where the cut and service were impeccable. The danger for much of Savile Row, frankly, is following the French route where bespoke is simply a miroir aux alouettes, smoke and mirrors because it is so small a part of the business and so deterrently expensive that almost no one actually uses it. Instead, it is something used to sell the ready-to-wear, a branding exercise. That is the case at several very fashionable French brands with very, very expensive bespoke offers that get a lot of press without there being, or needing to be, a real bespoke clientele. As a marketing tool, all that is needed is the possibility of bespoke.
The alternate route that a few of the smaller Savile Row houses have taken is to re-establish themselves as Savile Row-trained and bred, but without a physical store in the Row, instead carrying out fittings at the premises of the cloth merchants who for decades have allowed that as a courtesy.
But if I had my druthers, that is, if I knew I would not be castrated by my wife for ordering more suits, I would go to Camps de Luca for the pleasure of trying them but to Steed for the wonder that is an excellently cut and fitted Savile Row suit.
FTDF: Could you talk to us about your attachment for Edward Green?
RJ: My love for Edward Green is irrational. Until the 125 last, I actually had a very slightly better fit in Crockett & Jones. But ever since I got a chance to examine Edward Green shoes in person, they’ve just been my ideal of the English shoe. Back in 2001 I got a chance to look at the Edward Green Westminster and the John Lobb Paris William, each house’s classic double-monk-strap model, side by side. The Green just looked right, and the Lobb looked off. Since then, I’ve noticed that Edward Green’s shoes, both in the proportions of their lasts and of their patterns, just had a perfection to them. The leather quality, the finishing and the construction are on the whole better than any other English maker’s – John Lobb Paris may use some arguably better leathers, but Green’s construction and durability are slightly better than any other English ready-to-wear maker’s I’ve tried. In addition, Green’s vast catalog of models, of last shapes, and the flexibility they had for special orders are amazing. Now they’ve gotten wiser and force many orders into the Top Drawer program at a soberingly high price, but the work is beautiful.There’s a lot of foolishness online about handwelted footwear and the importance of that over Goodyear welting (which by definition is carried out by a Goodyear machine), as well as the overstated dangers of gemming. Good hand welting is going to add thousands of dollars to the price of a shoe, for the possibility of perhaps one or two more resolings than a well-maintained Goodyear-welted shoe of quality. Not all Goodyear-welted shoes are of equivalent quality, but Edward Green is among the best of them, and in my experience the finishing and stitching are better than on the other English shoemakers, while the design, subjectively, to me is better than any – John Lobb ready-to-wear is either a bad attempt to copy Berluti or overly finicky versions of the classics Green carries off with panache; Weston is excellent in quality but the styles are less to my taste; Carmina is good quality but nowhere near as well finished; Saint Crispins and Vass rely heavily on their handwork as selling points, but the styles are less accessible to me than Green. Berluti is overpriced and lost whatever specialness it had when its colors and patination used to be a rarity. Green can create with Goodyear welting shoes that are at least as elegant and slim as Berluti in its Blake stitching – and Berluti prices its Goodyear-welted models higher than its Blake-stitched models on the assertion that Goodyear welting is better.Green can do the perfect unlined loafer as well as the most beautiful lace-up business shoes or magnificent boots, with such a level of finish that even my bespoke shoemakers (such as Cleverley or Delos) have thought the Green ready-to-wear shoes I was wearing were bespoke.FTDF: What advice would you give to neo iGents?
RJ: Well, as above, that’s a very freighted term, so I would tell them to take a long look in the mirror and think hard about what they are doing with their lives. Then I would give them the advice that the resident rebels had in high school. They had long hair and dressed transgressively and did politically provocative things, and they said to question everything. Regardless of the rest, it’s damn good advice. Learn to think critically and you may become a less happy person, but perhaps a better informed one. Empirical evidence and personal experience are irreplaceable. And I would remind them that the RJ cat (2’5”, 10.1 lb) has a posse.
We wish to thank Réginald-Jérôme for his kindness, his knowledge and his sense of humor.
Paris, July 2015. All rights reserved.
Poursuivons aujourd’hui notre série d’inspirations sur les personnalités du menswear dont nous apprécions les tenues. Cet article sera consacré à Benedikt Fries, du site Shibumi qui propose une sélection d’accessoires et notamment des cravates en PàP mais également en sur-mesure.
Benedikt prouve à lui seul que les Allemands savent de quoi ils parlent en matière d’élégance masculine. Son style est plutôt italien dans l’esprit, ses costumes provenant souvent de la Maison Sartoria Corcos, tailleur japonais du nom de Kotaro Miyahira basé à Florence, et il avoue son admiration pour le style d’un autre tailleur florentin bien connu, Liverano. Même si nous ne partageons pas forcément tous ses partis pris stylistiques, nous sommes sensibles à son respect des proportions et devons reconnaître qu’il sait s’habiller en fonction de sa morphologie. Nous apprécions particulièrement ses choix en matière de couleurs (sobres avec parfois quelques touches un peu plus flamboyantes), de souliers en veau velours, mais aussi ses épaules tombantes et le positionnement de son cran très haut sur des revers généralement assez généreux.
Concernant l’Allemagne dans son ensemble, alors que les regards se tournent souvent vers l’Italie, l’Angleterre ou le Japon, ce pays compte encore, à l’instar des Pays-Bas, un certain nombre de retailers en matière de menswear, qui n’hésitent pas à proposer du très haut de gamme. L’Allemagne est par exemple l’un des tous premiers marchés pour certaines maisons italiennes, comme Attolini.
Nouvelle session du Pitti, nouveaux clichés qui fleurissent sur les blogs et diverses plateformes et l’occasion pour nous de proposer une comparaison entre ce Pitti et le Pitti de juin 2012.
En l’espace de 3 ans, dans un monde de la mode qu’on décrit souvent comme changeant, on constate que les tendances présentes parmi les visiteurs du Pitti Uomo sont à peu près les mêmes, à l’image de ses figures de proue au style constant : Ignatius Joseph, Nick Wooster ou encore Lino Ieluzzi. Cela a quelque chose de rassurant, le menswear contrairement à son pendant féminin étant davantage fait de tendances lourdes et d’évolutions lentes.
Alors bien sur, les tenues sont parfois un peu trop colorées et accessoirisées ou les pantalons un peu trop courts. Il n’empêche que l’ambiance y-est toujours bon enfant – bien plus que dans d’autres salons – et qu’il est sans aucun doute plus intéressant de se rendre sur place que de visionner ces photos qui n’apportent plus grand chose en termes d’inspiration à ceux qui se passionnent pour le menswear depuis quelques années.
We are proud to present to you the first part of an interview with Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, menswear writer, bespoke connoisseur and inveterate seeker. Have a look at his tumblr here.
FTDF: When did you get interested in menswear and elegance, was it a family thing?
RJ: No. My parents and family were and are interested in value for money and finding a deal. So some of that filtered down to me, in that I was always interested in finding something undiscovered, a gem in the rough or something that in the right context would be interesting to wear. However, the concept of value that they have is rather more sane than the way I apply it – knowing that the only clothing that is timeless is clothing that is not completely of any one time. A bespoke suit from a good tailor today is now so expensive that it will never pay for itself, so a large part of its value has to be in how the wearer thinks it makes him feel. That is extremely difficult to justify to anyone else. So my family tolerates my clothing compulsions, but doesn’t claim to share them.
I first got interested in clothes as a teenager, and not initially for the clothes themselves but for what they could communicate. A large part of the anxieties of early adolescence are about belonging and rejecting. Clothes were part of how one could signal, or pose as, belonging, as well as communicate rejection of various ways of thinking, class signifiers, and attitudes. You could do that through wearing clothes diametrically opposed in style, color and so on to the clothes of those groups, or through appropriation, mockery of those clothes and attitudes, even through outdoing them with exaggeration. How do you outdo prep? By wearing clothes that are actually well made and elegant.
FTDF: If you started from scratch how did you gather knowledge, from books or directly online?
RJ: Haha, given that I started learning about clothing as a teenager, the Internet was barely more than a gleam in the eye of some guys at DARPA at the time. I gathered knowledge of one particular clothing aesthetic osmotically, being immersed in it but not of it at a high school where the greedy and grasping upper middle classes of the American northeast held sway in the last gasp of what was prep, in all its judgmental, insecure and plangent pink and green glory. I knew I wanted to aspire to something else. That something else could only be gleaned from magazines and hinted at, in stylized form, in movies – least imaginatively of course through the Bond movies, the gateway drug for so many of us in men’s clothing. Later, with tongue firmly in cheek, I looked to Terence Stamp in Modesty Blaise and Patrick Macnee as John Steed in the black-and-white episodes of The Avengers, but also to David Hemmings and Terence Stamp in their 1960s movies, and so on. Magazines like the very short-lived Esquire Gentleman introduced me to old 1960s and 1970s icons like Stamp and Bryan Ferry, men who loved clothing for its own sake after having adopted certain styles of dress when commercial success allowed them to live in the same neighborhoods (literally – the Albany apartment building in Stamp’s case and Primrose Hill in Ferry’s) as English gentlemen without affecting and assimilating the bundle of fucked-up class-ridden attitudes that such gentlemen may have carried. It’s not a coincidence that a film like Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class came out at the same time that Terence Stamp was setting up in Piccadilly. Reading magazines that happened to discuss clothing was easier to justify mentally than purchasing books about clothing, although I ended up doing so finally, beginning with Alan Flusser’s Style and the Man and Bernhard Roetzel’s Gentleman: A Timeless Fashion. Even at the time I bought them, there was very little about men’s clothing – classic men’s clothing and traditional bespoke – online. So those two books might as well have been the Dead Sea Scrolls of how to dress, with other writing of any quality on men’s clothing being almost nonexistent and certainly undiscovered. A large number of us early adopters thus came to the internet heavily informed and influenced by those two writers and their attitudes, particularly Flusser’s on the drape cut in bespoke suits and Roetzel’s very German, more English than the English, fixation on the English makers like Drake’s, the shirt shops of Jermyn Street, the tailors of Savile Row, and so on. What made those two books so important was not just the lack of other comprehensive books on men’s clothing, or websites discussing it, but that the other source, magazines, are by their nature topical and superficial, and generally ill-informed. Reading between the lines over a number of years, a perceptive reader might have gleaned that there were classic makers of beautiful and quality garments out there, but that message was drowned out by whatever magazine editors had to market that month, not to mention that most people writing about men’s clothing in periodicals have no idea of quality, construction or history and no way to evaluate critically (if they even want to) whatever press release or marketing horseshit they are rewriting under the guise of an article.At that time, around the debut of this millennium, there were a few very general websites on classic men’s clothing that were little more than directories of tailors, shirtmakers and shoemakers, as well as the website of the infamous defrocked priest Francis Bown, whose mercenary business model for his website about bespoke appears to have been rather ahead of its time, given the great success today of some of the most prominent French and English clothing bloggers. And again, given that it was the only information out there, all of us read it.
FTDF: What did you seek when you first went on forums such as Style Forum?
RJ: Quite simply, what I was seeking when I first joined an internet clothing forum was the whereabouts of my first tailor. At that time, the few tailors, shirtmakers and others who knew how to use the Internet to create a presence had something of a first-mover advantage, in that they were able to get the attention of people who had started searching online for information about suits, shirtmaking, and the rest, and they were able to engage with potential customers online and make their work immediately accessible. That was an enormous change. Previously, those of us who wanted to learn about bespoke and classic clothing had to soak up the few small drops of information, mostly garbled, that would occasionally drizzle out in magazines and the rare book. Exclusivity was not just physical. I note that a more unfortunate consequence was that those first movers, if they did reach out to potential customers online or through their websites, also had the opportunity to bad-mouth their perceived competitors and build themselves up, perhaps undeservedly. And because there were no other real sources of information out there, they could get away with that for a while.I had discovered my tailor through a website he had created online for a much better-known, royally-appointed tailor whom he was associated with at the time. He had been authorized to represent that tailor on visits abroad. So he was able to gain customers on the reputation of that better-known tailor. He had reached out to me in response to an email inquiry through his website and met me for an initial visit, but shortly thereafter I was unable to reach him by email or phone, so I ended up joining my first clothing forum in order to ask if anyone knew of this fellow and how to reach him. I then got sucked into the discussions and interchange.
Initially I was afraid to join Styleforum. It seemed much more intense than the forum I had joined initially: in attitude, in volume of information, in give and take. Over the years it became the forum I spent the most time on, in part because for a number of those years it was well moderated with just the right level of member autonomy, and a great number of well-informed posters who came to talk about clothes and stayed, for a while, for the snark, schadenfreude and time-wasting in-jokes (you like it, the lamb?). I learned, in that through the forums I gained a lot of information and then I went out and empirically evaluated it, through my own experiences as a customer in various cities and at various makers and shops. That atmosphere changed at one point, but things always do. We all have our own reasons for moving on, anyway. I had valued the byplay and the supposed relationships I had with a few posters I interacted with frequently on that forum. It was healthier that I stopped posting.
FTDF: What made you want to write about menswear?
RJ: As I mentioned above, posting on forums had not just been to exchange information in a constructive manner. It was a time-suck and a way to dissipate things that I may have wanted to say in a deeper and more constructive way. When I had the opportunity to write more focused things, at greater length than in a forum post, I found it much more gratifying than participating in the rat race of forum life, particularly as so much of it had become, more crassly and overtly, about consumerism and flaunting that consumerism. I wanted, and want, things that have some meaning to me, and those are the things I wanted to write about, to examine that feeling, that meaning. It gave me the opportunity for synthesis, to do something constructive with my obsessions, to interact with the internal drivers for why I wanted certain things and what made them special to me. In contrast, so many forum exchanges seem to be about why someone else is wrong. And it was validating to get feedback from people who found something of interest or value in what I had to say.
I lost my soapbox when my Svengali refocused his website. I’m currently heading back to so-called old media and working on a book that will deal with some of my favorite topics, the history of wonderful places, and hopefully will say new things, so it’s not going to be just a rehash of old blog posts. And it will probably be the only men’s clothing book ever written to contain a reference to Troll 2. My agent is very patient, thank God. Writing a book has made me realize that even a blog post on a particular topic could get away with being topical and making throwaway references whereas in print, there’s a need to provide more context and background information since I can’t count on readers to be fully up on the in-jokes and so on.FTDF: How do you feel about the term « iGent »?
RJ: I am taken aback at how this term, initially derogatory, has been appropriated with pride by many people who don’t appear to know what it meant. What made an iGent an Internet Gentleman was that he was educated by the Internet, and that secondhand knowledge upheld his pretentions to being a gentleman, whatever that is in this day and age.
In other words, the Internet Gentleman was someone who went online and talked about clothes and actually believed the half-truths and misremembrances that other people told them, without actually using personal experience or independent, critical thought. They were emblematic of the downsides of the growth of Internet discussion forums: people who followed invented trends like that of CBD (Conservative Business Dress) or soporific ties, without even knowing what the word soporific meant. My friend Nicholas Antongiavanni, who uses the username Manton, started a “Soporific Tie Porn” thread on Styleforum years ago after I told him some of his new ties were soporific, that is, sleep-inducing. Now enterprising eBay sellers use the term in their auctions!
One of the strange phenomena on the Internet forums was that credulousness. Of course, in the beginning we all hoped we could believe each other, because it seemed that for the first time people, actual consumers, could share and pool their experiences across great distances and divides. In the end, it has meant the creation of new cults of personality as boys with the most toys can flaunt their newest acquisitions and, in some unfortunate cases, attempt to impress their tastes and prejudices on their sometimes all-too-accepting readers. What I mean is that many, many people online did not or do not consider the source or use their own personal experiences to come to independent conclusions, when they subscribe to what someone else online has told them. There are many, many examples – the minor tempest in a teapot around the drawbacks of gemmed and Goodyear-welted shoes versus hand-welted shoes, when in point of fact it’s incredibly difficult to find shoes that are actually hand welted, and almost always many, many times more expensive to buy or resole competently hand-welted shoes than well-made Goodyear-welted shoes. Or the recent debacle around a new tie brand that purportedly only used vintage tie fabrics. No one else appeared to stop to ask why those vintage fabrics hadn’t been used yet – they were hideous. It wasn’t until the fellow behind it was caught out in numerous other lies and exposed on the forums that the iGents rallied against him.
In addition, the Internet Gentleman was an Internet Gentleman because of an element of fantasy, even delusion – he was a gentleman in his own mind and only on the Internet, where his presence was as virtual and intangible as the nobility or accumulated prejudices or whatever else made him a gentleman.
So to me, the iGents are not the new generation of elegants, any more than the cosplayers of the Chap movement are. As you have pointed out, though, the term has been appropriated as a badge of identification by many in that Internet subculture, the same way, I suppose, that furries and 4chanfappers have. And, as I myself pointed out in an article on them, if you know about the subculture, chances are you’re in it. Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère, as Baudelaire wrote in L’iGent de Paris or Assommons les iGents.
FTDF: What did you think of the not-yet known as IGent community back then and what do you think of it now?
RJ: As I wrote above, the term to me had meant someone who did not use critical or independent thought. By extension, that meant he was incapable of self-awareness or irony. Now that the term has evolved and been appropriated to apparently mean anyone who discusses clothes on the Internet, I suppose we are capable of recognizing ourselves and laughing at ourselves and our pretentions. Still, despite having become a badge or a rallying cry, it carries a connotation of someone who lacks personal experience and perspective, who relies on hearsay and puts far too much faith in what someone else has told him about quality, and so on. Caveat lector, more than ever, since marketers, multinationals and anyone else have discovered how to use all forms of social media, including the supposedly consumer-empowering forums and blogs, to perpetuate the same sort of advertising that we thought we were fleeing from.
FTDF: How do you reflect on its evolution?
RJ: With bemusement. Now we need to be able to laugh at ourselves while using it. What it had meant, and what I had written about in my profile of the iGent, was a crowd of people believing that clothing makes them gentlemen, or taking stuff for free, or talking in stilted, ungrammatical formality that they believe is at the level of the clothes they are talking about. Someone who trusted but didn’t verify. Someone who didn’t think for himself. In the end, we have found that we can’t trust these supposedly more democratic sources of information (forums and blogs). First, because certain of the most vocal, or profligate, members of the forums became respected resources due to their volume and not their inherent virtue or value, and secondly, because these platforms have become more corporate – either because they had to in order to survive, or because clever folks realized they could get payment or free stuff from brands in return for posting about them on their Internet sites. So our poor iGent today is more in peril than ever. There is more information than ever before, but how much of it is reliable?
FTDF: You are known for being a keen reader and great writer, do you believe that now with the emergence of microblogging such as tumblr iGents tend to focus more on image than on writings so that most iGents nowadays are just copycats who are not that knowledgeable and thus just as easily influenced as any fashion victim out there? Or at least not as knowledgeable as the first generation of iGents who were probably more interested in finding their personal style rather than just emulating someone else’s.
RJ: I’m flattered you think I’m a great writer. Reactions from my readers at the former A Suitable Wardrobe blog were entertainingly mixed, to say the least.
I’m also thinking of starting a tumblr for those self-indulgent exhibitionistic moments. A number of my clothing-obsessed friends and e-friends have them, many are rather wonderful, like those of Paul-Lux or my friend Christophe.I am reluctant to refer to the entire population of men seeking discussion or validation about clothing online as iGents. Is that what it has come to? Has the Académie Française OKed that expansion of definition? Still, your question highlights an interesting point. In the early days, which were no Eden or Arcadia, there were far fewer men interested in talking about clothing, online or anywhere. In the ensuing 12 years, #menswear and men’s clothing have become very fashionable discussion points. So the population is far greater, and broader, than it used to be. It is more permissible to be interested in men’s clothing than it was. This upsurge really first began to be felt around 2007, and certainly has not let up since then. The enormous growth of tumblrs and so on is both a result and a cause of this. Thus, it goes without saying that this newer generation is not necessarily as obsessive about knowledge and history as some of the early adopters were.
I cannot say that we were chiefly interested in finding our personal style. I think at that time we were happy to find a few kindred spirits. It was, at the time, astonishing to find that peer group. That first generation was the ones who were least aware of their being iGents, and came with their own creepy hangups and prejudices that influenced what made iGent, the subfamilies like the Colonel, with creepy politics and racial views, and so on. A great deal of sartorial conservatism reflected personal political conservatism. And nowadays some of those who were knowledgeable have left or moved on to trying to monetize that knowledge, while those who are left may have chosen to interact differently than in the past.
What your question also suggests is that the new interest in men’s clothing on many people’s parts may have less depth. Certainly, there are still new true believers coming on board, but with interest in men’s clothing being fashionable, many people are coming on without that baggage. In any event, current fashion for the flashy (#sprezz, and so on) has led to a strange homogeneity and a common and spurious lexicon of words they have rendered meaningless through misuse and creative bankruptcy.
FTDF: Do you believe that due to the emergence of blogs and microblogs, the forums have less influence nowadays?
RJ: I have no idea if forums have less influence now; I don’t follow them with enough technical knowledge or diligence to tell. I have the impression that forum readership has steadily increased over the years. Many people come to the forums to discuss things that they have seen or read on those blogs or microblogs, by which I suppose you mean tumblr, Instagram and so on. Blogging and microblogging have been boons to those who seek particular attention and commercialize themselves, creating a personal brand and using their readership to market items they receive for free or through some other commercial relationship.People want to see pictures of nice things and read reassuring, flattering nonsense about high-flown concepts. Most blogs with “gentleman” in the title cater to that.