The big C; Cultured or Casual

To dress or not too dress; that is the question?    

 

The rise of the modern trend  of "dress casual" [almost an oxymoron] gives rise to that age old question; why do we dress up?

The history of Western dress culture is one rich with trends of formal dress codes and etiquettes of style so intricate and precise, that to the modern un-refined eye, they look absurd. The stories of sumptuary laws, red heels and regimental lace, makes the masters of Europe look like jealous fops, not dignified rulers. 

Yet today, living in the cultural void that we do, where to see a man in a nice suit puts him in the upper echelons of style, and sometimes into over dressed category eliciting questions such as "what are you all dressed up for", when less than 50 years ago, that style was de rigeur. Yes the suit has been all but replaced, on a daily level by the sport shirt sans tie, the khaki, and slacks.

So what's a Dandy to do? How can we keep dignified sartorial rigor without becoming declassé or anachronistic? I give you one word: image.  Each must find that image which best suits his build and style, and personify that look.  Be it Gary Cooper's bold elegance,  Fred Astaire's thin and refined image, or  Bela Lugosi's  gaunt and mysterious look; the dandy must find his particular style and embody it, so that the question goes from "what are you all dressed up for" to "wow, you remind me of...". This moves him from the world of fancy to iconic,  over dressed for the occasion, to dressed for any occasion. The dandy thus becomes a cultural  accessory, a social decoration, as opposed to the businessman who cannot relax.

To translate the grace and elegance of the past for the modern man lost in the jungle of post modern un-fashion, to embody the ideas of elegance and refinement- this is the job of the dandy. Once upon a time there was a need for the upper class, to practice culture as a profession, to set the example and embody refinement, to inspire the middle class [and even earn the scorn of the lower class] in order to set the standard for refinement. While these days are all but gone, the dandy is the remaining pilot light on the oven of culture such that, would the West ever desire to re-enkindle her glory and cultural pride, there will indeed remain those know who how to do so.