16 November 2010

"Are We Going To Wear It Or Is It Going To Wear Us?"



(click on image to enlarge)

In 1947, James Agate, noted drama critic of the London Sunday Times gave a dinner at the Savoy for Lexington, KY born NYC drama critic, John Mason Brown. Agate asked Brown, "Tell me, why do you Americans, delightful individually, taken collectively add up to a bunch of twerps?" Brown swung back, "All right, Agate, why with you Britishers is the converse the case?"

I listened as the man seated next to me at dinner scold a woman who did not recognise his Eton tie. While the Golf Foxtrot rolled her eyes - I thought it was brilliant. Growing up a wandering army brat I've always been an outsider. Whether it was Hampton, VA or London, I've never felt I belonged. Anywhere. What the Foxtrot thought affected - I thought highly entertaining.

Yesterday I commented to Alice Olive that my use of "pussy" denoted a scarf. But I had no business using that word as I'm as far from Winchester College as I am from the moon. I did want Alice to know that my reference had authenticity. I just had no business using it. I feel the same about clothing. I saw a Royal Navy Submariner parka for sale at Grahame Fowler's shop. Close to pulling out the plastic I had a change of mind. I had no business wearing it.

Charlie Davidson told me, "Are we going to wear it or is it going to wear us." Good advice but that doesn't mean we can't look. At the clothes or the words.

23 comments:

LPC said...

Outsiders, whether real or felt, always make the best observers. Nabokov, De Toqueville, the list goes on. If we can't observe, what can we be said to know? More straightforwardly, if you think your life as you know it is the bible you're in big, big trouble.

tintin said...

"...if you think your life as you know it is the bible you're in big, big trouble." Perfect.

Alice Olive said...

I like this and agree with LPC that outsiders are observers. That's my part in America.

David V said...

Some things you can wear right out of the box. Some things need to be beaten down by being worn only around the house. After awhile, one of you will break.

brohammas said...

I spent ten minutes at the US Merchant Marine Academy PX staring at a black regulation maritime sweater. It was exactly what I wanted. I just stood there like a fool with all these cadets walking around, minding thier business, wearing that sweater, and I couldn't buy it.

At the same time my old letterman jacket from high school is THE perfect colors in a timeless style, but I can't bring myself to wear that either as it seams too much like Al Bundy.

I'm soooooo burdened.

Andrew So said...

There are items such as bags, knives, and khakis that have a functional element: those can be worn by everyone.

Then there are items that solely denote status such as ties, hats, and medals: only the deserving may wear those.

Colonial Goods said...

Awesome stuff for scanning Take Ivy a while back, we just stole some of your pics and put them up on our page, duly noted your blog.

Cheers!

Patsy said...

I like the Golf Foxtrot.

My mother has a friend with Important Jewelry. Mom asked why she didn't wear copies, wasn't she worried something would happen? The lady replied, 'either you own the jewelry or the jewelry owns you.'

Brummagem Joe said...

"I listened as the man seated next to me at dinner scolded a woman who did not recognise his Eton tie."

I have to say tintin I can't imagine any of the old Etonians of my acquaintance making a song and dance about his tie. Some of them are a bit loud but boasting about school ties isn't something they generally do. They leave that to ex-pupils of lesser public schools. In my experience if someone asks about their tie (and most Brits know what it is) they make a joke about it. This guy must have been a prize twit.

Family Man said...

Whether or not to wear "insider" clothes is one of the dilemmas.

On the one hand, regimental stripes have no deep connotations in America, so I don't feel bad wearing my beloved Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders neckties. On the other hand, all my sweatshirts are from colleges I have either attended or taught at.

But I don't go on about it, unlike that pretentious Eton boy. That's the sort of thing that ought to go unsaid, unless queried ("nice ___--where'd you get it?").

Flo said...

You and the Foxtrot play out somewhat like my husband and I do: one registers effrontery instantly and dismissively, the other remains engaged for the rest of the show.

But you, Sir, you with the camera, I mean anyone carrying a camera [or in my dark ages' era, a clipboard] is by default the Master Observer. Waters part for the one holding the camera. One of your best posts to me was the story about president-of-everything-girlfriend at Flagler, featuring you behind the camera taunting her mercilessly and with great success!

About yesterday. I thought your exchange with Sean was appropriate including the use of the P word. He offered you his cat's fur ball [as yarn for knitting], and you thanked him for being generous with his p----. The prude in me winced, but the english nerd in me thought you'd cleverly stayed true to the metaphor.

Alice Olive said...

Meanwhile I was thrown off by the word 'totherish' and was failed by Google.

Flo said...

"I was thrown off by the word 'totherish'....."

I wish I could say I was too, but I completely and blindly ran right over it! However, TinT got that from you straightaway and quickly addressed it.

Oyster Guy said...

Meanwhile, the gallant on-line love-on between Tintin and Ms. Olive makes the broken hearted Oyster Guy misty.

Sean said...

Both Bubbles and Mrs. Snowflake (my cats, whose fur you refused) found the comment both witty and ribald.

Anonymous said...

The Regimental/Unit tie can be worn with great effect when dealing with upper class twits or the nosy. One of course must be entitled to wear it.

Anonymous said...

Buy the damn jacket and wear it! It's an homage forcrissakes. Anything "submariner" - foreign or domestic - gets my attention and affection pretty quick. Besides, how many of us wear WWII A-2s, authentic or knock-offs? Same for the tie. Just don't snob it at the people your with (if I may use snob as a verb).

I once watched, mesmerized, the Eton kids in "uniform" play cricket on a greener-than-green field from my position on top of Windsor castle. Others were walking or running with books on the cobbles through the town, much like the pictures you posted. I felt like I was trapped in a time warp all the way back to the Edwardian era...

-DB

Anonymous said...

About a year into our marriage, Ol' Wife No. 1 spent a month in England at a summer-school program. She brought me back an Eton tie from New & Lingwood. I like it a lot, but I've worn it very rarely and only in situations involving essentially no possibility of anyone knowing what it is. I'd be mortified if it were recognized, but I can't bring myself to part with it.

ScurvyOaks

Sophie said...

The diner was an upstart. No true Etonian would upbraid a lady at dinner, let alone for something as trivial as not recognising the provenance of a tie.

Anonymous said...

Sophie,

Unfortunately, I know one or two who would.

LPC and Alice Olive,

'Me voyant me voir, et ainsi de suite..' Paul Valery, if that helps.

Redondo Beach Phoney

Theo said...

the way I see it, no markings, no worries. I only wish I could wear my old school tie, the graduation present is an awful patterned polyester number

Theo said...

the way I see it, no markings, no worries. I only wish I could wear my old school tie, the graduation present is an awful patterned polyester number

Brummagem Joe said...

"No true Etonian would upbraid a lady at dinner,"

Don't know about that, but it certainly wouldn't be about his tie.

"but I've worn it very rarely and only in situations involving essentially no possibility of anyone knowing what it is."

But you know, and that's enough.