Friday, August 1, 2014

Mandatory Finishing-School

Appendix 3.

In our previous installment, all the way back in Chapter 10, we discussed the importance of deportment and etiquette to be a well-rounded, as well as a well-dressed, person. Actually, the phrase I used was, "We seem to be desperately, hopelessly in need of mandatory finishing-schools." I left you at the end of that essay with the exhortation, "You can do something about you. Start with you."

Well, for those of you who have been left hanging by that rather broad, vague dictum, I have a couple of books to share with you. Think of it as a virtual finishing-school, that will help put the polish on your actions. Both books are included here for your use: old and musty, but still full of the classic goodness that modern men need to know.

There's also, amongst the useful bits, a fair amount of antiquated curiositae, and detailed regulations for activities and events that simply don't exist anymore; so I'll summarize each book first by their chapter headings. You can then skip to the relevant sections, or read the less-relevant passages for the historical interest.

(These books are currently hosted and imbedded with GoogleDrive; if bandwidth limits prevent them appearing below, click the "download" link in the window, which will switch the window from a GoogleDrive viewer to a PDF viewer. If this continues to be a problem, I'll try to find a more suitable hosting service.)

First, we have the  
Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette 
and Manual of Politeness, 
written by Cecil B. Hartley. The publishers specialized in books for young men, with a focus on history and self-improvement. Because it's geared toward young men just entering society, it's exceptionally easy-reading for a book published in 1873. Tellingly, Hartley notes that etiquette may seem unnatural, but stiffness is not the same as politeness. This is utterly at variance to what most people today think of mid-19th century manners!

Chapter 1, covering "Conversation," (p.11) is useful no matter what the era, and just as applicable to the social-media driven world of today, as well as the oft-neglected art of face-to-face communication.

Chapter 2, "Politeness," (p.31) is defined as how we treat those that we find personally disagreeable, and is distinguished from etiquette; one being internal thought, the other the external manifestation of rules. There are several good thoughts in this chapter that would be good to internalize, (although it tends to run a bit long into the Quality of a Gentleman that today rings a tad rustic.)

Chapter 3, about "Table Etiquette," (p.50) at first blush seems hopelessly dated in the details, but it contains so much common-sense wisdom, and is written so well, it is worth a read to take the spirit of the chapter to heart.

Chapter 4, "Etiquette In the Street," (p.66) is largely antiquated today in its detail, beyond the observations of general courtesy; and chapter 5, "Etiquette for Calling," (p.75) is a mere historical oddity -- the shorthand of calling cards were the Victorian equivalent of instant messaging.

Chapter 6, "Etiquette for the Ballroom," (p.91) although the specifics are far past their sell-date, contains many useful tips for proper deportment when entertaining in general. (If one is into ballroom dancing, some of the details are historically enlightening.)

Chapter 7, on "Dress," (p.115) is the one that should be mandatory reading for all men. A more concise summary of the attitude of proper dress, and its attendant hygiene, has rarely been written. Even taking into account the peculiarities of whiskers, hairstyles, and subtle classism, the wisdom underlying the words remains.

Chapter 8 concerns itself with "Manly Exercises." (p.154) Today we're if anything over-educated on rigorous exercise programs, but this look at some more practical and enjoyable 19th century pursuits, like riding and driving, boxing, sailing, hunting, skating, swimming, and yes, even cricket, is worth a read.

Chapter 9, "Traveling," (p.176) is deceptively useful, whether you actually travel regularly or not.

Chapter 10, "Etiquette in Church," (p.183) is a good general guide when you are in any unfamiliar situation, church or not.

Chapter 11 is "One Hundred Hints for Gentlemanly Deportment." (p.186) This is another mandatory chapter, and indeed could be a separate book in its own right. Some 'hints' are summaries of points previously mentioned in detail, and some are 'catch-all' generalities that don't fit into neat categories. Each point is short, to the point, and most of them are general enough to be just as true today as much as they were in 1870.

Chapter 12, "Parties," (p.222) has become passè in its detail for the most part, as the sort of soirèe described is not seen today outside the realm of historical re-creationists. Similarly, chapter 13, "Courtesy at Home," (p.228) presents antiquated specifics of keeping house, and is only relevant today in its broadest strokes, which are amply covered by other chapters.

Chapter 14, "True Courtesy," (p.244) is an elegant presentation of politeness without affectation, native dignity without vulgarity -- this chapter is essential reading.

Chapter 15, "Letter Writing," (p.252) is almost shockingly relevant, in this world of e-mails, tweets, and IMs.

Chapter 16, "Wedding Etiquette," (p.280) is somewhat out of the sphere of common use, but weddings are so poorly done today, following this chapter would be a vast improvement. Chapter 17, "Etiquette for Places of Amusement," (p.294) is along the same vein. Going to the theatre or opera are not now commonplace...but if you were to go, this is how to go about it and not look like Larry the Cable Guy.

And finally, chapter 18 is a "Miscellaneous" (p.298) melting-pot of ideas, some relevant, some less so, and a couple bordering on ridiculousness.

The second example we'll look at is
Martine's Hand-Book of Etiquette 
and Guide to True Politeness
written by Arthur Martine in 1866.  In counterpoint to the well-ordered chapters of Hartley, Martine's sections, written only a decade earlier, read like collections of 'bullet points,' which hit wide targets like scattershot through a musket.

Martine's is pointed to both men and women, and is more noticeably dated because of it. The suggestions given to men are the more timeless, fortunately, and should not be shunned because of the old-fashioned advice he gives to the gals.

"The Art of Conversation" (p.8) and "General Rules for Conversation" (p.24) are excellent companion pieces to Chapter 1 of Hartley's book.

"On Dress" (p.48) treats mostly of women, but the words to men echo Chapter 7 of Hartley nicely.

"Introductions" (p.57) and "Letters of Introduction" (p.61) have largely passed into history, and there is little here to recommend it to the modern reader.

Martine has much to say about eating. "Dinner Parties" (p.63) are seldom given today, and when they are, are usually not given well. If you are inclined to attempt them, it's a useful section.

However, "Habits At Table" (p.67) "Wine At Table" (p.74) and "Carving" (p.82) are equal parts surprising common-sense and high manners to modern sensibilities, and are an essential read, superior to Hartley's Chapter 3.

"Etiquette of the Ball and Assembly Room" (p.93) and "Evening Parties" (p.104) are best read as adjuncts to Hartley's Chapters 6 and 12: useful for re-enactments, but little else today. "Visiting" (p.113) is interesting only as a historical curiosity--but it's very interesting, as is "Street Etiquette" (p.127)

"Traveling" (p.133) has some good pointers for those who still use public or mass transit.

"Marriage" (p.136) and "Domestic Etiquette and Duties" (p.144) are addressed primarily to the chicks, and of all the sections in Martine's, suffers the most from outdated standards -- but there are still good-intentioned ideas for men to glean as regards La Bonheur Domestique that is applicable to modern life.

"On General Society" (p.154) is a mixed bag, out of which may be plucked the occasional plum.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Calculus of Dressing

Appendix 2.

Back in the installment Chapter 70, called “Keeping Your Balance,” we looked at the concept of weighing specific style variations, each against each other, to achieve a harmonious whole within a single outfit. To help visualize this, I devised a graphic representation of the continuum of balance as a three-dimensional cube, each of the axes standing for one range of opposites—the Continuum Cube.

That was all well and good for an overview, but it was the stripped down, basic version – there’s actually more to the theory than what I posted there! I gave a more complete view in my published works, but here in the Appendices I am going to share with you the fully-realized, advanced theory.

The complete theory of balance is visualized scientifically here by use of a four-dimensional theoretical construct of the Continuum Cube—a Grand Unified Theory of dressing well, if you will, that graphs every possible option of menswear for every possible circumstance.

There have been numerous philosophical postulations over the years concerning the art of dressing well. To those we can now add a mathematical theorem, a graphic distillation of the musings of D’Aurevilly, Wilde, Bulwer-Lytton and de Balzac, which clarifies and concretizes their ideas in a clear way: that dressing well is an ethos, an attitude and outlook on the world that just happens to be reflected in its external appearance. The most obvious aspect of your appearance is your refinement of the art of dressing well: to be correctly and impeccably attired in any given situation. As Brummel said, “If John Bull turns to look after you, you are not well-dressed, but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable.”

Let’s start with the idea of formality. You have an innate sense of the degree of formality of any outfit you might be called upon to wear. You wear nicer clothes to church than you do to work, and nicer clothes to a wedding than you do to church; and if you were playing golf, you would be dressed better than if you were playing tennis. If you were to graph all the different sorts of clothes you wear, you could represent them as a line, with the dressiest at one end, and the most casual at the other. We'll call the two extremes “formal” and “sporty.” What we would have is a bit of geometry: a line. It would look like this:

Notice that from any point on the line, you could choose something more formal, or sportier (you could also call it “casual” or “informal.”) Our line extends forever in both directions, as lines do, but that won't do for us; for you can't go on increasing formality forever.

The solution is to make the line asymptotic and the end-points as a limit, which can be approached infinitely closely, but you actually can’t truly “get there.” Reaching the limit is relativistic—the closer you get, the further you have to go, and the harder it is to get there. One limit is the point beyond which you can't get any more formal. That point represents the dress suit: for white tie and tails is the most formal thing a man can wear in the Western world. In other cultures it may take a different form, but the result is the same.

Logically, at the other end is an asymptotic limit beyond which one can't get more casual – which, it stands to reason, is being entirely naked. (Why is this, you may ask? Patience…we'll discover why soon.)

So our line segment, our X axis, if you will, looks like this:

Every element and article you wear fits somewhere along this line. The goal is an average between two extremes that is not too far out of the range of “normal” for your particular place and circumstance; whether this is attending a wedding or shopping for groceries. In other words, for any point on the line, any deviation on one side of the point must be weighed carefully against its variation on the opposite side of the point, to achieve a harmonious whole. The problem in today's world arises when a man doesn't know what to wear at all, much less how to find what an average value is, and even less how to work the extremes to maintain that balance properly.

As an example: everyone has at some point been subjected to such aberrations as a tuxedo jacket that has been paired with sneakers, or a patterned shirt, or a loosely-knotted long tie, or a silly hat, or sloppy jeans. Their misguided thinking is that a dinner jackets' formality will be offset by the other things, and the average will be dressy-casual.

This doesn't work in practice, because the attempt to balance two variations is increasingly unlikely to create a harmonious average the farther apart those extremes are. In fact, dinner dress is so extremely proscribed, it takes very little to push its balance to a place of informality: all that is needed are minor alterations to detail, like a subtly-colored boutonniere, a flash of pocket square, a rakishly-designed waistcoat, or even the material of the jacket itself.

It seems pretty easy so far, doesn't it? Well, we have another line, which describes another dimension of being properly dressed: the difference between “town” and “country” wear. Whilst the “Formal/Sporty” line describes the differences in the purpose and cut of your clothes, the “Town/Country” line is concerned with your clothes' color and pattern: for mens' clothes should properly match the environment in which they are worn. A “town suit,” for instance, is plainly cut and conservatively tailored, with smooth fabrics and dark colors, usually in shades of black or blue: the colors of steel and iron and concrete, the textures of glass and chrome and macadam.

A “country suit” tends toward the rough tweeds, pebbly or textured fabrics, in browns or greens, in plaids, checks, or other patterns, with details like collar tabs, elbow patches, or flapped pockets: the colors and textures of nature, with details that reflect outdoor pursuits.

This line, too, has two asymptotic limits, and those limits are of necessity the same as with the formality continuum: the most “Town” you can get is a dress suit of white tie and tails, and the most “Country” is not dressed at all. The two scales that we have seen operate independently of each other: for every point of formality, there can be applied the complete range of values in possible color and pattern. We can graph these against each other on an X and Y axis.

Most men have a passing experience in the art of color and pattern matching. At its most basic, it is an intuitive reflex. A dark suit needs a light shirt and a bright tie, for instance; or else the suit looks muddy and somber. A light suit looks better with a patterned shirt of a darker color, and so on. Making informed decisions regarding pattern takes more experience, but is also largely intuitive. Matching a plaid shirt with a plaid tie may look busy if they are in the same color range and size, especially if paired with a plain suit; but a suit with a subtle pattern paired with a very light plaid shirt and a very strong plaid tie may look very handsome indeed. It's all in the balance created between the factors.

If we were to graph every possible combination of these two groups of extremes, we would discover the result is the limit of a square, each point of which describes one individual shade of purpose and cut, color and pattern.

Dressing well now becomes a matter of determining your purpose and location at any given time, charting that point on the graph, and making your clothing suitable to that point on the X-Y axis. The closer the average effect of your clothing is to that point, the more “correctly” you will be seen to be dressed. On this square, the front right-hand corner, representing maximum values of Town-Formal, would represent the dress suit; and the rear left corner, representing maximum values of Country-Sporty, would be nudity. (This latter corner, naturally, is to be avoided if you desire to be a well-dressed fellow.) The relationship of all four factors taken together is the balance of your outfit.

Where the axes cross, (we'll call it point 0,0) is a theoretical neutral outfit that is all-purpose, neither too dressy nor too sporty, that would not look too out of place either in the city or out camping. This theoretical middle-of-the-road outfit would not be a panacea that would be instantly accepted anywhere, mind you! It would, rather, be bland porridge, neither one thing nor another, and you would likely be seen everywhere as not quite fitting in, no matter where you were or what you were doing. The neutral point at the center of the graph is not a target at which to aim – it is a sinkhole to be avoided!

Before we continue, let's look at some examples of how to use the scale as we have constructed it thus far.

You can adjust the balance to your immediate purpose, by changing a single detail to adjust the point along both axes. A matching three-piece looks official and professional for a business meeting, and would occupy a place well in the Town scale, and moderately in the Formal scale. Simply change out the matching waistcoat for a tattersall version, and the outfit looks less stuffy for an evening out, by skewing the point both towards the Sporty and Country.

You can also make an adjustment to either scale independently. Running to the auto-parts store to buy an oil filter and spark plugs in a suit and tie may raise some eyebrows, but you can keep the same point along the Formal continuum and slide the Town continuum strongly into the Country realm with a hardy tweed jacket, open-collar shirt and dungarees: the message is that grungy business is at hand. A seersucker suit, loafers, and a bow tie looks fine on the boardwalk, firmly in the Sporty-Country quadrant, but you wouldn't wear it to church without skewing it into the Country-Formal quadrant.

These basic style decisions can be complicated with variable factors such as the time of year and the immediate weather conditions. For instance, on a bright day, a pair of tan trousers may look fine with a mid-gray plain weave jacket; but on an overcast day, it would appear too Country, and a darker gray herringbone jacket to skew it slightly towards the Town side may look better. In the heat of summer, a shirt and tie may look overdressed in lieu of a simple polo shirt under your jacket; but in the fall, going without a tie may result in an underdressed appearance.

Now that you've gotten familiar with the two-axis system of clothing balance, we'll add a third measure to the continuum. Just like the other two, this third balance factor operates independently, and can be applied to every point in the square. This scale will be applied to your clothes' style and detail.

At one end, we have the historical extreme – the traditional, conservative, classic styles. At the other end, the contemporary extreme – the avant-garde, imaginative, futuristic, and innovative styles. We'll place this continuum at right angles to the other two, along the Z-axis: and call the extremes “Historical” and “Innovative.” Simply, the further along the “Innovative” direction you go, the further away you get from tried-and-true style trends.

When we graph every possibility of style against our other two measures, all the major factors of sartorial balance are accounted for and can be reduced to three continua. These continua can be visualized and plotted against each other as axes on a three-dimensional graph.

This is the Continuum Cube. Any point within this cube is defined by our three balance factors. The continuum is the limit of a cube; it is not unbounded on all sides. The ideal, as it was with the two-axis plane, is not the intersection of the axes at the exact center of the cube. Near the external faces of the cube are the limits of perspicacity, where clothes become costume. And just as you've seen with each individual scale, and also with the X-Y axis, the X-Y-Z axis has the same oppositional value, viz., the “Fully Dressed Point” at maximum Town-Formal-Historical is counterbalanced by its logical opposite at maximum Sporty-Country-Innovative – the “Fully Undressed Point.”

Let's use the Continuum Cube now to briefly demonstrate how skewing works along all three axes. We'll start at an easy point to visualize: the top right corner of the cube that pegs all three scales for formal, town, historical wear. Of course, it's the dress suit again: bespoke tailcoat and trousers, boiled-front shirt, pique Marcella waistcoat, stiff detachable wing collar, white tie, and patent leather pumps, with all the accompanying studs, links, straps, braces, and buttons that go with it. You can't get more Formal-Town-Historical than that. It's a very exacting and unforgiving point on the cube, right at the end of the limits, and must be followed precisely, because right on the apex of the cube is where it belongs.

Because of its precarious position, the dress suit is easily knocked off its apex by the addition or alteration of any detail. A simple boutonniere will skew the outfit slightly down the X axis, ever so slightly away from Formal. Substitute balmorals for pumps, and the skew jumps further down the Sporty scale, as well as the Country, and even slightly Innovative, and just like that – you're off the face of the cube and into the interior. This lone example also demonstrates why proper white tie is as exacting as it is.

Why is nudity the “Fully Undressed Point,” and not, say, swimming trunks, or even underwear? Because even swim trunks are subject to variations in sportiness, color, texture, and historicity, all of which will place it somewhere within the boundaries of the Cube, even if it is just adjacent to the apex. There just isn't a garment that is the opposite of a dress suit: as the limits of the axes are reached, the options of the furthermost point dwindle down, until the point of the apex is...nothing.

The apex and surface points are for our purposes theoretical: since a limit by definition can never be reached, you won't be dealing with the extremes on the faces of the cube. You will be dealing with any number of factors that will average into a value somewhere in the middle interior of the continuum.

Now, the three-dimensional Continuum Cube only works as far as the physical aspect of your clothes – but as we’ve found, how you wear your clothes, your degree of insouciance and panache, has an effect on where they skew on the Cube as well. This is of particular interest, as a properly insouciant attitude is integral to being perceived as well-dressed. So we must bring another axis in play – a W axis, at right angles to the other three, to make a hypercube.

What’s that you say? You’ve no idea how that works? Well, let’s work through the progression mentally. Take a point, and put another point at right angles to it. (Since a point has no dimension, technically “right angles” is any direction at all, but we’ll call it “right angles” for the sake of consistency of the illustration.) These two points form a one-dimensional figure: a line segment. It runs in one direction—length. Now take a line segment, and put four of them at right angles to each other such that they define an area. You have made a two-dimensional square: it runs in two directions—length and width. Now take six squares, and put them at right angles to each other so that they define an area. You have a cube now: three dimensions, three directions—length, width, and depth. Of course, here on your computer screen it’s merely a shadow of a three-dimensional form, but your brain recognizes it as a cube, even though all the sides aren’t the same length and the angles aren’t ninety degrees.

So far so good, but now it gets tricky. Continue the pattern: two points, four lines, six squares – now what? Of course, eight cubes; at right angles to each other such that they define an area of four dimensions. The problem comes when we try to imagine the W-axis, at right angles to the X, Y, and Z axes. What’s after height, width, and depth? The best we can see is a three-dimensional shadow, reduced again to two dimensions on your screen – a mere shadow of a shadow.

Because it is so devilishly hard to imagine a four-dimensional hypercube, and even more difficult to represent it on a two-dimensional computer screen, I won't even attempt to include it graphically. That fourth dimension represents the manner of the method and attitude of wearing your clothing and the degree of precision of its physical execution. At one limit, we have nonchalant, detached, easygoing, and breezy. At the other extreme, calculated, purposeful, precise, and severe. 

Graphed against the other 3 axes, the limit of Nonchalance coincides with the “Fully Dressed Limit” of Town-Formal-Historical, and the limit of Precision coincides with the “Fully Undressed Limit” of Sporty-Country-Innovative; thus, the closer to fully dressed one is, the more nonchalance is required. Contrariwise, the more casual your clothing, the more precision is required to offset the ever-present danger of slovenliness.

This presents a useful method of representing the fourth dimension of the Continuum Cube in relation to the other three directions. We know the limits of Nonchalance/Precision coincide with the limits of the other three continua, and we know each three-dimensional point is subject to the complete four-dimensional variance. (If this is befuddling, just reduce the exercise by one dimension: every single point on the two-dimensional graph of Formal/Sporty and Town/Country is subject to the entire scope of the Historical/Innovative variation.)

If the four extreme limits located at opposite apices of our hypercube (the F/T/H/N and the S/C/I/P limits) are then connected by a line, it will also pass through the midpoint of the W, X, Y, and Z axes, (at 0,0,0,0,) and a new axis is created: what I shall call the DANDY AXIS. (Dandy in its historical sense: as representing the apex of the art of dressing well from a holistic mind/body standpoint.)

Quite simply, for any circumstance, the most elegant mode of dress will exist at some particular point along the Dandy Axis, wherein all four continuua shift together in an equalinear progression. All four factors will then be in harmony, no one variation will stand out among the others, and for any given situation there exists a correlating given point on the Dandy Axis wherein you will assuredly be properly dressed, and John Bull will be given no reason to turn his head to look after you.

The relationship of the Dandy Axis to the four directional axes W, X, Y, and Z can be easily illustrated by separating the four dimensions out and placing them alongside each other, as scales on a slide rule. The Dandy Axis is represented by the movable cursor, which intersects all four axes perpendicularly along congruent points. This is a handy mental tool for determining correct dress: when only one factor is known, the other three are immediately apparent. In other words, for any given known Purpose (X-axis,) the proper relative degrees of Location (Y-axis,) Tradition (Z-axis,) and Execution (W-axis) are revealed in their correct place.

But now, back to the Continuum Cube itself. The Dandy Axis is the average of all the values at each point of the cube. This is an important relationship: for at whichever point in the interior of the cube you may find yourself, that point will always be perpendicular to a correlating point somewhere along the length of the Dandy Axis, as well as set a certain distance apart from it.

The Dandy Axis is thus very useful in revealing instantly, in a relative way, both “how dressed” you are, as a function of the point along the Dandy Axis' length, as well as any deviation from the proper standard, as a function of your point's distance from the Axis.

It can also be a useful compass, to give you an “absolute value” of just how dressed you are compared to any other point in the Continuum Cube. Let's take an example, and a rather obvious one, that demonstrates graphically how “more dressed” doesn't necessarily equate to “more clothes.” First, we'll take a tee-shirt, flip-flops, and cargo shorts, and plot its point within the Cube.

This graphic is looking straight down along the Dandy Axis, through the cube, to its S/C/I/P apex. The cube has been “sliced” through our point on a plane perpendicular to the Axis, resulting in the small tetrahedral figure. The size of the tetrahedron indicates that our point is close to the “undress limit” of the cube. Note, too, the distance of our point from the Dandy Axis.

Now, let us compare this to a different point, this one representative of a polo shirt, Bermuda shorts, and boat shoes.

This outfit covers the same amount of skin, and fulfills the same function, as the previous one. Its relative position in the Cube, skewed toward the Historical and Formal ranges slightly, cause it to sit perpendicularly to the Dandy Axis further along its length from the “undress apex,” (indicated by the larger size of the tetrahedron; due to the larger “bite” of the cube the cut has taken) and closer to the Dandy Axis itself: resulting in being “more correctly dressed,” with the same amount of clothing. (This assumes the optimal dandy values along the W axis for each point, as well.)

With practice, you can keep the Continuum Cube in your minds' eye as you decide what to wear, place a target point within the cube along the Dandy Axis, and choose clothes that will average into that target point. By looking at what you wear in this theoretical way, and fitting it into this matrix, you needn't be operating solely on intuition and guesswork, and you will have a solid guide for making wise sartorial decisions that will never inadvertently hit wide of the mark, by being too showy, anachronistic, or situationally inappropriate...or as Brummel would say, “too stiff, tight, or fashionable.”

Click here to go back to the installment that this Appendix references.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Art of Tying the Cravat.

Appendix 1.

In the previous Installment Chapter 80, entitled "Taking Stock of the Cravat," I had made reference to two little volumes published in the early nineteenth century; and these innocuous tomes are so invaluable, (and in some ways so misunderstood,) it warrants a further and closer look at them. The original post imbedded the scans as presented from GoogleBooks. In this Appendix, they have been re-edited and presented with minor helpful annotations and insertions to make it more readily accessible for my readers, most notably the inclusion of the original illustrations.

(These books are currently hosted and imbedded with GoogleDrive; which features onerous restrictions on bandwidth -- if the limit has been reached, and they do not appear below, click the "download" link in the window, which will switch the window from a GoogleDrive viewer to a PDF viewer. If this continues to be a problem, I'll try to find a more suitable hosting service.)

The Art of Tying the Cravat is a serious essay on the history and crafting of cravats, and would be an invaluable resource to those that actually want to learn what the various styles were and how to tie them -- if it were possible to actually read this rare book online with the illustrations, which are never scanned and included. Thus, I have produced a version myself for Dress Like A Grownup! that contains the illustrations for you. Read through it, and you will discover not just a slice of history, and how to form the historical cravats from a contemporary source, but you will discover within its pages the direct forerunner of every variety of modern neckwear, from ties to scarves.

Neckclothitania, on the other hand, has been referenced by many online sources that proport to expound the ancient art of the starched cravat. The illustrated frontispiece is most often shown, unfortunately separate from the text of the book. Well-meaning costumers, living history aficionados, and amateur historians have gone so far as to attempt to recreate the illustrations in actuality.

What all of these people fail to recognize or make mention of, is that Neckclothitania is a college student's work of social satire. It is not to be taken seriously -- it is a humorous work, the subtlety of which is lost on modern readers; largely because we are not familiar with the style of the serious Essays published at the time, that this work is lampooning.

The first clue is the title itself: To young scholars, "Titania" would have been a well-known reference to both Ovid's Metamorphoses, as the daughters of the Titans, and as the name of the Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, (make of that what you will,) so the pun of TIEtania would have been instantly understood. Virgil's quote on the title page holds a sly double entendre in this light. Nods to the formal essays of the time that you may notice, are the ridiculously pompous Dedication, the liberal sprinkling of high-sounding French and Latin phrases throughout (notice especially the description of cravat colors!) and the many referenced "sources," which are themselves contemporary works of satire.

Notice, too, that half of the cravats shown are exactly the same, differing only in the number and position of creases in the starch! (These are not the "actual" forms of the starchers; for that you must go to The Art of Tying the Cravat.) The other half dozen are roundly ridiculed for their ridiculousness. The subtext is that to the untrained eye, all Starchers look the same, and the endless minutiae and variations lavished upon them can be seen as just a bit silly -- much like those today that agonize over the proper tie knot to use, when the average person can't tell a Four-in-Hand from a Half Windsor.

Tietania does have its purposes, though, aside from the first recorded use of the word "tie" to refer to a cravat. Namely, it is an invaluable contemporary look at the culture of the "Starcher" from the perspective of a sardonic student with a keen sense of humor. Read it with tongue firmly in cheek!

Click here to go back to the original installment that this Appendix references: "Taking Stock of the Cravat."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Table of Contents

The most natural method of reading any blog is just to start at the most recent post, and work through in reverse chronological order. That may work fine for non-sequential blogs, but our format is a bit different: the installments (that's what we call our posts here) run roughly from the basics to more involved topics, starting at the earliest post. This has spawned several different methods of reading, that will better avail to the reader the information he wants quickly.

Readers that have dropped in through a Google search for a specific topic, (and if you have, welcome,) you can find similar or related topics using keywords in the Indexatron or the Search box, in the column to your right. Also, the end of each installment in a Series links to every other installment in that same Series.

There are a few different methods if you want to read the entire blog in a logical order to get the most out of it. The easiest is simply to read each installment in chronological order, from oldest to newest. This is easily done: for in addition to the intra-series links I just mentioned, I have also linked every installment to its next and prior chronological installment, and back to the very beginning.

Our Year @ A Glance sorts every post throughout each year by its Series, in prose form, to give a good outline of everything covered in that year. If you're the sort of person who likes to browse a blog in scattershot style, the Year @ A Glance™ serves as a good checklist to ensure you don't miss anything.

This Table of Contents, though, is our definitive method of organizing the posts. Every single installment in the entire blog is listed and linked "in book order," regardless of its actual posting date. It takes the reader straight through a logical progression of topics from simplest to more complex, building each upon a framework laid down by the previous. Read it in order, and it becomes the ultimate Tutorial for The Average Guy. Every previous post is accounted for, and any new Appendix that is to follow will be inserted into its proper place in the Contents as well, so the Contents will always be up-to-date.

1. Introduction
       --Who I am, what the blog is for, and a general welcome to all.


1. The First Great Secret
         --The real purpose of clothing.
2. An Army of One
         --"Dressing Well for Dummies" with just a sports jacket.
3. How, More Than What
         --The importance of balance and insouciance.
4. It Is What It Is
         --Sussing the purpose of your clothes by their names.
5. The Path of Least Resistance
         --An admonition to "go the extra mile."
6. But What of the Oscars?
         --Introduction to the rules of Classic Style.
7. The Science of Style
         --Proper proportion must relate to the human form.
8. Throwing Fits
         --The use of illusion can improve your form.


1. Lost in the Eighties, For Instance
         --The Second Great Secret.
2. Lost in the Other Eighties
         --The Second Great Secret's codicil.
3. Personality, Incorporated
         --Blending proper balance with the Second Great Secret.  
4. Proving the Rule
         --The Second Great Secret, illustrated.
5. The Kentucky Derby: or Why The British Hate Us
         --The Third Great Secret.


1. Sock It To Me
         --Of socks, and tone-matching to your environment.
2. The Need for Tweed
         --The art of tone-matching, explained.
3. Keeping Your Balance
         --Find your sartorial center; the basic Continuum Cube concept.
         Appendix 2: The Calculus of Dressing
                  -- The full version of the advanced Continuum Cube.
4. The Measure of a Man
         --How to take your own measurements.
5. To Save or Splurge?
         --The economies of dressing well.
6. Want. Get. Have.
         --Clothes shopping, the manly way.
7. Back to Basics
         --A short admonition to "be prepared."
8. The Futurists Lied to You
         --Learn to appreciate the economy of time.


1. The Game's A Foot
         --A look at proper footwear.
2. Shoe-In
         --A diversity of shoes.


1. Da Capo
         --The flat cap as transitional headwear.
2. Hatiquette
         --The logic behind when to wear a hat, and when not to.
3. The Hats of Summer
         --Of warm-weather headgear.


1. Spicy Tie Recipes
         --A short introduction to proper neckwear.
2. A Ruff History of Neckwear
         --History, from 1500 to 1800.
3. Taking Stock of the Cravat
         --History, from 1800 to 2000.
         Appendix 1: The Art of Tying the Cravat.
                  --A closer look at the classic works.
4. Win, Lose or Tie.
         --An overview of modern tie options.
5. A Four in Hand is worth Eight in the Bush
         --The art of knot tying.
6. Bow Diddley.
          --The bow tie and its proportions.
7. You Bet Your Ascot
         --The formal ascot: wearing, making, and substituting.
8. Day Cravattitude.
         --The casual day cravat: wearing, making, and substituting.
9. It's Hip to Be Square
         --Neckerchiefs: variations and history.
10 Scarf it Up, Scarf it Down
         --Is the scarf the tie of the future?


1. A Pocketful of Balance
         --Balance, accessories, (and a detour to the Mayan calender.)
2. Accessorial Tutorial
         --Traditional accessories and their uses.
3. Kitted Out
         --Ideas for modern accessories.


1. Spring Break Experimentation!
         --Vacation wear.
2. Venial Equinoxious
         --Dressing for the Spring.
3. The Shirt Off Your Back
         --When to not wear a jacket.
4. Go Out and Play
         --Autumnal recreational attire.


1. Time to Put Up Your Toys
         --How to pack away your summer shirts.
2. As The Wardrobe Turns
         --How to pack away your winter wear.


1. Drastic Measures Required
         --A short fable of modern headwear.
2. Aaah! They're Coming This Way!
         --A fable on attire when society crumbles.
3. The Fighting Yank is Laid Low
         --The fable of a little statue.
4. The Fighting Yank Rises
         --The vindication of the little statue.
5. The Fighting Yank 3: Yank's Revenge
         --The little statue returns.


1. Yes, Miss, I find your shallowness most diverting.
         --The importance of proper social education in youth.
         Appendix 3: Mandatory Finishing-School.
                  -- Put the polish on your own social education today.
2. Former Casual, Formal Causual.
         --The development and evolution of what we wear.
3. Downton, Things'll Be Great When You're Downton
         --Lessons from historical drama like Downton Abbey.
4. The Political Uniform
         --Why the universal black suit is a bad idea.
5. Easter Parading
         --The history of the April sartorial tradition.
6. Proper Toppers
        --A brief history of the top hat.
7. The Essential Accessory, Pt.1
         --The history of tobacco, from antiquity to 1820.
8. The Essential Accessory, Pt. 2
         --The history of tobacco, from 1820 to today.
9. The Essential Accessory, Pt. 3
         --Correlating smoking to fashion.
10. The Essential Accessory, Pt. 4
         --The search for a new essential.


1. The PROMulgation of the PROMise of PROMpt PROMiscuity.
         --The Prom as an introduction to Black Tie.
2. The Tony Tygers
         --Critique of the 2011 Tony Awards
3. Emmy or Isn't He?
         --Critique of the 2011 Emmy Awards
4. Just Feel Those Golden Globes!
         --Critique of the 2012 Golden Globe Awards
5. SAG Like A Gansta In The Quarter-Formals, Yo!
         --Critique of the 2012 SAG Awards
6. Oscar Grouching
         --Critique of the 2012 Oscars (part 1)
7. Who's the Dandy? Oscars Edition
         --Off-site critique of the 2012 Oscars (part 2)
8. Correspondents and Spectators
         --Critique of the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner.
9. Generation Degeneration
         --Critique of the 2012 Billboard Music Awards.
10. Em & Emmy
         --Critique of the 2012 Emmy Awards.


1. The Scariest Thing I've Seen This Year
         --A look at White Tie, through the Alfred E. Smith Dinner.


1. The Wedding of the Century, version 2.0 (beta)
         --Introduction to morning wear, via Will and Kate.
2. The Wedding of Prince Georg Von Sloppypants
         --Morning formal wear, and the perils thereof.


1. Manly Machinery
         --Essential equipment.
2. Say Hello To My Little Friend
         --How to make your own tailor's form.
3. Who's Got The Button?
         --A simple adjustment of your button stance.
4. Going to Waist
         --Waistband alterations, quick-and-easy style.
5. Waist Not, Want Not
         --Waistband alterations, in-depth style.
6. Presto Change-O Jacket Size-O
         --The interrelationship of size, balance, and fit of a jacket.
7. Suit and Suitability
         --Choosing a project suit for our purposes.
8. Carving a Turkey
9. Wrapper's Delight
         --Marking and pinning.
10. Marked Improvements
         --Stitch-marking and unpinning.
11. Sliding Into First Baste   
         --Manipulating and basting.
12. Things Start Coming Together
         --Hand-stitching; shoulderwork.
13. Cold Shoulders
         --Setting the sleeves.
14. Happy, Sleevey, Doc
          --Sewing the sleeves to the armscye.
15. Hemming and Hawing
         --Lining and finishing.
16. Liner Notes
         --How to simply un-line a jacket for use in the summer.
17. Let's Get Shanked
         --Re-visiting button stance, with shanked buttons.


1. I Am Iron Man
         --Rebuilding a classic iron: disassembly.
2. Ion Iron
         --Derusting via electrolysis, and operating diagnosis.
3. Irons in the Fire
         --Repair and refurbishment.
4. Strike While the Iron's Hot
         --Cleaning and reassembly.


1. The TT&S Bow Tie Man of the Year (2011)
         --The exemplars of the art of the bow tie.
2. The TT&S Razor Square Man of the Year (2011)
         --The exemplars of the art of the pocket square.
3. The TT&S Bow Tie Man of the Year (2012)
         --The exemplars of the art of the bow tie.
4. The TT&S Razor Square Man of the Year (2012)
         --The exemplars of the art of the pocket square.

1. Epilogue
         --A bookend for the blog.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wheels of Progress

At last, the moment you've all been waiting for -- the rusty old wheels in the blog machine have begun grinding and churning again! We've taken some time off (well, a year off, actually) from posting regular installments, but as I mentioned last time we met, the blog has not been forgotten in the interim, and all those topics I had mentioned last time -- and more! -- are indeed in the pipeline, and there will be bloggy goodness forthcoming in future weeks!

The format will be a bit different, as I alluded to earlier, and I've put some serious thought into how Dress Like A Grownup! will operate in the upcoming months and years.

I began the first two years of posts as a self-contained tutorial that the Average Guy, starting from zero, can use to learn to dress himself in an adult manner; and I want to keep that original intention intact. So what to do with the new posts? I could make a new start with a sort of Phase Two that covers more esoterica, sort of a "Year Three Advanced course." I get the nagging feeling, though, that particular tack would detract from the core readership of Dress Like A Grownup! that we've set out to reach. It's important to keep the Average Guys in mind, and not leave them behind. In some way, we need to make the information always relatable to the sartorial neophytes.

I thought about how I could take that new information and intersperse it right in amongst the old posts: go back and insert elaboration of specific topics right where the old ones left off, and back-date them to a day after the original posts. Although artifically inflating the previous two years has its advantages, (not the least of which is greater consistency amongst the topics,) doing so runs against the very nature of a blog -- posting new information in sequential order. More importantly, it would be unfair to new readers, who would have to plumb the depths of previous posts to suss out the new data. It might work if I were editing a book, but it's important to keep what's already been written at least somewhat historically sacrosanct.

Then it hit me -- "if I were editing a book." That was the key! That's how I can include tangential, esoteric information, relate it back to the Average Guy who is starting from Square One, and still keep it in the forefront of the blog as new, up-to-date postings: new posts will be in the form of Appendices. Each appendice will relate in some form to a previous installment, and will link to and from the original post. That way, the Average Guy working through the Series can have a ready link to advanced information, new readers can link from new posts into the Series, and any new stuff is right out front for everyone.

The new format will give me a little latitude: most notably, I can devote some new posts to expanding upon those topics that have been most popular with readers. I can elaborate on some topics that have not been given proper attention previously. And I can get a little crazy and include some oddball topics as well. But most everything from here on out will be in the form of an Appendix.

The new topics will be coming occassionally and irregularly, as time allows and the whimsy takes me; but each will be for the most part in my favored long-form or multi-part format, so the wait will be worth it!