Men and fashion! Two words diametrically opposed at one time.
Men’s fashion! Two words fittingly analogous, in today’s times.
There is no awkwardness when discussing men’s fashion in modern times; no underlying innuendos questioning the sexuality of the fashionable male and no hints of being a dandy.
Being a dandy has wrongly acquired a negative connotation in our society. Actually a dandy has nothing to do with having feminine characteristics or traits. A dandy is a man devoted to extreme elegance in clothes, style and manners. In short a gentleman, an aesthetic man, an elegant man.
With Pitti Uomo in full swing in Firenze, men’s most important platform for clothing and accessories in fashion, I reflect upon the evolution of men’s fashion.
Over the years our darker sex has not lagged too far behind women in fashion. They are galloping fast towards the ramp like thorough bred race horses with blinders on their eyes.
In a recent study it was found that in Asia men far outnumber women in consuming high end luxury goods. This is quite an eye-opener, as we mostly associate women with fashion; it is women who are usually seen toting high-end designer brands; in fact fashion brands in the past have mostly targeted women with women walking the ramps for major fashion houses, women in glossy ad-campaigns and women as brand ambassadors.
Times have changed and men are evolving.
Let’s take a stylish swivel back on the ramp and see how men have evolved.
Historically masculinity is identified as a concoction of brawn, sweat, sinewy muscles, deeply etched facial lines, a rich baritonic voice and dark tanned skin. All these physical characteristics are a sign of strength, courage, fortitude and power. Men are supposed to be rough, tough and gruff. Anything less is too feminine and not “man enough.”
However, since times immemorial, even if sub-consciously, men have paid attention to their physical attributes. Even the cave man used bucolic tools to groom himself. It is an innate desire in all human beings to look good, despite the gender divide.
For example take men in ancient Rome. They were the epitome of masculinity, vigor and virility. They wrestled lions with their bare fists, what could be manlier than that? Outwardly, they wore a basic garment in the form of a tunic or toga strictly for the purposes of necessity and functionality. It was used as a cover-up for the statuesque Romans for decorum and protection against elements of nature.
Despite such outward portrayal of machismo, inwardly the Roman man did pay attention to his looks. He used cosmetics! Can you believe that, even though it was frowned upon. There was a light use of perfumes and “moderate” hair removal. Note: not full hair removal but moderate hair removal because hair, even in modern times is associated with a man’s masculinity.
The Roman man evolved. Let’s fast forward to the 50’s man. The stylish male with the hat, overcoat, perfect tie, a sartorial dresser indeed. Manly and well-dressed.
But wait; do I smell a whiff of sweet lime cologne? Yes, indeed! He is wearing cologne to ward off uninvited female overtures. He is using a cosmetic.
In the mid-50s rode in the Marlboro man, with the deeply etched masculine lines on his face (most likely as a result of nicotine exposure rather than any andric potency!) Nevertheless, born was the rugged, un-harnessed masculinity.
Advent of the mid-60s. Gone were the uptight suits and ties, in came the “far-out” generation. A chilled-out generation, reflecting the same attitude in the fashion sense. No dress-codes, no rules, no restrictions and constrictions. A psychedelic lifestyle with a psychedelic attire to “blow” your mind.
This blog cannot be complete without discussing the decadent 1970s disco era. A vestibular fashion era with aerial platform shoes and flared pants. John Travolta epitomized the juxtaposition of flared pants and the three-piece suit. A sartorial “flare” for sure!
Miami Vice marked new-age 1980’s fashion. The over-sized blazer donned oh-so casually over the t-shirt, the sockless feet in loafers became a cult fashion statement, still followed by the fashion victims stuck in the 80s.
I cannot move away from the 1980s without mentioning the raw sexuality of Mickey Rourke in 9 ½ weeks. The stubble, the piercing eyes, the dangling cigar and the come-hither smile heightened male sexuality to another level.
In the 1990s the tables turned. Women were not the only ones who portrayed sexuality; men romped in their skivvies too. The six-pack was no longer associated with a beverage and a male paunch was not a sign of wealth and success. Men hit the gym, started shopping at organic stores and became “eye-candy.”
From the 2000s and onwards men have come a full circle. They have reverted back to being a dandy. They use lotions and potions; eat diet products; work on problem areas at the gym; are androgynous; shop online at Barneys; get manicures and pedicures; get waxed, stripped, threaded and shaved. He is beautiful.
In fact, the gender divide has become so blurry that it is perfectly acceptable for a pouty, porcelain skinned male model like Andrej Pejic to strut down the runway giving Kate Moss a run for her euro! The uomo has evolved.
I am out of my hibernation. The reason: The cruel, barbarous, brutal mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes alligator bag! For a worshipper of FAME (fashion, art, music and entertainment), the act is as abhorrent as the destruction of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Okay, maybe not of that magnitude, but still a destruction of a beautiful piece of art!
Nevertheless, the annihilation did wring my heart and make my knuckles white. Oh the horror! For those of you who have not heard of it, the act was performed by Clint Eastwood’s daughter on the reality show, Mrs. Eastwood and Company (the specific use of the last name obvious for rating purposes). In the show, Eastwood’s daughter cuts and burns an alligator Hermes bag with a ferocious beastly expression on her face, in the name of performance art. Really, destruction of art in the name of art, justified? (An idea to be explored at a later time).
The heinous act performed on the reality television show stirred the following thoughts in my brain: First, what is it that attracts a person like me (with discriminatory tastes and a reasonable level of intelligence, to watch reality television); second, what are the limits/parameters that reality stars have to cross week after week to get viewers like me return.
Between the Kardashians, Shahs of Sunset, Jersey Shore and now Mrs. Eastwick and Company, there is an overdose of reality television. They have become part of a pop-cultural phenomenon. The shows have high ratings, so even if we are closet watchers, the fact remains that a good number of us are watching. In an intellectual tete-a-tete, most of us decry the social evils that such shows are breeding, yet we watch them.
One reason is voyeurism. It is titillating to spy on the intimate behavior of others. A spy-like feeling is evoked while watching such shows-their highs and lows, their make-ups and over-dramatized break-ups, entering their homes and boudoirs, seeing what they eat or not, how they look like with gobs of mascara running down their cheeks while crying, hearing the profanities they use, Bentleys they drive, mansions they live in etc.
Vicarious living is another reason. An average person’s life between work, chores, home responsibilities, running errands is bound to take a tone of monotony, no matter how hard one tries to spice it up. It becomes rote living. There is no way around it. Reality TV provides that dose of glamour, excitement, enchantment and razzle-dazzle that an average person lacks in day to day life. It is the same as buying a Tattler magazine to get a peek inside the lives of the “oh-so-exciting” crowd.
Yet another reason for such viewing is because it makes us feel good about ourselves and our relationships. Most of the reality shows have a high level of disfunctionality (rightly so, otherwise why would I watch it!!) Despite all the wealth, fame and glamour, there is angst, anger, treachery, heartbreak and a degree of mental retardation (not from a medical standpoint of course!) This makes us feel good about ourselves and for some of us even provides hope. After all, if a dysfunctional, limited intelligence person can reach the pinnacles of success, why not me.
Such shows, also provide a certain amount of social interaction in our very isolated, heavily dependent on the World Wide Web, modern lives. The stars invite us into their drawing rooms and bed-rooms and there is an element of reel human interaction, even if for a fleeting moment.
Whatever the reason, reality TV is here to stay. There is certain stickiness to it.
Now, the question is how far do the reality stars have to go to create the stickiness. What do they have to do or more appropriately “out do” in order to get me back on that couch week after week? What boundaries do they have to cross? In fact, are there any boundaries?
Mere providing of glamour, hot surgeried-up botoxed bodies, designer clothing, long fluttering stick-on lashes is not enough anymore. The ante has been upped, the stakes are higher. Gone are the chaste days of MTV’s Real World. The audience needs bombshells, hysteria, shock and awe and the studios are ready to dole our dollops of it. Extravagant weddings are broken up in less than 3 months, a gay Jewish Persian man is united with his conservative Islamic father, paternity issues are raised and resolved. Over the top tactics such as the mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes bag get the necessary notoriety necessary for a hit reality show.
In the case of the Eastwood show, other than Mr. Eastwood who even knows or cares about the other members of his family. If they portray themselves as a normal (synonym for functional) family, why would we want to watch them. There will be no ratings and in turn no renewal for the next season. So, the demolition of the Hermes bag provided the necessary shock and awe element for a hit reality show. Proof is in the pudding, I am writing about it, even though I am least interested in Mrs. Eastwood or her Company. The studio execs used the obliteration of the Hermes bag as a perfectly strategized move to Bite me with this Reality!
A walk down the lingerie department of any store shows the “weight” that is placed on big breasts. There is a head-spinning variety of chest contraptions designed for the sole purposes of “enhancing,” “lifting,” “enlarging,” and “amplifying,” the female bosom. Words that conjure up images of torture at a concentration camp are used such as inserts, adhesives and tapes. There is even a bra named “dramatic/extreme lift.” I call it a neck-a-boo, the merger of the boob and neck!
Descriptive culinary words such as “cutlets” are used to achieve the décolletage effect that is apt to describe the ample bosom of culinary goddess Nigella Lawson.
Plastic surgeons are laughing their way to the bank by performing multiple enlargements, enhancements and pronouncements per day. Breast enlargements have become so ubiquitous that you see hoardings and billboards of women laboriously stooping on the expressways flaunting toll free numbers of such clinics; strip malls have breast enhancement clinics alongside of take-away Chinese dim-sum; magazines are splattered with ads for procedures at throw-away prices with very little to no downtime. To add legitimacy to such procedures articles are written as to how breast enlargements can lead to elevation of the self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.
YouTube has videos demonstrating a whopping Nine Steps to breast enhancement!! How could it possibly take 9 steps, I mean squeeze, push and voila va-va-voom!!
The old trick-of-the-trade of stuffing toilet paper down your bra for a cheap, non-intrusive lift continues to flourish.
Women’s vernacular consists of phrases such as “filling the dress,” “creating an hourglass silhouette” “perking it up” etc. etc.
There are many facets from which a blog on flat-chested versus “enhanced” chested women can be discussed. However, I will limit my discussion within the parameters of fashion. If enhanced breasts are appealing to you for “lifting” your spirits, “enhancing” your self-esteem or “enlarging” your ego, then Bon Grandes!!
Time for a disclaimer here. Some of you may be thinking right about now that this is a “case of sour grapes” blog for me. Maybe, I the writer of this blog has always brewed a deep-seated resentment for the well-endowed woman due to my biological misfortune of “inability to fill my dress.” Let me reassure my critics, this is not the case. I have always been big-chested and believe me I still find the grapes to be sour!!
The irony is that these “enhanced women” tend to idolize women who are themselves flat-chested!! Most women look at fashion magazines, runway shows and models as an inspiration for beauty and fashion. Flip through any magazine or watch any runway show and you will see model after model with a pancake chest, displaying the latest styles and trends. Fashion runways are strewn with flat-chested models walking sullenly down the ramp.
To add to the irony, most of the large-chested models you may see on the runway or in magazines are usually associated with eroticism and definitely not with style or fashion. Most of such “enhanced women” are either posing for some erotic product such as condoms or in politically correct terms for products related to “horizontally challenged” women. I am sure this is not the effect the fashionable woman is aiming for.
Interestingly, most fashion designers opt only for flat-chested models. The fashion industry lauds flat-chested women. They are an indispensable and integral part of fashion houses. The primary reason is that these women carry off the clothes better than big-chested women. Flat-chested women look modern; they look fashionable and uber stylish. My point is further endorsed by the fact that I have never ever seen a big-chested girl walk down the Grand Palais runway for the Chanel show, or have seen one in a cerebral Prada dress or in a convoluted pose for a Marc Jacobs spread. Now in all fairness, high-end designers do want stick-thin models and unless you defy the norms of nature, it will be an oxymoron to be stick thin and also have big breasts.
I personally have never ever understood the lure flat-chested women have for big breasts. Maybe indeed it is a case of sour grapes. In my opinion big breasts are not fashionable or stylish. They can be erotic, seductive, sexy but significantly hinder your fashion and style choices.
Most clothes do not fit well on big-busted women. They are fashion-restrictive. They hamper a full exploration of fashion as the styles are limited. You are limited to only a few types of necklines and silhouettes, unless you want to walk around looking like you are perpetually ready for an audition for the Playgirl magazine. Stylish, edgy clothing is not designed for big-chested women. Buttons pop constantly and you have to have a limitless supply of safety pins for security purposes.
In addition they even put a damper on enjoyment. Dance moves are limited to avoid looking like a clip from Girls Gone Wild. Sports and aerobics in particular require extreme contraptions.
To top it all, big breasts add weight to the overall frame and no fashionable woman wants that!
In the end, all my blogs return to the running theme of conformity. Conformity dictates being big-breasted; non-conformity states shun the rules. If you are blessed with being flat-chested enjoy it and consider yourself in the elite group of the likes of Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss.
As I was putting on my make-up, I was reminded of my childhood days of coloring in color books. It is the same concept. Arrays of colorful pencils are used. There is a wide use of electrifying colors from vibrant fuchsia to smoky green to petunia pink. The coloring rules are the same too. Stay between the lines, blend the colors, don’t over-color.
Fashion is like child’s play. True, it is a multi-billion dollar industry and run by mega corporations. Intimidating abbreviations are used such as CEOs, CFOs, COOs to describe titles of very important people. Serious terms such as stocks, IPO offerings, listings on the NASDAQ are used to gauge the worth of a company. Board meetings are held behind intimidating mahogany double doors where board members sit around tables that are longer than the train of Kate Middleton’s McQueen gown.
Shiny silver haired men and women attend the meetings wearing Savile Row tailored pin-striped cashmere suits; .walking with a determined and purposeful stride in their John Lobb loafers and Jimmy Choo heels and toting Birkin bags with such ease and comfort that one would think that the proverbial “born with a silver spoon” was replaced by “born with a Birkin bag.”
Despite all the gravity and sternness there is a silly, delicious, lighthearted playful side to fashion. One possibly cannot take fashion seriously. In fact, if you do take fashion seriously it ceases to be fashion as the laxity of creativity is lost. It becomes regimented and constrained. Rules restrict creativity.
To be truly creative the adult inhibitions need to be curtailed. True fashion icons or for that matter even designers, embrace the child in them. They have fun with fashion without inhibitions. In fact, multiple fashion campaigns and advertisements appeal to the child within us by depicting a comic book, mischievous, even cartoonish element.
Givenchy’s “Cat” cap for a measly $2,124 is a purrrfect example. I was so drawn to its devilish charm that was almost on the verge of cashing out my IRA until NPR’s analysis on the state of fast dwindling economy acted like an allergic reaction to cat dander, thereby deterring me from cashing out my nest egg. The Givenchy cap intrigues the child in us and plays on the age-old clichés of the black cat, naughty cat and maybe even the superstitious cat.
Fashion legend Iris Apfel who is 90 years old continues to wear the grandma oversized glasses with her designer duds and the overload of clunky jewelry. She reminds me of the animated series Daria- smart, acerbic and eccentric.
Kim Kardashian is a perfect example of Betty Boop with the ample buxom and the oh-so long fluttering lashes. Except, Kim’s are most likely courtesy of Shu Uemura!
Bryan Boy ups the Aladdin factor with harem pants. Instead of a rope tied around the waist, he uses the Hermes belt. If you can give a plug to a product while embracing the child in you, why not!
The Row designer looks innocently delicious with the Heidi style braid.
How can one forget Minnie Mouse and her contribution to fashion at large. Between the polka dots and the head piece her contribution is unmatched. Marc Jacobs ad campaign featuring Helena Bonham Carter is a distorted, gnarly, modern homage to Minnie Mouse.
The sartorial Carine Roitfield’s French sensibilities of fashion noir are similar to Elvira’s.
And the hot Rooney Mara who will bring to life Stieg Larsson’s nail biting thriller is a Dora gone wild! Very wild!
And finally the style icon herself, Anna Dello Russo, whose mantra appears to be fashion without boundaries. She changes her looks faster than a chameleon. Here she is lovable as the animated Dalmatian with the black and white dots and the burst of red.
So, have fun with fashion. Forego boundaries and rules. Play with fashion and release the child in you.
Horror vacui means fear of empty spaces or fear of the empty.
The term is usually used in art, for example Victorian or Arab Islamic art. It is ornate and opulent but abundantly busy and cluttered!
The opposite of Horror vacui is minimalism, negative space, silence, emptiness and a vacuum.
The term has a strong psychological connotation for me. Its origin is “fear.” Fear is usually considered a “negative” emotion, a phobia, a condition that needs remedy.
Is Horror vacui truly a phobia, in need of a remedy? Let’s analyze and try to reach a deduction.
I interpret the term beyond the parameters of art. It can be applied to fashion, architecture, interior designs and most interestingly to human behavior. In fact, it is most intriguing when applied to humans as our emotions are a bundle of complexity worthy of a million interpretations.
We all have met people who speak incessantly. A ceaseless chatter, flitting from one mundane subject to another with nothing concrete to say. They talk as if their life depended on it. One has to be on a high-level of vigilance to grab an inhalation break in order to escape. It is an example of Horror vacui in speech-fear of silence.
Or people who have a compulsive need to be surrounded by other people all the time. Constant socializing, parties, get-togethers, vacations with friends, dinner with friends, coffee with friends, lunch with friends and the list goes on. They may describe themselves as being extremely sociable, but doesn’t it reek of Horror vacui-fear of being alone?
An addiction in any form-alcohol, drugs, food, sex is Horror vacui. An attempt to avoid facing the internal vacuum.
Fashion is a form of art and the principle of Horror vacui is relevantly applicable. I was recently at a Roberto Cavalli store. As I entered, I gasped and my jaw dropped. I felt my visual perception being assaulted by prints, patterns, colors, lines, shades in every shape and form. The minimalist in me felt suffocated and wanted to escape. The only visual escape was the white ceiling, except it too was covered with ornate patterns. An illustration of horror vacui in fashion.
What about women who imbibe the fashion mantra of more is more. True, we all have our own fashion sensibilities and fashion is a form of expression. So, who am I to sit in judgment. But really do we need all that adornment? Is it truly self-expression or is it confusion that is making a feeble attempt at expression? The bracelets, the rings, the necklaces, the danglers, the French nails. Help, I am horrified! It is Horror vacui, fear of toned down or minimal fashion.
Interior design is a form of art as well. I was recently told by an acquaintance that she wanted to buy a statue as there was only one corner in her house that was empty and needed to be filled. We engulf our homes with objects d’art, furniture, tapestries, carpets, rugs, pillows, candles. After sometime the aesthetic beauty becomes so diluted that it looks more like clutter. It is Horror vacui, fear of empty spaces.
For centuries, artists have been painting and drawing detailed, ornate and intricate work. The talent is evident, but an inordinate effort is made to cover every miniscule part of the canvas or the art medium. Wouldn’t it create a better contrast if the medium had a vacuum or blank space? Horror vacui again-fear of negative space.
So, to answer the question whether Horror vacui is a phobia in need of a remedy? My answer is that in most instances yes. It requires confidence to forego the fear of empty spaces whether related to emotions, fashion or art. Emptiness is beautiful, courageous and non-conforming!
Travel is the spice of life; it is crème fraiche on a basic sponge cake; it is the vibrant lipstick on a bare face, it is the statement necklace on a basic black dress, it is the bold stroke on a plain canvas.
We live our daily lives performing various duties, chores and activities. Some we enjoy some we don’t. In any event no matter how exciting our daily jobs and lifestyles are after some time, well they become “daily” or “routine.” The familiarity even though comforting brings with it some vacuous boredom.
Travel jolts us from the quotidian routine and infuses the requisite amount of fervor and excitement to get back into the “routine” upon return.
Upon her return from a world tour, my friend told me that she could not find the food that she is accustomed to in her home country and hence from that aspect it was a little hard for her to travel.
It made me think, what is the point of traveling if you cannot immerse yourself in the culture, the traditions, the food, the style of that country and get a true feel of its soul. When I travel I have a ritual, I visit the grocery store and the pharmacy of the new place. It provides me an opportunity to get a true local feel of the country. I also try to buy at least one small traditional clothing item and incorporate it with my daily wardrobe. It enables me to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane when my life returns back to being “daily.”
When we travel, we all visit the famous sites recommended by Lonely Planet. The key to travel is to diverge from the well-traveled “touristy” path at least once and get a true flavor of the country.
Travel is about exploration and getting out of your comfort element, stepping out of self-imposed parameters and crossing boundaries literally and metaphorically.
If you are in Istanbul, you will of course visit Hagia Sophia as you should, but also take the time to sit in the little cafes and drink umpteen cups of cay with shakkar (tea with sugar). You truly get a feel of the old culture watching the men play board games.
If in China, eat the dumplings from the enormous steamed bamboo baskets.
If going to Italy, do buy at least one sartorial outfit from Via Condotti (no matter how small) to be a part of the most stylish culture in the world.
In Mongolia throw caution to the strong Gobi desert winds, ride a yak and later drink its warm milk! No need to crinkle your nose, it is delicious!!
So, pause your hectic itinerary for a few minutes, take a long breath, inhale and envelope yourself in the essence of the country you visit. You will get more out of it than visiting every miniscule “must see” site written in the travel book.
Perfection is not instantaneous, not exigent and not speedy. It is a laborious, tiresome and toilsome journey.
Perfection can be achieved in any field by giving it enough time, patience, perseverance and that “one more thing” as per Steve Jobs that is always required even when you think you are almost there.
Steve Jobs recent demise made me think of how everything that is perfect or even comes close to perfection takes time or that “one more thing.” There seem to be no short-cuts to perfection and no quick schemes. Interestingly, it does not matter what you are trying to perfect. It can be a small thing such as whipping up a perfectly risen delicate soufflé or a colossal and complex project such as inventing and designing the revolutionary Apple gadgets. It all takes time and massive effort. The question is what mettle are we made of? Strong enough to withstand failures and defeats, with only a steel drive propelling us to move forwards towards perfection. Or do we want to chuck the whole thing after a few tries as it is “just too hard.”
As a confession, in most instances I probably will take the easier or the latter path, only to be burdened later with a heavy sense of regret for having forsaken the sweet taste of perfection and my goal. Hopefully, writing this blog will be a cathartic experience and will steer me to strive towards perfection in achieving my goals in life, no matter how big or small they are.
Steve Jobs is an example of perfection. He was a drop-out from college, co-founded Apple Computer only to be ousted nine years later from the extremely lucrative company he founded. It was not a deterrent for him, but an opportunity to further hone his craft. He came back with marvels such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad creating a revolution not only in technology, but a cultural revolution that changed the way people listened to music, read books and used computers forever.
His designs are not only highly efficient but an example of style and elegance. He enabled the world to discard the clunky obsolete gadgets and replace them with minimalistic, highly efficient, utterly cool gadgets.
He can be analogized with pioneers such as Edison or the Wright Brothers. He was a visionary who with his intelligence, years of toil and hard-work, built a company that consumers cannot get enough bites of.
Hermes is another company that takes extreme pride in perfecting its craft. It is a rare company in this day and age of mass produced, assembly line, sole focus on “filling-the-quota” kind of products.
Yes, you do pay a premium for Hermes products, but perfection should not come cheap.
Thierry Hermes started the company 74 years ago with a vision. He brought his vision to fruition by using unsurpassed quality materials, attention to detail and hard work, lots of hard work. The Hermes bags are a superlative example of quality. Each Hermes bag is cut by hand, piece by piece with individually inspected materials. Each artisan works only on three to four bags at a time. They are made-to-order in the true sense of the word. Each bag is made by hand, inside and out!
Even the saddle stitch used by the artisans has been in use since the 19th century. In fact, nothing much has changed in the technique of the design and manufacturing since the inception of the company.
Along with quality, Hermes has been a visionary in marketing and branding. When celebrity endorsements were unheard of and a rarity, Hermes introduced the Kelly and the Birkin bags, an homage to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and the uber stylish Jane Birkin (trivia, she is the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg.) The bags have acquired iconic status and cultural eminence.
What about a perfectly scrumptious, delicate, fluffy soufflé? It is not a dessert that you can order “off a menu” and expect it to be delivered instantaneously. No, it takes time and patience to make it. It has to be coddled, delicately whipped and baked for at least a good 45 minutes for it to rise to a cloud of warm, sweet perfection. You have to order the dessert even before you order the appetizer in order to enjoy it. It takes time to make a perfect soufflé!
So, to conclude and a note to myself-Keep working towards perfection. It takes time to perfect perfection, assuming that there is a Utopian point of perfecting perfection.
I experienced a surge of emotions when I first saw this photo. The Elegance of the gentleman took my breath away! So polished and tasteful! Such finesse and refinement. It forced me to stop, stare and think.
Elegance has become somewhat of an obsolete concept in the modern society. Crude and rough behavior/actions are considered aggressive and are rewarded. Alarmingly, aggressiveness is somehow a virtue in modern times!
People talk loud, dress loud, act loud. For a slice of loudness, experiment going to a Starbucks at 6.00 a.m. The energy is palpable. The loud whirring of the fan is deafening (why one would need a fan in 60 degrees temperature is beyond my comprehension.) The Baristas wired on caffeine are screaming long, incomprehensible drink orders; the patrons on their Blackberrys are trying to talk over the noisy din and of course the shrill whirring of the cappuccino machine adds to the madness. Nope, there is nothing in this scene that is even close to being defined as a “coffee break!”
The expression “squeaky wheel gathers the most grease” is apt and appropriate in present times. In a recent article I read, as per statistical data, the employees who spoke the loudest and were most boisterous got the maximum raises and least reprimands. Yes, no place for a person with delicate, fine sensibilities in our society. Dress loud, speak loud and in general live loud is the mantra! Cult shows such as Jersey Shore and the Kardashians are a perfect example.
Vulgarity is sexy and roughness a turn-on!
The “casual” look has replaced the “formal” look. Jeans and t-shirts are perfectly acceptable in most settings, even formal ones.
In the midst of such coarseness when one sees an elegant gentleman, regally perched on his bicycle is cooling for the eyes and senses. It is a breath of fresh air. It make you stop and stare, even if for a rushed moment.
Notice the attention to detail in his dressing-the peak-a-boo striped socks and shirt cuffs; the thin silhouette of the suit; the well-trimmed silver beard; the retro glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, the well-polished loafers; the suede elbow patches. An absolute optical delight!
It is evident that he took time to get dressed. There is attention to detail. He takes pride in the small things. He has dignity and grace. He is polished and refined. He is an Elegant Man. I am compelled to stop and stare at him.
DISCLAIMER: This is an introspective piece. Any materials contained in this blog are not reflective of any person I know, have known or will know, blogger or otherwise. I love my blogger friends and they have brought nothing but sheer joy and love to my life. Any resemblance to a person/blogger is purely accidental, unintentional and fictitious. The picture of mine has absolutely nothing to do with this blog and is simply to comply with the visual appeal standards recommended in various blogging manuals, thereby luring readers to skim through the blog as a necessary component in facilitating traffic!
Having said that, here we go!
It has been a few months since I last blogged. Part of it was due to paucity of time related to pressures of work, part of it due to laziness (it is surprising how quickly the human body adapts to a lazy, lackadaisical attitude) and part of it was because of a general and sudden disdain towards blogging. You could call it the “burn-out” factor or maybe on a more philosophical, elevated level the questions that festered in my mind were “why,” “what is the point,” and “does anyone really care that I blog or not.”
I know, I know there is much to be said about the joys of blogging. For example, the sheer joy that encompasses a blogger; the “a-ha” finding yourself moment; the moment where the clouds drift and it becomes crystal clear that blogging is your calling, your destiny, your passion; the halo one gets from sharing, giving, receiving, tweeting and re-tweeting; the joys of experiencing ceaseless love thru #FF and the list goes on.
So, you must be asking right about now, isn’t that enough for you? What else do you need? You complainer, you!
I admit, for the most part blogging has been a very rewarding experience for me. I have made lovely friends, received a lot of love and shared a part of me.
The “burn-out” factor came with the numbers game. I confess it is probably a self-imposed pressure, but nevertheless “pressure.” With my delicate sensibilities, pressure is not conducive for my mental well-being (ha ha!) I work in the legal field and get enough pressure all day. Do I really need to or have to handle blogging pressure on top of that. So, cut me some slack and give me a break!
The numbers game can be broken down into so many sub-parts such as the number of comments you get on a blog that you have put so much time and effort into. I have consistently noticed a good quality blog gets much fewer comments than a picture of a person shot in the backyard wearing jeans and a t-shirt. DISCLAIMER: There is nothing wrong in wearing jeans and t-shirts or shooting pictures in the backyard! It is all about expression. (Gosh, it appears that this blog will be all about disclaimers!)
The point I am making is that the general viewer tends to veer towards the lighter blogs. It may or may not be visually stimulating and in all fairness what is visually stimulating for one maybe a turn-off for the other. It all depends upon the sensibilities of each individual, especially when it comes to subjective standards such as art and fashion.
Although, I will say that certain things, objects, fashions, styles, literature can be judged by universal standards of being visually attractive or not. There is not much left for interpretation. A Henri Matisse painting will be found beautiful by general and well-accepted standards of beauty! If you do not, well then you should not be on my blog.
There are a number of reasons, why “quality” “content-heavy” blogs, do not receive much traffic and it has nothing to do with the intelligence of the reader. One big factor is lack of time. Readers do not have the time or maybe the desire to read “content-heavy” blogs. Simply, scrolling through the pictures is much easier and quicker.
Another reason is that most readers comment on blogs to get reciprocal traffic back. There is much written in blog-dom about giving meaningful comments and to give meaningful comments one will have to READ the content-heavy blog which takes time and comprehension skills. Easier to make a spiffy comment such as “Love your hat” and move onto the next blog. This way you multiply your chances of receiving higher reciprocal traffic back. It is as simple as hitting the “like” button on Facebook. Quick and thoughtless!
Of course, when you do get comments, then you are compelled to reciprocate the comments whether you like it or not, as you are way deep into the numbers game and do not want to “lose your readers.” My point is if your readers like you, they should keep commenting whether you comment on their blog or not. I mean, does Anna Wintour comment on my blog and yet I religiously read the Vogue month after month!
And in this ceaseless vicious circle of “I’ll comment on yours, if you comment on mine,” how many people are really interested in you or your blog? Makes me wonder.
Then there is the pressure of blogging “at least 3 times a week” to increase traffic. In all honesty, unless you are making money out of the blog and are doing it on a full time basis or have a trust fund or a sugar daddy, it is impossible to do it with a regular job! There is simply no time.
Oh wait, wait there is more! The photos, the dreaded photos! I don’t know about you, but taking photos has lost its appeal for me after I started blogging. It seems like a chore. Buckled under the constant pressure of “putting new content” on the web it seems like dressing up is punishment. How many photos can one take of oneself in the same setting, with almost the same expression on the face. Don’t people get bored of me! And why would they want to see me, when they can sift through Style.com and see Lara Stone with her voluptuous lips and va-va-voom body wearing the most exquisite styles! DISCLAIMER: There is nothing wrong in taking pictures of oneself in the same setting, with the same expression. I am only expressing my opinion and it is not a reflection of anyone or any person I know, have known or will know!
Now, I will be very blunt, because isn’t blogging all about sharing, being honest and being true to oneself. I write quality blogs. I take my readers through journeys that are unique. I introduce them to new things, new ideas and new experiences. I admit I may sound arrogant and conceited but it is true! I am well-versed in the art of living life elegantly, whether it is related to fashion, style, food or culture. I know what is visually attractive and what is not! I have travelled the world and spent most of my conscious years dreaming, reading, buying, studying fashion, style and culture. I am intelligent, write well and bring uniqueness to my blog via the myriad of experiences I have had in my life.
The question now is should I have to or need to change my blog in order to interest the “general” reader, thereby generating more traffic for the blog? Am I forced to stand in my backyard with the same expression on my face, wearing jeans and a t-shirt so that I can appeal to the “average” reader? Do I need to shorten my blogs and write about a mundane subject that I have no interest in whatsoever so that I can get more eyeballs on my blog? Should I have to post three blogs a week such that I can get some traffic and then possibly an ad on my blog? Should I have to comment on blogs I don’t find visually or intellectually stimulating? My answer is NO. If blogging is all about being true to myself, then I will blog on my own terms, traffic or not!
DISCLAIMER: All the disclaimers noted above are applicable to the entirety of this blog.
Anish Kapoor is an acclaimed British sculptor with roots in India. He was born in India, but has lived in England for many a decades. His works include bright medleys of deeply pigmented colors. The colors are audacious and daring. He uses reds, yellows, burnt oranges, royal blues, maroons. Such colors are deeply rooted in the culture and fabric of his birthplace, India. It is obvious that he was inspired by his roots.
But, his works also include gigantic stark, bold, curved and metallic forms; almost industrial and space-age in nature. These sculptures are a significant departure from his colored works. Such works are indicative of a shift, an evolution, a progression and an expansion in his work.
I have been discussing inspiration at length in my prior blogs and want to make a shift. I do not want to discuss the “standard application” of inspiration for example from a magazine, website or even a book. True, one can get inspired from anything and everything. The creator of Chanel nail varnishes was inspired by the color on a grocery store bag for creating the Mimosa colored nail vernis (yellow). So, when it comes to inspiration anything and everything can be inspiring as long as you have an open mind.
Part of our inspiration comes from our roots. The place of our birth has a genetic predisposition on our thoughts and behavior. That is why you see Anish Kapoor using deeply pigmented mounds of color in his sculptures. The colors and the actual forms of the mounds are deep rooted in the traditions of India. During the festival of colors called Holi, the Indian bazaars are littered with a psychedelic array of optical colors. The bright blues, fuchsias, reds, oranges, yellows are meant to be besmeared on friends and loved ones in joy and celebration (no, it is not barbaric or offensive, but simply pure fun!)
In addition, the spice markets in India are cluttered with heaps of various shades of red hot chili powder, bright yellow turmeric powder and an array of colors. Anish’s sculptures are very reminiscent of the Holi festival and the colorful spice bazaars of India. He was inspired by his roots.
Well that is all very well and good. But, he just did not stop there. He evolved. He did not stagnate. His took his art form not just a notch higher, but did a paradigm shift by creating industrial looking sculptures. In fact, he recently designed espresso cups for my favorite brand of coffee, Illy. As you will note, there is no semblance of color or of Indian origin in the cup. He released his roots, evolved and made an illusory cup for Illy.
In fashion, art or literature, I have often seen a repetition. The original work is unique and inspired. But subsequently there is a repetition. That is why we see some designers repeating their designs season after season, authors writing books on basically the same story line, a sort of déjà vu, if you will. Painters following the same theme, work after work. Directors directing the same plots movie after movie (no pun intended Hangover 2!) Ironically, if the product becomes commercially successful, the chances of evolution are even less likely as nobody wants to forego a true and tried formula for success.
The point is stagnation leads to decay. Especially in creative fields, evolution leads to new ideas. You simply cannot churn out the same old idea and package it with new marketing. Anish is an example of true creativity as he eschewed inspirational roots for evolution.
In my photo, there is a whiff of my colorful roots of India, but I too eschewed my roots by wearing Church’s men’s oxfords with it. It is a step towards evolution and up-rooting.