Monday, 14 March 2011

Clueless in Gaza

The coming generation of the USA in the 1960s abolished racial segregation. There were different 'liberating' events in the UK, such as the abolition of the death penalty but few people now would accept that the generation that achieved these reforms also, in certain respects, threw out the baby with the bath water when it lost the sense of form and decorum: manners. History forgets that the old standards did survive for a few more years because history remembers the winners but the old standards faded eventually.

Then, as they were increasingly jostled in doorways, or pushed on the pavement, or smoked over by inconsiderate smokers, people gradually came to realize that the world has lost something and that it is the poorer for it but they are uncertain as to what exactly the world has lost.

That is why there is so much legislation to regulate purely personal conduct and why there are so many blogs and websites (and even books and magazines) on Style and why people are rushing about with their own personal revelations, seen through a glass darkly. In one hand they hold Apparel Arts and Esquire illustrations from the 1930s and, in the other, a butterfly net, casting at shadows; and people gather around the butterfly rooms to admire the collections and we are told that the brightest, captured phantoms of butterflies are those that have lost form but retained beauty. I don't see it. In fact, I don't see the butterflies.

We are told that style has cycles (it certainly seems to have bicycles) and the twenty to thirty year olds reinvent style every year, according to the Parisian system for women's fashion, and the designers have taken to reinterpreting the meaning of 'bespoke'; ridicule and revile those who guard and pass on its real secrets, even convince some of them to come onboard the brash, bright, noisey Ford-Lauren-Armani-Abercrombie & Fitch bandwaggon and they do: Kilgour, French & Stansbury becomes the trendier sounding 'Kilgour' and E Tautz gets so excited that he even jumps out of the grave and puts off his shroud; and they all join together and devise events at which skinny, epicene models swagger up and down catwalks in skimped, tight, trendy, vaguely weird ready-to-wear clothes that no one in his right mind would wear in real life, and they clink champagne flutes and explode in self-congratulation at having redeemed, by re-invention, the world of bespoke, while those who regard their trade as one for the expression of high skill to provide a decent living and customer satisfaction, are increasingly side-lined because they won't or can't get their old legs up high enough to jump on the bandwaggon and schmoze with the rest of them, for a bigger dollar.

And we are bludgeoned with the blunt instrument of commercial interest to believe that rules or norms and, by necessary implication, the need for form and decorum, have been 'eroded' and we are also told what a good thing that is too and some even convince themselves that they have seen the Piper at The Gates of Dawn at the trendy tailoring event The Golden Shears and write up an account of it as an 'advertorial'. Maybe you have but it is the trippy Piper of Pink Floyd's 1967 cover rather than the more charming Piper of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 classic The Wind in The Willows and I know which I prefer.

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