It tingles. In Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, alongside the more familiar stories of learnt behavior, impulse control, and the expectation-reward arc which makes the infant grab the marshmallow and the flâneur paw at the cashmere, there’s a story about toothpaste.
Unhappy is the man who assesses everybody’s clothes. Most likely, they will fail to meet his cultivated eye, and he will have no option but to write to the usual places about how standards are slipping, and nobody but him remembers the rules. But worse, one fine day he might find himself in a room full of bespoke, and realize that for once the hand-welted shoe is on the other foot. He will be on the receiving end, he imagines, of the same withering critique.
Most writing about new technology sounds painfully outdated within a few years. It’s hard to evoke the thrill of a new device or technique which will soon be commonplace, harder still to capture its effects on the society which anxiously welcomes it.
Was John Keats a dandy? He certainly knew how to play the part. When poets sing of wine, women and song (and Keats liked all three) fine clothes and indolence are seldom far behind. As well as maidens’ gowns, he had an eye for male attire, noting in a letter his surprise one Saturday at seeing Wordsworth wearing a stiff collar to dinner.
When I was a grad student, the weekend had little significance. Studying literature, I only needed to be in meetings occasionally, and I dressed accordingly: the choice between jeans and chinos, linen or flannel or Oxford cloth was a whim. I wore a jacket some days, but only for variety.
An orphan is raised by his sister in an English village surrounded by marshes, where the crook of a river bends towards the sea. His childhood has its share of passions and terrors, but life remains narrow and familiar until the day he unexpectedly receives a sizeable income. The source of the money is unclear, but the consequences are certain: he must buy a suit, and he must go to London.
Language as a metaphor for clothing is ubiquitous in writing on dress. But clothing isn’t a language. Speaking and dressing make very different demands of the body. And combining words and figures of speech is quite unlike combining shirts and shoes.
For twenty years, Patek Phillipe has sold watches using the idea that you never actually own one of them, but “merely look after it for the next generation.” This might seem a risky ploy: Patek sells new watches, and does not profit from such inheritance. But the watches worn in the ads are current models, and their promise is not an heirloom exactly, but a watch that is simultaneously a mark of family history and available to buy today.