The most painful line, the one where it slips into outright self-parody, is where grandpa George urges us to dress more like Fred Astaire and Grace Kelly. I’m almost disappointed he didn’t say Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Anyone know where I go to get my recession tux?
Says Treacher in the comments to the Headlines thread, “His next column is all about the dangers of Elvis Presley record albums.”
Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults (“Seinfeld,” “Two and a Half Men”) and cartoons for adults (“King of the Hill”). Seventy-five percent of American “gamers” — people who play video games — are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote. In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six — so far — “Batman” adventures and “Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps,” coming soon to a cineplex near you). Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy’s catechism of leveling — thou shalt not dress better than society’s most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism — of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.
Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.
At TNR, Jonathan Chait reminds us that Will wrote a column last year knocking Obama for his, ahem, elitism and evident disdain for “middle-class American culture.” Among the many other vices of today’s piece, it’s simply wrong on the merits: The ubiquity of jeans might have its origin in a bourgeois imitation of working-class “authenticity,” but for most adults I think that association’s been lost in the mists of time. When I think blue-collar, I think of various types of uniforms, not of Levi’s. The virtue of jeans, as Ace says, is simply that they’re comfortable and essentially fashion-proof insofar as they can be worn with almost anything and in various social situations. If Will likes to spend time mixing and matching with his haberdasher, good for him, but most people — men especially — can’t be bothered.