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Posts Tagged ‘fedora’

Bonus Birthday Edition

Posted by Dirck on 27 May, 2016

Just a little vignette from some lunch-proximate errand-running, which I find I have a moment to relate.

While standing behind the person being served at a store, I find the clerk addressing me thus after taking in my houndstooth sport coat, snap-brim fedora (not a Trilby, although I favour a c-dent), and horn-rims:  “Hey, man, you look like a villain!

I have no problem with this.  Apart from the fact that he’s smiling and happy as he says this, I’m well aware that villains have a loads of agency in the story in which they appear, that apart from the very last moments of that story’s climax they tend to have a lot more fun, and that the villain is usually a good deal more interesting than the villain.  You don’t see a lot of films entitled Johnny Harker and His Polite Victorian Chums, right?  I therefore smile myself and, in dramatic fashion, say, “Uh-oh!  I’m found out!”

“Yeah, you know, like those guys in the old Hollywood movies…”

…at which I feel myself inflate slightly…

“…like from the ’80s and ’90s!”

I believe my smile may have become a little rigid at that point.  I will not tar all Millennials because one of their number views as much as 36 years ago as “old”, but I will shake my head over the folly of the individual.

It is not my birthday.  It is the birthday of villains.  You know.  From the old Hollywood movies.


The back row’s birthdays are 27 May 1922 and 1911, with the odd man out being 26 May 1913.  A damn good season for villains, and head-shaking aside, an auspicious day to be labeled as one.  Thanks anyway, kid.

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Getting into Trouble

Posted by Dirck on 16 October, 2015

When’s the last time I committed a little anarcho-dandyism here?  Far too long ago.

Oh, for a dramatically expanded wardrobe budget!

In point of fact, I’m going to be committing a serious act of unrest while being civil on Monday.  I’m going to leave the house early, in my best suit and wearing good matching hat, to get into the polling station for the National Election before the start of work.  Attired as spiffily (and perhaps stuffily) as I can manage, I’m going to defy the system… of expectations.  I’ll be voting profoundly progressive while wearing conservative pin-stripes.  Fight the power!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku

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The Life Anachronistic

Posted by Dirck on 16 September, 2015

This week I joined a bunch of people in reading this article by Sarah Chrisman, in which a woman apparently in command of her faculties describes her decision to adopt the lifestyle of a latter part of the Victorian era.  As a fellow who consciously adopts some of the ways of the middle of the 20th century, I appreciate the depth of her commitment to a way of living which does away with a lot of conveniences, and I think that the important lesson for us all to take from the article is this:

Much of modern technology has become a collection of magic black boxes: Push a button and light happens, push another button and heat happens, and so on. The systems that dominate people’s lives have become so opaque that few Americans have even the foggiest notion what makes most of the items they touch every day work — and trying to repair them would nullify the warranty.

I also, because I came to the article in question via Facebook, read an article responding to the first which… is pretty venomous, in all honesty.  It’s here, and I’ll warn sensitive readers that it’s rife with extremely modern sailor-talk, and it wasn’t the only place where this sort of reaction occurred– a snapshot of Twitter also provides some sense of the anger engendered by the original article.

I can understand some of the reaction.  We’ll dismiss at once a certain amount of mere jealousy at having the funds to pull off an all-Victorian life, a jealousy I’ll admit to sharing.  When reasons for the outpouring of anger appear, they usually take the form of an accusation of wearing either blinkers or rose-coloured glasses regarding the era.  It is true that the comfortable upwardly-mobile lifestyle Chrisman and her husband have taken up was built on an awful lot of backs, from the pitmen of the Ayrshire coal mines to the colonized people of what is now Zimbabwe.  I would certainly chastise them myself if they were calling for a return to the politics of the time they take their physical comforts from.  I did not, though, notice that as being the case.  There’s an awful lot of assumption going on in the minds of those hurling accusations.  Assumptions, as we all know, are problematic.

Let me personalize this for a moment (because this modern age is firmly founded upon “How does this effect me?”), by reminding my readers how I conduct myself.  I wear, for preference, three-piece suits.  If I could arrange to get my entire wardrobe from 1947, I’d be a very happy guy indeed.  I keep my hair cut short.   I write with fountain pens.  I enjoy sending and receiving actual, physical mail.  My wife does not work outside the house.

Assume on that for a moment.  I’m living some sort of deranged Mad Men first season fantasy, and forcing my wife into drudgery… right?  I must long for a day when everyone knew their place, when the civil rights movement had not had any effect in North America, and when a beefy white guy could settle into his armchair, pipe firmly clamped in his teeth, and reflect upon how great it was to be a beefy white guy without a trace of guilt or shame.

Hogwash.  As Chrisman’s article indicates, this is how that era is viewed from now.  Orwell and Huxley were writing their dystopian warnings in that setting (in fact, Huxley’s Brave New World was written in the ’30s– in the time I’m mostly emulating, he was adding a “holy crap, this is happening faster than I’d expected” foreword to the new edition), and there was a sufficient power of political differentiation in people’s heads to allow the election of low-key Socialist governments even in the face of a serious threat from Communism… or at least the Marxist-Leninist expression of Communism.  There were activists for women’s and minority’s rights at the same time as there was a House Un-American Activities Committee, and indeed even at the same time as the unamused Hanoverian rump of Victoria Regina was planted upon the throne of England.  One need only look at Fox News or (shudder) the New Observer to see that there’s some pretty retrograde ideas loose even in our own enlightened day, and one need only look down the back of one’s own shirt to see a tag suggestive that there’s still plenty of oppression of the third world.

More to the point, though, is the idea that saying “I dig this houndstooth” is not the same as saying “I hate {insert racial epithet here; I’m not providing one}”.  I can’t speak for Chrisman, but I am certainly aware of the less laudable aspects of the era I emulate.  I can quite happily say yes to a double-breasted suit with the very same breath as I say, with full awareness of the underlying nuances, Black Lives Matter.  I choose aspects of the past, and I firmly reject others.  My wife doesn’t work outside the house because she has the right to decide this for herself (that decision is somewhat health-driven, but it’s still hers), not because I think it’s some sort of Ozzie and Harriet ideal is either wise or attainable.  Now, I’m not as thoroughly immersed as Chrisman, and I won’t assume her inward state in the same way (if in a different direction) as the Twitter-haters, but I suspect that she can reconcile “I wear ankle-length skirts” with “I get to vote” just as easily as I can.

Something which this whole foofahrah brings to mind is the baffling degree to which people in our purportedly enlightened age feel threatened by those who live somewhat out of step.  As I say, I’m less immersed than Chrisman, and thus stand out less, but I don’t have to think too hard to bring to mind the last time some goober hung out the window of his chum’s vehicle and shouted some variation of “your hat looks dumb!”  Subjective opinion, of course, because I feel exactly the same about the beer- or car-advertising ball-cap the shouter invariably is wearing, but the difference is I’m not moved to scream at the wearer.  It is an honest source of befuddlement to me that in a world where there is finally a groundswell of support for LGBQT people, where there is at least the beginning of the dialogue needed to address the imbalance of rights bound up with notions of race, where so much headway has been made in rendering ridiculous the more repellent attitudes of the previous two centuries, that someone’s decision to dress olden-timey gets so far under some people’s skin.  Chrisman refers to this at the end of her article, anticipating the tirades the article would bring on.

Honestly now– how does it hurt you if someone wears a broad-brimmed fedora that matches his suit?  What injury do you suffer if someone uses an open-wick kerosene space heater in preference to a 97.3% efficient furnace (especially if, if you’re about to shout “global climate change,” the same someone never uses a car)?  The hat may look silly, the heater may be a fire hazard, but there’s no suggestion by the user that anyone else should or must take them on.  The reaction reminds me of a monkey flipping out when it’s shown a rubber snake, except snakes can be dangerous and monkeys don’t know about joke shops.

The only basis for it I can think of, and I suspect I’m trying to impose reason on something that is founded in irrationality, is connected to something else Chrisman mentions:

…[A]nyone can benefit from choices that increase their awareness of their surroundings and the way things they use every day affect them.

Can it be that the anger comes from the mere suggestion that people think about all the effort that lies behind whatever comfort their life contains?  Is there such dismay at being presented with a symbolic indication that the iPhone did not spring up out of the shop counter, such angst that the light in the bulb is an effect whose cause is not merely the flicking of a switch?  I almost hope that’s the case.  The provoking of thought is a provocation I’m happy to engage in.

Today’s pen (which, if you want to impute things, hit the market during the Summer of Love):  Parker 65
Today’s ink (probably not a commentary on the role of the Versailles Treaty in setting the stage for the disastrous selection of Germany’s Chancellor in 1933): Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Ghost of Fathers Past

Posted by Dirck on 16 September, 2014

In past entries, which I’ll leave you to track down if you want proof, I’ve mentioned the reactions of people to my preferred mode of dress.  That remains, for those who don’t want to look back for clues, things that would pass muster in the mid- to late 1940s.  I wear three piece suits without being made to.  I wear non-ironic fedoras.  I regularly shine my shoes.

Past reports of response to this sort of get-up have mainly regarded people my age and younger, more usually the latter (because we’re all mouthy when we’re kids).  Lately, though, I’ve noticed another demographic which seems to have two specific responses to me.  That demographic is white males, 60 to 75.  The responses are jolly interesting.

Response the first is stink-eye.  I had initially assumed that this was part of an understandable enmity towards hipsters and their damn scanty-brim straw hats.  I’m starting to re-think that estimate, though, because of the other response.  Response the second we might characterize as jaw-dropped disbelief.  The usual manifestation is ill-bred staring, although in a profound example the fellow was so amazed that he became mesmerized, his path as we walked towards one another bending until I either stepped off the sidewalk or shoulder-checked him.

I asked my wife about this extremist, since she was (coincidentally, not for reasons of policy) walking a few paces behind me at the time.  She confirmed the danger of collision.  It was very like he thought that there was no more to me than an image, and that in continuing on, I’d pass right through him.  And this is when we hit on what is probably behind both forms of reaction.

I’m dear old dad come back from the grave.

Obviously I don’t look just like all their specific fathers, but the mode of dress gives me enough of an air of a man of that generation that is upsets their gyroscopes.  The baffled ones are struck with the sort of disbelief the seeing of spooks, spectres and haints might be expected to produce, and I can’t fault them for it.  I am an unexpected apparition.  The stink-eye division is probably not so dragged about by disbelief, but seeing something like me sets up resonance with the past and their own father-son interactions from back when they were on the junior side of the equation.

…which, if my own experience is anything to go by, is years of feeling something short of adequate by whatever measure dear old dad is using at any given time.  I don’t blame my own dad in this, and I’ve seen the effect in enough popular media to think it’s a standard element of growing up.  Heck, I think there might even be something about the effect in psychological texts.  I’m sure that I’m setting my own son up for a similar sort of complex every time I say, “Here, let me help you with that– it’s pretty heavy,” and then lift the that in question with a couple of fingers.

A mere observation, and probably incorrectly interpreted (it may be differing phases of soul-wrenching envy at my natty turn-out).  As a relief from the bland progress updates, it serves admirably.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M30
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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Permanent Style

Posted by Dirck on 17 April, 2013

I steal the title of this entry from a rather elegant blog you may want to look at, but I’m using a slightly different inflection.

I don’t imagine it will be a surprise to anyone that I’m in the category of people who rather like Downton Abbey, and one of the things I like about it is the mode of dress shown.  As I was walking just now, I was contemplating how very much I’d like one of the suits worn by the Irish chap who married the younger daughter (I have, I should mention, a certain trouble in the area of retaining names).  This lead me down another path of consideration, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about where it went.

I would, I repeat, like that suit.  The components, the weave and the colour of it all please me and if my wife is to believed it would compliment my complexion.  Here’s the crux, or at least the turning point– if I could lay my hands on it, wearing it would cause almost no serious comment.

So what?  So… the scene I was looking at was set rather more than ninety years ago.  I hadn’t really considered the matter firmly before, but that’s an odd thing, because if that sort of thing has been possible in the past millennium I’m unaware of it.  Lets step back a hundred years.

"Say, Tad... does that fellow across the way strike you as a little outre?"

“Say, Tad… does that fellow across the way strike you as a little outré?” (1912)

"Are those chaps not wearing corsets?  Decadence!"

“Are those chaps not wearing corsets? Decadence!” (1826)

In 1913, a fellow looking at a relatively nice outfit of 1820 might think to himself, “Say, that looks rather handsome,” but he’s really unlikely to have said, “I’m going to dress thus.”  If he did, people would almost certainly assume there was either a costume party nearby or a circus parade about to appear.  Even fifty years ago, the gap in style from 1960 to 1860 was pretty uncrossable.

And yet…. I cast my eyes to the left, and find only the collars a little antiquated.  The rest of it would pass muster, especially in a well-dressed crowd.

So, what is it that has arrested the progress of Western men’s fashion in this way?  Is the suit-coat and trousers look so eminently function as well as (when decently tailored) flattering that it represents some sore of pinnacle of evolution, resisting all but the most delicate of amendments?  Is it that the differences in national costume are so flattened out by the current level of international trade that there’s nothing to draw inspiration from and insufficient imagination to develop acceptable novelty?  Given the rapid cycling of women’s fashions (didn’t we just stop revisiting the 1970s in 1998?) I have a suspicion that the latter is more the case, and that men’s clothes have just reached the apparent stasis of imperceptibly rapid oscillation from one retro to another and back, so that rather than a series of distinct impacts  it’s just a hum.

One may, and I shall to save one time, point out that the suit is but a single manifestation of men’s fashion in the current day, and that some of them are extremely modern.  Jeans, t-shirts, baseball caps and such are likely what a 23rd century’s Chronicle of Western Costume will offer for the current moment, and it’s true, but it’s also missing the fact that if one has something nice or important to do to, one does it in a suit whose general form is now a century old– the guy in jeans and a t-shirt will swap them for a suit, should he have the means, if summoned to court, funeral or his own wedding.  I’m trying to imagine an Edwardian middle class guy chasing about town for a stock, frock-coat and stirrup-britches because his brother has asked him to stand up as best man, and it just comes out a farce (possibly with a younger Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie starring in it).

I’m not a scholar of fashion by any means, and I’ve not studied on the matter beyond the merest skin of the top layer.  Am I completely astray?  I may be.  Am I worried?  Well, a little, since ossification of anything in a culture suggests some trouble for that culture… and it’s the culture I’m stuck living in.  Since I happen to like dressing well, though, there’s some comfort for me to take from the phenomenon– so long as I can wear a fedora without attracting gawkers, I’m happy.  I’ll leave it to others to see about breaking us out of this apparent rut and enjoy the fact that, whatever else the kids are doing today, they’re not walking around with their pants on inside out.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Old Timer
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Nuit

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Indiana Jones and the Counterfeiter of Whimsical Intent

Posted by Dirck on 19 December, 2012

Just because I’m away doesn’t mean I can’t offer some fun.  Someone with a great deal of time and probably money they had no other outlet for sent along a vast artifact to warm the hearts of adventure film fans to the University of Chicago; Abner Ravenwood’s notebook and associated doodads.  Sent?  Or possibly slipped it into the mailbag on campus when no one was looking.  However it came to be there, it’s a charming bit of nonsense and a magnificent gift of fun and low-grade mystery to the world at large.

Today’s pen: Parker VP
Today’s ink: Pelikan violet


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Resources, Limited and Otherwise.

Posted by Dirck on 7 September, 2012

A little while ago I cried out about the exiling of the local film industry (not in name, but in effect), and I’m still angry about it for all the reasons laid out down that link, but I have found what is for me a small glimmer of good in the monument to party-driven political stupidity the whole affair represents.  Without a local film industry, I am less likely to find myself seduced into providing an authentic prop for a movie, and later deeply regretting it.  What brings this on is the reading portion of this installment of “I don’t feel like a full entry on Friday”; a link to a vintage clothing fancier’s crying out about the way in which films tend to consume that which they document (warning: There’s a picture of a terrible thing done to a fedora).  I do find myself sometimes wondering what became of the nice little pen Hugh Jackman (or his writing stand-in) used in The Prestige, and I don’t wonder at all that Adrien Brody was using an entirely modern pen during the making of King Kong.

The film for today is a very clever fellow showing off the vast improvement he’s committed on a Hero 616:

And finally, for the sake of information: I’m told by an Amex Person that it takes them three days to clap eyes on any fax they might recieve.  Due, says he, to the VAST numbers of faxes, and not at all to the little extra advantage in interest the company takes from not rushing to relinquish that money it clutches.

Today’s pen: Parker 50 Falcon
Today’s ink: Diamine Amazing Amethyst

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The Bravery of a Coward

Posted by Dirck on 30 August, 2012

Preface: cholesterol where it should be, BP 122/86.  Hooray for science!  Now, on with the regular malarkey–

I’ve recently grown a co-worker.

Wait… that sounds wrong.  A co-worker has developed at the Regular Job.

No, that’s a little more sinister than it should be, still.  There is a new co-worker in the department.  That’s got it!  I mention this because she is rather tattooed, and the tattoos have gotten me thinking.

This is not going to be a curmudgeonly screed against the habit of tattoos, since such things are already thick upon the ground and not at all agreed with by me.  The only reason I don’t have a tattoo of some sort myself is that I can’t quite conceive an image I’d want stuck to my own frame in perpetuity.  I’m also not going to cry out about women getting tattoos, since I don’t hold with pitting genders against one another, and also because there are various tattooed women in my circle of acquaintance whose opinions I otherwise value and would feel a bit of an idiot trying to formulate a foundation for saying, “…but they’re dead wrong about the ink.”

In point of fact, the contemplation of tattoos in general left me a little sheepish.  Here’s the reasoning; I have in past, both here and in more direct conversation, approved in a general way of personal expression.  I have lamented the habit (apparently quite on the wane, huzzay) of wearing flannel pyjamas to go out in public, but that’s in part because it strikes me as a manifestation of giving up on oneself.  More positive self-expression I’m all for, where it doesn’t actively offend.  This is an attitude which I must adopt, as it is an important bolster to my habit of wearing fedorae, sporting waistcoats, and writing with fountain pens to the exclusion of just about everything else.

The mode of expression is the source of the sheepishness.  Clothing and writing implements are, while relatively overt, not particularly permanent.  I stride about in my cuffed trousers, being pointedly anachronistic and feeling good about myself (cuffed, wide-legged trousers help a lot in this; vintage fashion is a boon to the large-thighed), but should the day come when I find I tire of being goggled at by scruffy youths in ridiculous caps, or just find the inconvenience of stowing the hat when at lunch or a doctor’s appointment wearing, I can shed the encumbrances.  The hat goes in a box, the tie into a drawer, the waistcoat into a closet, the pen into the Cavern of Keeping, and I become unremarkable.

The tattooed can shed their distinction, too.  After protracted and painful surgical interference.  I might, I suppose, congratulate myself on having the internal grit to adopt modes of self-expression that require an ongoing effort to keep in place (vs. the once-only effort/expense of the tattoo), but because I’m also self-judgemental, I find it more apt to view it as a persistent lack of commitment.  Yes, I am still using fountain pens, but I haven’t had one installed in place of a finger.  That would be real commitment to the chosen mode of expression.

There is also this:  I don’t value the opinion of the goggling scruffy youths, nor rely upon them for my living.  I understand that even now there are some that view tattoos as a mark of an unreliable reprobate.  Another of the few virtues of  current job is that they don’t hold this prejudice (although a lamented ex-co-worker might argue the point; the tattoos may have had some fertilizing role in the ending of her employment here).  I’m not brave enough to jeopardize my career opportunities with a permanent mark of idiosyncrasy, and I think if a job interview looms any time in the future, the hat is apt to stay home.  Craven suit-wearing poltroon that I am.

…and now, I find I must conform to the dictates of the time, which I keep with a non-permanent, easily removed wrist-watch.  I’m incorrigible!

Today’s non-obligatory pen: Pelikan New Classic
Today’s entirely external ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown

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Hat Snatch Fever!

Posted by Dirck on 4 April, 2012

I’m going to work on that project I mentioned yesterday, and more diligently, but I thought I should look in to mention the weather.

It’s windy.

It’s VERY windy.

It’s so windy, my hat came off.  While it is frequently VERY windy here, the combination of fit and friction (I keep my hair in a short, bristly state) usually keeps the hat firmly attached, but today’s swirling gusts defeated both these passive measures and my reflexes.  Despite a moment’s warning as the weight of the fedora lifted from my scalp, I was too slow to arrest the departure.

Happily, the wind took it away from traffic, and it came to rest only a few paces away and on some relatively clean grass.  I was faced with a bit of a dilemma; carry the hat (and look silly), tuck the hat into the bosom of my cardigan (and look silly), or try wearing it in spite of the wind (and look very silly chasing it).

I opted for the third course, as I will generally go for uncertain acute foolishness rather than certain protracted foolishness.  I was rewarded by my hat, which remained in place, even as a great gust scooped a handful of road grit into my windward shoe.  The trick, which I share for the sake of my fellow hat wearers, is to consciously adopt rakish angles so that the brim produces down force.

…and keep one hand free for galvanic grasping gestures.

Today’s windblown pen: Parker Arrow
Today’s spuming ink: Quink Washable Blue (vintage)

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Normal Service Restored

Posted by Dirck on 25 November, 2011

One thing that never really changed during the re-write, and will persist– Friday entries are mere stubs, as I’m mostly away from the desk.  I will spread an item of good news for we central prairie Canadians; there’s a store selling hats in Saskatoon, now.  Hooray!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Legacy 1
Today’s ink: Diamine Syrah (all new cast next week)

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