The bengal stripe, a balanced stripe of generally .25 inches, alternating colored against white. A balanced stripe is a stripe in which both the white and colored stripes are the same width. Another most notable example of this kind of stripe is the university stripe. It is a thinner stripe, but balanced nevertheless. An unbalanced stripe is a stripe in which the colored and white stripe are of different widths. A notable example of this kind of stripe is the butcher stripe.
I don't have too many bengal stripes. This light blue bengal stripe OCBD is an incredible spring-summer shirt. It has such a classic, traditional and even old-timey (almost) feel. This shirt feels very early 20th century, Gatsby-esque. With a shirt like this, a tie actually works wonderful, even though I am not wearing one in the photo above. Pinks, reds, navy, greens, yellows all look great with this shirt. Stripes, motifs, ancient madder and knits all work perfectly and boldly. In fact, writing this makes me realize that I need more of this exact shirt.
That early 20th century, pre WW2 feeling I get from a bengal stripe like this is different than the university stripe, different than the mid-century Ivy heyday. The Ivy heyday while beautiful and wonderful (none of us would deny this) was still a time in the shadow (whether known at the time or not) of the catastrophe of WW2, an event which ultimately wounded Western self-conception to an extreme degree. If WW1 started the terrible process, WW2 brought it to completion. I am talking of a time before WW2, before anything even approaching the social and cultural revolutions of the 60s, that time of less globalization, less mass culture, homogenization, less connectivity and less modernism. And while a time of less connectivity, there was still a great(er) (felt) cultural connection to Europe, in a way.
I am talking about the time of Art Deco. Art Deco was a promise and vision, a world-image which was extinguished far too soon. Imagine if Art Deco didn't stop in the 4th decade of the 20th century but continued until today. What would our world look like? What would our buildings and public spaces look like? What would we feel? How would we feel when we emerge from our front doors and onto the streets? What if all those old beautiful train stations, city halls, post offices were never torn down? What if we still lived in The World of Yesterday. [This is a reference to Die Welt von Gestern: Erinnerungen eines Europäers / The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European by Stefan Zweig, a wonderful book about life in continental Europe before World War 1 and the upheaval of changes that came upon the continent in the first decades of the 20th century.]
We don't live in that world anymore, it was destroyed. It may be rebuilt, but for the time being it must be said, it was destroyed. That period of life in the early 20th century before the extreme machine murder of World War 2 shattered Western world-image was a period so unlike ours today and with a sense of life so unlike ours. We live in a shadow, a long looming dark shadow not only of World War 2 or World War 1 but a shadow from even farther back. A shadow leading us all the way back into the form of biblical criticism springing from the Enlightenment. Even those in the early 20th century lived in this shadow.
Even though we cannot go back, even though we cannot make the mass general society / outer world into the world we wish it was, we can control our own internal and outward facing civilization. We can orient ourselves in a different way. We can, in a certain intellectual gestalt, situate ourselves and find ourselves in a different place and time. Reading transports us, it takes us into a conversation with the past, a conversation with those who are now long dead. We can almost sit and talk with them for a bit when we read them. We can reach into another time. We can feel the ideas of another time, another world-feeling, and allow them to change our own time, our mind and our eye, even if only internally, in our own internal controlled civilization. To me, aesthetics, style and how we present ourself is a part of this adventure, process, idea. We may not be able to go back, but we can signal something else to ourselves, we can present something to others. We can exhibit an idea in living image. We speak, we use language to communicate to others, we think in language to understand and explore our world, to understand who we are. There is a language to style and aesthetic. There is a visual language. The language doesn't only speak to others, but also ourselves. The simple act of a shirt like this, which evokes certain feelings and a certain clinging, harkening to a different time, different feeling - it colors and shades my world in the temporary, in the moment I wear it. Just like the the language of words impacts us, the language of the aesthetic does as well.
I believe I think so bizarrely different than many others primarily, I suspect, because I am always reaching into the past, reaching into the extreme, (seemingly) unrelated or (seemingly) irrelevant and bringing something back to the present, to now, here, to my world. Revising, altering, reinterpreting and remaking it ultimately for myself and ultimately my future according to my vision. I think this makes my idea unintelligible to many, with the only ones able to understand being those who also share something of this same feeling, same pursuit, same intellectual adventure and music. Everyone who reads this, shares this with me, in some way or another, I am quite convinced of that.
As for the outfit in the photos above, I am wearing a light blue bengal stripe paired with pale green chinos and dark reddish brown belt, pale pink boat shoes and a cream cardigan. These boat shoes are incredibly bold, even though they are pale pink. I love them because they are the perfect kind of bold. Pink and daring yet pale so not in-your-face. They are not rich saturated pink or hot pink. They are ultimately, when it comes to pink, more subtle. It is hard to wear these boat shoes into the fully worn-in, rough and beautiful look we all love because they are just not as versatile as a simple neutral brown. The downside to this is that it takes years to really get them to the perfect worn phase. The upside is that they will last an incredibly long time.
This is a bold outfit. It is a casual outfit. It is Friday, the weekend is upon us. It is a bright beautiful spring day and the bengal stripe carries me with the breeze to a different time with a different spirit. Unabashedly forward looking, perhaps even dangerously so. Not knowing what will ever come around the bend, life is now and the whole world could end tomorrow. It is best to live life to its fullest when we have the chance and be thankful to God we have even a moment.
"The sun shone full and strong. Homeward bound I suddenly noticed before me my own shadow as I had seen the shadow of the other war behind the actual one. During all this time it has never budged from me, that irremovable shadow, it hovers over every thought of mine by day and night; perhaps its dark outline lies on some pages of this book, too. But, after all, shadows themselves are born of light. And only he who has experienced dawn and dusk, war and peace, ascent and decline, only he has truly lived."
- Die Welt von Gestern: Erinnerungen eines Europäers / The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European by Stefan Zweig