Why do we still care about this? Why do we still dress the way we do? Why do we do any of this if we don't need to? I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I think about this a lot, generally. This question is at bottom of this project. Yet, I have been revisiting it, ruminating on it and exploring it, thinking about it and considering it with tired eyes and already long thought over answers. Although this question is always there, always reanimated by living in a world so hostile to ourselves, every now and then it bubbles up to the surface with greater strength. I suppose with each and every leap forward (read as downward) a bit more is lost and our position becomes more extreme. We become more extreme by our position, and the intentionality of what we do becomes more obvious to the outside world, perhaps more even than it becomes to our inner world.
I have been thinking about all of that. Rethinking about the meaning of it all, the purpose of it all. There are people, believe it or not who say that there is no meaning to it. There are "men" who are into classic menswear who have pronouns in their bio. There are types who deny any sort of value or directional implication to dressing in our style (which represents order in our chaos-world). All of these "men", no matter how much they know about the detail of our style, understand nothing. You can know all the details in the world. If you do not understand the point, it is all, in the end, worthless. These types mock the idea of meaning after destroying it. Their lives are all one big dress up. The reason we do this is not to play dress up, it is not to have fun. There is more to it, even if we are not aware of it.
There are hidden reasons, hidden rewards, hidden purposes for things that we do. We are often not even aware of them and it is only when it is lost that we realize that we are missing something inside that we never even knew was there. Our society has spend 5 decades (conservative estimate) burning itself down, selling off all the (hidden) meaning because it didn't seem necessary because we had become so used to it always being there. Now we have awoken, hungover and with no idea what happened. In our hubris we destroyed that which we were so used to (that it became invisible), now we don't have it and we are miserable and we don't know how to get it back because we never even really knew it was there in the first place. It was all hidden, protected by all these walls which held it up, protected it and shrouded it all at the same time.
Why do we still do it then? Why do we still dress the way we do? Why do we put the effort in when no one seems to care (they actually do care very much, some will tell you, especially older people) and it is feels we are always on a shrinking island? We love the clothes of course, but there is more to it. They represent something to us. It may be nostalgia, it may be memory of our youth, memory of our fathers and grandfathers. Maybe it is order, maybe it reminds us of Western man at his most dignified. There are lots of reasons, and sometimes they are covered by other reasons. Nevertheless, whatever the reason (both surface or hidden), it is never a reason inspired by lowering or anti-dignity. It is never a reason of androgyny, it is never a reason which is toxic or harmful. It is never self-destructive.
There is so much tragedy all around us. People suffer so much. People suffer more at their own hands than the hands of others. That is a very interesting thing. In the 20th century there were 10s of millions of people murdered. More than 100 million people died due to war. People destroyed other people en masse. It was a bloody, tragic century. Today, we don't see the same degree of mass outward organized violence. Yet, we do not live in splendor. More than 70,000 people die of drug overdoses every year in the United States. 70,000. That is more than the casualties of the Vietnam war. That is a Vietnam war every year. Think about those who may not die, but who suffer due to their own self destructive behaviors. Think of those who destroy their lives (and I don't mean destroy by giving up their chance a big job, I mean destroy their only chance(s) of any sort of happiness). People, by way of 100 forces that worm their way into their minds, destroy themselves and give everything away for nothing.
Expand the circle a bit more. Think of how many may not die and may not destroy themselves but instead just become worse versions of themselves. Think of the small ways, the everyday ways. Think of smart-ass culture. The entire society has turned into one big smart-ass society. Many "men" today engage in debate, discussion, self-conception of self in orientation to the society by way of being a smart-ass. How many men just waste their lives away in joke? Everything is a joke. Zoom out, go back a bit, go back some decades. Everyone wasn't constantly and continually laughing themselves to death. Everyone wasn't in a constant state of snickering. How many historical men do you think of as being smart-asses? I remember when I was a kid, my dad or other authority figures would tell young boys to "stop being a smart-ass". Today, the smart-assification has taken full root.
You may ask what is this all about? How is this about style? How is this about our style? It is about our style because our style is not just about clothes. Dignity of man is not just about fabric. All of this is so deep. Sometimes we are looking at the details so much that we can't see the big picture at all. Thinking in the most general terms, not outliers - "Are men more serious today or less serious? Do things feel great? Or do they feel small?" The answers are less serious and small. The slobification of our society and man has played no small part in this. Everything is some irony, some joke, some stupid comment. Everything is some movement or idea which lowers you to the trash-heap. Being a coy smart-ass, everything is a joke, is our day's version of "fighting back". Being an over-socialized pushover with no values of your own and a pleaser whose most important aspiration is to be approved of by society is our day's version of "being polite" or "being nice" (read as being a good person).
All of that, that is what we are against. That is why we dress the way we do. We are against the trend of society, we are against the life-as-a-joke. We are against man as a ken-doll. We are against the hollow man. These clothes should help affirm you, make you stronger. Dressing with dignity should help restate your inner constitution in outer form. It shouldn't be a cover for a hollow inside of nothingness. It isn't a film-set empty house. It is a wall around a medieval hill-town.
I understand how and why men find their way so far down the other track. I understand why men become a total shell. This is the way of our society. It pushes you that way. It is easier to go that way. Once you start going on one path it is hard to go on to another path, especially if you are on the lower path. It is easier to go down and harder to go up. Most men of the past were not of Herculean inner strength. Society helped generally filter them toward the right ways of being and society continually re-entrenched this so it made this track the easy and obvious one. It was also the Good track. I understand why men today go the other way. There are so many ways to fail. There are so many reasons, at every junction, to take the other way. Essentially, and I am not trying to be dramatic here, the only reasons to take the higher path are reasons which come from within. There is almost no external encouragements toward this end. This is why any guy who reading this, who is in this space in any way, is already on such a high, frankly elite level, it is absurd. Even having an inkling toward this, dwelling among what we live in, sets you apart to an incredible degree. There is absolutely no way you find your way here, and to this thought, if you are of ankle-biter constitution and if you are going down the great lowering.
Why do we do this? We do it because it is right. We do it because it is higher rather than lower. We do it because there is something within us, which calls to us and resonates with either the outer or inner reason. We do it for our civilization (or what is left of it). We do it for our children. I became more strident on these matters when I became a father to a son. I already felt all these things to some degree, but when I was younger in years I dressed more like an idiot from time to time. When I became a father, my views on this became accelerated. Our society from every direction tries actively to turn our boys into absolute losers. It wants to turn our boys into weak, confused, morally absent, losers. It doesn't want boys with a spine or a spirit. It wants to turn them into zombies. It wants them sitting around playing video games, eating junk, dressed like a slob (or maybe a girl). There is a total war being waged against our boys. I despise (as emphatically with as much disdain as possible) the forces that are mounted against our boys.
I grew up in the 90s. It was already tragic then. We were all, whether you are old or young today, born in the catastrophe. Nevertheless, the 90s were better than today. Every day I saw my dad wear an OCBD, chinos and often a tie and a blazer. I know for a fact - because I remember thinking as a kid "that is how dads dress, that is how I will dress one day when I am a dad" - that I dress the way I do because I internalized that from my father. I remember feeling that as a little kid. I went to a school that required a uniform for some years, I also went to public school as well. It was the 90s, kids wore stupid graphic tees. I remember doing so. It was already the catastrophe. Yet, it was better than today. There was still some implication that when you are an adult, when you are a man, when you are a dad, you will wear a button down shirt and a tie. There was still the last remnants of order. There was still something which echoed some echo of some reverberation of some distant reminder (do you get the point?) of truth there.
What do so many of our boys live in today? When they see their dad what do they see? For many, they see a joke. There are dads out there who play video games. God help us. Thinking about my father playing a video game is one of the funnier images I can ever imagine. My father has never and will never play a video game. We begged and begged for a SNES, we finally got it but whenever we played (and we didn't even play much) there was still this aura in the house that it was stupid. Whenever my parents would see us playing it there was always a sense that there was something better to be doing. I remember not wanting my dad to see me playing it. I remember feeling embarrassed if he did see me playing it. Maybe they shouldn't have bought it for us, I wouldn't buy it for my kids. But we are more extreme than their generation. Their generation was still coasting, assuming that there was some normalcy to come from the mainstream. We are more aware.
What do these boys see today? They don't have a dad that says "no way, we don't play that". They don't have a dad that disapproves in a subtle way like mine did. They don't have a dad that is neutral. They have a dad who is an overgrown child who teaches them how to play it. My God. This is what we live in. At this point someone usually suggests that you only say this because you are a fogey or this is some Trad-LARP always fetishizing the past. No. Completely wrong. This idea implies that there is only one singular future which as it unrolls before us becomes perpetually weaker, lamer, more childlike and more pathetic. That anything opposite can only be the past. No, I am more radical than that. There is not only one future. It is not determined. The past doesn't mean serious and strong and the future joke and weak. The future will (barring a truly dystopian future, which in that case all thought of anything is pointless) ultimately be serious and strong, the question is what kind of serious, what kind of strong.
Every day I see families out and about. The father looks like a ridiculous child and the son is a ridiculous child. That ridiculousness doesn't just end at the absurd graphic tees. It doesn't just end at the slobbish androgyny. That, in a cyclical way reflects the inner and remakes the inner. That bleeds into everything else. That reflects something about one's thought, one's faith, one's belief. There is something Spenglerian about this which I am digging into. This thread forms much of my approach with regard to aesthetics. Doing what we do, dressing the way we do is an aesthetic form of opposition. It is makes the socio-cultural-philosophical-intellectual-political opposition real in visual form. It is the outer wall of the castle. It is the face the friend and foe see.
There are two groups in the West which sufficiently resist modernity (in many forms, but not totally) and they both have clear aesthetic boundaries which mean something deep to themselves and signal something to others. These two groups are of course, the Amish and the Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews). People on the outside, as is to be expected, think the Amish and the Haredim are "weird". They are insular groups that look strange to outsiders. They have their own beliefs and they have a dress code which results in great uniformity. They have incredible inter-generational consistency. There is much to learn from them. The Amish and the Haredim are much stronger than most other groups, they just keep going against the tide.
We can learn from them in many ways, but with regards to aesthetics, the lesson is clear. Their aesthetic is not just for fun. They don't dress the way they do for fun. It isn't "optional" and it isn't without reason. It isn't coasting along on a hope that no one just stops doing it. It is connected to their religious beliefs, their socio-cultural beliefs. There is deep meaning in why they dress the way they do. This (among other reasons) is a key to why it is so stable. It is a key to why they are able to keep up this aesthetic and in turn this aesthetic continually reaffirms themselves in themselves, in understanding who they are in this world. Their fathers dressed this way, and their grandfathers, and their great-grandfathers etc... The Amish and the Haredim of course have strong insular communities. There are many differences between us and them. We are decentralized, we are scattered individuals which are not a part of the same sort of community like they are. Yet, there is much we can learn from this, especially as we see the future coming at us. We almost, in a way, need to accept our place as opposition, and almost Amish/Haredim-like although decentralized and of less homogeneity.
In the end it is about strength, spirit, man, dignity, aspiration and civilization. Having a son made these all more extreme for me. I cannot expect my son to do anything I don't do. A father is always the primary role model for his son. Yet, today he is even more outsized than before. He must be even greater than ever. He is the only lighthouse for his son to grab on to, to follow, to see. He must be everything he believes and more. He needs to be such a force, such a presence, such a bright beacon that he cannot be denied. That is the story for the father of today. Yet, this is also true for the man without children. This is true for the single man. Every time you see a young boy in public, he sees you. He looks at you and he sees you as an older version of what he may be one day. He is influenced by you, even if it is just on the street, just in passing.
People may cast doubt on this but that is absurd. Children are impacted by their surroundings. Shocking idea, huh? This is where all men can play a role, make a difference. It doesn't matter if you are young, it doesn't matter if you don't have kids, it doesn't matter if you don't plan on having kids. Whether it is your nephew, a cousin or just the boy who sees you pass on the street, when dressed like a man ought to dress you tell him something, you show him something. He won't tell you, he may not remember himself, you will never know. Yet, there is an impact, your image makes a difference. It really does.
Our civilization is falling into complete chaos and complete tragedy. It isn't just intellectual. It isn't just something that goes against what we prefer. It isn't outside of us. It isn't funny. It isn't snickering. It is deadly serious. We do this because we despise the great lowering. It is because we resist, in opposition, against the destruction of man, order, higher spirit. We don't resist only to cave in at the end, only to become stricken with Stockholm Syndrome. We still do this because it is who we are and it is what we are. There are, in most basic terms only 2 tracks - descent and ascent. These tracks manifest in everything and they beget more of what they already are. A higher spirit of man is interwove with his aesthetic and presence. It is connected with all the rest of him, it is not separate, it is a part of and connected with all of him.
We are all aesthetic activists, we are all aesthetic representations, we are all men that say something even with no words. We are all sending a signal, we all make a difference, we all can help show another way to the young boys, the other men, the world. We cannot change much, but we can change this, and if we can't change anything, we can refuse to give up, we can refuse to turn over to the other side. We can, until the end, even if we are all alone in an island of barbarism, stand with our backs straight and represent something else for ourselves, our sons, our brothers, our friends, our civilization. That is something that cannot be taken from us, yet.
A photo from Brooks Brothers across from the destroyed World Trade Center, September 11, 2001. Photo Credit - Unknown