Whatever Happened to the Well Dressed Man or Woman? Pt I

I’ve been in the men’s apparel industry now for a little over 8 years. I stumbled onto it pretty much by accident. Up to that point music and the music industry had always been the focus of my life. Even after the demise of my sheet music store “Heritage Music House” in Philadelphia, I ended up working full time at Tower Records Classical Annex on South Street. Meanwhile, I kept my fingers in the church music pie as Music Director at various Philly churches. After I quit Tower I decided to take on a part time gig at Lord & Taylor in Centre City Phila. since my primary work was at the now defunct St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Germantown.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to work in something different and fashion had become a source of interest to me recently. Of course, I can never involve myself halfway in anything; so, I began researching vendor sources, as in,” Who makes this stuff for all these designers?” Most designers, of course, don’t produce much of their stuff themselves; they license out production to any number of vendors who own the factories. I became more and more intrigued with the idea of knowing how the clothes are made:  men’s suits, even the cheap ones, are amazingly complicated constructs. What is between the outer shell and the lining is a maze of layers and sub or partial layers I need not go into at this moment.

Moreover, I discovered I have a natural talent for putting together a man’s outfit, especially a tailored one. I suddenly discovered I had this flair for taking a suit or blazer & trousers and combining them with a shirt or two and three to four ties and making them all interchangeable so that a man can, with just a few items have a fully functional tailored wardrobe. I don’t generally like to brag (which, I guess is one of the reasons I can’t get a decent job), but I’m really good at this.

At first it was very interesting, exciting even. But, coming down to earth it is, after all, retail. And that’s been my biggest problem. I’m a retailer. That’s fine if you have your own business, such as when I had Heritage Music; but, working for others makes it very dreary and wearisome. Coupled with the duties of being a church musician and, well, weekends are non-existent.

Moreover, retailing has a stigma to it that almost precludes you from finding work in another field. I don’t understand why, but it does.

But, I digress. Since my active involvement in the fashion industry I’ve become more aware than ever of the dismal state of dress in our society. I’m a firm believer that fashion, not unlike the arts (or should I say the other arts), reflects directly on the state of a civilisation, either enlightened or barbaric. Unfortunately, the current trend has been toward the latter. The whole idea of looking like you just dressed yourself out of some dumpster being considered cool is a hideous product phenomenon originating uniquely from the late 20th Century, namely the late 60’s

Unfortunately, it’s one remnant from that era that actually stuck. All the struggle for political, social and economic justice; all the striving to achieve an higher, more enlightened consciousness have at best seen token achievement (racial & sexual justice) or at worst regression (economic justice). No, dressing like a slob just like all its attendant undisciplined and just basically rude behaviour, not to mention bad taste, seems to be the enduring legacy of the radicalism of the late 60’s…(to be continued)


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