ivorytowerstyle

BAD TIES - A SHAKESPEAREAN TAXONOMY

It’s easy to pick a good tie, yet few people do it. This is usually because they think a good tie is “boring” or doesn’t “show their personality.” Good ties are not conversation starters.

But if you’re wondering if in your search for more expressive neckwear you have landed upon a “bad tie,” ask yourself if it falls into one of these four categories.

THE COMEDIES

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If you got a tie in this category, you (probably) at least did it on purpose. Not that that’s really an excuse. Unless you’re an actual professional comedian in the middle of performing, you probably don’t want people to laugh as soon as they look at you. But the worst part is that 15 seconds later after the joke has worn off, you’re still wearing that tie. 

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A NEW PLACE

I have moved to New York for a few months, which means that I have an obligation to become completely insufferable to all non-New Yorkers, starting with whichever of you fall into that category. Thus this self-centered, rambling post. 

I have always worried that I’m not cool enough to live in New York. I don’t really know what the young kids are wearing these days. My single, lonely, unloved pair of blue jeans probably rue the day they first went home with me. The very idea of associating blue jeans with coolness probably became obsolete a few years before I was born, but lives on in my anachronistic brain.

There was a brief moment on my last day in DC when I thought my current wardrobe had been granted a last minute pardon from a semester of “why are you so dressed up?” questions. Someone whom I admire greatly told me, “Nobody wears jeans in Brooklyn anymore.” (“Oh?”) But then my hopes were dashed. “Everybody wears sweatpants now.” (“Oh.”) 

I remember just before I went to college telling a (probably appalled) family friend that I looked forward to an opportunity to reinvent myself on a blank slate of complete strangers. There’s a temptation - for everyone, but young people especially -  to believe that if you were just a different person, you’d be so much happier.

This time I’m moving to a place that isn’t so strange and with a self that has grown less malleable. I am not planning a reinvention. But places, like great books, are mirrors, and each distorts our reflection in a different way. When confronted with a new one, we can see ourselves in ways that we didn’t before. As I get to know this city better, I hope I will get to know a new part of myself, too. But I don’t think I’ll be buying any sweatpants.     

Blaggers

(sung to the tune of ‘Royals’ by Lorde)

I’ve never seen a rental tux in the flesh
I taught the rules of wedding dress to the forums
And I’m not proud of my URL
And the blogs I write, no traffic envy

But every post is like new suit, fresh shoes, selfie in the bathroom,
Sprezz photos, no socks, instakoppin’ Karthoum,
We don’t care, we’re getting reblogged in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Pitti wall, first class, posin’ with your pocket square,
Seven folds, tartans, patina on a Corsair,
We don’t care, we got our own black tie affair.

And we’ll never be blaggers (blaggers).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe swap ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your Tumblr (Tumblr)
You can “like” my selfie
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me wear that Aubercy.

My e-friends and iGents, we ignore la mode.
We count on style and not fashion unless it’s Arnys.
And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this,
We don’t blog for money.

But every post is like new suit, fresh shoes, selfie in the bathroom,
Sprezz photos, no socks, instakoppin’ Karthoum,
We don’t care, we’re getting reblogged in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Pitti wall, first class, posin’ with your pocket squares,
Seven folds, tartans, patina on a Corsair,
We don’t care, we got our own black tie affair.

And we’ll never be blaggers (blaggers).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe swap ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your Tumblr (Tumblr)
You can “like” my selfie
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me wear that Aubercy.

Blinded by the Light: My First Fashion Show (Part 1)

So I went to my first fashion show. It was Robert Geller. It’s a little bit strange that he was my first, since I don’t own anything from his brand, nor could I have told you anything about it before the show. Maybe I should have held out for someone I really cared about, but whatever. I guess I’m easy and don’t even care if everyone knows it.

In some ways the fashion show experience is a metaphor for the fashion world as a whole. The core of it is that some people walk around wearing some clothes. That’s it. But because wearing clothes is such a banal activity, and therefore watching someone wear clothes, by the Law of Indirect Exponential Banality, is at least twice as banal, there has be a lot of hubbub and brouhaha to make the event and all the people involved in it seem Important.

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MUST A MAN HAVE A CODE?

Omar Little, the shotgun-toting stickup man who was Barack Obama’s favorite character in The Wire, famously said that “A man got to have a code.” I think most people believe this. The world is a complicated place, but it should be navigated, so this thinking goes, using a limited set of basic truths, from which all others are derived.

In mathematical proofs these are called “axioms.” You get your audience to agree to a set of axioms that seem obvious, and then you lead them down a logical path. At each step, you say, if you agreed with that last thing, then you’ve clearly got to agree with this next one too. Eventually, with enough steps, you arrive at whatever it is you wanted to convince them of.

There are less formal axioms floating all around us, unweighted by mathematical proofs but much more consequential. The Ten Commandments are a set of axioms for righteous behavior. As is The Golden Rule. Aesthetics tries to formalize basic criteria for what is pleasing to the senses and what is not.

These distillations seem to simplify and clarify difficult judgments of what is right and wrong, or what is beautiful and what is ugly - a life hack, just like learning to distinguish real gold from fool’s by biting it. Using axioms would also seem to make your decisions consistent, and therefore coherent.

But these advantages are mostly illusory. Axioms usually either lead you into conflict with your intuition - and at this point the intuition usually wins, nullifying the value of axioms in the first place - or become so demanding as to eliminate every option available to you.

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Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price…How Does it Work?

If you’ve ever bought anything, you’ve dealt with a “manufacturer suggested retail price.” If you’re like me, you might have wondered, why does the manufacturer suggest a price to the retailer? And why would the retailer care about this suggestion? The answer is that the manufacturer is giving retailers both a coordinating device and an enforcement mechanism; they tell retailers how to work together for everyone’s benefit (except the consumer), and punish those that don’t go along with the plan.

Consider a situation where a manufacturer named Moe doesn’t suggest any price to retailers. It just sells steez to retailers at a price of per unit of steez (in what units is steez measured? fuck yeahs? fucks not given? selfies?), with which retailers can then do whatever they please. Suppose there are two retailers, Curly and Larry.

Now suppose that Larry decides to sell steez at some price that is strictly greater than w. What should Curly do? He could charge a price greater than p, but he wouldn’t sell very much as everyone would just buy from Larry instead. He could sell at exactly and share the market with Larry - since they’re both selling at a price above w, they’re both making some money. That seems better for Curly than making nothing by charging a price higher than Larry’s. 

But Curly could also charge a price lower than p. Even just a little bit lower than will be enough to get a lot more business, because Curly would then be selling at the lowest price. Even though he’d be making a bit less money per sale, Curly will still make more money charging this lower price than charging p, because of all the additional units he’ll sell. So given Larry’s strategy of charging p > w, Curly’s best move is to charge some price less than but greater than w.

But wait, there’s more. Now Larry faces the same incentives Curly did, and will again be best off by undercutting Curly. This will continue until they’re both charging w, leaving them with no profit.

Clearly they’d both be better off if they could somehow both commit to charging some p > w. The problem is each one has a constant incentive to undercut the other. How to solve this dilemma? At the beginning of each season when they’re both selling new steez, even if they wanted to collude, how would they even know what price to charge so that neither is undercutting the other? Even in a world where these sorts of conversations between retailers were not illegal, it’s a difficult and costly coordination problem, especially when there are more retailers than just two. 

Manufacturer to the rescue. The manufacturer solves the problem of which price to charge by “suggesting” a price. It also enforces cooperation of all retailers by punishing price undercutting. Punishments can range from a stern talking-to to a refusal to sell any more product to that retailer.

But why would a manufacturer like Moe be willing to take on this responsibility for the benefit of retailers? First, because Moe might himself also have a retail operation. But even if not, if Curly and Larry are making more money by paying w and charging p, the Moe can extract at least some of this profit by raising w. 

But note that each retailer’s incentive to sell at a lower price than has not disappeared. If they could keep the manufacturer from finding out about it, they’d still like to get more business by selling at a lower price. And in fact, most retailers try to do this, but in ways that aren’t as transparent to the enforcing manufacturer. They might, for instance, offer free shipping, a storewide discount, free smaller items with larger purchases, or other “perks” such as outstanding customer service. Anything that the customer will value but the manufacturer can’t cite as a clear defection from the MSRP.

So the next time you’re in a shop and you see something you think is too freaking expensive, know that the store owner would probably like to sell it to you for cheaper if he could.

 

Thackeray liked to call the Regency dandy the “genlmn”, and to admire in his place the new Victorian “gentleman”. Neither species is to be confused with The Gent, an obnoxious specimen of town life that flourished on the London streets in the 1830s and 1840s, to the amusement and indignation of his contemporaries. “The Gent” was a label pasted on young men at the very bottom of the respectable class, the scrubby clerks, apprentices and medical students who scraped along in the backwaters of London on less than 50 pounds a year, calling themselves (hopefully) “gents” and their betters (admiringly) “swells”. The Gent was a creature of once-a-month sprees and splurges, of false fronts to calico shirts, of phony jewellery, half-price tickets to the theatre, greasy hair and dirty ears….

The Gents thrived on the disreputable new ready-to-wear clothing shops of early Victorian London. These shops provided their clothes and also, often, their livelihood: the most commonly caricatured breed of Gent was the haberdasher’s or linen draper’s clerk….To flatter the Gent’s snobbery the cheap tailors called their fashions after aristocrats and dandies: the “Chesterfield” great-coat; the “Byron tie”….“If the things are not dignified by these terms,” wrote a contemporary authority, “the Gent does not think much of them.”

—  The Dandy, by Ellen Moers