Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Vintage Post

   Today, I'd like to ruminate on "vintage." Currently recognised as a market unto itself, it not only encapsulates clothes, furniture and underthings, but wildly ranges in price, from the cheap yet aesthetic baubles one can dig up at flea markets to the priciest of overly pricey rarities hung on the wall of a "high-end" trove in West London, which is all the more ironic when the best top-range pieces can be found in less saturated or more interesting areas like York, Peterborough or California. You know, the places where the actual makers of taste went to retire and die, leaving their belongings to either be passed down to their scions or absorbed into the dust inhalation-hazard zone that is the thrifting system. The truly fiendish and ingenious, meanwhile, put them up for auction, allowing stories of bitter bidding rivalries with the likes of Hamish Bowles to circulate across the interweb for amusement's posterity

   From the tone of that introduction, I hope you're not expecting me to be kind, dear Paraders

   Originally, this post would have followed its predecessors with recommendations to source nice threads, but other sites are more than capable of providing such information, and I suffer from thrift envy of the Americans, which encourages me to withhold my databank until I'm competing on more level ground. So, what with the slant Mode Parade has towards classicism, old films and the odd Fabulous Dead Designer, I felt that I should write a few words on the use of old things and classic inspiration in the present world. For I have seen many examples of it in the flesh, as well as on the world wide spiderweb, and it is my considered opinion that a great many people, as the kids say, suck at it


What of approximations of old styles? The fellow on the left pays homage to the Palm Beach holidaymaker/Go-to-Hell aesthetics once practiced by the likes of W Clifford Klenk, but the necessary colour sense, nonchalance, details and good cut quite obviously elude this evolutionary successor. On the other hand, he may know his way around a good cocktail

His shirt is vintage. As is his toilet paper

   The problem I see is a twofold one. There is an awful and comprehensive amount of total rubbish on sale in most second hand spaces. This is not an idle whine; on the two occasions that I tried vintage shopping in Camden, I wasted an hour touching more polyester than I have ever before done in my life. The second issue is pretty obvious - good taste is very much in its dearth throes and the only thing that separates most latter day, would-be Easter Paraders from the Jersey Shore guidos is that the former actually Mean It

   But then, this is being written by a man who describes himself to other humans as "a museum piece" and hasn't updated his mobile phone in four years

   Despite some previous and scattered thoughts on the topic, I am not disdaining the folks who, as far as I know, indulge in full period dress as a pastime, such as the attendees of the Jazz Age Dance Parties in New York or whichever appealingly decadent and fetishistic shindig the iDandy Andrea Sperelli is attending every other evening (his Marc Guyot-esque regular wardrobe is still fairly contemporary in its way, thanks to good fit). I'm just disdaining everyone else who's at it

Why go to the effort of a cohesive outfit when one can seek refuge in excuses like "Having fun" and "Retro humour"?
Thank you, Sparked. I was trying to keep a spit-free desk
   Gathering my thoughts on this became a chore; consequently, it's no wonder that the prelude to this post was published months ago. But then I was interviewed by a student from the London College of Fashion for an exhibition last month, and suddenly, my vitriol had a release. Naturally, little of that survived the  recipient's subsequent horrified editing, but that's why I hung onto the original

   We began with the obvious:
Why do you wear vintage?
BON: Primarily, for reasons of aesthetic tastes, quality and, if I’m lucky, rarity – a way of “waking the dead,” I suppose. Where a great many people take refuge in a specious sort of nostalgia, a rejection of the era they live in and/or simply want to be different (to varying degrees of success), I try utilising older stuff to supplement what I think are the best looks I can devise. I like the notion of re-incorporating past styles in order to refresh and juxtapose them with the times we live in, rather than simply donning a pastiche to signpost my “wicked free-thinking” and “seditious" ways; some of my favourite pieces are cut subtly enough to hint at the era they’re from, such as my father’s old suits, rather than advertise it
   Why didn't I tell the truth - that there was a burning envy that stirred within me when I started seeing photographs of Peter Wyngarde in his nut-hugging suits during the Jason King days? That I merely wished to take things back to the days when one could dress like a devout homosexual (or appear to be dressed by one) and still get women?

Wyngarde and his bulge accept the Male Personality of the Year Award from 1969's winner Barry Gibb, London, 15th August 1970
   Like two people hitting their teeth together during a premature bout of kissing, we then segued awkwardly into the philosophical:
What does vintage mean to you?
BON: A catchy label that goes better with alcohol and fragrances. But then, “antique clothing” has more of a fusty and inelegant flavour to it, so I can’t win
When did you first start wearing vintage?
BON: I’ve been wearing various pieces that were my dad’s since I was a teenager, but as I don’t consider post-1990 clothing to be vintage, I’d say since my early 20s
What piece means the most to you?
BON: The stuff that is genuinely irreplaceable, naturally. In this case, my Tommy Nutter leather duster, along with my Deborah & Clare shirts and Mr. Fish kippers from the 1960s-‘70s
We continued with the prosaic:
How far does vintage style extend into your daily life?
BON: A lot of my stuff is old, it’s true, and consequently, there will be at least one outfit component that’s lasted a while, usually before my birth. On a daily basis, I actually tend towards more modern clean-cut looks and tend to save my Peacock-era and old school politician references for my off-duty mode
And finally, we concluded with the depressing:

What is your perspective on the London vintage scene?
BON: Frankly, most of the good stuff, especially where men are concerned, is either online, in another town or in America. And, of course, prices are another issue; the confluence of all these factors does little to recommend London as a hunting ground. Moreover, interest seems concentrated on the first four or so decades of the 20th century, which weren't the most interesting for young people who actually lived through them anyway, and the scene, which I’ve always found fun in places, but narrow in others, tends to present as a costume-fest. There’s too much calculation, not enough spontaneity and I sometimes detect a clique-like mentality of broad, cheap shots being taken at different dressers. On the other hand, a number of the ladies look very good


Roger v.d. Velde said...

Well I understand the disdain for those always dressing up like medicine show proprietors, but it's simply pompous to delude yourself that your version of "vintage" is somehow more subtly intellectual.

Dispense with the word 'vintage',I have. If someone looks at what I happen to be wearing and remarks that it has a 'Fred Astaire flavour' then so be it, even if I didn't try to dress like the old light-footed fellow himself.

I don't see that more 'vintage' apparel is to be had in the U.S. If it is it's a lot of clown-clothing, or combined as such by Ivy League nostalgics. And it always seems to be the same shoes, the same sorts of trousers, the same jackets and people trying to copy that arch circus act Alan Flusser or the rather boringly dressed G. Bruce Boyer.

Maybe because in the U.S. most of the general public has embraced modern casual, there's more left over stuff to be had. I don't know.

Barima said...

"It's simply pompous to delude yourself that your version of "vintage" is somehow more subtly intellectual."

It's interesting that you discerned this in-between all of the self mockery I subjected myself to over the course of the article. Or from my praise for a noted online dandy who refuses to aesthetically progress beyond the Jazz Age

The take-away really should be that I've little interest in vintage scenes and modes unless I feel there's more to it - call it style, presence, persona, skill - anything but a straightforward xerox or a thoughtless mish mash, I can learn something from and/or appreciate

Moreover, the article isn't even much about my aesthetic, except for where I was interviewed specifically about it - it is possibly the most attention I've ever given to explaining my presentation, and even then, I have long maintained that I'm no more unique than anyone else who doesn't make their own clothes. It's much less about the intellectual than it is the personal, inasmuch as I don't have the capital to personalise and bespeak every other piece like a dandy would. And even then, I'm not so self-effacing that I won't take note of the people here, on Style Forum, on my contemporaries' blogs and at Men's Flair who think my outfits unique (though you'll be unsurprised to know that I've my share of critics, online and off). Moreover, would a pompous intellectual so readily own up to his blatant influences as I did here?

You should also note that I addressed the word "vintage" in the sardonic manner much of the article is written in during the interview portion

Your third paragraph is mostly true, but that doesn't account for why most of my eBay purchases are from the US, nor why my American friends walk away with a great many fine hauls at thrift stores (sure, Britain has a complaint culture, but we tend to corroborate each other's sad experiences at London charity shops rather easily) estate sales, the likes of which aren't seen in Britain unless at auction and the odd market. And again, please note that I referred to "most of the good stuff," not overall quantity; even so, American spending power in the past naturally means more to be had if one looks in the right places

Either way, thank you for writing in