Life With Style Magazine~ "Lost Generations"
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We are living in an age in which fewer people fully understand and appreciate what is appropriate, across the spectrum; how to act in public; eat at the dinner table; treat the opposite sex; as well as buy, pick out and put together outfits. Are we now living in a time where children are not being taught the basics…a parentless era?
In doing research on London’s Lock & Co., the oldest and arguably best hat-makers in the world, I was once again struck with the importance of what we learn from our parents growing up. While doing a walk-through and asking questions, the Lock & Co. PR person, Nicolas Payne-Baader said, “Most people these days have no idea how to choose a hat, nor what styles and proportions are best for them. It used to be common knowledge how to choose a hat to appropriately compliment one’s physique but people now aren’t taught by their parents because their parents didn’t wear hats either.” Admittedly, my father didn’t wear hats and I learned nothing of them growing up. I have however, always loved classic hats and I have a handful of heavy-felt Fedoras to wear during winter, as well as a lighter Panama for spring and summer. I chose them by looking in the mirror and determining if they ‘worked’. Whether they were the right choice for me or not is debatable. I can talk in great detail about most articles of men’s fashion: cut, drape, fit, colour, pattern and proportion. For hats, I’m lost. I can rely on my sartorial senses derived from other clothing items in choosing a hat, but I learned things at Lock & Co. that I wasn’t even aware I didn’t know. Fortunately for hats, they are quite utilitarian in preventing loss of body heat through the head when it’s cold and providing shade when it’s sunny, so hats will always be with us in one form or another.
This snippet of conversation at Lock & Co. got me thinking: how many other things, sartorial or otherwise, are and will fall by the wayside as parents who don’t know better and fail to teach their children? Personally, I’m in a minority category of people who love and appreciate style and am eager to learn and teach myself more. Most others don’t have the time, inclination or idea of how much there is to learn. Where I can skip over my parent’s generation and learn lessons in style from previous ones, most other people understandably won’t. Aside from dress, how many other things have not been passed down? I realise that every generation looks at newer generations and shakes their collective heads in disgust at what they’re witnessing. To varying degrees they’ve been right to think that. Some cultural generational changes have been for the worst, but some have been for the better as well. That said, there is still a real problem. Previous generations had their parents to look to as examples for appropriateness. At least when that generation had their own children, they could teach them the same lessons they were taught, regardless of whether they were living examples. We are living in a time of lost generations having children, creating a generation even more lost.
In my formative years, I saw my father put a suit and tie on everyday to go to work. There was a pride he took in how he dressed, presented himself and conducted himself in public. He taught me what was appropriate behaviour when I was a child; how to tie a tie as a teenager; and took me shopping for suits when I landed my first job, as well as sharing the accompanying do’s and don’ts. He said words I will never forget: “Right or wrong, people will size you up and judge you immediately by the way you look, so it’s important to always look your best so you make a good first impression. That first impression won’t win you business but it can certainly lose it.” These core lessons were his legacy. That said, I wouldn’t nominate my father as the ideal role model - far from it. He didn’t need to be the ideal to teach the basics; these were social norms passing down just as countless others had passed down before.
What happens when a clueless generation doesn’t have appropriate norms to pass down? We have now ventured into unknown slovenly territory; behaviour and manners are terrible and only worsening. Simple ideas such as holding doors for people, saying ‘thank-you’ and general respect for others is being thrown out the window. Symptomatically, walking down the street, its apparent people don’t know how to dress. Just as these people didn’t learn from their parents, they will continue to pass on what they know to their children. Is there any turning back? I pray there is.
~Michael Cress ~ New York Sartorialist ~ Life With Style Magazine