Thursday, November 26, 2009


Caryl and I attended Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at the Guthrie Theater a few weeks ago. Part of it's charm is that it isn't really about anything. It's a perfect amalgam of a comedy of manners and a comedy of errors.

Part of the "manners" of the action is the foppishness of it's male characters, and of course Wilde's dress and manners were a part of a persona that he carefully cultivated. A sidebar in the Guthrie playbill traced Wilde's sartorial style back to Beau Brummel (1778-1840) and forward to... us! The basic male pattern of shirt, coat, and tie has remained unchanged (except for a few obvious evolutionary alterations) for at least two hundred years. (This fashion-ancestry explains why even a very conservative business suit is often fitted out with a tie that would make a bird of paradise blush. Just a bit of the Beau.)

Although I grew up in a generation that has touted the freedom of going without coat and tie, I actually like the "put together" feeling that such an ensemble gives me. And it is a feeling more than an attempt at a look. Knotting on a tie (or putting on the "dog collar" of my calling) produces a feeling akin to wrapping a muffler around my neck on a cool day.

So we guys have not been very inventive regarding fashion for the last couple of centuries, but I'm not sure if the man of the future will fare any better. Why is it that the standard male costume in science fiction movies since at least the 1930s -- and continuing today -- is basically a Nehru jacket? From Buck Rogers to Dr Evil. (Granted, there is sometimes a variation: A Vee-neck reminiscent of a 1940's male college cheerleader.)

I'm still waiting for a really creative Hollywood manifestation of an alien. But even more -- for a costume that takes us beyond 1952!

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