I wonder what impulse makes a man say, “Ugh, this is disgusting; Try a bite.” It must be some component of our humanity:
Not that we like what we loathe; but we like to indulge our hatred and scorn of it; to dwell upon it, to exasperate our idea of it by every refinement of ingenuity and extravagance of illustration; to make it a bugbear to ourselves, to point it out to others in all the splendour of deformity, to embody it to the senses, to stigmatise it by name, to grapple with it in thought, in action, to sharpen our intellect, to arm our will against it, to know the worst we have to contend with, and to contend with it to the utmost. — From Lectures on the English Poets, by William Hazlitt
My eclectic library includes a copy of Dress for Success by John T. Malloy. I own this book for cultural interest, as a curiosity. It sits on the shelf next to How to Win Friends and Influence People. Clearly I have not applied the lessons of either one or you would be paying to read this; And liking it.
This copy of Dress for Success is a paperback from 1975. I remember 1975, and how we dressed. We looked like idiots, dancing around in our powder blue double-knit polyester leisure suits. And that was when we were dressed up. The rest of the time my friends and I wore tee shirts, short cut-off blue jeans, and tennis shoes with high basketball socks; the kind with stripes at the top; Purple and gold stripes — very stylish.
So I am not completely unsympathetic to someone who in 1975 (or anytime) was willing to stand up and say, “You look stupid. Go put on some decent clothes and shave off those goofy sideburns.” Not that we would have listened. We knew we were well-dressed; and so we were, for our tribe and island; The tribe was smaller and the world bigger than we thought, but that is the nature of youth.
When I was a young man, we knew how to dress
While I could be sympathetic to an appeal to dress well, I am disgusted to the point of amusement with the For Success aspect of Malloy’s book. It is cynical, smarmy, and snobbish. Fortunately, it is also easy to mock. Malloy writes:
There is a very definite tendency on the part of lower-middle-class men to let their pants droop and hang from the hips. Upper-middle-class men wear them correctly.
“Hey, Bob; Pull your pants up. We’re all seeing way more of you than we want.” This is not offensive. Bob can either do as suggested or not, and respond verbally as he sees fit. But bringing class into it invites a punch in the mouth. Because we all know that lower-middle-class men have those tendencies.
Elsewhere Mister Malloy gives us some advice on shopping:
Anytime I see a good solid blue or solid maroon silk tie on sale, I buy it, since I know I will need it at some point in the future. Right now I have half a dozen unworn maroon silk ties, but I paid half price or less for them, and I know I’ll have one when I need it, and I won’t have to pay full price.
Well, it was written in the seventies. With Carter-era inflation, maybe maroon silk looked like a good investment. The cover price on my copy of his book is $3.50. I paid a quarter for it. At the same thrift shop, I paid a quarter for a silk tie, but it is not maroon, blue, or solid. I picked a nice yellow paisley like upper-middle-class men were wearing in the eighties, strutting around the financial district in their contrasting collars with their suspenders holding up their correctly-worn pants.
Those who forget the past
Anyway, six ties just in maroon silk? How many does he have all together? I have maybe a dozen ties total, some of which are older than I am. It is not as if they wear out. The other day I bought a narrow black tie for fifty cents. It must be from the Eisenhower administration. I know someday it will be back in style, and then I will wear it with a white shirt, dark pants and black wing-tips; Maybe I will dig out my US Army horn-rim glasses for good measure.