There’s an old adage that clothes makes the man. Never is this more true than in today’s society. When it was a “new” adage, most men dressed to impress as proper gentlemen and those who could not, owned at least one good Sunday suit. This is the reason why there is the term “Sunday suit” as most rural communities were lorded over by hard-working farmers who had no time to get their best clothes dirty, so they took after the miners who wore dungarees. These were durable and lasted for more than one river washing. Dungarees and shirts made from the same became symbolic and symbiotic with the working man, giving a nickname to their trade, “blue collar worker”.
Most working men in the Victorian era had that one suit. It was used for the family milestones such as weddings, births, baptisms and funerals. And when it came time for that same man to shudder his own mortal coil, he usually did it with style in that very same Sunday suit that had served its purpose throughout his life and would now serve one last purpose at the end of it.
Few men unless they were men of means had more than that one suit. If someone was a captain of industry rather than being ground under its gears, then that man would not be caught dead, literally, with one final suit like his employee. These men usually had a whole wardrobe to suit (no pun intended) their needs and it didn’t stop at just clothing. A hundred or so years ago, a man spelled success in his dapper appearance. This is common today, as well, although much has been lost in translation.
Men of wealth and class wore the very their status upon their monogrammed sleeve. There was no denying who was a gentleman and who was a scoundrel or a bounder. No bounder could pull off being a gentleman just as no gentleman would ever think of being less than his station, nor woman.
Modern society, although well-intentioned, does not aspire to such heights. While we are a prosperous society compared to our forefathers; it is ironic that most men do not own but one suit, echoing a distant past.
In the grey-flannel era of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and stretching even into the early 60’s, an unwritten rule was that men did not go anywhere without a suit. Women were the same in this respect as well. People dressed their finest. One wouldn’t get on an airplane in less than their best. It was unheard of and one wouldn’t be allowed on a plane, in a casino or in a restaurant without dressing up.
We’ve gone from dressing to the nines, as the saying went, to the less than zero (yet acceptable) “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” style of wear. Dressing “street” and “thug” became an acceptable norm and the ludicrous wearing of hoodies or a baseball hat backwards/forwards became idiotic de rigueur for young men who dressed more like boys.
Which doesn’t mean that looking good has to be old-fashioned. There is the new look trending for young men. It is a serious attempt to get back to sophistication and style. While it is a casual effort compared to the buttoned-down look of previous eras, it is no less of an attempt.
Vests worn over dress shirts have become common in the workplace as much as the suit and tie. It displays a simple refinement over the casual “.com” look of only a decade or so ago. It is a statement that one is professional yet still approachable, without being stuffy or snarky.
Perhaps this owes to a steam-punk reality of mashing genres and mixing of ideals and metaphors that are trending in our modern world. We rush to make sense of everything and yet, nothing at all.
Dressy but still casual.
Enter The New Victorian. He is a modern man, not a last-century throwback. He is cock-sure but not cocky as to be arrogant. He eschews the street grunge of his youth in exchange for a modern classic look. He dresses the part well, with a vest, dress shirt, khakis or dress pants and comfortable Oxfords.
He can be clean shaven or wear facial hair neatly trimmed as is his hair. He does not wear a watch, as he carries a traditional timepiece; a pocket watch. Walking sticks are also making a comeback with the New Victorian. But this is no 1890’s dandy. He keeps on top of his techno world and stores his cell phone in his vest pocket to text his sweetheart, connect with his colleagues, check his stocks, start his car or turn on the lights and temperature in his house.
The New Victorian is the latest generational trend, as much as the Yuppies were in the 80’s or Hippies in the 60’s. The New Victorian is a gentleman redefining his era, while embracing the old. He is not interested in the Me Generation of self and is more interested in helping others. He is not interested in electing an arrogant asshole billionaire to the Presidency any more than he is interested in idly sitting by and doing nothing as the climate changes. He volunteers. He helps out around the house, takes care of the kids and treats his wife with respect. He’s an earth-conscious man, making the world a better place for his children, all the while minimizing his carbon footprint and still having one foot rooted in the past and one foot firmly placed in the future.
The New Victorian is an every man.
He is no race, no creed nor color. He is an American, an Englishman, a Mexican, a Muslim. He is The New Man. A 21st Century Man. Yet, he is still a prototype, a work in progress. He is any man who desires to improve the world around him for the betterment of his fellow man and woman. Always changing, always evolving to be better. Clothes and style help to define that man for the ages.