Saturday, May 02, 2009

Denim disputations: 'Distressed' over rules

In recent weeks, an intellectual dispute with the 'denimification' of clothing has surfaced up to the mainstream media. Exhibit A is journalist Daniel Akst's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece describing the pernicious assault of denim on sartorial taste. He argues that the principal crime of denim is "undifferentiated dressing".

Picking up where Akst leaves off, George Will thinks the crisis runs much deeper. In a recent op-ed, Will puts a Freudian-Tocquevillean spin on the meaning of denim: "Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults (Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men) and cartoons for adults (King of the Hill)".

For both Akst and Will, denim is a sure sign of sartorial oblivion and turpitude. Will writes, "This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly." Good taste forbids the use of denim. Both Akst and Will want rules back in place.

Both make interesting observations but veer toward overzealousness. Shall we ban denim then? If every man, woman and child in our country wore denim and only denim everyday, their outrage would be more compelling. As for myself, I enjoy having options ranging from three piece suits that might even meet with Astaire's approval to dark rinse jeans that would not.

Rules are useful but I prefer exercising my own judgment to automatically following the Akst-Will rule on denim.

Additional links
- AskAndy thread on the George Will and WSJ essays
- Styleforum thread on Will / WSJ essays
- Styleforum thread on "sartorialist jeans" - The debate continues!

3 comments:

seth said...

Crisis? What crisis? Poverty is critical; our economy is in crisis. I wish writers and commentators would use a little perspective when they view every-other-god damned thing with *alarm."

I mean, it's just pants. Yes, I know behavior has meaning but wearing jeans a lot really doesn't mean much. And...Fred Astaire? Right.

Anonymous said...

Giving credence to anything written by George Will is a recipe for disaster.

Giving credence to anything written by George Will about clothing is a recipe for disaster, followed by plague, a rain of frogs, and a lonely death.

C.S.

sleevehead said...

Ha, very pithy - I like the image of raining frogs. I think Will represents an extreme position but I'm sure he has strong supporters who agree with everything he says about jeans.