The Trad Explains The Trouble With American Menswear

S: Everyone in the menswear world has their own theory about how we got from a place in the 30s — and this is something that Flusser does a very good job of expressing in his books — to our current world of crocs and cargo shorts. What’s your theory?

T: This is where I get curmudgeon-y. Flusser and Boyer are both great writers, but when I read them, they still really have yet to let go and to call what’s been going on, well, what’s been going on. Back in the early 80’s, I read a book called Class, by Paul Fussell. First of all, I liked Fussell’s writing…over the years, I paid attention to his writings. He wrote a really great book on uniforms, where he talked about re-enactors, you know: “Who wants to be a German?” The last I saw him was on a C-SPAN interview, and he had just lost it. He was just a mean old man, and it was a shame, because he was losing where he was — it was sad.

And when I go back and read Class, it’s very funny, there’s a lot of truth in it. He sort of bemoans this decline in quality, this decline in everything…he pointed out in the 80s that, as we have these advances in a lot of things, there’s this rampant stupidity going on. And what’s really worse is that most Americans are happy to be stupid. They don’t want to have to know how to dress, because it’s an effeminate thing…Fussell really talked about this kind of stupidity, and how people are proud of it. I think the years of George W. Bush, where we had this yahoo-ism — and that, by the way, is what I don’t like about Wasp 101. He wears an ascot with a suit…I would never wear one with a suit. I think he’s got it wrong on so many levels. But he’s young! He’s 32…

Is it as simple as people not reading? Is it as simple as people closing themselves off to things?…You know, I was interviewed once, and I said, “I think the only reason anyone is reading my blog is because our culture is in such a bad place.” My next-door neighbor when I was 17 years old was the president of an ad agency in New York. He used to tell me these stories, and he would always bitch about the khakis at L.L. Bean. I mean, I don’t want to come across as they guy who says that things were much better in the 80s, because there was a lot of stupidity in the 80s too. But when you go to people’s apartments, I don’t see books anymore. I don’t see bookshelves; I see big-ass televisions…I think “cool” is dangerous. I think cool has become dangerous.

S: Anything else for our intrepid readers?

T: Yeah, I mean, it’s a sad thing. I don’t want to go around making fun of people who wear square-toed Kenneth Cole shoes…It seems to be fashionable now to be an old guy, like the Dos Equis guy. And I remember reading in Esquire about this guy who saw a bunch of old guys out at dinner while his wife chewed him out for something, and he thought, “Man, I’d like to be a 55-year-old single guy.”

I mean, I would never drink Dos Equis, but it’s kind of great getting older! Every day, I shave, I look in the mirror, and I’m pretty bloody happy. I mean, I’m finally getting to do New York they way I wanted to do it the first time.

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