Sparklies

Over at Knuckledraggin’, Kenny posted this interesting gif:

…and it got me thinking.

I’ve never bought into the whole jewellery thing.  It’s not just my long-time hatred of the loathsome De Beers diamond cartel and their criminal business practices (although that certainly plays a part), but there’s a part of me which just applies commonsense and cynicism to the whole ethos of “precious” metals and stones.

The “metals” part I can sort of understand because they at least have useful properties for some applications, and ditto diamonds when used industrially (cutting, grinding and what have you).

But as decoration?  What a load of old bollocks.  Wearing diamonds as decoration, in necklaces, pendants, bracelets and (ugh) engagement rings is really just a way to say, “I’m rich and can afford to spend money on these useless baubles as a way to show off my wealth”.

In the old days, jewellery was used by royalty to show their social superiority over their subjects.  Nowadays, when some illiterate oaf who is able to string a series of mumbled rhymes into a “song” can load up his neck, chest and teeth(!) with gold and diamonds — well, that kinda devalues the whole thing, doesn’t it?  Except that’s precisely the point  of expensive jewellery.

I don’t care much for most modern terminology / slang, but I love the word “bling” because it describes perfectly the inherent emptiness and worthlessness [sic]  of slapping shiny rocks onto everything in sight.

Don’t even get me started on those tasteless morons who load up their (already-expensive) wristwatches with jewels, driving the price into the stratosphere for absolutely zero  added utility*.  Here’s one example:

“MasterGraff Ultraslim Tourbillon” (AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI)

And when I said “stratosphere”, I wasn’t kidding.  I don’t know the cost of the above — Graff is remarkably (and understandably) coy about publishing prices for their watches — but one of their other timepieces (which is too ugly for me to picture here) went on sale for $55 million.  Small wonder that these and their ilk are the preferred watches of drug kingpins, Arab oil sheikhs and Russian oligarchs — breeds not known for their exquisite taste — because that is the target market of all jewellery:  people with newly-acquired wealth who have to show it off.

In a way, though, I’m glad that these parvenus pricks buy into this nonsense, because it enables us to label them, correctly, as “suckers”.

So when somebody looks at a diamond pendant and sniffs, “Glass”, I’m the guy who replies, “Who cares?  It looks just as pretty.”

And if it gets lost or stolen, you can simply shrug and buy another one, more or less with the loose change in your pocket, while the owner of the identical-looking “genuine” diamond item has to open negotiations with the insurance company.

Next week:  art.


*Longtime Readers, by the way, know that I love expensive watches — my “lottery” watch is a Vacheron Constantin Royal 1907 (retail: ~$50,000) — but that’s (much) less than the sales tax  one would pay for Graff’s foul “Hallucination”.

Appearances Matter

Despite the “we’re all equal” trope that seems to be all the rage today, !Science! tells us that it just ain’t so (emphasis added):

People perceive a person’s competence partly based on subtle economic cues emanating from the person’s clothing, according to a study published in Nature Human Behaviour by Princeton University. These judgments are made in a matter of milliseconds, and are very hard to avoid.
In nine studies conducted by the researchers, people rated the competence of faces wearing different upper-body clothing. Clothing perceived as “richer” by an observer—whether it was a T-shirt, sweater, or other top—led to higher competence ratings of the person pictured than similar clothes judged as “poorer,” the researchers found.
Given that competence is often associated with social status, the findings suggest that low-income individuals may face hurdles in relation to how others perceive their abilities—simply from looking at their clothing.

I’ve banged on about this topic several times before, but now that I have !Science! to back me up, I’m going to say it again, with feeling:

Appearances matter.

Dress like a slob, get treated like one.  Even worse, if the above study is to be believed, is that if you dress like a slob your competence  is going to be dismissed, especially when compared with someone who doesn’t look (as I’ve said before) as though he’s just come from a beach party by way of working on his friend’s car.

It doesn’t matter, by the way, how unfair  you think this prejudice is;  it’s simply the way of the world, and bleating about the unfairness of it won’t change a thing.

Neck What?

I see that Insty is all over this thing called  “neck gaiters” — and I had to follow the link he posted just to see what the hell he was talking about.

Oh.  What we used to call “neck warmers”, I suppose.  Of course, people of my age have always had neck warmers, only we called them “scarves”.  Here’s your humble host, wearing one of the objects in question:

You will note that the thing is quite long, so that you can wind the thing around your neck multiple times if the weather turns Minneapolis on you, or else loosen it if a winter’s day in Rome turns out warmer than expected (as was the case above).

And the scarf’s advantage over the gaiter is that if your neck starts getting hot, you can simply loosen it to adjust the degree of warmth, whereas the gaiter is kind of a binary thing — it’s either on or off.

Failing that, of course, you can always wear a gilet with a zippable high collar:

…which I seldom zip all the way up because it’s a little tight — kinda like one of them gaiter things — and if I (literally) get too hot under the collar, I have to unzip it, whereupon my neck is exposed the the cold — once again, just like a neck gaiter.

Now that I think of it, the problem may be with the word “gaiter”, which to me has always referred to the things we wore over our army boots in high school:

…so using a footwear word to refer to something one wears around the neck is akin to calling gloves “foot-socks”.

Anyway, I think I’ll stick to my scarves.  I have about half a dozen of them, ranging from thick wool to loosely-woven cotton — and differently-colored withal, to add a touch of color to my otherwise-quite monochromatic outfits.  Plus, I’ve worn them in cold weather for decades, and I’m not one for change.

Not even if Insty likes neck gaiters.

Fallen Giant 1

I have had a relationship with British clothing store Marks & Spencer for twenty years.  Every time I go to London, I visit M&S and buy underwear, socks, shirts and trousers — enough to last me until my next visit.  While I’ve occasionally bought a shirt or two from U.S. outlets like Target or Kohl’s and casual trousers from Sam’s Club, fully 80% of my wardrobe carries the M&S brand — and because in terms of its fit and endurance no other brand has come close to M&S, over the past twenty years, I’ve never worn underwear or socks from anywhere else,.

Nor have many Brits:

One in three British women buys their bras from M&S — 45 bras are sold every minute in-store — while two pairs of knickers fly through the tills each second, which equates to more than 60 million pairs a year.

And from memory, about 50% of British men in the 1990s bought their socks at M&S, simply because they were the very best you could buy, at any price.  With that kind of market share, how could they fail?

M&S also screwed up royally before 2000, by the way, by not accepting any credit cards other than their own charge card.  It was that, or cash.  I discovered this blithering idiocy the very first time I went to their flagship Oxford Street store, went to the cashier with about six hundred pounds’ worth of merchandise, only to have to leave most of it behind because they wouldn’t accept my Visa card and I only had a hundred-odd pounds in cash.  I remember ranting at the floor manager at their arrogance — “throwing good business away” was the phrase I used — and meeting with complete indifference.  Later (much too late, I think) they changed their policy to accept other cards.

At some point in the early 2000s, things began to change, and not for the better.  Instead of selling the M&S brand exclusively, M&S started to sell branded clothing — “tied” brands (exclusive to M&S), but the boutique stuff was more expensive than the house brand, a lot more, but with no discernible difference in quality.  Actually (and this is just a personal observation) I think the M&S allowed their brand’s quality to slip so that they could use the lower prices to compete with the cheaper High Street- and online competition.  Underwear that I’d bought in the mid-1990s lasted for at least five years, while the M&S underwear I bought in 2017 has already started to fall apart.

When online sales came along, M&S was always going to be the first one clobbered, and they were.  Probably the only thing that saved them was the expansion of their business into takeout convenience foods (which, in all fairness, are excellent albeit rather pricey).

Now the company has been kicked off the FTSE 100 (the Brit equivalent of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — DJIA) because their corporate value has declined to the point of disqualification.   (And note BBC TV personality Jeremy Paxman’s complaint, because it’s very much the way I feel about their loss of quality).

The nearest American example of a corporation’s similar fall from grace is Sears — which once had a market share and customer esteem similar to that of M&S in the U.K., but is now in its death throes, for pretty much the same reasons.

I don’t think that M&S is going to fold any time soon — gawd, I hope they don’t, because where am I going to buy undies when the ones I have start falling apart in five years’ time? — but they have a hell of a job ahead of them.

Out Of The Past 1

Titfers

November 14, 2008
8:45 AM CDT

Oh gawd, here he goes agaln, banging on about the decline of civilization…

I know, I know. And yet, this piece by Tom Utley struck home:

The more I have thought about it, the more I believe that the urban male’s decision to abandon the hat — taken en masse on both sides of the Atlantic in the middle of the last century — is one of the most inexplicable phenomena of modern history.

I could have understood it if neckties had disappeared. They are a perfectly absurd adornment, serving no practical purpose but to attract egg stains and keep us feeling uncomfortable around the neck at the height of summer. Oh, and a lot of them are a great deal more expensive than the average hat. But the tie remains with us and it’s the hat that’s gone. Why?

Actually, I think that the disappearance of men’s hats is quite simple: JFK refused to wear them—who knows, maybe he knew that he looked like a total dweeb compared to other politicians of his day, most of whom, like Ike, looked as though they’d been born wearing them.

My beloved grandfather wore one all his life—I think he’d have gone out without a shirt before leaving off his hat—and had, as I recall, at least four: a selection (black, grey and brown) for “dress” (i.e. work, to match his suit of the day, and the black only for funerals), and one or two for “casual” outings (to work in the garden or to take fishing). Of course, he also always wore a jacket and tie when he went out, even if he was just going to visit friends, or going to the supermarket. Utley again:

There’s also something about hats — perhaps because they remind us of a past and gentler age — that seems to encourage courtesy and civility. The rituals of removing them indoors and raising them in greeting or deference to a woman seem to shape their wearers’ general conduct throughout the day.

Yup. That’s as good a reason as any why men today are slobs, and especially so towards women. The net result is boorishness, in appearance, speech and behavior. (Richard Littlejohn hates that, too. He’s talking about Britain, but we’re not far from that in this side of the Pond, either.)

In the pic which accompanies his article, Utley looks quite debonair in his new hat, although he could have tightened his tie, to avoid the Mike Hammer/Damon Runyon disheveled look. (And I understand his comment about ties being useless and impractical—I just don’t agree with it.)

I think, as I get older, I’m going to start wearing a jacket and tie every so often. I know I’d look better than I do now, and most of all, I’d feel better. (It’s the same reason why soldiers have “dress” uniforms: it’s impossible not to feel proud about yourself when you’re smartly dressed.)

I bet that if we all did that, the national civility level would improve—and that, my friends, would not be a Bad Thing in these, the waning days of our republic.

——————————————————————-

For my Murkin Readers, the title of this piece is Cockney slang for a hat: “tit for tat”, ergo “titfer”.

Red Trousers

One photograph from last week’s event at Cheltenham stood out for me:

Now at first, my Murkin Readers could be forgiven in thinking that this is simply an example of the weird and crazy clothing tastes that abound Over There.  However, close scrutiny of the pic will show that the group does not consist of hipsters, actors, yobs and chavs [some overlap].  In fact, they seem to be rather a normal-looking bunch, other than in their choice of trousers.

And so they are.

You see, men who wear red trousers are generally of what I like to call The Polite Class:  men of substance, men of taste, men of class, and men who, secure in their position in society, do not care a fig for what other people may think of their color choices.  Here’s an article which explains the thing, in rising to the defense (defence) of red trousers and the men who wear them.  To whit:

Red trousers have become standard wear for the country gentleman—the type who drives up in a superannuated Land Rover Defender, two flatulent labradors fogging up the windows— both at home and in town. They are seen in the London SW postcodes along the District Line, on dear old things at Lord’s and at Cheltenham, in Stewards’ at Henley, at High Mass in Brompton Oratory and the debentures’ seating at Twickenham (although it’s always ‘Twickers’).

They’re worn by decent, upstanding chaps with names such as Giles or Henry, the sort whose heads are hard-wired to leap to their feet when a lady enters the room.

‘A naturalborn sporter of le pantalon rouge wears them as he does his deeply ingrained good manners—lightly.’

It is with shame that I have to report that Mr. Free Market — who fits into the above as though the category were designed for him — does not own a pair of said trousers.  Why not?  Well, there’s this, for starters:

 

…which has led to a backlash:

Overexposure has done for the red trouser, harrumphs the royal historian and commentator Rafe Heydel-Mankoo (six pairs), over drinks at the Carlton Club. Since both hipsters and social climbers— ‘akin to the Sebastian Flyte wannabes of the 1980s, carrying teddy bears around Oxford’—have appropriated them, he’s put his red trousers at the back of the wardrobe ‘until they become unfashionable again’.

…and the last sentence encapsulates the whole thing quite succinctly.

I can’t wear red trousers, of course — as much as I yearn to — because I am, in Mr. FM’s words, “One of those colonial chappies from America.”  Not even the Old School Tie can overcome this appalling nativism.

And I’m okay with that.  One does not go where one isn’t welcome, after all.


The website coyly referred to (and not linked) in the Country Life article is this one — whose name says it all — where I got the other two pics.