Friday, September 18, 2009

Is it still a joke if no one gets it?

I don't think I've ever seen so many smart people miss a point so ironically. YVain wrote up an analysis of fashion from a geeky sociological point of view, using the idea that "Real Men Wear Pink" as a hook on which to hang a theory of fashion as a tool for signaling social status. The essay got a lot of attention on hacker news, all of which proves that the article's point is actually correct, but in a particularly ironic way.

You see, the phrase "Real Men Wear Pink" is a pun. In this context, "Pink" is not a color, it's a brand name. So this really is a test of social standing of sorts, but it's not about fashion per se, it's about knowing the difference between wearing pink and wearing Pink.

Lest you come away from this thinking that I'm some kind of fashionista, I'm not. It's pure coincidence that I happen to know this little fashion factoid. I once had occasion to stay in a hotel on Jermyn street in London, where Thomas Pink has its flagship store. I happened to see it as I was walking down the street, and the irony of the name struck me immediately, and has apparently stuck in my head ever since.

I actually have done a little bit of studying about men's fashion, and there really is a sort of secret code that separates high-end men's fashion from the middle and lower-end stuff. Take men's jackets, for example. There are only a few parameters that vary: there's the cloth, of course, and whether it's single or double-breasted. But beyond those obvious things there are half a dozen or so less obvious ones, like the number of buttons. Middle-end jackets invariably have two or three buttons. Higher end jackets will often have one or four. Then there are the lapels. Middle-end jackets that are single-breasted will invariably have regular lapels. Double-breasted jackets will usually have peaked lapels. If you see peaked lapels on a single-breasted jacket you are almost certainly looking at a very expensive piece of clothing.

I learned all this because I once got a gift certificate for a high-end clothing store. It wasn't redeemable for cash, so I used it to get a jacket custom-made with a combination of features that are never found on off-the-rack jackets, but out of a fairly unassuming grey wool that makes it look at first glance like a regular sport coat. I wear it with jeans as a sort of personal fashion joke. I have yet to meet anyone who actually seems to have noticed.

I'm obviously hanging out with the wrong crowd.


Dan said...

I found this fashionating.

Ron said...