The suit and its volumes (2/2)


Paul Weller, The Sunday Times March 17, 2019:
“It’s a transitional period. For a lot of men – any men that are vaguely conscious at all – they’ve had to reappraise themselves, and masculinity. [..] I think In the next five or 10 years, men will grow up differently. I hope so, anyway.”
Quoting Mr. Weller, known for his silhouette and iconic style, may feel like a contradiction to the request for more volumes in contemporary menswear. But it isn’t. Instead he’s the best example and evidence for a man caring for his volumes and the space he requires in his performance. All the more so, because he openly addresses men to reappraise themselves and make the world a better place.
Mr. Weller, like many of those born between 1955 and 1970, experienced firsthand the upraising and the subsequent slow – and often painful – surrender to commodification of the most influential youth subcultures to be born out of the post World War Two working class. From the Ted, Rockabilly and Mod -Revival, to the most political of all, the early Punk scene. With the fast decay of the latter the commercially successful aesthetics of the Pistols transmuted into a dehistorizised artifact, that still reference the same subcultures as its root and as inspiration for its commercial output.
The global commodity and culture industries knew well how to manipulate the process of dehistorization and rewriting (of historical events), to exploit the new consumer, which, in absence of a personal history, happily embraced the offer to identify with some of the imagery associated with these subcultures.
After this process of historical purge, the tradition, values and pride of the working class went missing into oblivion. What once has been worn to perform “panache” now became the epitome of cultural hegemony: the suit.
Up Until 1976 the primary raison d’etre of youth culture revolved around an overt political stance: destabilizing what has become the most obvious externalized group of signifiers of the economic and political rulers (class), from the city to the high house: the suit.
The formalized and strictly coded combination of a rather narrow choice/array of garments, from trousers to jackets, shirts and ties and leather boots, symbolized the power of those who could afford to wear it: it was an easy target for the young.
What although initially was a trickle down process of appropriation of the suit inhabited by the ruling class, and at the same time a statement of pride for young workers, became a hedonistic deconstruction of the imagery and the related values, vastly ignited by chimaeras the counterculture movement supplied for the new generation of consumers. From those first steps in attempting a radical deconstruction through destruction, the suit underwent some adjustments in a bubble up process, resisted in some subcultures like the modernist, and found new acolytes in the early 1980s new romantic movement. What happened thereafter is a general cut in the volumes the classic suit offered for all those different manly bodies to be well dressed. We now have a unified slim fit, that tends to ridicule and therefore debilitate the symbol falsely associated with political powers.
In order to reappraise themselves, and masculinity, any men, that are vaguely conscious at all, should attempt to redefine the suit for themselves, be it casual, workwear or formal. Their bodies and their volumes will gratefully embrace their efforts.

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