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April 16, 2009

George Will Really Is an Insufferable Prig, Isn't He?

Declaring a jihad on jeans.

On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically -- running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans. If mother is there, she, too, is draped in denim.

Writer Daniel Akst has noticed and has had a constructive conniption. He should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has earned it by identifying an obnoxious misuse of freedom. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.

It is, he says, a manifestation of "the modern trend toward undifferentiated dressing, in which we all strive to look equally shabby." Denim reflects "our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings -- the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure." Jeans come prewashed and acid-treated to make them look like what they are not -- authentic work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil. Denim on the bourgeoisie is, Akst says, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a Hummer to a Whole Foods store -- discordant.

Long ago, when James Dean and Marlon Brando wore it, denim was, Akst says, "a symbol of youthful defiance." Today, Silicon Valley billionaires are rebels without causes beyond poses, wearing jeans when introducing new products. Akst's summa contra denim is grand as far as it goes, but it only scratches the surface of this blight on Americans' surfaces. 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"). Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote. In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six -- so far -- "Batman" adventures and "Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps," coming soon to a cineplex near you). Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism -- of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.


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.

This is not complicated: For anyone, do not trust men who spend hours and hours pondering the intricate messaging and social cues their clothes are sending.

Frigging jackass.

This gets at a problem with many of our conservative "elites:" This is less about politics for many of them then of making-over the country into a Nantucket apres-duck-hunt soiree. Culture is, admittedly, a driving force behind politics -- politics shares war's relationship with diplomacy, i.e., politics is just the urging of cultural preferences by other means -- but many of our "elites" have a decidedly idiosyncratic and quite frankly unpopular view of what our prevailing culture ought to be.*

And that's why so many of these fancyboys supported Obama, or at least did not oppose him strenuously. For them, Obama represented a much closer version of the Platonic good than did Sarah Palin with her declasse number of children and her brassy, earthy manner.

I don't have a problem with preppie culture, really. It's not my culture, but, as with French culture, I do see agreeable elements in it.

Nor do I have a problem with George Will's yachtocentric Urban Haute Bourgeoise culture. (Recognize the reference?) If I had the money, sure, maybe I'd chase his ideal.

On the other hand, I do so wish he'd shut the fuck and get over himself. Silly narrow-shouldered fuck's been wearing a bowtie like it was some kind of Jolly Roger of neckware since he was fucking thirteen years old and I'm supposed to be be taken with his vision of proper men's fashion?

* It's also a largely inaccessible one. If I can be so declasse to quote the Bard of Long Island, "Have you heard of the new fashion, honey? All you need are looks and a whole lot of money."

There is a nice benefit of Levis: They're fashionable, or, if not quite fashionable, unobjectionable, and you can get a pair at Wal*Mart for like fifteen bucks still.

Now, slacks are... well, fine, and I do wear them, but I wear the cheap ones, and of course I worry that they're unstylish and people will make fun of me if they notice the budget manufacturer.

I don't sweat that with Levis. There are more expensive jeans, of course, but I don't worry that by wearing Levis I'm declaring to the world I'm broke-ass poor.

Plus, maybe Will doesn't get this, but for many of us, they're just comfortable. They have the proper amount of thickness to cover our junk, take a bit of beating and lack of care in laundering, and just feel generally good.

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posted by Ace at 12:56 PM

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