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Discussion Starter · #1 ·


I have been inspired by images like these since before going to college. In a sense I've always considered myself a modernist, but have only recently come to terms with what this means to me. I've found it to mean timelessness.

Now the images of some of my favorite modern designers are particularly relevant here in a forum for men's dress, but I think the bigger point is that these men created furniture that continues to endure and often finds itself in very traditional company. In a way, their "modern" designs we so carefully considered and thoughtfully created that they entered into a sort of Permanent Class of things.

When I was in school studying design, we were taught about the burden freighted on those who chose to create things. We were taught that to create something in the first place was almost a sin of pride given the vast store of "things" already in existence. And knowing this, we were taught to design carefully and purposefully so that anything we might make would have a long and enduring usefulness. This required a high quality of construction, a flexibility of use, and a narrative component that would make it interesting to use.

What I've found is that traditional items are really the most modern. They belong to this Permanent Class that seem to escape attachment to time and place. Whether it's an Eames Lounge Chair or a gray flannel suit, these items, whenever they were created, have the ability to look contemporary long into the future when more stylized objects come to define their time more than their use or purpose.

I'm considered a bit of an odd duck where I work (Bang & Olufsen) because of my traditional dress, but I think it's in perfect keeping with our company. Our products are built to last and you can trace design cues back decades to see a purposeful evolution. Our products are lucky to have 2 or more owners over their life-span and are single handedly supporting a dying breed of repair facilities all over the world.

I guess the short version of this story is that there is such a thing as misguided creativity! Has anyone ever regretted being photographed in black tie? What about a Jerry Garcia cummerbund & tie?

I think our little cultural corner of the web and its vibrant second hand trading mechanism says something about the "design" of what we wear and how modern we really are. In 20 years we'll still be in fashion and that has to be as modern as it gets!

For further illustration, I'll include a few more designers. Take a guess whose designs will still be around 100 years from now!







 

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Is Trad Modernism?

Mid-Century Modernism appears as a blend of Bauhaus and Wright style Prairie school design. I've said before that I thought that 1950's era American Trad could be thought of as analogous to that. From high modernism, we could take the lack of ornamentation, the sense that form follows function. Consider the elimination of baroque, ornamental pleats from dress pants that took place in the early 1950's*. From the Prairie school, we could take a more organic, natural shaping than you might associate with Mies.

Consider how naturally the TWA terminal fits with Tom Hanks sack suit.


*Setting aside the fact that pleats are often, in the real world, more functional. That's modernism for you!.
 

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Eames and Trad

Trip,

I couldn't agree more with your post. And great photos! The house I grew up in was a mix of family pieces and classic contemporary design. I always coveted my parent's 1970 Eames lounge in rosewood with brownish orange leather. This year, when they decided to replace that chair which had taken up residence in my father's study, they gave it to me, at least on a semi-permanent loan, until I get my own. Who knows, my brother might want the chair someday.

When furnishing my first real place after law school, I was really excited to come across a vintage modern furniture dealer who had just gotten a lot from a defunct public relations firm in the city. Perhaps defunct due to all of the Eames, Nelson benches, and the like they used to furnish the place. I scored 6 Eames tea tables and one of the plywood chairs. In retrospect, I never should have passed on the Nelson bench, even though I was unsure about it at the time.

Such classic furniture, and so much fun to come home to.

My office happens to be in a meticulously rennovated turn of the century 3 story building, and I am around gorgeous baseboard moldings, bump out windows in my office with a ton of natural light, original refinsihed hardwood floors with swell rugs and a grand staircase all day long, so the mix up when I get home is a pleasant surprise. Not that my office isn't a pleasant place to spend time.

Best,

Jonathan
 

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Trip- Fantastic. Well done and you must know your stuff to be at B&O. Beautiful design that I never could afford. I did live in a Mies building. 910 N Lakeshore Dr and so much of it was design. Having moved from a early 19th C brownstone on Philadelphia (beautiful in its own right), I was impressed by how easy living in 910 was. Everything was laid out so well.

My parents were big into mid 20th C design and my mother still has an Eames chair with Rosewood from the early 60s. It is about a clean and simple look that always says to me, " I would'a never thought of that."

www.thetrad.blogspot.com
 

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I agree: Timeless.

But today, even in the corporate world, the guys in suits are considered "stiff" and "conservative". Most my clients would quickly (and approvingly) identify the guy in white frames (above) as "the creative guy".

T-shirts, jeans, and flip-flops are equally timeless. They connote comfort, honesty, lack of pretense, and since you can also add tattoos and wear your hair six ways from Sunday, "individuality".

What is missing (in my mind) is the concept of respect and good manners. And perhaps even beauty.

What I'm used to experiencing is:

Suit = uptight, fake
Jeans = loose, free, creative, dynamic, relaxed

Even my "conservative" clients in North Carolina are entirely jacket-less. They wear golf shirts and wool pants with huge pleats, and shoes that are inevitable combinations of sneakers and leather loafers. Nobody wears a sport jacket or blazer of any kind, ever. And a tie? That's laughable. Who would want to choke themselves all day with a tie? How pretentious that would be.

That would be getting all serious and uptight.

So...there's a new timelessness called "relaxed" which has infiltrated all areas of life, virtually. Except for security guards and stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I agree: Timeless.

But today, even in the corporate world, the guys in suits are considered "stiff" and "conservative". Most my clients would quickly (and approvingly) identify the guy in white frames (above) as "the creative guy".

T-shirts, jeans, and flip-flops are equally timeless. They connote comfort, honesty, lack of pretense, and since you can also add tattoos and wear your hair six ways from Sunday, "individuality".

What is missing (in my mind) is the concept of respect and good manners. And perhaps even beauty.

What I'm used to experiencing is:

Suit = uptight, fake
Jeans = loose, free, creative, dynamic, relaxed

Even my "conservative" clients in North Carolina are entirely jacket-less. They wear golf shirts and wool pants with huge pleats, and shoes that are inevitable combinations of sneakers and leather loafers. Nobody wears a sport jacket or blazer of any kind, ever. And a tie? That's laughable. Who would want to choke themselves all day with a tie? How pretentious that would be.

That would be getting all serious and uptight.

So...there's a new timelessness called "relaxed" which has infiltrated all areas of life, virtually. Except for security guards and stuff.
This often seems the case and, imho, we're the worse for it. Not that someone who dresses sloppily can't produce something worthwhile, but one's attire tends to indicate a mind at work and where one's focus lies.

Karim Rashid (the negative example) produces novelties that will likely find their way to the landfill sooner or later. It seems like a tremendous amount of wasted energy to make a barely functioning appliance in a funny shape so that $39 can change hands and another 15 pounds of refuse can be created.

Putting on funny glasses and cartoonish hair has been the hallmark of immaturity for as long as anyone can remember and tends to, at best, distract from actual talent, or at worst mask a total lack thereof. Think of how many musicians who used to look like complete maniacs who today wear t-shirts and jeans and just make music. I can appreciate No Style, but I don't suffer Bad Style gladly. The difference being, like so many things, intent.

One of my design teachers used to say that you can't fool nature. At some point time, gravity, or some other force will come to act on what you've made and if you haven't been careful and considerate, it will ruin it.

I guess if people want to put their precious money in the hands of show-offs and nitwits, they deserve whatever winds up on Target shelves.
 

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In my personal experience some (I'm not saying all, mind) of the people in the jeans, flip-flops, hipster frames, 'body art' &c. have been some of the most uptight--and judgmental--individuals I have ever encountered; and whose 'laid-back, casual' image has been calculated to 4th decimal point. I get very tired of that type pretending to hold the high ground.
I'm not uptight, just cranky.
 

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In my personal experience some (I'm not saying all, mind) of the people in the jeans, flip-flops, hipster frames, 'body art' &c. have been some of the most uptight--and judgmental--individuals I have ever encountered; and whose 'laid-back, casual' image has been calculated to 4th decimal point. I get very tired of that type pretending to hold the high ground.
I'm not uptight, just cranky.
Amen to that.:icon_smile_big:

hbs
 

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In my personal experience some (I'm not saying all, mind) of the people in the jeans, flip-flops, hipster frames, 'body art' &c. have been some of the most uptight--and judgmental--individuals I have ever encountered; and whose 'laid-back, casual' image has been calculated to 4th decimal point. I get very tired of that type pretending to hold the high ground.
I'm not uptight, just cranky.
True, very true.

I'm not uptight, I just like wearing a tie (and dressing appropriate). :icon_smile:
 

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Sorry to interrupt the teary-eyed nostalgia, but I would like to highlight a topic that is a pet point of contention for me, and something this thread squarely addresses: It's easy to discern a difference between mid-century trad and "modern" trad, both stylistically and philosophically.

As you can see from the OP, mid-century trad was more grounded in shades of gray and navy, in very subdued patterns. Suits before sportcoats. There was some coloration in the ties, but again the patterns were very subdued (probably a reaction to the 40's). The overall look stressed elegance in simplicity. It merged well with mid-century art movements like abstract expressionism and minimalism. Compare this to the more modern, "GTH" influences on Trad: bright colors, striped shirts (as opposed to the standard white seen in the photos below), crayon-colored ties, animal print pants & shorts, more casual styles of shoes and loafers, etc.

I like to think of it as the difference between an Eames chair and an over-stuffed wing chair from Ethan Allen.
 

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Sorry to interrupt the teary-eyed nostalgia, but I would like to highlight a topic that is a pet point of contention for me, and something this thread squarely addresses: It's easy to discern a difference between mid-century trad and "modern" trad, both stylistically and philosophically.

As you can see from the OP, mid-century trad was more grounded in shades of gray and navy, in very subdued patterns. Suits before sportcoats. There was some coloration in the ties, but again the patterns were very subdued (probably a reaction to the 40's). The overall look stressed elegance in simplicity. It merged well with mid-century art movements like abstract expressionism and minimalism. Compare this to the more modern, "GTH" influences on Trad: bright colors, striped shirts (as opposed to the standard white seen in the photos below), crayon-colored ties, animal print pants & shorts, more casual styles of shoes and loafers, etc.

I like to think of it as the difference between an Eames chair and an over-stuffed wing chair from Ethan Allen.
As a historical matter, this is just wrong.
These chairs


were made for these people
 

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Eero Saarinen
 

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As a historical matter, this is just wrong.
These chairswere made for these people
Not really. First, let's except the woman, who isn't really attempting any sort of "trad" outfit, but is just wearing what might be dubbed 60's womens' lounge wear. As for the two gentlemen, notice the overall "solid" nature of the clothes, particularly the matching double-breasted (heaven forbid anybody here attempt that now- automatic dishonorable discharge) navy jacket and tie. The other guy is wearing a gray sportcoat, and loafers with white (!) socks. That's something that was very popular back then, but which I don't see anybody here attempting to revive. Overall, the emphasis is on "solids." The "uniform" has certainly gone through some changes in the last 40 years. The astroturf is a nice touch.
 

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The term mod derives from modernist, which was a term used in the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and fans.[8] This usage contrasted with the term trad, which described traditional jazz players and fans. The 1959 novel Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes describes as a modernist a young modern jazz fan who dresses in sharp modern Italian clothes. Absolute Beginners may be one of the earliest written examples of the term modernist being used to describe young British style-conscious modern jazz fans. The word modernist in this sense should not be confused with the wider use of the term modernism in the context of literature, art, design and architecture.

)
 

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With all due respect, Zot, you're trying to wriggle out of your own web, without much success.

Just my opinion though.
If nobody can detect a subtle but discernable shift in style, tone, gestalt, mojo, what ever you want to call it between this:


And this (these are pulled from the WAYW thread, I promise to those who posted these they are only used for illustration, not criticism):



Then there is no point in having this discussion. The best (and probably last) way I can think to describe it is by way of analogy:

When Robert Evans was producing the first Godfather it was pointed out to him that most recent mob movies had bombed. Evans noticed that most mob movies were directed by Jews. Evans, who was also a jew, understood that there were jewish mobsters, and that there were a lot of similarities between Jewish-American and Italian-American cultures. Italian and Jewish mobsters had often collaborated with one another in the "business." Nonetheless, there was a very subtle but crucial difference between the cultures. Hence he chose Francis Ford Coppla to direct the film, as he was the only working Italian-American director he knew at the time.

Likewise what we have here is a very subtle difference, but a crucial one.
 

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I think you're off your original point, Zot. First you asserted that Mid-century "trad" was virtually monochromatic and muted in contrast to today's version of "trad" which is more colorful (for good or ill).

AP posted a photo of mid-century "trads" looking decidedly more colorful than your initial characterization allowed. At that point you started backtracking, emphasizing the distinction between "solids" and patterns as if to say, "okay, so those 50's cats wore some bright colors -- dang! -- well they didn't wear any wild and crazy patterns, though -- in distinction to today's freak parade!"

I'm probably dropping the conversation now -- boy, these have become prevalent, and now include unhappy characterizations like "tearful nostalgia" to no good end -- but if you want to get into a picture posting contest with AP in order to see who can dig up the best period evidence, please be my guest and good fortune to you.
 
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