Monday, October 7, 2013

Gentleman in the Modern Era

Lately there has been a trend in fashion, music and culture towards the "old-fashioned."  Males want to be more cultured, respected and manly while maintaining amicability and emotive freedom.  Often times I am complimented or frowned upon for having "old man" tastes.  I believe few things are best done old school like: keeping a journal, knowing how to open a book without ruining the binding, wet shaving and courting a lady.

But, let us not forget the past lest we be doomed to repeat it.  Although a women were revered and respected this old fashioned-ness; she was at the same time seen as chattel and not an equal.  Women have not always shared the same societal place men have enjoyed and even today are a long ways away from gender equality.  

So why the trend to the classic?  The economic downturn of the last decade has left many of looking longingly into the mirror asking the big questions.  Who am I?  Why do I "blank"? or alternatively why do I not "blank"?  Our consumerism, flagrantly displayed in the late 80s and 90s, is not sustainable so we collectively sought the things that worked for those that came before us.  This seems to me as a a substitution for what we were already doing; cherry picking.  All us us tend to look to the past as a springboard to the future and in times of uncertainty we simply go further and further back. 

The inquiry into what a gentleman is or what is appropriate for a man to be or do makes us all philosophers.  We can make lists ad infinitum and never get it right or complete.  A gentleman dresses appropriately, is chivalrous, well read, loves family, is opinionated but not closed minded, etc, etc.  The "old fashioned trend has focused heavily on these ideals and made them marketable.  We see fashionistas and trend riders profit hand over fist by capitalizing on our need to look into our past for answers.  Five or six years ago "vintage", "tarnished", "organic", "reclaimed" were words reserved for antique roadshow and architecture students and now are all over everything and everywhere.

A few days ago I used my girlfriend's nickname while speaking to my mother.  It was an unconscious slip of the tongue.  However, reflecting on the slip I realized it was no mistake.  Subconsciously I hold both of these women with the same respect and the care reserved for those closest to me.  I realized it is more a function of how I went about doing things rather than what I went around doing things with.

Being a gentleman, old school, old fashioned or an old man is not about what you do or what you have but rather about how you do it.  I admittedly cherry pick.  For example, I am not going to use a rotary phone nor am I likely to develop my own film, etc.  The trend things of things "old school" in my opinion should be tempered by an awareness of context.  Is our love for the old genuine or simply a substitution for avoiding that long look in the mirror? 

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