Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The demise of elegance

As you can tell from several of my recent posts, the fading of the very notion of refinement from our culture is on my mind a lot these days.

Frank Schell at The American Spectator has clearly been thinking about it, too. He begins a piece on the troubles besetting the Ralph Lauren brand with a look at the declining stock value and messy managerial maneuvers recently impacting that company.

But then he gets to the essence of the matter:

But the Wall Street analysts are missing a major phenomenon: We live in an era where grunge is deemed to be good: It is the new elegant. Like social media and electrons crossing borders at high speed, grunge has gone global. One has only to see it in the major airports of the world and on Oxford Street in London, Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and Fifth Avenue in New York.
The ascent of global grunge means that there is a basic problem with the elegant and high-priced image of Ralph Lauren products, which the world does not value as much anymore. Indeed, for many the gray hoodie has replaced the broadcloth striped button down shirt and pastel polo shirt. Torn, stressed jeans projecting a “poor little rich kid” look have superseded khakis and corduroys. The English lid-over attaché case has been replaced with multi-colored rucksacks of ballistic nylon, festooned with buckles and straps, with pockets for iPhones, laptops, Kleenex, and hydration systems — as if the wearer is about to assault Mount Everest or Kanchenjunga or at least the nearest glacier, bristling with helpful array. And the irony is that it’s OK, indeed cool, to drive a Maserati as long as you look really grubby and do so with bare feet.
But the globalization of grunge is not limited to appearance. Social media have become a channel for the instant expressions of vulgarity and hatred, going viral at near the speed of light, and parts of cyberspace are a giant septic tank where you travel at your own risk. The internet, with its advantage as a medium of efficiency and economic leveler, also brings with it a low cost, lowest common denominator approach to shopping — why seek quality when you can click a few times to spend the least?
Maybe this is the next step in the process fist brought to light by Joseph Epstein's 2004 Weekly Standard article The Perpetual Adolescent"  and Diana West's 2007 book Death of the Grown-Up

After all, we're now in an age where  Saturday Night Live skits become the topic of discussion in ostensibly serious venues, and where the world waits breathlessly to see how ideologically charges Super Bowl halftime performances are going to be.

Cary Grant wouldn't recognize post-America or his native Britain.


  1. I'm aware of that. We'll be mentioning that in a couple of weeks in my rock-history lecture.

  2. He forced innocent little Dyan Canon, some 35 years his junior to drop it twice against her will before he dropped her as he had his previous wives. Elegance Front!

  3. And nobody uses the term grunge these days and Death of the Grown Up was not read widely enough units day to be cited as truth today.!And you're going way too deep about the implications of getting real.

  4. I get the sense that you have no larger point to make than the kind of snottiness ('nobody reads that!") that is the hallmark of your nemesis Squirrel Hair. I really don't. Well, maybe a defense of the moral relativism that has destroyed any element of the joy, hope, dignity and reverence that gave Western civilization its rise to the example to the world as to how our Creator would like us to live.

  5. Long live the individual! Cary Grant was a phony. Even he admitted it. And what are you advocating? Elegance and high price? Guess you dig elitism and exclusivism and want to be that. Go for it. It will trend back as do all trends. Getting real is being on the road to hell for you. So get better at elegance. Then maybe everyone will want you.

  6. Ahh, but the Ralph Lauren brand. Don't think I ever cared for it, did you? Or do you want those who did care for it to still care? Or what? I can't think of a single hero of mine that could ever be called elegant. Elegant, thy name is rich woman. Rich women. I always found them haughty.

  7. Interesting that you would compare me to that stupid name you assigned to Trump. He doesn't read much outside the news, which he mostly watches on TV. He finds that exercise saps his energy. But by golly, his women are elegant. You can still find elegance. Just open up your wallet and go pursue it, envy it, enjoy it, be it. If it feels good, do it, right? Just stop carping and be it. Be elegant for all the world to see if it wants to watch.

  8. I think you're taking way too narrow a view of what elegance is. There is an elegance to mathematics, symbolic logic and music theory. There is an elegance to an exquisitely contoured conversation, to a well-crafted business plan, to an artfully plated meal.

    My point, which underneath your word desire to find some fault with it, you know to be my point, is that we venerate real elegance less and less in our society. In fact, we are at the point where we exalt the hideous.

  9. Oh, you don't mean to posit Cary Grant as the peon of elegance. Of course there's elegance of the sort you're talking about found in the workings of nature everywhere and that elegance fills me with awe.