By Sonya Glyn Nicholson
Some things are difficult to explain.
I know a lawyer who shut down his law business one day and became a ranger in the army. I know a neighbor who sold most of her belongings one weekend, and left on Monday to live on an Indian reservation. I know a sales rep who left the United States to herd sheep in Israel. There are men who sew. There are women who race cars.
I’ve never been the type to “push” women’s rights because to me, people are who they are. Why complicate things? And, I’m led to wonder if maybe there are times when we need to think less globally and more individually. After all, if women are going to go on a rally to advocate women’s rights, then it’s only correct that men are free to rally for men’s rights.
But, men aren’t complaining about the disadvantages of being male. Consider the issue of most universities having a clearly higher ratio of women versus men in their institutions. I don’t hear many complaints from guys on this point. And, consider that a huge number of men have the monumental responsibility of being the sole financial supporter for the women and children that they hold dear. Of course, some women do the same, as I was the sole supporter of my family for a few years.
It is true that many women are victims in different situations of life and that they do need help. These instances are not the examples referred to here. These reflections are about the stuff dreams are made of and about the freedom to create the dynamics of our own world.
Women who are different face most of the same challenges as men who are different confront. In their earlier years, it probably wasn’t easy for the great tailors in the world to explain to their teenage friends that they like to sew. And I can relate to these men. When I worked for a well-known corporation, I had to infiltrate a sect of mostly male engineers. In starting out, naturally I didn’t expect it to be easy to be accepted by these highly skilled and technically-minded men and generally understood how upbringing, past experiences and customs influence our perceptions. The challenge to be respected in my field made me work harder, think faster, push further, and know more. I was humbled by my task. I learned to listen. I learned to apologize when I was wrong and act fast to correct my errors. I learned to respect my teachers, but also respect my own abilities. And I will always remember the men who saw my potential and the men that didn’t judge me but saw a light in me that told them that I had something to contribute.
In this place of men’s style, it makes sense that some men may wince a little when women embrace this oasis where men play dress-up in a very serious way. After all, to speak well on a subject and understand the topic fully, many times we need to live the subject for real in our lives.
I remember a very serious Jewish accountant who discovered one day that he had a clear passion for jazz music. Unbelievably, he took up guitar and happened to have a supernatural talent for the instrument. Today, the field of accounting is part of his past, and he performs in respected venues all over the southeast U.S. He hadn’t lived the subject of jazz music, but on what may have been the most important day of his life, he discovered and acted on his passion for jazz music.
I am also reminded that women have “dressed” an inordinate amount of men to the point that these men were treated more like sons than partners. And, when this group of men one day discover their own power in creating their specific persona through the avenue of men’s style, there is a shift in their thinking, and they even find a sacred camaraderie among other men who understand their discovery. These men seem to cherish this camaraderie. And when a woman enters their realm again and lends her thoughts and intrigue with men’s style, it can happen that past experiences with women may sometimes raise issues of, albeit kindhearted–control and slight manipulation within their lives, even if the help was appreciated in the past. It’s not a fault for men to feel this way, but it is an advantage for women to try to understand the potential dynamics of the male mind if women want to be involved in a male industry.
I’ve come to realize that this place of men’s elegance can be a place of acceptance for men and women alike, along with the very old and the very young and all ages in-between, representing all continents across the planet. And a large number of authorities in the area of male elegance have made it clear that elegance is a place where a combination of watercolors and oils, sartorial chalks and leaded pencils are more interesting than a place of strictly Monet productions, although the study of solely Monet has its rightful place:
Talking about attitudes and perceptions can feel uncomfortable. Even while writing this, I shift around in my chair a bit, because I know that I can’t really speak for others nor tell them how they feel or why they may act as they do. I’m not trained in psychology or sociology; yet still, I observe, listen, read, and attempt to understand the dynamics of the field that I feel closest to right now.
There is a tribute due particularly to men who keep their eyes and hearts open to the contributions, emotions, and expressions by people from different cultures, upbringing, ages, personalities, and genders. These people inspire me to develop my own peripheral vision in thinking outside of myself. So, if you are one of these people, we send you a heartfelt “thank you”.
We at PG would like to pay tribute to some of the great craftswomen, designers, leaders, and voices who have made a difference in the realm of men’s elegance. If you are able to contribute to this standing list, we would like to hear from you.
Olga Berluti, who reinvented the contemporary men’s shoe in the 1980s and to whom many men today owe their passion for shoes.
Youn Chong Bak : Artistic director at Smalto, who managed with great inspiration to be faithful to the eponymous founder’s cutting-edge style while discreetly matching with the contemporary air du temps.
Rose Callahan : Photographer, curator and creator of “The Dandy Portraits, the Lives of Exquisite Gentlemen Today“, a global project which includes a blog, a book, photographies and films.
Yoshimi Hasegawa : Author of “Savile Row, A Glimpse into the World of English Tailoring” and one of the greatest commentators of men’s bespoke in Japan.
Anda Rowland : Director at Anderson & Sheppard and one of the preeminent faces of Savile Row. Very active in the Savile Row Bespoke Association. Here with Audie Charles, who is running Anderson & Sheppard’s new Haberdashery venue in Clifford Street.
Emma Willis : One of the rising stars of men’s bespoke shirt making in Jermyn Street.
Saskia Wittmer : a female German men’s bootmaker working…in Florence Italy.
Deborah Carre : half of Carreducker, bespoke bootmaker at Gieves & Hawkes with James Ducker.
Kirsty McDougall : half of Dashing Tweeds, a very creative textile and men’s attires company co-created with Guy Hills.
Sonya Glyn Nicholson.