Kahlil Gibran said “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you”.
If you’ve found yourself absorbed in the distinct world of men’s style, tailoring and shoemaking, then maybe you’ve come to understand the message Gibran tried to convey.
After a few years of studying in the trenches of shoe lasts, shirt collar sizes, jacket canvassing and lapel widths, thread counts, button stance and trouser-waist-rise options, to name a few—at some point, you may stop and ask yourself what it all really means.
Can personal style be solely about clothes, vanity, making money, hooking up more, and looking better than the next person?
If we take the King Solomon example at its face value, Ecclesiastics (a literary work deemed important enough to memorize in Bradbury’s famed novel Fahrenheit 451) shows us that even after King Solomon had more things and experiences than he could ever imagine—he was still left with an inner emptiness.
After we willingly exhaust ourselves learning the finer points of technical suiting, we drift in and out of the mode of celebrating the glory of suiting with such inspirational anecdotes such as “dressing well is a way to show respect for yourself and others, dressing well will give you more confidence, and dressing well has been shown to put you in a better mood”.
Still, all this “happy” doesn’t seem to be enough to capture what’s really happening as we remain irresistibly drawn to sartorial subjects, much like the moth-flame effect…a creature that admittedly terrifies us.
I can only guess that something more is going on.
It’s great to find a way to present ourselves well with clothing and finally (sartorially speaking) experience the feeling of self-approval. Yet, achieving self-approval poses a risk, as too much self-approval can convert into an ego explosion which annihilates the goal of ‘looking good’ as haughty and proud behavior can turn a person into a human atrocity.
Perhaps it’s better to say that understanding the art of dressing well opens the door to a more profound emotion created by beauty itself, and when we dress and leave our homes and feel surrounded within the vapor of beauty (created from somewhere within ourselves), we get a fleeting glimpse of the eternal.
As Baudelaire said, “all forms of beauty, like all possible phenomena, have something eternal and something transitory — an absolute and a particular element”. But perhaps even more striking is Baudelaire’s epiphany, “The marvelous envelops and saturates us like the atmosphere; but we fail to see it.”