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Men’s style books: Adolf Loos, Why a Man Should Be Well-Dressed

Here we have a book that, to Put This On readers, may at first seem both perfectly relevant and perfectly irrelevant. Much of the relevance comes expressed, of course, in the title itself: notions of Why a Man Should Be Well-Dressed would make for a fine companion to instructions about how a man can dress well, or, in other words, how a man goes about “dressing like a grownup.” Items on the table of contents such as “Men’s Fashion,” “Footwear/Shoes,” and “Underwear/Undergarments” make the book seem like an almost dully straightforward treatise on dress. But others – “The Woman and the Home,” “About Thriftiness,” “(Thoughts) About Adding Salt” – suggest another, far less straightforward project entirely. And what would you expect if I told you that all the material in it originally ran in Viennese publications between 1989 and 1928?

Though the author, Adolf Loos, made his name as an influential early Modernist architect, his interests extended, and thus this book’s purview extends, to a wide range of aesthetic matters, as wide a range as one would expect a reasonably well-off citizen of fin de siècle Western Europe to care about. But will an aesthetically concerned citizen of 21st-century internet-unified Anywhere, much less one of Millennial means, care too? After all, none of us (with the obvious exception of certain dandies) would want to go around looking like even the most tasteful Viennese of a hundred years ago. Yet for an explanation of why we wouldn’t, we can actually look to Loos himself, who rhetorically asks, “Well dressed, what does that actually mean? It means to be correctly dressed.” And what does that actually mean? “Words like lovely, chic, elegant, fetching and snappy are but vain attempts to provide explanatory terms for fashion. But this is not at all the point. It is all about being dressed in an inconspicuous manner.”

Read the whole thing at Put This On.

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