Monday, March 30, 2009

Fashion File: A Guide To The Semiotics of Power Ties

Growing up in the 1980's, watching Alex Keaton bring a briefcase to work on television, and Bud Fox learn to play squash on the fly, a young man grew to aspire to wearing a "power tie". Perhaps he would wear it to a "power breakfast", he might think to himself. What goes into such a meal, he had no idea, but certainly even this 10 year old knew that a power tie meant a bold coloured, solid or print tie; a tie that made sure everyone in the room knew he meant business.

According to a one of the surprisingly many fashion sites devoted to men's apparel, "In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan was known for his red power tie, as much a virility symbol in American corporate culture as a red convertible has been in the culture at large."

If you dig a little deeper, you'll find that though opinions vary about which ties contain the most power, there is very little disagreement that people will do as you say if you wear one.

So with that, it seems important that we clear up just which power the various styles convey.

1. Red, solid: I'm the president, or I've met him. I just finished breakfast with some powerful people. I am just stopping in here to let you all know that I have somewhere very important to be, but have taken a few minutes to speak with you so you'd better listen and listen good.

2. Yellow, solid: I'm incredibly important, but not the kind of jerk who would wear a bright red tie to meet with you. You should trust me. I'm a powerful man who is hungry for a power meal of some kind but I like you enough to stop in here and have a quick word. I don't eat spaghetti because stains show really easily on my tie.

3. Azure blue, with navy flecks: I'm incredibly powerful but speak softly. Listen closely so you can hear all the details because I certainly don't have time to repeat myself. I lost my drivers licence some time ago, but it's ok because I have a driver. Also, I like pasta. Some of these flecks are sauce.

4. Lime Green, solid: I got dressed in the dark. But it's because I live on West Coast time and as powerful as I am, I haven't convinced the sun to rise earlier to meet my needs. You should listen to what I say and comply with great speed because God knows when I do finally foreclose on the Sun, those who opposed me will be burned. But for real.

5. Blue and Red, stripes: I am a Republican. I do everything except hunt in this tie. I find it goes great with khakis and a blue blazer. It makes me feel powerful, but less so, say at a convention or something where everyone else is wearing the same tie. That and boarding schools.

6. Lavender, with light thorn pattern: I just a guy who likes spring.

7. Polka Dots of Any Kind: I am powerful but insouciant. I collect art but would rather not speak of it as it's a personal passion. I can tell a good joke but damnit you had better laugh like you mean it or there is going to be real trouble. I'm approachable, but please be sure to offer to pay for drinks before I tell you that I would never permit such a thing.

8. Bright Orange: I had better be the leader of the Ukraine or coach of the Dutch national soccer team. Possible I'm just a heavy hitter shopping for helicopters in the Caymans. I wear shaded glasses even indoors.

9. Salmon pink, Solid: I am Donald Trump.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Second Season

When I was in college and trying to find my worldview, I spent a good deal of time thinking about beauty. Between half-baked study of Plato & Nicomachean ethics, I began to form a sense that Beauty was akin to godliness.

I posted photos of perfect women neatly cut from pricey fashion magazines on my wall. Careful to note, of course, that despite what one of my friend's girlfriends described as a "a lot of nipples" this was no pin-up wall. These were pre-lad-magazine days so the line between wank-magazine and otherwise was still broad and easy to draw.

The smoky logic that followed from my enjoying these women who checkered my wall was that the closer I could be to their beauty, if only via observation, contemplation, and eventual familiarity, the closer I would be to God.

God made things beautiful because he could. And his most perfect work were angels; these angels were paid thousands of dollars an hour to be photographed in New York and elsewhere in order that they might look down on me and I might know them.

It follows then, that if you could find your real person in the company of models, via legitimate invitation or not, then you had in fact negotiated your way to heaven pre-maturely.

A quick ten years later and miles from the studios of Tribeca, I found myself at the Toronto Four Seasons for brunch with my wife in very advanced stages of her third pregnancy. Her parents were in town and insisted on our enjoying a "date" prior to the arrival of the deciding vote.

She couldn't muster the energy for a nighttime date so we took advantage of the offer and packed her appetite into the car for what is seriously the best brunch in the city.
It is usually quite a relaxing scene there - European couples gearing up for some Yorkville shopping, families walked over from nearby Rosedale, pods of New York types recovering from a big night, the occasional grey-haired wallet with his mistress enjoying some post-tryst sustenance; it makes for compelling people watching and the coffee is great.

After our first pass at the shellfish tower, we returned to the pancake station and we found ourselves surrounded in Models. They were everywhere. Tall, shockingly well-groomed (probably best saved for another post, but I have always found something deeply disingenuous about overly-groomed people, especially men; what are they hiding?).
You could smell the fashion.

The women were beautiful. And young. The men wore large watches and expensive boots and sported complicated facial hair. Truthfully, our conversation fell off. Their blow dried hair fell into perfect curves. They looked like money had made them.

We returned to our table with plates stacked high with breakfast items we had not intended to take.

"What was that all about?" she asked.

I had no idea.

But here's the thing. We broke into laughter. We couldn't stop. Instead of being impressed with this spread of beauty, we were appalled. I won't go into why, it would seem bitter or petty.

The point is one of perspective. Contrary to its nature, my Platonic form of beauty has shifted.
The sexpots at the omelet bar held no appeal for us relative to the cheerful little specimens waiting for us back home. Someone at brunch had missed the point of life and it wasn't us, we felt.

I had long since let the girls of my dorm wall go, my worldview having found new moorings many times over. But this was the first time these photos had found me again, and I was most surprised by how little they meant - how unbeautiful.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Violet May

We will buy very pretty things
A-walking through the faubourgs.
Violets are blue, roses are red,
Violets are blue, I love my loves

Violet May, born at 8:42pm on Friday, February 27th, weighing in at a fighting 7lbs.

Hard to believe it's only been 13½ months.