Thursday, November 8, 2018

10 Questions About Taste


Over the years, this site has received quite a few questions for the community about taste.  These include:
1.  Is taste free? Do you have to pay more for taste? 
2.  Is taste personal (de gustibus non est disputandum) or universal?  
3.  Why do the same clothes work on some people and be completely inert on others?  
4.  Is "style" always bad? 
5.  Do most people value taste?  Why do people lose their aesthetic flair over time? 
6.  What is the difference between dash, flash, and trash? 
7.  Where do people go to refresh, renew, and expand their aesthetics?
8.  What is the difference between outfits and costumes?
Is it appropriation or respect to adopt the look of someone else? 
9.  What is the role of complexity and richness in clothes versus simplicity and elegance? 
10. Why do some people have such trouble discussing these issues?

48 comments:

  1. Well there you have it; number 10.
    But I'll be checking back later today to see who's brave.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1. You pay for it, but not with money.

    2. There are universal standards, but there is room for individual variation within the framework.

    3. Body shape, complexion, attitude.

    4. No, not always.

    5. Over time you settle into something that works for you; as with many aspects of life.

    6. Old money, new money, no money.

    7. International travel.

    8. In one way or another, we all appropriate the look of other people.

    9. It's about balance. Avoid extremes.

    10. Because you're really talking about class, which is a touchy subject for some people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent replies, Bud. I especially liked Answer #6.

      Delete
    2. Perfect questions, perfect answers

      Delete
    3. Wow, I don't know when I've so totally agreed with an answer. Thanks for taking the time to do my response.

      Delete
  3. This was too long - it has to be two parts:

    Quick off the cuff answers:

    1. Is taste free? Do you have to pay more for taste?
    Having taste is free, acting on taste or signaling taste is what costs money. You can have taste on a budget...or not. It depends on how creative or how much you are willing to work and/or wait for it...or go into debt for it, I guess.

    2. Is taste personal (de gustibus non est disputandum) or universal?
    Taste is personal and cultural. Signaling is cultural.

    3. Why do the same clothes work on some people and be completely inert on others?
    The main factor is body type, and if we drill into it, it really has to do with the forms that the clothes are drafted on and who the designers are draping for. In the industry there are several "set" types of forms that are used - a young women in their teens who has never had children, a woman who is in her 30's and probably has had children, a woman in her late 40's and early fifties, and a few others. The way a person's shape changes as they age needs to be taken into account and (not so shockingly) there are people who have body types that are nowhere close to a standard form and are just out of luck unless they know a tailor. You need to find the clothing company that is using a form that fits your shape. I'm in my 30's, for example, but I have never had children and have a regular running and Pilates routine that keeps me in good shape. Consequently, I do best with companies that are draping for western women who are younger even though I prefer the styling and look of clothing marketed to women my age. I have avoided most of the issues, however, by making most of my own clothes but this isn't an option for most people.

    So, in my book (as someone who has been on the production side of clothing at a professional level) that is why some clothes work on some people and not others.

    But secondary to that, polish and styling has a lot to do with pulling things off. The outfits that "work" best on people involve complete styling, and also carriage. This means your shoes, socks, grooming, posture and hair are thought through with the same care as your outfit. Why do they teach models to walk? Backstage at fashion week they're coaching those girls down the runway and have signs taped up right at the stage door telling them to smile or walk with a certain kind of attitude. Most people don't have the right carriage for the clothes they are wearing. I see, frequently, people who clearly have thought about 90% of what they are wearing but that 10% throws the whole thing off or they're slouching in a suit or standing up too uncomfortably in some sort of streetwear garb.

    4. Is "style" always bad?
    No. It's a billion dollar industry that employs a lot of people. And it's so fun to see what people are coming up with every year. Do I want to wear it? Not usually... but do I mind if people wear it where appropriate? not at all.

    5. Do most people value taste? Why do people lose their aesthetic flair over time?
    No, most people do not value taste. People get tired/busy/hate their body/only reach for what is marketed to them/have other priorities/don't have the kind of money it takes to maintain themselves to what they think they should be doing/have kids/think that dressing well is only for the young/can't stand malls and haven't discovered the wonders of online shopping.

    - ER

    ReplyDelete
  4. Part Two:

    6. What is the difference between dash, flash, and trash?
    I think you're asking the wrong person because I don't know.

    7. Where do people go to refresh, renew, and expand their aesthetics?
    For my generation and cultural group we spend a lot of time on instagram, tumblr, pinterest, blogs, and looking at "influencers."

    8. What is the difference between outfits and costumes?
    Outfit: What you wear on a daily basis and you feel good in or feel like yourself in, or feel like the person you want to be in - in my book "fake it 'till you make it" or aspirational clothes are totally valid and needed as we grow up and sort out who we are - it's why many teenagers go off the rails with silly clothes - they're just trying out different selves as they figure themselves out and it's a harmless developmental stage. Costume: occasional clothes worn to make a statement or play a part.

    8. Is it appropriation or respect to adopt the look of someone else?
    We just had this discussion at work and determined the first thing is to look at the original use of the garment. If it's for a sacred purpose or something bestowed on someone for honor or rank then it's probably off limits. I would never wear a native american feathered headdress or a yarmulke or my grandfather's WWII medals for fun because of what they mean to the person or culture that originated it. The exception, of course, is when you are asked to participate by someone of that culture. I wore a sari and had henna done as part of the bridal preparations for a good friend's huge Indian wedding even though I'm about as WASP-y as they come. I was happy to do that as her friend, her mom and aunts picked out the most beautiful silk sari and gold jewelry for me and gave it to me as a gift, and even though I have not worn it since I treasure it because it's a great memory and was crossing cultural boundaries in an invited way.

    The second question we must ask ourselves once we've determined it's not a reverent garment is are we parodying the culture or just incorporating the design element. I wear a sweatshirt fleece kimono-style jacket around the house that has a clear Japanese design influence in the piece. But seeing as a kimono is not a sacred garment, and I am not wearing it to make a mockery of Japanese culture it's simple referencing of a cultural design element in the grand scheme of my clothes. This is also true with the native american jewelry I've collected on trips out west - the artists who make these bracelets are thrilled that I've incorporated what they've made into my day-to-day wardrobe even though I have no native american heritage.

    9. What is the role of complexity and richness in clothes versus simplicity and elegance?
    I think I'm running out of time and energy to answer all these questions! In sort, it has to do with your personality and what you feel comfortable in. Dries Van Noten has a lot to say about this, actually, from a production standpoint. A good google search will get you the interviews but I don't have time to go find them.

    10. Why do some people have such trouble discussing these issues?
    For the same reason people get offended if someone calls them a try-hard or new money or inauthentic. We are all far too concerned about what other people think.

    A secondary reason is that people think that having taste should be effortless and in-born, but I don't know a single person who has taste that has not put some sort of effort into it, from a regular exercise routine to trips to the dermatologist, regular hair cuts, observing fashion and style. We do the work, but we want it to come across as natural and fluent so we don't want to talk about it.

    Finally, this stuff is difficult to articulate. I had to put far more thought into this comment than I had anticipated and I actually have worked in the fashion industry and have been steeped in this my whole life.

    - ER

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ER - thank you! Great, considered answers! If that's what you consider running out of energy, I would love to read your thoughts when you're fired up.

      Delete
    2. Wonderful, full bodied answers. And Patsy's reply just made my day!

      Delete
    3. Yes, I agree. Thank you for your effort and well-thought-through answers.

      Delete
    4. Thank you for this fascinating and illuminating response! You really nailed it with the cultural appropriation comments. Thank you for clarifying what has become a minefield. It's happening here at home - I'm Catholic and found Madonnas "cultural appropriation" of Catholic religious symbols totally offensive even though she was apparently raised Catholic (and I happily danced to her music when I was in college!) there's also the recent decorator trend of incorporating large wooden rosary beads in a design scheme. I suppose everyone is trying to get noticed and usually that comes down to shock and offending someone. As Coco Chanel said, "women should discover the shock of beauty."

      Delete
  5. I think the more basic issue is the difference between taste and style. There is a certain 'style' that can carry off things that on first glance are rather tasteless and things that are very tasteful can seem bland. drab and dreary if not carried off with a certain amount of 'style'.

    ReplyDelete
  6. In cinematic terms, the difference between dash, flash and trash is the difference between the 007’s of Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh so true. I tell my grown son that Sean Connery is the real James Bond. Since I think that we all appropriate from someone, I highly suggest that considers James Bond.

      Delete
  7. I have no idea what any of this is about so I presume i have no class, style OR taste.

    ReplyDelete
  8. 1.Is taste free? Do you have to pay more for taste?
    Taste is free, and you don’t have to pay more if you know where to shop and have an eye for the tasteful. Good taste is more than shopping for material objects, of course. It’s applicable to behavior as well.

    2.Is taste personal (de gustibus non est disputandum) or universal?
    It can be both.

    3.Why do the same clothes work on some people and be completely inert on others?
    Confidence and proper fit.

    4.Is "style" always bad?
    No. Style is not the same as trendy, although trends can sometimes be stylish and tasteful.

    5.Do most people value taste? Why do people lose their aesthetic flair over time?
    Most people have their own perception of good taste. I don’t think they lose their flair over time but that’s because my preference is for “boring” classic styles favored by older people.

    6.What is the difference between dash, flash, and trash?
    Dash is authenticity, flash is compensating, trash is struggling.

    7.Where do people go to refresh, renew, and expand their aesthetics?
    Church, museums, the woods, a boat, in a book.

    8.What is the difference between outfits and costumes?
    The size of the audience to whom one is pandering.

    Is it appropriation or respectful to adopt the look of someone else?
    Since most people don’t employ a personal tailor and stylist, options for not dressing like others are limited.

    9.What is the role of complexity and richness in clothes versus simplicity and elegance?
    A simple and elegant article of clothing can have a rich history yet complex process for production.

    10.Why do some people have such trouble discussing these issues?
    Perhaps because they think it’s in bad taste.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I need to add a correction to #1. Good taste in articles of clothing should include good conditions of the people making them. Obtaining well made clothing produced in that manner does cost more.

      Delete
    2. Terrific answers!

      Delete
    3. Particularly amused by your last comment: "because they think it is in bad taste".

      Delete
  9. I'm overwhelmed. I'll be back later to see more of your interesting and beautiful pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It strikes me that it could be a combination of paying for it and making your dinner table perfect with a little vase of wild flowers. I once noticed the darling dress that our priest's wife was wearing one Sunday. Where did she get it? Goodwill, for $3.00. I don't think it's the price tag. I think it's in the eye. My daughter, for instance, in graduate school for photography, could route around in a grammar school dress-up box and walk away looking stunning.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I always felt that people with money lacked good taste and people with good taste lacked money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, those wealthy people you are referring to are what I consider to be nouveaux riche. Money doesn't buy class or good taste and never has but it used to be more widely accepted that the wealthy citizens being more educated felt a greater responsibility to conduct themselves as respectable role models in society. I realize that American culture and lifestyle have drastically changed but I'm still reminded of an old Ann Landers comment about class that I read when I was a young lady:

      “Class never runs scared.
      It is sure-footed and confident.
      It can handle anything that comes along.
      Class has a sense of humor.
      It knows a good laugh is the best lubricant for oiling the machinery of human relations.

      Class never makes excuses.
      It takes its lumps and learns from past mistakes.
      Class knows that good manners are nothing more than a series of small, inconsequential sacrifices.

      Class bespeaks an aristocracy that has nothing to do with ancestors or money.
      Some wealthy “blue bloods” have no class, while individuals who are struggling to make ends meet are loaded with it.

      Class is real.
      It can’t be faked.

      Class never tried to build itself by tearing others down.
      Class is already up and need not strive to look better by making others look worse.

      Class can “walk with kings and keep it’s virtue and talk with crowds and keep the common touch.” Everyone is comfortable with the person who has class because that person is comfortable with himself.

      If you have class, you’ve got it made.

      If you don’t have class, no matter what else you have, it doesn’t make any difference.”

      ― Ann Landers

      Elizabeth

      Delete
  12. 1. Is taste free? Do you have to pay more for taste?
    While I believe that you don't have to pay for taste per se. The cost of the acquisition of taste is often times due to one's upbringing and norms within the group. It is possible to be exposed to the pursuits such as reading or the opera from a young age at a very low costs, its is often the norms in certain social circles that encourage one to develop these habits that later form the foundation of taste.
    2. Is taste personal (de gustibus non est disputandum) or universal?
    A combination. Big gold chains would always be tasteless while items such as brown shoes with a mirror shine with a good suit would be considered to be in good taste in NYC, the same thing in London would be an indicator that you are from the lower classes and lacked basic manners.
    3. Why do the same clothes work on some people and be completely inert on others?
    Confidence and fit.
    4. Is "style" always bad?
    Fashion is ephemeral and expensive, style is timeless and cheap.
    5. Do most people value taste? Why do people lose their aesthetic flair over time?
    Most people have different tastes, thus it is very hard to have an objective measure of how much value a person places on taste unless we actually know that person. I do think that the value that social media places on "flexing" has definitely reduced the value of taste in my generation (I'm a filthy millennial)
    6. What is the difference between dash, flash, and trash?
    An outfit that fits in yet stands out because of the way that it is put together is dash. Ever seen a person in a plain navy suit and shoes and wonder why they stand out? its dash. Flash would be the above but with one loud item. Trash would be everything else.
    7. Where do people go to refresh, renew, and expand their aesthetics?
    Read, talk to people, travel, look at older photos of themselves, family members or friends
    8. What is the difference between outfits and costumes?
    How authentic to relative to the person. A person that wears a regimental tie of a unit that they or their father and/or grandfather (3 generations is the commonly cited limit unless of course your relative is a prominent figure in history books) never served in is a costume since they are appropriating what is not their, while someone who served in that unit or had a father and/or grandfather that served would be wearing an outfit. This is a decidedly British thing, Yankees can think of it as wearing a sweatshirt from a college that they or their relatives never went to.
    Is it appropriation or respect to adopt the look of someone else?
    9. What is the role of complexity and richness in clothes versus simplicity and elegance?
    There is complexity in simplicity and simplicity in complexity. The simplest things are often the most complex because they are unable to hide anything, while the most complex things are often the simplest because they are just a mishmash of many unrelated steps. I love a good Margherita pizza, it is simple on the surface, but one of the most complex foods to do well. A meat lovers from papa johns may be very complex on the surface by is really very simple to make. The simplest items are often the most complex because there is nothing and nowhere to hide.
    10. Why do some people have such trouble discussing these issues?
    When I was being brought up, I was told it was discussing matters relating to wealth and personal acquisitions was boorish, being teenagers we never listened. Only after being exposed to the real world did we realize why we were told never to talk about what we had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. C.K., please comment on everything from now on. "I'm a filthy millennial" - priceless!

      Delete
  13. Some thoughts:

    To some lucky people taste seems to be innate – as if they were born knowing what works and what doesn’t. And it was all free. For them, picking out flattering clothing items that enhance their sense of taste seems effortless. The Germans have a wonderful term for a person who knows how to live with taste and style – “Lebenskunstler” or “life artist.”

    Why do the same clothes work on some, and not on others? Simple. Some people got it, and some ain’t got it.

    Good taste is personal, bad taste is universal.

    I don’t want to get into a semantics battle here, but I believe style is a good thing. It can even be learned if you can keep your wits about you as you age. And if given a choice between being surrounded by beauty (style) or ugliness (un-style), I would much prefer the former.

    Today it seems people do value taste – BAD taste – it requires too much courage to exhibit good taste at present. For example, if everyone you know dresses like a stone cold slob (relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, etc.) then it would behoove you to conform to their low standard, and not run around looking like the Duke of York. As the Russian proverb cautions: “The nail that sticks up always gets hammered down.”

    Dashing trash and flashing trash are still trash.

    In so far as losing our “aesthetic flair over time,” I feel I must quote that heavyweight philosopher Mike Tyson here who once remarked: “I used to think that life was about acquiring things, now I know that life is really about losing everything.” Very astute observation, Champ, but I still wish you hadn’t tattooed your face.

    Where to go to refresh, renew and expand aesthetics? I have no idea anymore.

    Well-coordinated outfits make us look like we know what we’re doing, while costumes belong in the theater.

    If one has any sense, then of course it’s fine (even recommended) to emulate others if they look great. This is how all of us learn how to improve ourselves. We pick up new insights this way. As a species we are born copiers. Monkey see, monkey do.

    Simple clothing may be also rich.

    Some people have trouble discussing any issue.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Taste is just someone's opinion. My favorite is chocolate.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The only universal comment one can make about taste is that everyone thinks they have it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. My goodness. But I guess goodness has nothing to do with it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yes, to the person ahead of me in line here, everyone DOES have taste because "Taste" is simply preference. Period. But when qualifiers get added ["good taste" or "bad taste" or "cheesy taste" or "eclectic taste"], then that means the inevitable panel of judges has taken their seats, and started projecting THEIR taste onto others in order to render a judgement.

    ReplyDelete
  18. But a large painting of Elvis on black velvet hanging proudly over the fireplace, mini-NFL helmets/troll dolls/beer mugs/tiny moose or Holstein cows arrayed around the perimeter of the living room, the singing bass of Christmases gone by above the sofa, or perhaps a light-up Venus in the Rain statue displayed prominently in the entryway? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ok....Christmas sweaters with bells and punch-me voices, white stiletto vinyl boots, polyester knit mufflers glistening with generous shots of lurex, preformed Chinese orange-red smashed-flat bows stuck all over everything at Christmas, men's tank top t-shirts worn under paper thin white shirts, pound puppy collections, the wind-up santa that walks across the room banging brass cymbals, plastic handbags with zippers everywhere - all of these are merely someone's Taste. As my husband says "They like it." I don't like anything on your list or mine, but my pronouncing it "poor taste" now makes it about me, not them.

      Delete
    2. Oh my! I had a good laugh!! You must have visited my neighbors recently but you forgot to mention their roosters and (creepy)gnomes. I will spare everyone the garish details. I try to mind my own business and not judge others taste but when bad taste affects property value and attracts other homeowners like them, I get really annoyed. I do things with my backyard that I would not do in the front but my neighbors don't seem to have any respect for curbside etiquette. Remember Cousin Eddie from Lampoon's Christmas? It only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch! My old neighborhood was once beautiful and full of homeowners who took pride in their property and the neighborhood but since 2001 and especially after the '08 crisis everything changed. It's been a nightmare at times-especially during the holidays.
      What amazes me is that I have clients who live in million+ dollar homes and their decor reminds me of a young adult's first apartment with many of the items you described! They get bored easily and constantly spend money on unnecessary and expensive improvement projects like new kitchens every two years, new pool, new landscape, home theaters, etc.. Thankfully, they keep me in business but I get little pleasure working for them.
      Elizabeth

      Delete
    3. Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke November 9, 2018 at 12:29 PM


      The Hunting House November 9, 2018 at 1:43 PM

      You are the best. Thank you!

      Delete
    4. Agree. These are great and made me laugh, especially the Chinese-orange, preformed plastic bows. I remember those from too many Christmases ago.

      Delete
    5. May I add here "Contemporary things that have already enjoyed a dubious life decades before now, but have roared back asking for acceptance"? 1. Jackie-O HUGE HUGE glasses [reading glasses, sunglasses, and otherwise] that magnify one's black/purple/swollen undereye bags so graphically that one must turn away; 2. Drum shaped lamp shades, terrible in the 60s and 70s, and even worse today; 3. Bleached hair on the ladies - it signified ONE thing from the 60s onward, and the message is still the same [to me] today.

      Delete
  19. Taste is an outfit that doesn't draw attention to itself, but draws you to the person wearing it. It is learned from one's parents, grandparents, and peers. It is always appropriate to the setting, thereby appearing effortless. It is made to last, from quality materials with quality workmanship. While it may give an impression of the body it clothes, it never draws attention to any individual part. Socially speaking, it is a marker of high ranking membership in one's "tribe." While this blog references caste markers of the 20th century Anglophile, other "tribes" have their own signifiers, some of which we denigrate as "trash." "Dash" comes from the person, not the clothes. James Bond and old cavalry officers come to mind. I think it's a rare commodity today, and one which is impossible to fake.

    Today we live simultaneously in two "cultures;" the Real World of our families, co-workers and peers, and the Virtual World of social media self-curation, blogs, "influencers," advertising and the publicity-whoring of "celebrities" competing for clicks. Much of the Virtual World dresses and behaves transgressively relative to the Real World specifically to get attention (as in, "made you look.") Antithesis to taste, this is the immature narcissism of a 3-year old running out of the bathroom into the midst of your dinner party, sans pants!

    An equally repellent narcissism is virtue-signalling, aka "trying too hard." Every bit as tone-deaf as sectarian religious exhibitionism is the need to constantly remind the world how plant-based, fair-trade, solar-powered and selflessly empathetic one is. Nobody believes it anyway, and it bespeaks neither taste nor class. Genuine trash repels less than hypocritical faux superiority.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Style is NEVER bad. Fashion, on the other hand...

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm overwhelmed by the questions. Fortunately, my views align with those put forth by the other readers.

    I've always aspired to an "effortless style" aesthetic. Not the effortless that signals "sloppily thrown together," but rather the effortless that signals "thoughtfully put together" - a kind of je ne sais quoi if you will. I think a lot of what really makes effortless style so is attractiveness, which takes on multiple forms (physically, personality, confidence, etc). The term itself belies all the necessary work that goes into the final product - properly taking care of oneself and one's clothes. So while style should appear to be effortless, it should not, in fact, be effortless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. “A man should look as if he’s bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them,”

      Delete
  22. " I don't claim to have taste , but of my distaste I am very sure . "

    - Jules Renard

    ReplyDelete
  23. There has never been a question in my mind about my own taste, in art, architecture, music, literature, clothing, anything that comes to mind. It has never significantly changed, rather it has been refined over time. Can you see the problem? My taste is strictly subjective, however influenced it may be by cultural exposure, surroundings, parents, education. It does, however, cause me to have strong opinions. Take art for example.

    I would much rather hang a Winslow Homer painting on my wall than a Jackson Pollock. I can tell you why I would, or even should, prefer the Homer, but that wouldn't change anyone's mind about art. Would it be easier to invoke Justice Potter Stewart and say good taste, I know it when I see it. Where would that get me?

    Of this I have no doubt, being kind to others is the ultimate in good taste.

    MGC

    ReplyDelete