Photo by Salt Water New England

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Class-Feral

The Thing Before Preppy - Photos by My Father

One of the most defining characteristics of this "Before Preppy" culture is the concept of Class-Feral.  

Sailing may be the most Class-Feral of sports.  White sails, teak decks, and rough seas.  Hunting (fox, not deer, obviously) also comes to mind.

Class-Feral is seldom dressing up such that retrieving a wind swept hat is made inconceivable.  This true whether cutting through Central Park or sailing out of Penobscot Bay.   

Class-Feral is doing chores, taking solitary walks, even experiments in the same outfits as a trip to the club or meeting with the accountant, albeit in older and more tatty versions.    

Pragmatically, Class-Feral clothes last forever.  The construction endures, but even more so the styles.

Of course, beyond the superficial is where Class-Feral is more important.  Stewardship and urbane intelligence meet a physicality, intrepidness, and even manic mad-scientistness.  

Class-Feral can be seen when dogmatically following an internal honor code while chaffing at external rules.  It is squirming miserably in a classroom but teaching oneself a new language by reading a few French novels with a dictionary.  This is our Cartesian dualism.

A Class-Feral perspective views both rustic and foppish as anathema.  Holes in the elbows, yes, stains, no.  Overly pressed shirts and camouflage anything are two sides of the same coin. 

Houses are never decorated, and in fact seldom finished at all.  Old oriental rugs nicely hide the traffic from dogs, cats, chickens, and horses.  

Some will recall Mr. Z.'s Darien Sport Shop with the suits on the first floor and the skis and tennis racquets on the second. Two much more common touchstones of Class-Feral are the archetypes of James Bond and Dr. Who, due in no small part to to the imprint of the Scottish actors that helped popularize them.  But most leading men and women are written and directed to exhibit some form of Class-Feral, even if clumsily executed.  (The United States currently has trouble with the Class-Feral concept, which has perhaps increased as schools have grown ever more uncomfortable with both Class and Feral.  This may be why Hollywood has to import so many of our leading men and women.) 

As with so many things, explaining it to anyone outside the world is to invite misinterpretations and ham-fisted implementations.  But for those trying to understand why today's "fussy preppy," "trashy preppy," or "empty suit styles" have veered so far from The Thing Before Preppy, it explains a lot.  

At the Club


25 comments:

  1. "Old oriented rugs nicely hide the traffic from dogs, cats, chickens, and horses."

    Chickens and horses??

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    1. Perhaps the, shall we say, refuse of same on your boots...?

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  2. Here's to Class-Feral. Self-assured hardy folks will always outlast the test and trials of time.

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  3. I appreciate the interesting read today and the perceptive points made. I have never before encountered the term, "class-feral," and am curious as to whether it's used in circles I've only ever been peripheral to, or whether it's perhaps newly-minted or archaic.

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    1. Apparently the Google shares your curiosity.

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    2. Yes, I also found the old Google at a loss as to the provenance of the term, but I am strongly in favor of coining new ones to describe all kinds of things, including value systems built on timelessness, humility, pastimes that honor the power of nature, and style that is as functional as it is enduring. It seems to me that "class-feral" would share significant overlap in a Venn diagram with what some might otherwise describe as "Ivy," but I figure if she meant that, she'd have written it.

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  4. Feral is defined as being "in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication." I don't understand the concept of a particular social class (evolved within a larger generally civilized, domesticated society) in this regard. Please elucidate?

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    1. To me, it's along the same lines as shabby chic. "The aura of old money, cushy comfort, and crafted indifference."

      You don't mind having 'holes in the elbows' becuase a) you're financially insulated enough to buy a new garment if you wanted to, and b), as a result, not give a damn!

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    2. @Mad Dogs and Englishmen - yes - crafted indifference. I may not be feral enough to have friends who don't notice/care that they have holes in the elbows of anything. The old Yankees 'round here, patch that sh*t right up and get another 20 years out of it.

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  5. After reading this, I'm a little confused about the psychological depth of "Class-Feral." ??

    The whole basic concept reminds me of the title of the 1962 Italian film - "Shout Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand" - a dud starring Marcello Mastroianni and Raquel Welch.

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    1. perhaps -feral is a morpheme

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    2. Anonymous January 17, 2022 at 9:38 AM:

      A who?

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  6. Deer hunting can be included, only it's referred to as "stalking." Hunting implies trying to find something, in this case, game. No hunting is involved. The guide knows where everything is.

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  7. “There is but one success-to be able to spend your life in your own way.” - Christopher Morley

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  8. What is, is. In my mind it all comes down to, if you have to try, you are trying to hard.

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  9. Best observation: "Class-Feral can be seen when dogmatically following an internal honor code while chaffing at external rules."

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  10. I would like more of these types of posts! Brava Muffy !

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  11. Reading this piece made me think ‘George Mallory,’ the English mountaineer who died trying to summit Everest in the 1920s. Google photos of him with fellow climbers.

    Foreign actors gravitate toward the US because we’re arguably the center of the global film industry. Actors make more money and get wider acclaim when they’re associated with the US film industry. Besides, a number of foreign actors’ excellent work doesn’t seem to fit what you’re describing. Sir Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter wasn’t class-feral….just feral. Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot and Lincoln, Michael Caine’s best supporting actor roles. Class-feral?

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    1. Hannibal Lecter was literally descended from the aristocracy, and is renowned, in both books and films, as a sophisticated man of endlessly refined tastes. In RED DRAGON, the FBI agent figures out that he's the killer by perusing his copy of the impenetrable LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE. If that's not very definition of "class feral," I'm not sure what is.

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  12. feral: of, relating to, or resembling a wild beast.

    I find "class-feral" an insult, if anything.

    Bostonian

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    1. That suggests that you are both unattractively fragile, and not particularly comfortable with the possibilities if language.

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    2. Straight for the ad hominem response--just beastly.

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  13. Once again Muffy, you have gotten right to the heart of the matter! Well done! Thank you!

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