Photo by Salt Water New England

Friday, February 18, 2022

Which Affectations Are Too Helpful or Fun to Forsake?


A reader question:

Your recent featuring of the deerstalker prompted one loyal reader to bring up the term "affectation."  Many of the things I love, use, and wear might fall under the category of anachronisms, but few fall under the heading "affectations."  Some, however, are affected but either too cool or too useful to forsake.  Working buttons on suits fall under the too cool category.  One affectation I use regularly is the monocle.  My horn rimmed monocle on a cord hangs unobtrusively around my neck and under a polo.  Since I need readers but my polos have no pockets, the monocle is the perfect solution.  It is especially convenient to be able to read menus, product labels, and, on the rare occasion on which I bring along my phone, texts.  Other items often (not always) viewed as affectations that I love include ascots, bow ties, attache cases and brief cases (especially my ancient Mark Cross), writing paper checks with a fountain pen, Open Road hats, and canes or walking sticks when they are helpful or fun but nonessential. What affected items do your readers enjoy?  

Your devoted reader.  

57 comments:

  1. My standard Dachshund (33 lbs of pure humor).

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  2. A monocle?

    How long have you been a senior staff officer in the Prussian Army?

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  3. You bring up an interesting question. I always carry a walking stick, or a ski pole, on my daily constitutional. I use it to ward off vehicles who stray in my path. Since I walk facing traffic drivers are forewarned.

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    1. A seven iron works well too.

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    2. I always carry a home-made walking stick when tramping around the woods, either around here or up in the mountains. I don't feel the slightest self-conscious about it, although for some reason, using trekking poles would make me feel that way. I do see others using trekking poles up in the mountains sometimes but never a lowly home-made walking stick.

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    3. Yes: walking stick/staff. No: trekking poles, because you look foolish unless your knees and/or hips are about to give out. In which case, why are you staggering around on a trail?

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    4. I once measured that trekking poles can take 15 lbs. off of your knees per step on a long (50 miles +) hike.

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    5. The Appalachian Trail rune very close to our “downtown” here in northwest Conn. During peak hiking season all ages of “through hikers“ take a break from the trail to eat their half gallon of ice cream outside the local grocery store. They all sit aside their trekking poles.

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    6. I enjoy foraging for mushrooms and in warm weather a good stout walking stick is absolutely necessary to make sure you don’t step on a snake when you step off the path.

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    7. The word constitutional seems somewhat affected.

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  4. This will seem amazingly weird, but as soon as i saw the word ‘affectation,’ i thought of Mr. Peanut’s monacle and cane. Hadn’t even read the rest of the post. I think my work week needs to end now.

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  5. Working buttons are too cool? How do you fasten suits and jackets them? I have button flies on my trousers (e.g. Cordings cords) because they are "safer" than zips and don't jam.

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    1. Surgeon's cuffs are certainly not the norm, but they are indeed cool. I like button flies, too. The thirteen buttons on sailors' blues are kind of fun, making one think of the colonies as one enters the head.

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    2. I assume he means the sleeve buttons.

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    3. I have a deep affection for bowler hats and plan to wear one regularly when I'm a bit older and grayer.

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  6. The monocle is actually an excellent idea for occasions when I need a reading lens for just a minute or two and have no pockets for my glasses. I'll have to explore this further.

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  7. Gilding the lily. Caricature of a caricature. Reminds me of Adolph Menjou & Lucius Beebe. My suggestion is ...black half moon peepers with a narrow black silk ribbon tied to peepers & hung around your neck. Old school solution with a bit of swank. Won't get the natives riled up too much....however they would marvel at the ingenuity.

    P.S. The only individual that got away with affectations was General Douglas MacArthur, who could rival John Barrymore as an actor.

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    1. Ditto as for MacA, who had an ego the size of the solar system. This alone provided a comparison scale of sorts for his affectations.

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    2. The late Paul Fussell wrote an entire book on the power of uniforms, but Douglas MacArthur is an example of how affectations can influence public image. During the mid 1930s, MacArthur became Field Marshal of the Philippine Army and was ridiculed for wearing a comic opera uniform of his own design, filled with ribbons and gold braid. He learned his lesson, and when returning to command in the US Army, MacArthur adopted the crush cap, Ray-Ban sunglasses and battered A-2 leather flight jacket favored by young pilots of junior officer rank. At the start of the Allied Occupation, the Japanese emperor called on MacArthur at the American embassy in Tokyo wearing ill-fitting formal dress, well out of fashion for the time. MacArthur was in pressed khakis and the only insignia he wore were small five-star clusters on his open collar. A photo of them side by side was widely distributed around Japan, as an unspoken answer to anyone questioning who was in charge.

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  8. Could be the first time in history that unobtrusive was used to describe a monocle.

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    1. Except that unobtrusive describes the way it is hung, on a string, under a polo. That sounds unobtrusive to me,

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  9. There is a photo in the house of my wife's grandmother wearing pince-nez spectacles. They don't carry the same image as a monocle, though, and anyway, I doubt you have one made. There is another photo of her father as a boy, wearing plus-fours, usually called knickerbockers, and they're still available. More up to date styles are less full and are called plus-twos. They're part of the traditional British hunting outfit of thornproof tweed, along with a deerstalker hat. That includes the "breeks," as British as it gets.

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    1. As an Englishman living in England (or more accurately a Yorkshireman living in Yorkshire) who shoots and fishes may I offer the following. Plus four's are to the knee plus four inches. Plus two's are to the knee plus two inches. Plus two's, generally refered to as "breeks", are normal wear for gameshooting (driven birds). Plus four's are generally only seen "on the hill" deerstalking as are deerstalker hats. Hunting refers to foxhunting on horseback with packs of hounds.

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    2. A late acquaintance of ours was a riding and fox hunting enthusiast who lived near Leesburg, Virginia. He had participated in the last mounted operation of the British Army in WWII as a member of the Cheshire Yeomanry in Palestine. When the Cheshire Yeomanry was converted to a signals unit, he transferred to the Royal Scots Greys for the remainder of the war. He later emigrated to Canada and then to the United States where he worked as an art conservator. We later discovered much to our surprise that he had been born in Germany. We became acquainted with him when we were active in Scottish country dancing. This was over 30 years ago.

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    3. That's very interesting. Although I used to ride and I love country sports, I have never participated in fox hunting. My wife and I do love to watch the hunt meeting up prior to setting off though. Intetestingly, my father was based in Palestine for a short time in WW2. He was a tail gunner on B24 Liberators with the RAF in 178 squadron.

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    4. The friend I mentioned was easily the most interesting person I've ever met. Everything about him was interesting. He was very well-dressed, drove a Saab, and was active in getting combined training, now called Eventing, started in the United States in the 1950s. He had ridden for Canada in the 1952 Olympics (did not win a medal) and once at his house, I met another Olympic competitor who had ridden for Poland. Frankly, I was out of my element, but he was a gracious host. He passed away in 2008. His mother was Scottish but his father was a German politician in the Weimar Republic.

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    5. How wonderful to have known, and no doubt been influenced by, such a wonderful character and clearly a "gentleman". Very scarce nowadays. I am minded of the phrase "the past is another country".

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  10. My idea of clothing success is that the person I just talked to would say I was well dress but would not be able to remember what I was wearing. As a result, I usually leave the monocle and walking stick at home with the opera pumps, watch chain, and pinky ring.

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  11. If a thing is useful, and particularly if it is sentimental, I hesitate to think of it as an affectation.

    Personally, I believe any woman to all the better off equipped with a “granny bag.” Since the ripe old age of 18, my purse has been loaded with cloth hankies, French pastilles, nail kit, travel sewing kit, all purpose balm, compact mirror, prayer cards, and of course, a well-worn paperback.

    It’s a shame for men that they do keep monocles and such in chic reticules.

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  12. Happily affectation-free at age 55. Unless you consider the use of Oxford commas an affectation.

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    1. The use of the Oxford comma is a necessity!

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    2. I didn't know what an "Oxford comma" was. I was surprised to learn that I use an "Oxford comma" as a matter of course. Thank you Miss Priles.

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  13. When I was a child (about 8 or 9), I discovered a well-preserved pith helmet that belonged to my beloved grandfather, who traveled extensively to India as a diplomat in the 1950s. I would wear pair it with a tan khaki jacket that was also his, and oversized on me, and pretend I was an intrepid explorer. That wasn't an affectation as much as it was playing, but it made me appreciate my grandfather's sartorial style and his life's accomplishments.
    Then in my 20s up to my early 30s, I was still riding during the weekends and often didn't have time to shower and change from my breeches and boots into regular street clothes after lessons, and had to sweep into town quickly for errands. I used to feel a bit self-conscious that my appearance - even if pared down with a wooly jumper up top to reduce the equestrian look - might be seen as an affectation when in town. Especially with the boots (although I much preferred shorter Chelsea paddock boots to the tall ones). That was in the 80s and early 90s. Over the decades, wearing Chelsea-style boots have become a more pedestrian look so as not to be an issue. That said, one of the benefits of being much older (I am entering my 60s) is that I wear what I like to wear without giving a toss as to what others may think, even if my riding days are well and truly over and I no longer possess any equestrian gear. These days, I do wear a lot of marinières (Breton shirts) for the sheer comfort of them, although I do not live by a coast (but I do live by a large lake). They have become a uniform of sorts for me.

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    1. Agreed. Although I must say I loved wearing tall boots for riding! Soft leather hugging my leg and looked great!! Didn’t want to take them off

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  14. This conversation reminds me of when my sister was in the hospital a number of years ago. She was unable to do anything, so I was running paperwork back and forth between the hospital and her employer for signatures, etc. I had to find her doctor for a signature. He had no pen on him and all I had was a Cross pen in my bag that had been a gift to my late father upon his retirement. I remember the doctor signing the paperwork and as he handed the pen back to me, commenting "that's one hell of a nice pen!" (I later quit carrying it due to the sentimentality of the pen.)

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    1. A doctor who hasn’t got a pen on him?
      Probably hasn’t got a stethoscope either.

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  15. If it's worn or used with integrity, if wearing or using it is fully congruous with one's needs and purposes, is it still an affectation? A monocle of all things would certainly stand out, inviting both curiosity and ridicule, but I honestly wish more of us could move past our society's dumbed-down expectations of style and go out on a limb like that. Rock that monocle with pride, I say! Or those surgeon's cuffs, or that walking stick or that fancy watch or pen...

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  16. My vintage calfskin british tan driving gloves, and all my british flat caps! Thank you!

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  17. I think affectation is often in the eye of the effected. Y'all should see what goes on with cowboy apparel in Texas.

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    1. Yep, you're right as rain. All hat & no cattle. Drugstore cowboy. Windshield
      rancher. "Jim Bob Jump Back" deer hunters. The line of demarcation is pigeon shooting and quail hunting.

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    2. For some reason, our freshly elected governor here in Virginia appeared wearing a cowboy hat. A black one. But be that as it may be, all of those who I knew growing up in West Virginia who wore cowboy hats actually owned horses. Curiously, none owned cattle that I knew of. However, one must distinguish between ranchers and cowboys. Not so sure about the color of the hat.

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    3. BlueTrain, I'm in Virginia also, and I didn't care much for the governor and attorney general wearing cowboy boots with their formalwear at the inauguration, especially with the AG's floodwater trousers. Maybe they should have deployed some barrels of whiskey on the lawn of the executive mansion like Andrew Jackson did at the White House.

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  18. Crystal decanters and German beer flagons, because I don't drink at all. One person's irony is another's affectation is another's ostentation is another's oh for pity's sake, life is short and sashay whatever makes you vibe.

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  19. It's all in how things are perceived by others... Among like-minded friends, fountain pens, hand-written notes, using the "good stuff," tattered Barbours and never wearing dungarees is understood as not being affected. People who don't share our sensibilities can find any one of those things as very different.
    ~Signed the guy who upon failing the shoe swab test had to explain to the nice TSA agent that it wasn't completely ridiculous to wear loafers to the range.

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  20. Topsiders (in the spring, summer and fall), penny loafers with real pennies (1944)no socks with either, tattered Bean tan field jacket, Barbour jacket and British flap cap, khakis, surcingle belts (UPenn),Mont Blanc pen (occasionally). All part of the daily sartorial fare.

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    1. I don't remotely see how these could be considered affectations, or in the same league as a monocle or walking stick.

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  21. Cheese on pie; leftover for breakfast.

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  22. Down South a Yankee is someone from up North. Up North a Yankee is from New England. In New England a Yankee is from Vermont. In Vermont a Yankee is someone who eats apple pie for breakfast.

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  23. I adore pie for breakfast! Preferably my own homemade apple pie.

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