The new royalty

10 Nov

The Canadian Press contacted me to do a piece on holiday wear for men this week, and the reporter mentioned something about pulling archive photos of people like Brad Pitt if I wanted to talk about a celebrity style. She needn’t go to the trouble of looking for visuals because I don’t encourage anyone to swipe another person’s mode of dress – to me, that’s like stealing someone’s identity. Why would we want to look like someone we’re not? We are our own people with  our own style, our own speed, and we are not Brad Pitt.

This got me thinking.

Why aren’t there more Brad Pitt types in the world? Why aren’t there more men confident enough to know themselves and laugh at themselves and illustrate themselves through their dress? Are we that uninteresting? Are we collectively afraid to do our own thing?

Throughout history, humans have followed the sartorial cues of influential people in positions of power.  Up until the recent past,  it was royalty that set the tone of dress to court and then on down to the common people. Kings were incredibly influential this way. To illustrate just how dominant royal men have been on society, I offer the following examples:

1.  Footwear during the Tudor period was soft, wide, and square. Some historians attribute the slashed, square-toed shoes of this era to Henry VIII who is said to have suffered from gout, a very painful arthritic-type of joint inflammation most often affecting the joint of the large toe.

A nice, soft, wide shoe would nicely accommodate this affliction,  often brought on by alcohol – wine, beer, and mead were the wet for the Tudor whistle, and high fat and cholesterol levels in the blood.  I have read that Henry may have been a binge-eater, taking much fatty red meat as a mechanism to cope with stress – his waist was 54″!

2. When Louis XIII of France went prematurely bald around 1624, the men’s wig was born. Louis’ choice of neat and wavy scalp covering swept across Europe and the fashion carried on into his son’s reign, when wigs rose in height and cascaded luxuriously over the shoulders.

The (extremely high maintenance) wig became a staple amongst courtiers and professionals, and the size of wig carried social meaning (“big wig”). Wigs even became part of military uniforms.

Wigs got longer, fuller, and astoundingly high; they changed to white and were powdered, then shortened to a simpler bob which morphed into tightly curled wigs. Wigs for men remained popular in Europe until the 1790s but were for various reasons abandoned however, British judges and barristers continue the tradition of wearing (strange-looking curled and tailed) wigs in court.

So we’ve got a fat guy with gout and a young bald man influencing the way men have dressed across the ages.

We’re well into the 21st century and royalty doesn’t really have the same pull that it once did, so what’s going on now? Who are the style leaders and who do men look to for cues? Entertainers.

Actors, musicians, and popular politicians have replaced royalty when it comes to setting trends. I ask my clients whose style they admire and often I hear James Bond, Cary Grant, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt. What is it about these guys that other men like so much?

Classy Simplicity

This group wears well-fitting and quietly cool clothes; clothes that aren’t stamped with logos and labels that shout out for attention, and busy, flashy accessories. Take Brad Pitt, he’s got his own cool style with a hint of cheekiness worked in through hats, scarves, sunglasses, and haircuts, giving him an interesting and fitting look even when he’s in jeans and a t-shirt.

It seems to me that Brad Pitt knows himself well enough to feel comfortable expressing himself and his sense of humour through his accessories; I like that he punctuates his simple, low-key wardrobe with cool pieces – not every man can pull off a knitted tam worn Rasta style with a long Van Dyke beard.

I’m always encouraging men to play with their clothes and the way they put themselves together. It’s important to find the right pieces that suit the individual in the right colour and the right proportion, even the right texture; something that suits the guy’s personality, things that they feel comfortable in, not what they think Brad Pitt would wear, for they are not Brad Pitt.

5 Responses to “The new royalty”

  1. bet365 November 22, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    hello I was luck to approach your website in digg
    your Topics is quality
    I learn a lot in your website really thanks very much
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    • Leah Morrigan November 22, 2010 at 10:19 am #

      Thank you for your comments and I’m glad you’re enjoying the content!

  2. Feel Presidential January 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    Leah, its painful to say it but through my experience I have found the traditional way things worked, works the best. The lady being the lady and the man being the man, otherwise I have no idea what’s going on. I don’t know if I’m in a relationship or what I’m suppose to do vs what he’s suppose to do. for example, if I’m paying for the date is it a date? If he is paying I know for sure it is a date and he likes me, no question. The lady can go to work and make more money and all that while her husband does the domestic chores, but at the end of the day if the family doesn’t have dinner to eat the lady has to take responsibility for that. If the bills are not paid the man has responsibility for that. I don’t like to be bound by the traditional roles but in the end I have to say it is easier to plainly see what is going on when everybody’s role is defined. I can’t believe I’m writing this, ill.

    • Leah Morrigan January 14, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      Hi FP, thanks for your opinion – everyone’s is different and everyone’s is valid.

      If it makes more sense for you to stick to the rules of tradition, then stick with them. For other people like me, the change in gender roles makes things rather interesting and fun to play around with. I’m not sure that I agree with you about the woman being responsible for feeding the family and the man being responsible for paying the bills because men can learn to cook and women can work outside of the home, but either way, both responsibilities have to be fulfilled by someone, and to me it doesn’t matter which gender does it.



  1. My knotty error « In the Key of He - December 13, 2012

    […] wants to do is pass on incorrect information, and it seems I’ve done so. In a 2010 blog post, The new royalty, I explained that in centuries past, it was royalty who set the fashion, now, movie stars and […]

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