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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)

Clothes Make The Man

page 14

Clothes Make The Man

Sartorial Soliloquy.

Do clothes make the man or does the man make the clothes make the man. The answer is in the derogative; for men, if left to their own devices and bereft of their L.S.D.-vices, would satisfy their moods in mercery with a bare skin in summer and a bear skin in winter. The masculine mind, unsullied by the influence of connubial coercion, yearns not for rhetorical rainment, vested vestments, conducive coatings, palliative paintings or gilded gadgets of sartorial seduction. The male is a simple soul with a one way track on his mental map who believes that nothing can nullify the architectural anachronisms perpetrated by Nature in his personal pill-box, without his approval or authority. But the tailor is a titillator of the temporal ticking; a miracle-man who, by the machinations of mode and measure, can straighten out bow legs, convert a bay front to a flat facade, make four-by-two shoulders resemble the top hamper of a square-rigged bone setter, make the fat fitting and the bony bonny, and generally get a scissors hold on the sartorial sassafras.

Shootings at Suitings.

A tailor who knows his body-work from chalk to “cheese-cutter” and from buckram to basting is a “fitting” answer to the maiden's prayer. He is agent for Eros and holds venue for Venus. By shooting with suiting and sniping with snipping he can put perfidy on the spot and rekindle the flickering flame of fondness in a wife wearied by corkscrew pants and the hideous habiliments of her permanent paymaster, which represent “body-line bawling” in its loudest form. With a cut to leg or a fancy “over” he can bowl out beauty and convert acrimony to matrimony. He can get age bested with worsted, youth worsted with basted and renovate the body-work of the human one-seater so that it well might doubt the authenticity of its own rudimentary trigonometry. Thus the tailor tells his tale with shear and cheer and remodels the ancient to conform with the modern. Of course the lily needs no gilding nor the orchid orchestration, but we less exotic and more ox-etic specimens of haughty-culture require the attentions of the tailor to round off the corners and square the circles.

But there are tailors and tailors. There are good, bad and indifferent tailors. The indifferent tailors are merely indifferent and the bad ones convert robbery to robbery and are cut by cutters and taped off by the trade.

Outlay and “Lay-out.”

Habiliments on the hoof constitute personal propaganda, and it pays to advertise, whether you prefer an outlay on cloth or a “lay-out” on paper. In certain circumstances dowdiness is better than dandy-ness, but in uncertain circumstances, such as yours and mine, the measure of success is the tape measure and the best snips are “par” snips from the “Tailor and Cutter.” Millionaires may ravage the canons of cut and culture without “going a million,” but millionaires depend more on the bank than the “bunk.” Professors, pugilists, evangelists and contortionists may also flout the flambuoyancy page 15
“The right suit in the right place.”

“The right suit in the right place.”

of physiological filigree and allow themselves the luxury of allowing others to see them as they see themselves—as in a glass starkly. You and I, however, who are neither swish flash nor foul, must bolster up our temporal tiddlewinks with streamline “strides,” spats that speak and ties that advertise.

With clothes as with cards, the right suit in the wrong place oft' creates confusion of allusion. Jockeys in plus-fours are minus-twos. A “hard hitter” reduces Bill the basher into a soft-soaper. Brogues are conducive to foot-and-mouth disease in Irishmen and loose fitting pockets scandalise Scotsmen; which seems to prove that clothes are the “alter ego” which alter ego. Thus Desmond the diver, who during the week feels half-seas under and is subject to that sinking feeling and submergence of personality in his submarine suiting, regains the surface on Sunday by wearing a bare face and breathing his air straight. Footmen dress like horsemen when they foot it. Land agents spend Sunday dressed like deep sea sailors, and drapers get a kick out of undraping and seeing the sea dressed as frugally as a Scotch salad.

Dressing the Past.

Whether you dress the part or part the dress the ego is influenced by the mode of the moment, and history, which is as much histrionic as cyclonic, might easily have changed its spots with its spats and its points with its pants. Well might you ask if Napoleon could have gone nap in “bun” and “boweyhangs.” Could the Iron Duke have heaved his hardware and made such a success of the ironmongery business on the fields of France, dressed like a shop-walker instead of a shock-worker? Caesar in sack-cloth might have been sacked rather than “socked.” Samuel Pepys would have sacrificed “pep” if his body-basting had been ecclesiastical instead of enthusiastical. Hannibal in hand-me-downs, Samson in slippers, Drake in “duck,” Wolsey in woolies, Blake in a blazer, Alexander in an alpaca, King Henry the Eighth in a divorce suit, and Joan of Arc in a jumper, would have reacted to rig, and history would have had its face sifted by the plastic serge-ons and its tale clipped by the tailors. For many a man has been spitted by spats, deranged by dungarees, submerged in silk, smothered in smock, K.O'd. by clothing and clubbed by “clobber.”

The Form and the Uniform.

The right suit in the right place is the glossary to glory, and if the man makes the uniform the uniform makes the man. The butcher bereft of his stripes is no more a butcher than a zebra. Sailors don't care, but jerk off their jerseys and they don't know Davy Jones from Sam Brown. Soldiers are as putty without putties and lack tone without tunics. Tram conductors are non-conductors and lack punch without their tram-linings. Snatch away an engine-driver's hat and oil can and his loco-motives become so mixed that he doesn't know an Ab. from a gee-gee. And choir boys who, in their human moments jubilate in jazz, on Sunday restrain their surplus air under
“Could Napoleon have gone nap in ‘bun’ and ‘boweyhangs?’”

“Could Napoleon have gone nap in ‘bun’ and ‘boweyhangs?’”

page 16 a surplice air. And would telegraph boys “get their man” if they were not dressed like the young of sea captains? The mischances are that their wires would short-circuit and they would refuse. Firemen would go cold on the job if their helmets were converted to coal scuttles. Policemen perhaps are the eating which proves the pudding; they can never forget they are policemen, even when they are dressed like ordinary dishonest citizens; but of course there is so much of a policeman to remind him that he is a policeman. Anyway, a policeman who forgets he is a policeman is no longer a policeman. Even a traffic cop loses control of his commotions outside his uniform and might be mistaken for a “barmy” barber practising the Marcel wave with all hands aloft and the combers clambering over the toff-rail, should he attempt to brave the bitumen dressed like a human being.

Postman's Knock.

A postman without his envelope to stamp him as the spirit of Johnny Walker would be a dead letter, or a postscript that had missed the post. If found in such a state he would be returned unclaimed. Presumably postmen perambulate off duty, but unless they are in training for the all-red route or a dash for the pole—or at least the post—we suspect that they stay in bed where it doesn't matter whether they wear “zipps” on their bed socks to maintain their zip, or rub milk on their calves to keep them from becoming prematurely cowed. Some say that they wear hiking suits instead of pyjamas, lest they forget to remember and miss the post. But of all the uniformed fauna the postman is the most attractive. The postman's knock “knocks” us. The posty calls for poesy:

Slump-Made Suits

Slump-Made Suits

Of all the men who dress a part
The postman touches every heart,
And thrills our marrow with his whistle,
Which heralds—what? The plump epistle.
And even when our hope he kills
With circulars and butcher's bills,
We trust one day he'll get the wood
On Luck, and hand us something good,
Like legal word from far Nantucket,
That uncle Heck has kicked the bucket,
And having searched the family tree,
Has left us all his L.S.D.;
Or else some other news as “jake,”
To keep our faith in Luck awake.
But even when we draw a dud,
The posty's name is never Mud,
For though we feel our cake is dough—
With this and that—you never know!
Although no magi on a jag,
There's magic in the posty's bag.
Nonchalant, he dispenses—well,
The beauty is you ne'er can tell.
Although he's such a cheery chap,
Without his bag and captain's cap
He wouldn't be the same old “post”
To whom we drink a thankful toast.
So may no tyrant get his goat,
By nipping off his cap and coat,
For daily even those who miss'll
Still listen for the posty's whistle.

Clothes may be mere loose covers for renovating the physical furniture, but even an old sofa under a new cover gets a little touch of spring in its works. There are sermons in stones, but there are also tales in tailors.