Monday, May 6, 2013
Pomp and Practicality
Remember the one in school who always seemed to dress right–the one indubitably awarded ”best-dressed” by popular vote–and who won so easily that his title was never in question? I often wondered if this dapper young gent’s mum should have had the real credit for his ease and fortitude, and whether his actual award should have been that of “most obedient son”. Or, on the contrary, did this soldier-of-style have an innate talent to present himself eloquently almost from the time of his birth? I remember having admiration for these types who gave us the impression that they were well-bred and knowledgeable, if only through the way that they dressed. Even decades later, I recall the tailored chocolate brown velvet blazer that my classmate, Terrisina O’Neal, wore in Grade 7, and the yellow and blue wool argyle v-neck sweater with the bronzed-yellow tie that Chels Norton paired with his tan pants and polished loafers in Grade 10.
This fascinating point of being able to recall a style choice (years later) stays with me, because of the simple fact that, if these two former classmates did not dress as they did, I doubt that I would even be able to recall their names today. And, if dressing well causes a person to be memorable, can these well-dressed soul’s “pomp” be more practical than we could have imagined?
Of couse it’s obvious that men have a greater challenge than women when it comes to making style choices that causes them to be remembered (most preferably in a good way) because there are fewer choices available in the sheer number of accessories and clothing pieces offered for men versus women. But even so, we see men who ever-so-slightly, push the envelope in order to nab a definitive style for themselves. Yet with men and women alike, the feeling is the same when it comes to the satisfaction of ”owning your style” and in finding your own rite-of-passage in the field of elegance.
There is a bit of a awestruck feeling that occurs when seeing men take more daring style choices and carrying off their choices with ease (perhaps because we’ve seen the epic style failures of checks and stripes that are proportionately ill-mixed, the dizzying effect of over-accessorizing, as well as the intentional clashing of colors that makes us recognize the clothes well before recognizing the man). And isn’t it true that if it looks like a man has tried too hard to pull himself together, then he appears more like a walking window display, rather than a persona in his own right? After all, while persnickety tailors can be the best of the best, persnickety men can be the worst of the worst. But still, you may agree that we can’t help but enjoy a little pomp, while being spared the act of being “pompous.”
The word pomp can be misunderstood. The first definition of pomp connotes “dignified”, while the second definition connotes “vanity”. These two definitions provide a confusing (even intriguing) dichotomy of meanings. While we can safely refer to pomp as meaning dignified, most likely we can also agree that thinking of a pompous person brings on thoughts of someone who is “irritatingly self-important”. The root of the word “pomp” is the Latin “pompa,” meaning “procession”, which gives the word a regal feel. And, the phrase “pomp and circumstance” has been preserved by Shakespeare in his play Othello, Act III, scene iii with the words “Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump, The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife, The royal banner, and all quality, Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”
Certain visual cues connote the spirit of dignified pomp and the cue list lengthens as the imagination broadens.