Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Casual Friday is Bad

As we've mentioned, things signify.  Clothes tell us something bout what we think, how we think, ya know - philosophy.  Most of our philosophy is formulated by the snippets of pseudo-thinking that we're surrounded by.

One philosophy is that Fridays are casual...

First of all, our Lord died on a Friday and anyone who has ever seen traditional breviaries or missals know that it pulses through the heart of the monk, which is the heart of the Church.  Friday is serious.  So what made it a "casual day?"  Certainly its because it is the last day of work before the weekend - ya know, the time when you get to be you and pamper you and focus on you.  You.

Modern men see their work as a build up to play.  That would necessarily indicate that man was made for play.  Play would then be the higher activity of man.  Dogs, however, know how to play.  Man's higher faculties include his will and intellect, most in their form when they are kickin it in the liturgy, not kickin it watching TV.

Now, I'm not saying don't rest and don't play, I'm saying don't see those things as ends, but means.  Also, balanced work is good, not bad.  Be virtuous at work.  Work because its good, not because you want to go to recess. 

Ol' Joe Pieper said that leisure is the basis of culture, because how we spend our "free" time indicates how we understand or misunderstand life, its meanings and fulfillment.  So take your weekend seriously.  Spend time with your family, cultivate friendships, read and study, see good films (not available at your local theater), cook real food, visit your local farmer, go to a play, and worship of course.  These are all serious things geared towards (or with) others, not simply you.  Its not just recess from hard big-people meany work; its culture.

And those things are the higher things, not the lower.  So if you want to gear up for the weekend, dress up on Friday, if for anything its because your comfy jeans wont help you think of the cross.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Gun More Catholic Than Yours

Its hard to identify the emotion that bubbles when patriotism and Papalism collide, but in this brief, they do.

I'm proud of where this gun came from and were it went. Now... how do we get one?...

Read about it here: http://www.militaryrifles.com/papalstates/Pontificio.htm

Sunday, January 1, 2012

This Movie Makes Our Movies Suck More

I don't read movie reviews. I don't know how to write them. But I would like to express to any man that reads this blog one thing - I have found a hero movie. In fact, I think its a genre that alone captures in contemporary films the themes of virtue, self-mastery and honor. That last word should have given it away... yes, it is the Kung Fu genre.

Ip Man, available for instant watch on Netflix, is a prime example. But instead of telling you what the hero does, lets look at what a hero can never do in our western movies (as in, the West... not wild west movies):

- The hero usually lives a at least partially shady life and then "redeems" himself with one heroic act. You never really know his motivation, though saving a girl might get his blood pumping. How heroic.

- The hero always pushes back against the pull of tradition, patrimony, etc. He cannot be restrained by ignorant back-looking. Oh no, he chooses his own way because he's so damn rebellious (in a "good" way) and is never held down by his ancestors' nonsense. If you can make fun of religion, this is especially helpful. (Every kid movie these days is like this. Happy Feet is a prime example at how your children are being indoctrinated to not trust you.)

- There's always "irreverence" in the hero. It seems I can't read a play or movie's description without the word "irreverent" in it. This is seen as some sort of good thing. If I die, tell people I was nauseatingly reverent. Make sure to tell them I bowed my head in public at the name if Jesus because my ancestors said it was a good thing... tell them I didn't even think about it, I just "reverently" "followed" "ignorance."

- You're not sure if the hero is a hero. Like "irreverence," it's better to not know if the good guy is really good or the bad really bad (especially towards the end). That just says it all about how we figure morality doesn't it?

- The hero is made in a moment. He's been shady and lazy, gets some kind of chance for greatness, kinda takes the chance and comes out a celebrity (much better to be a celebrity than a hero). He spends life void of virtue and self-mastery and then gets a chance to display it. No need for 40 whole days in the desert. He's always had it, he just had to shake off his past and be discovered. This is why most teenagers actually think they'll be famous some day and could care less about working hard. Why work hard when your discovery will come. Suicide is also very common among teenagers.

Get it? Now the movie Ip Man, I just watched it. It portrays the opposite on every single above point. The West doesn't believe in heroes. Man is not capable of that. And anyway, he may be a hero to us but to someone else he's a bad guy. I mean, was it really such a big deal we win at Lepanto?? Mean old Westerners. I mean, who does John Wayne think his is?!

Like I said, Ip Man is a hero movie. Here's how the (true!!!) story counters our lame movies that lack the good old sense of right and wrong that we Catholics use to understand so well (before unshackling from tradition):

- Master Ip (the hero) lives an honorable life apparently from childhood. I like that. We tend to so glorify conversion stories that we forget some saints start their formation in the home and live holy lives until a holy death. This should be the norm, not just big grand conversions. I had a big conversion, but it's not nearly as impressive as one who has lived virtuously his whole life - something he learned from his father. We need more second sons to rejoice with the father when the prodigal son returns, not just gawkers and naysayers.

- Master Ip lives the tradition handed on to him. He is successful because of his assimilation to the skill and wisdom of the past, not his reinvention of every wheel on the planet.

- Master Ip is reverent to everyone and everything. Really really reverent. Reverently reverent. Sooooo reverent. Reverentastic.

- He's a hero from the moment you see him. He is truly free in his self-mastery and assimilation to tradition. You see his freedom and wish you could live in it.

- There's a big moment at the end (with a little self-sacrifice mixed in), but Master Ip is a hero that has been in the making for decades. He would not be the hero had he not been the hero his entire life. The Johnny-come-lately kung-fu wannabes either jump ship or keep moving from master to master without ever submitting to a disciplined, sustained commitment like the big Ip Man.

Watch it. It's a real man movie. If you don't want to read the subtitles, get off the internet and go read a book, lazy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Humility of Style

One of the chief characteristics of post-enlightenment man (modernist heretics) is that they disregard the lessons of their forefathers as they brave forward in "progress". I've heard this attitude even when it comes to clothes. We're not the first people to put a leg in a pair of pants, but its amazing how quickly and with such prideful arrogance we cast off the time-wasting traditions of our forefathers. It might go something like this:

Man 1 - "Your pants are suppose to just grace the tops of your shoes. Don't let them be too long."
Man 2 - "What do you mean 'suppose to'?? No one tells me how to wear my pants! What could be so important about pants that we need to have rules for them? You're so stifling and outdated."
Man 1 - "I see. Well, enjoy those pants then!"

Man 2 doesn't realize that rules are helpful. Adopt some rules or figure them all out on your own. Rules enshrine a lesson learned from the past. In this case the lesson is you look like a child when your pants are too long. They look burrowed. They actually call attention to your clothes rather than your person. Pants that fit properly flatter the male body and make him look strong and put together. When you're dressed properly no one notices and this is a good thing. A gentlemen doesn't need to draw attention to himself. Noble, silent, respectable.

This is a much less important tendency of the I-am-smarter-than-all-before-me attitude, but its a symptom of it nonetheless.

Style, unlike fashion, is inherited and learned. Fashion is clamored for and sold. Style takes the lessons of the past and applies them today. Do you see the humility in that? I guess we could shake it off as uneccesary, uncomfortable and inconvenient. Thats what we do with important matters like marriage so we might as well do it with clothes.

PS - Many men, especially young, have simply not learned the rules. They would eagerly do the right thing, if anyone had the goodness to teach them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ceremonies of Life

Life is full of small ceremonies. Repetition is not bad as long as its its not a bad thing. A man actually has quite a few - we wear lots of hats (formerly that was actually) - home, social gatherings, work and sometimes school. Each of these places we go has a distinction and our clothes can help distinguish those things in our own mind. Distinctions are good. Vague blending is bad. Do what you are doing.

Or we could just wear the same thing every where - gym shorts for most things, jeans when its time to get formal.

But, as you've guessed, I propose something else. The very act of getting ready for each "element" of our life (work, home, etc.) is an opportunity to enjoy the ceremonies of life and to show the recipients of our presence what we think of them. It also shows that we take it seriously - whatever it is. I start at the home, because we tend to give our families the worst presentation. Now, it would be ridiculous for us to wear a suit around the house (well... maybe not too ridiculous). We don't need to act like suits are all we wear just because that was the basis of clothing 100 years ago. But, we also don't need to be in crap. It matters.

I think there's an unspoken expectation that women be at least presentable. For a housewife, that is her vocation and duty, so I think its reasonable that she dress reasonably well - at least with some preparation. I don't think anyone thinks otherwise. Yes, there are times when the kids are too much and the jammies stay on all day and no one in their right mind would say that's wrong. But it seems the norm is that a woman is presentable to the very people she lays her life down for.

Men dress like a college dropout who woke up on the couch to continue last night's video game.

Wake up call: men, your family is your vocation. I propose that you don't "dress up" but that you dress like a respectable adult. Here's what I think is reasonable:

Most of your shirts should have a collar (polo, oxford, etc). T-shirts are undershirts. You are not a damn billboard. Clean, cared-for and ironed clothing is not extravagance - its basic maturity. It takes just as long to pull up some cotton khakis as it does cotton/poly sweatpants. Khakis are your go-to pants. (They're actually more comfortable than your average jeans.) Your waist is not at your ass. Give this a try and see if it doesn't help you take your family duties more seriously. The home is not "formal" but its not for beasts either.

And from there consider your work attire. It naturally needs to fit your work environment, but for an office your basic get up is a tie and jacket. At least a jacket. Tucking in an iron shirt, donning a tie and wearing some freshly shined shoes are not abnormal acts - it should be more normal. See how it helps your productivity. See how seriously you and others take you and others when you dress like you and others matter. The goal is clothes that gown-ups wear. Your comfort is not all that matters. For the job site, durable khakis and work shirts (like LL Bean's) are your go to. Not oversized or undersized band shirts.

Without making you think that I want to dictate how you dress in your life, let me say that this has more to do with the ceremonial of your life and less with style (style is not a sin though). You can tell what a priest is doing and how seriously he takes what he is doing by the preparation he puts into what is covering his body. When he puts on a chasuble his mind and heart are preparing for what he is doing. When he removes his stole he is returning to a more vulgar activity (not in the negative way, but true sense of the word). Similarly, when a man returns from work, removes his suit and puts on his house khakis, he is entering a different part of his life. Its not that there's irreconcilable distinctions, but there's simply a difference in those things. It helps to put work on and take it off. If you have trouble separating these two things, consider having distinct garb set aside for each element - it'll help.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You Are Not A Damn Billboard

If you're slowly working through thrift stores in the pursuit of a manly wardrobe that is right and fitting (I hope you are), you'll probably come across Brooks Brothers. This is a good brand to look for. As I learned more about brands, I figured out that you can tell how old a Brooks Brothers suit is by the presence or absence of an inside label sewed on one of the inner pockets. Older suits only have the label up by your neck near the "locker loop". Why? Because if your jacket were to open someone may be able to peak in and see a label!

This was apparently really bad back in the day as what would be the purpose of having a label visible to the public?

Compare that with newer brands that use you (read that again: USE YOU) to advertise for their crap. Take North Face jackets - they actually have their name on the back of your jacket! I get a kick seeing people walking around with this sort of thing. I can think of two reasons this is done, one from the manufacturer and one from the wearer:

Reason 1 - The retailer says, "Look at this person. They look happy right? It's the jacket, you NEED one! We're all wearing one.... why aren't you! C'mon... you have a credit card!"

Reason 2 - The wearer says, "Look at me. I have this. It's really good. Sure, it's a little expensive, but hey, these things last for... I'm not sure, I'll probably get a new one next year in the newer style, but I think they're really good. Yeah, I got this."

(Possible reason 3 - The thrifter says, "Some jackass threw this out. I got it for .75$ and North Face can kiss my ass." Rock on thrifter.)

Why do we allow brands and the Scarface movie use us to sell their product? Can't quality work speak for itself? There can be no virtuous reason why we all need to walk around telling everyone who made our stuff. Not to even discuss that it's actually a fad to keep the price tag on what you're wearing. It's amazing what we convince ourselves to do.

This is why I love this old Brooks Brothers stuff. They made it by hand in the USA. They made it to last. I wore a thrifted 30 year old suit to Mass this morning (older than me) that looks brand new. It's Brooks Brothers, so yeah, it cost a lot, but I'm not showing this off to anyone. Quality fabric, good fit, craftsmanship is all you need. Oh yeah, and style. And maybe a pipe for your pocket. But whoever bought it first made an investment (it was custom made for him, but you have to look inside the inside pocket to find out). I'm just glad they didn't wear it to their funeral... then what would I wear?

You have dignity man! Don't let anyone use your body to advertise. This does not apply for t-shirts that expose liberal lunacy... those are always acceptable.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Theology of the Beard

It seems if men have facial hair, and women don't, that men should grow beards. Seems reasonable. They can be vessels of new life, but we can grow velcro on our face! But what were the thoughts of the Fathers? Wikihelp to the rescue:

  • St Clement of Alexandria
    • "The hair of the chin showed him to be a man." St Clement of Alexandria (c.195, E), 2.271
    • "How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, and to arrange his hair at the mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them!...For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane. But He adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest—a sign of strength and rule." St. Clement of Alexandria, 2.275
    • "This, then, is the mark of the man, the beard. By this, he is seen to be a man. It is older than Eve. It is the token of the superior nature....It is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness." St. Clement of Alexandria, 2.276
    • "It is not lawful to pluck out the beard, man's natural and noble adornment." St. Clement of Alexandria, 2.277
  • St Cyprian
    • "In their manners, there was no discipline. In men, their beards were defaced." St Cyprian (c. 250, W), 5.438
    • "The beard must not be plucked. 'You will not deface the figure of your beard'." (Leviticus 19:27) St. Cyprian, 5.553
  • Lactantius
    • "The nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies, or to distinguish the sex, or to contribute to the beauty of manliness and strength." Lactantius (c. 304–314, W), 7.288
  • Apostolic Constitutions
    • "Men may not destroy the hair of their beards and unnaturally change the form of a man. For the Law says, "You will not deface your beards." For God the Creator has made this decent for women, but has determined that it is unsuitable for men." Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c.390, E) 7.392. (1)
  • Augustine of Hippo
    • "There are some details of the body which are there for simply aesthetic reasons, and for no practical purpose—for instance, the nipples on a man's chest, and the beard on his face, the latter being clearly for a masculine ornament, not for protection. This is shown by the fact that women's faces are hairless, and since women are the weaker sex, it would surely be more appropriate for them to be given such a protection." City of God (c. 410) book 22, chapter 24