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What Are Aesthetics? – The 209 Heritage of Taste

Saturday 6th May 2017

The notion of aesthetics is a fickle concept due to the fact that taste is personal and subjective; a disparity in tastes between two people will naturally exist, but this does not mean that either person is wrong from an aesthetical point of view. Nowadays, too many people think that the terms ‘taste’ and ‘aesthetic’ are interchangeable, but they are necessarily different. While the two terms should not be confused and discerning one from the other is important, there exists a discernible affinity between the two and they are inter-dependent.

Consider a concerto comprised of a string quartet, piano and flute: the flow and consistency of the sounds that they produce are only ‘aesthetic’ if it is uniform in concept and pleasant to the ear. In comparison, the very same act that is executed to an ear-cringing spectacle of hitting bad notes and unrelated transitions exemplifies bad taste. In short, taste is subjective, but aestheticism is not.

It is the same with your wardrobe and selection of colours, accessories and materials. A well-dressed person knows intuitively how to combine the right colours in the right materials with the proper accessories. The overall look needs to be consistent in its hues and its message. It surprises me when some large magazines publish photographs wherein models are dressed blindly and none of the clothes have any relation to each other.

Even in mainstream media, aesthetics are often overlooked: for example, a blue suit does NOT go with black shoes and black accessories. It never has and it never will. If one insists on wearing either, combine the blue suit either with brown shoes or the black shoes with a grey or black suit.

Next up: accessories. It is amazing how many people think that the more bling they put on, the better they look. The truth is that using cufflinks, bracelets, a tie bar, pocket square, lapel pin, suspenders, flashy socks and a flashy tie are overkill. The rule should always be to keep things simple with a few conversation pieces to stand out from the rest. A few well-selected accessories that elevate the level of aestheticism of your outfit will easily make you the best-dressed person in the room. A pair of colourful socks that match the general hues of your outfit are a good conversation piece (skip the belt if you can – this elongates your physique). Match a colourful pocket square to a classic monochromatic tie or vice versa. If you are going to wear a lapel pin, skip the pocket square (unless you wear a standard white one with a minimalistic fold). Don’t use both cufflinks and a tie bar simultaneously. It comes down to the following rule of thumb: choose no more than four conversation pieces, each of which must be aligned in the palette of colours that you are sporting.

Aesthetics is the coming together of individual pieces in a stylish manner, like Valkyrie composed by Richard Wagner. Whether you are conservative or more free spirit in your style is a matter of taste. The golden rule, however, is that none of this advice is worth anything if the fitting and tailoring of your clothes does not fit your body or shape; proper tailoring is perhaps the most important and most overlooked aspect of dressing like a proper gentleman.