Jaeger Russian Red

I was going to write a post called "Artesania Pop Wuh". But that will now be next time. The Beast from the East returned for the day, so as I bundle up against a final slash of the Beast's claws, here's something bought at the start of the winter for practicality as well as style.

It's a red Jaeger coat, 1980s and more interesting than most of that company's clothes were in later years. Its length, elegantly fitted contours — most visible in the side-view and penultimate photos — and high velvet-lined collar make me think of something Russian and military. And as you'd want from something Russian and military, it's warm, being pure wool. Length is an advantage during today's north-easterly blasts. I bought it from Unicorn. Coats don't have to be black.

Jaeger red coat
Jaeger red coat
Jaeger red coat
Jaeger red coat
Jaeger red coat
Jaeger red coat
Jaeger red coat

Antique Velvet and the Nihilistic Sewer

Let's go back to the velvet waistcoat I showed on Monday in Oakland Velvet Fruit and Flower: Oakland velvet waistcoat

Its colours are implemented by printing:
Oakland velvet waistcoat

But velvet can be intricate, with patterns made by weaving rather than by printing. Here are two samples from Velvets by Chiara Buss, published by Collezione Antonio Ratti. Text in quotes is Buss's.

Five-colour velvet for man's waistcoat, 1895-1905 "Lyon, 1895-1905
Five-coloured figured cut pile velvet (bordeaux, orange, beige, blue, light blue), on a moss green reps ground.

The highly stylized floral design is achieved in a profusion of brilliant colours in contrast with the dim, dull colour of the ground."


Light blue velvet for man's coat or jacket, 1750-1170 "Lyon or Venice, 1750-1770
Light blue figured velvet, cut and uncut pile, on a light red taffetas doubleté ground.

Tiny 'E'-shaped, 'S'-shaped motifs and dots are arranged with binary alternation along diagonal bands, with an up/down and right/left alternated orientation. Pattern in cut pile with borders in uncut pile on a bare ground."


Both of these are in the men's fashion section of the book. The first, 1895-1906, is for a man's waistcoat. Buss remarks that "it was only in the tie and waistcoat that [men] could combine colour, silk and pattern, and only in the waistcoat could they wear the most precious of all silk fabrics, namely velvet."

The second, 1750-1770, is for a jacket or coat, prestigious because of the cost of its fabric.

'Portrait of the Marchioness Brignole-Sale with her Eldest
Son (detail showing son in velvet suit), by Anton Van Dyck And here is one yet earlier. This is a detail from Anton Van Dyck's "Portrait of the Marchioness Brignole-Sale with her Eldest Son", showing the son in a velvet suit. Next to it, Buss displays a sample of red figured velvet on an ivory-coloured ground, from Genoa around 1620-1630. She notes that we can conclude that it was made there because it's so similar to the velvet in the portrait, the son being a member of one of the most powerful families in Genoa.

As I don't want to go beyond copyright fair use, I've kept the images small, and only shown those two samples. The book has many others. They show what could be done with the technology of the times, some of it even before the automation of the Jacquard loom.

So with our technology, why can't we do better? As "Dismuke" says in Objectivism Online Forum's thread "Why are men's clothing so boring?":

The reason I think is because style, glamor and grandeur in fashion, like virtually every other aspect of our popular culture, collapsed into a nihilistic sewer during the 1960s and 1970s and has only partially recovered in the decades since.

Look at old photos from the 1930s. Both men and women dressed very attractively as a rule — and this included ordinary people who were less than affluent and at a time when the country was in the middle of a very severe economic depression and when clothing was much more expensive (after adjusting for factors such as inflation) than it is today.

There is no rational excuse for the population of today to be less nicely dressed than that of our grandparents — clothes cost a lot more less to make, technology has given us a wider variety of fabrics to choose from and we have had several decades that could have been used for aesthetic innovations had the culture been open to such innovation.

Fosby Velvet Glow

Here's another item from Unicorn. It's a cropped multicoloured-velvet jacket by Fosby, with flower and leaf patterns outlined in gold.

Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

The jacket is light in weight, and I've been wearing it over the red silk top shown above, both over a silk shirt, for the coolish spring mornings of the past few days. Once the sun begins blasting down, discard all but the shirt. The jacket is wrinkle-proof when wet, which is an advantage when the April showers come.

But another nice thing about it is that it glows. Notice the end of the sleeve on the right: Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

This is because of the "tracks" which you can see below: Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

The glow in some lights is intense, like internal fire. The three photos below were taken inside, and my camera couldn't quite focus without flash, which would have spoilt the effect. But they've caught the glow better than any others. Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

Fosby velvet multi-coloured jacket

What Is It Like To Be A Bat?

The philosophy of mind has a long history of "thought experiments": experiments that aren't actually possible, but that philosophers like to imagine in order to clarify their intuitions and ideas. John Locke asked about the "inverted spectrum". If Alice sees colours the opposite way round to Bob, so that she experiences red where he sees blue, and vice versa, how could we ever know? And if we can't, doesn't that prove it's impossible to know how anyone else perceives the world? Douglas Hofstadter had the fable of Mr. Chase and Mr. Sanborne that I told in the previous post. And in 1974, philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote a famous paper titled "What is it Like to be a Bat?"

Bats, Nagel says, are alien. They perceive their world by sonar, computing the distance, size, shape, movement, and texture of objects from the way these reflect their own high-frequency shrieks. This is such a different sense from any we possess, so is there any way to know what the bat experiences? He concludes that we can't. Even if you try imagining that you have webbing on your arms, fly around at dawn and dusk catching insects in your mouth, locate these by sonar, and spend the day hanging upside down by your feet in an attic, that only tells you what it's like for you to be a bat. The bat's brain is wired so differently from ours that it says nothing about what it's like for the bat to be a bat.

Nagel isn't especially interested in chiroptology or in emulating Doctor Dolittle: his bat is a stand-in for "any sufficiently different mind". For me, the class of "sufficiently different mind" is the girls I see with holes gaping in the knees of their jeans. What aesthetic pleasure do those give them? When I look at clothes, my attention immediately seeks beauty: vivid colours, graceful flowing lines, intricate embroidery, patterns you can get lost in. I know what it is like to want and enjoy these. And the girls with holes in their jeans must get joy from those, else why wear them?

But even if I try imagining myself feeling intense pleasure while gusts of winter air blast around my red knobbly knees and passers-by stare at me as if I've crawled out of the poorhouse, that only tells me what it's like for me to be one of those girls. It says nothing about what it's like for those girls to be those girls.

What Does He See In it?

I was in Unicorn talking to Iva. A student came in, riffled through the rack of shirts, and pulled out a white polo shirt. He pulled it on over his black T shirt, and started admiring himself in the full-length mirror. Turning himself from side to side, adjusting his collar, craning his head over his back.

To me, the shirt was so uninteresting that I can't work out why he gave it so much time and care. To try and understand this, I remembered a fable by the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter. He tells of two coffee tasters, Mr. Chase and Mr. Sanborn, who worked for Maxwell House. When they started their jobs, Chase and Sanborn both loved the coffee. "It's the best-tasting coffee in the world," they said.

But over the years, they become less and less happy. Mr. Chase confides to Mr. Sanborn: "My tastes have changed." I used to love that taste. But I think I now want something more sophisticated. That taste now bores me."

Mr. Sanborn replies to Mr. Chase: "For me, the experience is the opposite, but the effect is the same. I still love that taste. But when I drink Maxwell House, it's no longer that taste that I taste. With you, your perceptions seem to be the same but what you want from them has changed. With me, it's my perceptions — my ...tasters... — that have changed, while my wants stayed the same."

So, analogously, it is between me and white-polo-shirt man. Is his vision better, so that he's seeing details I can't, but that I'd like if I could? Or is it his aesthetics that are better, so that he sees the same as I do, but appreciates subtle details for which my aesthetics are too coarse? It's very odd. I can't work out what he was seeing, when he was preening and adjusting with his little careful touches.

Chinese Red

I bought this wonderfully intense red silk top in Unicorn, Ship Street, Oxford. Notice that it's reversible. Iva, the owner of the shop, said that silk takes these intense dyes well: it would be unusual to find anything so vivid used on cotton or other fabrics. In spring, which I believe this weather is supposed to be, it's a good layer to have between a jacket and something inner such as a thin shirt.

Red silk Chinese top

Red silk Chinese top

Red silk Chinese top