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Why are men's clothing so boring?

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Ifat Glassman

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What I have difficulty understanding what appears to me to be such a great disdain you have for jeans and your "rejection of the convention of jeans as a fashion statement". However, it appears you go on after that to say that there are certain contexts in which jeans are fashionable and not simply bound to their original purpose.

Well, just because I have rejected them as a fashion statement does not imply that I have ever suggested that anyone else in the world ought to do so.

And even my own rejection of them is contextual. If were a young college student with only $50 to my name to spend on a wardrobe, I would go to Wal-mart or Target and buy myself some blue jeans. I would do so because, within the limitations of my budget, the very best I could hope to achieve wardrobe wise is to try and avoid standing out looking worse than everybody else. Blending in with the mob would be a much better alternative - and blue jeans are certainly good for that.

I'll admit that perhaps I misunderstand what you are trying to say about jeans, but whether you reject that convention or not, it's quite definitely true that jeans are a fashion statement in certain contexts, and not all of those contexts are bad. They do not need to be inextricably tied to the counter-culture for which you have such ire.

Well, perhaps you overlooked the posting in which I basically admitted as much when I said that I had overlooked the fact that blue jeans are also a very important part of Western wear. I don't personally relate to a Western, cowboy image - but I certainly do not regard it as nihilistic or as having anything to do with the counterculture.

A point that I think is very important for me to make in order to head off potential misunderstandings is this: Unlike the 1960s hippies, I am NOT a nihilist. If something gives decent and rational people joy and enjoyment - well, I think it is wonderful that they have found something which can give it to them. And just because something has its roots in 1960s counterculture, it does NOT necessarily follow that a decent and rational person cannot ever enjoy it.

A good example that comes to mind is Dr. Peikoff who once mentioned that he enjoyed horror movies when he was young. While the genre of horror movies is most certainly based on a malevolent universe premise, it doesn't necessarily follow that Dr. Peikoff shared that premise. It all depends on the reasons he liked such movies. In his instance, what he enjoyed about horror movies, if I recall correctly, was that the monsters and such were NOT ordinary "folks next door" type characters.

If you enjoy the biker subculture - which I strongly suspect does have more than its fair share of counterculture influence - well, the question is why do you like it? What values does it offer you? If your answers to those questions involve nihilism - well, there is a problem. But if it does not - so long as it is not self-destructive in some way or a jeopardy to your other long term values, go for it and enjoy it to the fullest. In this case, who cares what I happen to think? I am just some nobody from Fort Worth who only has but one name. What matters here is what you think. If that subculture has "mixed" premises - well, try to enjoy the good aspects and just keep a sharp eye out for any bad ones which might exist. There is absolutely nothing wrong with maintaining a selective focus in such instances so long as it does not involve evading relevant and important facts.

In the past year or so, I have developed a very odd appreciation for certain types of Soviet propaganda posters and images. That doesn't make me a Marxist or a Stalinist or an apologist for the USSR or imply that I sanction such things in any way whatsoever. The Soviets were evil tyrants who murdered tens of millions of people. But some of the propaganda drawings had kind of an interesting style - and I don't see anything wrong with my holding a selective focus to enjoy those particular aspects of the artwork so long as I do not drop or evade the wider context of what those works actually mean. The same principle holds true for people who value certain things which happen to have a countercultural link.

If somebody close to me was murdered by the Soviets, I would have a much more difficult time seeing past the pain and appreciating the things I do about its propaganda art. The counterculture attacked a great many of the values that I think made the world it destroyed very wonderful and special. Those values mean a great deal to me - so as a result, it is very difficult for me to stomach much of anything with a strong counterculture link to it.

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the biker subculture - which I strongly suspect does have more than its fair share of counterculture influence

I beg to differ! I would even venture to bet that an overwhelming majority of today's bikers vote Republican. Bikers are today what cowboys were in the 19th century: strong, masculine, independent-minded individualists, many of whom--like RationalBiker does--dedicate their lives to fighting for justice. ALL these things would be anathema to a counter-culture nihilist!

Bikers, not coincidentally, are among the few people today whose way of dressing is entirely appropriate for its context.

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If you enjoy the biker subculture - which I strongly suspect does have more than its fair share of counterculture influence - well, the question is why do you like it?

Well, as I tried to denote in my first post in this thread, the biker sub-culture of today is not the the biker sub-culture of yesteryear. While the style and image of the biker (in terms of their clothing) has remained relatively unchanged, the people who make up the bulk of that culture have changed considerably.

For starters is the claim that motorcycling is becoming a rich man's 'sport' (or hobby for those who may object to the use of the word sport). By rich man I refer to the increasing numbers of mid to upper middle class income folks who are buying bikes. The lowest priced Harley Davidson motorcycle is the Sportster which costs just under 7 grand. While they sell fairly well, the bulk of Harley's bikes run from 14 to 22 grand, with one model that goes up to 30 grand. So we are talking about motorcylces that cost more than some cars. To be fair, the Japanese bikes are selling in significant numbers as well, which are in many cases less expensive than Harleys, but still in the mid to upper thousands for an entry level bike. By the time you get to the Goldwing, you are talking just as much money as the Harley equivalent, the Electra-Glide Ultra Classic. Harley's hold their resale value much better than most japanese bikes though.

The appeal of the Harley has a lot to do with it's customizability so most bikers that buy a Harley don't stop at the initial price tag. Rather, they spend thousands more dollars putting on pipes to get the "right" sound, engine enhancements to squeeze more HP out of the stock engine, and chrome and other decoratives to individualize their bike to their tastes. When you start talking about the chopper customs that are becoming more popular these days, you are usually talking entry level prices of 25 thousand and going considerably higher.

Now obviously being rich and able to afford an expensive motorcycle does not prove a person is not part of the 'counter-culture'. There was a purpose for me linking to the term 1%'er above. The term originally referred to the very small percentage of folks who choose not to abide by new motorcycle safety laws. The term evolved into a designation for 'outlaw' motorcyclists who actually organized into clubs and raised money through various criminal enterprises. These people represented an overwhelmingly small percentage of all bikers but that is frequently the image conjured by many people when they see a person decked out in biker garb. The outlaw motorcyclist is the image portrayed in many movies from the '50's and '60's so I think that is why most people are quick to make that connection. "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Easy Rider" exemplify these films.

If you look on the calendar of a great many motorcyclists today, and I would be so presumptuous as to say particularly Harley owners, you will see "Toy Runs", "Poker Runs", and "Rides for Life" and other such events. These 'runs' are typically half-day rides that benefit some hospital, some charity for researching a disease, or some veterans group, etc. etc. It may cost them anywhere from 15-30 dollars, but in return the bikers get to ride as a group, usually get a t-shirt or a pin, get a lunch, and a chance at some door prizes.

The bulk of motorcyclists today are law-abiding folks who just enjoy the open road and the rush of wind best experienced on two wheels. They enjoy socializing with similarly inclined folks. They like to collect patches and pins to put on their vests as symbols of accomplishment for all the places they have ridden to and all the events in which they took part. Some, like me, like to ride with just their wives or entirely solo.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not also point out that there is a fair number of bikers, even some of the newer breed, who have some hedonistic tendencies. Many motorcycle rallies, the king of which is Sturgis, are mostly about getting drunk, getting tattooed, checking out other folk's bikes, looking at and hooking up with scantily clad biker babes (the biker world is undeniably male dominated), and just generally letting loose. There is certainly an association with even the modern biker culture of beer, bikes and babes.

Now, I wouldn't say that I'm 'attracted' to the biker sub-culture so much as I'm attracted to motorcycling and have an interest in learning about that culture. Certainly their love for freedom and individualism are attractive qualities to me. But mostly what I have taken from the biker sub-culture is the knowledge of the clothing they choose to wear, and why they choose to wear it. There is a distinct purpose to their style of clothing, something I often refer to as 'skin graft prevention'. Jeans are not only a durable material, but they tend to be close and tight fitting which prevents them from riding up if one takes a spill and starts sliding on pavement. Leather is better for that purpose as it can be somewhat more conducive to sliding (with it's smooth surface). Kevlar is even better still, but it tends to be expensive and the styling tends to cater more to the sport bike crowd (who arguably need it more anyway because of their style of riding) and perhaps the BMW or Ducati folks.

Past that, I do not drink alcohol; I'm married so I don't chase 'babes'; I don't really enjoy riding in large groups (3-4 friends is more than enough for me); and I'm not the sort to join clubs. I did join the Harley Owners Group because, well, everyone who buys a new Harley is automatically made a member. I also joined the local chapter in the event that I do want to participate in one of those runs I mentioned above. I go to Boneshakers, a local biker bar, during the day because they have good food at a decent price and the day crowd is rather nice. It's highly unlikely I would go there at night when the alcohol is flowing and the atmosphere changes.

I know I have sequed considerably from the topic clothes, but I felt the need to provide some overview in the biker culture as it is now and how a small part of that lead me to the wearing of jeans.

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I beg to differ! I would even venture to bet that an overwhelming majority of today's bikers vote Republican. Bikers are today what cowboys were in the 19th century: strong, masculine, independent-minded individualists, many of whom--like RationalBiker does--dedicate their lives to fighting for justice. ALL these things would be anathema to a counter-culture nihilist!

I know next to nothing about bikers so none of what you say comes to me as any sort of shock or surprise. What I have noticed as having a counterculture influence is their overall appearance which seems to use quite a lot of counterculture imagery. But that shouldn't be a surprise either considering that was the era in which most bikers came of age. Such is the imagery they grew up with and are familiar with. I also suspect that there is a certain romanticization of the nomadic involved - and for a very long time a major cultural stereotype of what such a lifestyle looked like was the old hippie vans and the people who occupied them.

The way that people and subcultures with mixed premises survive and function is through a process of compartmentalization. I am sure we have all known people who had great senses of life and were basically rational despite being explicit advocates of some pretty horrible philosophical doctrines. Well, what is true with philosophical viewpoints is most certainly even more so when it comes to the realm of popular culture type stuff. And, in today's world, any subculture one comes across, even the best, is likely to have mixed premises. Heck - just take a look at this Forum. Even in the realm of philosophy there are quite a number of mixed premises among the membership as a whole despite the common denominator of an interest in Objectivism simply because some people are further along in their process of discovering and evaluating the philosophy than are others.

As much as I advocate the aesthetic and pop cultural superiority of the 1920s and 1930s, the last thing I can do is fault a modern for not being able to understand it. How can I fault somebody for their lack of knowledge about something they have either never discovered or which has been misrepresented to them? And even for those moderns who are very familiar with the era - well, I will be the very first to admit that my admiration of it is based on a highly selective focus on that era. There were also things about that era which were NOT great - for example, the treatment accorded to black people. No matter how incredibly cool the music and entertainment that came out of the Harlem Renaissance was, it is perfectly understandable and entirely rational why a black person would NOT wish to go back and live at that time and might even have a bias towards negatively prejudging the many wonderful things from that era. Most people who lived through the 1930s did not think of it as being an especially wonderful time. They called it the "Dirty Thirties" because of the Depression and the Dust Bowl - and that is entirely understandable. What I like about the 1930s is basically the brilliant afterglow of the strong aesthetic influence of the 1920s which was still going strong early in the decade but which began to lose steam as the decade progressed.

My appreciation for the early 1900s decades is seen through the lens of a person who grew up in the midst of the horrors of the early post-counterculture. I will be the first to admit that my admiration for that era is highly romanticized - though that doesn't mean it isn't firmly rooted in the actual facts of the era either. When I program the music on Radio Dismuke, I only focus on a very specific spectrum of the sort of music which was available at the time. And, within that spectrum, there are a great many recordings in my collection which simply do not make the cut for inclusion. If I wanted to, I could very easily put together a station of nothing but recordings from that era which would be pretty dull and dreadful to listen to. Instead, I focus on what I consider to be the best and most essential aspects of that era.

A person who approaches the early 1900s decades with an entirely different focus might be turned off by what he sees - and depending on the specific nature of that focus, he might be entirely justified in feeling that way.

The same is true with today's subcultures which have a strong counterculture influence - there are a great many decent people who approach them with a highly selective focus on the best of the "mixed" aspects while downplaying or ignoring the countercultural aspects. There is nothing wrong with that - indeed, it is often the only means that people who are trapped in a rotten culture have open to them of pursuing values and preserving their spiritual sanity.

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Well, as I tried to denote in my first post in this thread, the biker sub-culture of today is not the the biker sub-culture of yesteryear.

Just a note - I did not mean to ignore your posting in my last reply. Yours was posted after I had already hit the "reply" button.

Also - there seems to be a disconnect here in terminology. When I think of "biker" I don't equate it with "everyone who rides a motorcycle" - only with a certain limited subset of people who do. I have known quite a few people who rode motorcycles and were prefectly ordinary and in some cases, significantly better than ordinary, people who struck me as having very little in common with what I consider to be the "biker subculture" except for the fact that both drive motorcycles.

I drive a pickup truck - but I am the very last person one would associate with certain subcultures which place a big emphasis and large degree of sympolism on pickup trucks. Here in Texas, a very high percentage of the population drives either pickup trucks or SUVs.

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Just a note - I did not mean to ignore your posting in my last reply. Yours was posted after I had already hit the "reply" button.

No problem, I understand.

When I use the term 'biker', I'm referring to any motorcycle enthusiast who rides relatively often and generally for the sake of enjoying the ride. I don't mean to exclude those who riding is more utilitarian because a small motorcycle is all the could afford and it serves as their primary mode of transportation. Some of these folks ride even in some of the worst weather. However, there is a saying; "15 Grand and 15 miles do not a biker make."

I may be wrong, but it sounds like when you use the term 'biker', you may be referring to more of the 1%'er crowd than the bulk of those who are riding enthusiasts today. If that is the case, as I indicated above they represent a significantly small portion of the sub-culture, perhaps a sub-culture of the sub-culture. :thumbsup: I have no desire to have any meaningful truck with that crowd.

I'll have to admit to some ambiguity in what 'biker' means to any given rider you may happen to ask even to the point of the fallacious response, "If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand." Such response tends alienate people and it only reinforces the negative image people already have of that sub-culture. It can be difficult to explain to some people why the overal experience is worth the added danger of abandoning one's "cage" (a car in biker slang) for a bike, but that doesn't mean the person deserves such a curt response.

As an aside, I would assert that riding a motorcycle has generally improved my automobile operation as well. If one wishes to live through each ride on a motorcycle, it is in one's best interest to maintain a particularly high level of awareness of the surroundings, as well as taking the term "defensive driving" to a whole new level. This can bleed over into other forms of driving.

So that my post won't be entirely off topic, I'll throw in a comment (which I hope will be taken in the humorous vein in which it is intended) about "chaps". Chaps are a wholly useful type of motorcycle clothing that had it's image almost entirely destroyed by the Village People. :D

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Here you go -


For those interested, there are a whole bunch of images of old motorcycles going back as far as 1900 at: http://www.motorcycle-memories.com/imageselection.html I haven't had a chance to look at all of the images. Some of the old Christmas cards are on the site are quite charming, I think.

I can see how a motorcycle would be fun - but only if there was no other traffic around.

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:lol: Thank goodness I no longer have to decide what to wear on my feet. One less thing to worry about.

And unlike other brands of boots, with Objectivist boots the measurements are omitted! :)

(BTW - I personally think they are ghastly looking)

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That's a beautiful bike, too. I wonder if anyone still makes bikes with a similar design.

I think bikes with that design are now called mopeds. :)


Seriously, when I rode about 18 years ago, a 650-750 cc bike was considered big, and the 1000 cc bikes coming out were mammoth. Now a 650 is considered on the small entry level side and bikes go up to 1800 cc. Well, some go even higher than that... such as the Boss Hoss. It has a 502 cubic inch V8 block engine, or 8200 cc's! That's just insane. It has two speeds, 1st and 'Back to the Future'.

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Is that what a moped is? I thought those were the things you sit on, and you put your feet up in front of you, instead of straddeling it like a bike.

Actually what you are referring to is more commonly known as a 'scooter'.

A mini-bike can be essentially any small frame / small engine representation of the more modern looking standard motorcycle.

Edited by RationalBiker
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I have known that this was supposed to be in the works but they now have a website up for it and a media kit which suggests that it will actually become a reality.

There is going to be a new lifestyle magazine for enthusiasts of classic pre-counterculture styles, fashions and popular culture. See: http://www.classicstylemag.com/home.html It will hit newstands this December and will be carried at Barnes& Noble and Borders among other places. The projected circulation of the first issue is 20,000 copies.

I will certainly subscribe. And what should be pointed out is the magazine is not some sort of "remember when" type publication. 72 percent of the publication's projected readership is under 45 years of age - all people who came of age in the post-counterculture. Things like this make me very enthusiastic about the future. I take it as just one more example of what Bob Tracinski referred to as "The Great Re-Learning" - a new generation discovering "a place we wish we had known."

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