It never ceases to amaze me how much information is available on the internet about virtually any conceivable topic, and how quick and easy it is to find it.
People who aren't old enough to remember the world before the internet have no idea how much the world has improved in the past 20 years.
I can't even begin to list the things I know about because of the internet -- things I never would've bothered to drive to a library to look up years ago (not to mention that many of those things I wouldn't have even known how to find in a library, because I wouldn't have known what to search for). Anyway, here's Exhibit 4,218: Christian Chensvold's "Masculine Interiors" blog has an entry today about Harvard dorm rooms in 1899.
It reminded me of something I've wondered about for a long time, but had never bothered to look up: why so many interiors in the Victorian and Edwardian eras had pictures hung with visible strings, and why some of them were also hung slanted downward. Apparently this was to avoid nailing into the plaster (anyone who has lived in a house with plaster walls knows how badly it chips when driving a nail, instead of making the easy, neat nail holes that occur with drywall), and presumably to also avoid marring wallpaper (when that was more common). Evidently it was wooden, crown-type moulding, affixed at the top of the wall or close to it. Then hooks were inserted into the moulding, and pictures, mirrors, etc. could be hung from it by strings, wires or chains, which were often also decorative. Pictures were also sometimes hung slanted downward to be more visible, especially when they were hung high on the wall (as in some of the pictures in the photo above), which I guess was more common then. Apparently they fell out of favor around the 1920s, which coincides with the emergence of drywall. So, there you go: picture rails.
On this, one of our society's holiest of days, here is a recent article by Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer on the fashion sense of NFL coaches. He makes the same point I frequently do, that style and comportment have much more to do with taste than they do with money.
Background: Vince Lombardi, who usually coached in a jacket and tie with a camel hair overcoat and fedora. Foreground: the New England Patriot's current coach, Bill Belichick, whom Mr. Fitzpatrick writes normally "shows up to work looking as if he's ready to shovel the parking lot."
It occurred to me today that, if Rand Paul wins the presidency next year, it could do a lot to re-popularize the button-down dress shirt (much the same way that I wish every incumbent president would regularly wear hats). While he doesn't wear them exclusively, he seems to wear them more often than not -- and, as can be seen here and below, he not only wears them, but he doesn't even stick to just white, wearing them also in light blue, stripes and even in pink.
We haven't had a president in my lifetime that favored the button-down, and I'm not sure we ever had one before my lifetime either. George H.W. Bush, probably the preppiest president ever, favored them earlier in his life, but seemed to largely abandon them around the time he ran for president in 1980. (It has long been rumored that his campaign advisers suggested that he ditch them because of the elitist connotations the button-down had at the time.) G. Bruce Boyer has opined that the Ivy look may have come into disrepute among the general public at least partially because of Vietnam and Watergate; many high-ranking government officials in that era wore it, but it went into a decline among people in those positions around the mid-late 70s. I suspect that such a connotation for the button-down is lost now; I don't think the hyper-casual general public of 2015 stops to differentiate much between different collar styles being more or less elitist. (At this point, most "dressing up" in general is probably seen as elitist, but thankfully it's still expected of the president.) It'll be interesting to see what happens, and it'll definitely be fun sartorially to see a major presidential candidate stray from the generic white point-collared shirt with stiff collar stays. NB: This post is only about Senator Paul's clothes; no comments about his politics -- either for or against -- will be published.