Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do You Fit High WASP Male Style Archetypes?

If High WASP women have Grandes Dames, Sturdy Gals, and Artsy Cousins as style archetypes, who then are their male counterparts? Let me pull these from unconscious memory, dinner the other night, and the works of Tom Wolfe, Richard Ford, and John Updike. Not a rational process.

First, and most commonly understood, is the Master Of The Universe. He channels our forefathers early urge to make it big. Doesn't care how much money was made then. Focused on now. He doesn't think much about style, in truth. Has a uniform. A uniform of dominance. Square jaw, intellect so sharp you bleed at its touch, attention span short. In fact, however, he is rare, among actual High WASPs. The required level of aggression hasn't, for the most part, survived years of genetic and social evolution. Or perhaps, with that level of intelligence, if you sit still for too long, questions crowd in like shrill goblins in a cave. Doubt is the enemy, a gray suit his friend.

Second, High WASP men have Artsy Cousins too. My brother somewhat among them. (Crossed with Master of the Universe in his case, but I digress.) And, having interviewed him on his clothes choices, it appears that Artsy Cousins, of the male variety, buy their clothes from Italian vendors who don't make women's clothes.* Who knew? Artsy Cousins fish, they show up at Burning Man with Art Bicycles, they open themselves to answers. Have hobbies. Involving nature, or something obscure, requiring gear. They play chess. And pretend it's not important.

Finally, The Professor. In reality. This is my father, seated. With signet ring. (esb, it took me forever, but here you go. A signet ring that doesn't bring Mickey Rourke to mind.) The Professor is known by his words - "as it were," "one might say," - his erudition, his slippers, the shapelessness of his sweaters. By his love for family, expressed or not. Oh, and his dog. Do not forget his dog.

Let me say now, disclaiming, I am no expert on men's style. Not modern, I leave that to secret forts. Not "trad," I leave that to Maxminimus, The Trad, and Toad. Wonderful writers all. I hope they might comment, or perhaps set me to rights. I write this because we like to be fair in my family. The boys should have their turn.

Men are mysterious beings. One day they are little boys with baby flesh and the next the Incredible Hulk bursts out of their being leaving mothers with shards of boy childhood outright breaking their hearts.

*Unless of course this is a West Coast mutation only.

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Anonymous Jan said...

Well, of course I've always known that my husband is a High WASP; now I also know he's a Master of the Universe (not being a High WASP - and because I'm a complete goof - I want to stick the words "He-Man" in front of it and ask him if he's battled Skeletor lately).

Seriously, though - you described him to a T.

December 15, 2009 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Dani @ Weddings Fresh said...

oh how i love your writing! my father is the Master of the Universe. no doubt about that.

December 15, 2009 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger EntertainingMom said...

Something about this post makes me want to re-read Bonfire of the Vanities... My father, whom you describe to a T would be quintessentially High Wasp, Master of the Universe (especially during his successful career man back in his New York days) but for the fact that he is 100% Jewish!

December 15, 2009 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Yup. The Masters of the Universe got kind of rare among actual High WASPS:). Others took it over. Hence our dwindling fortunes. If only I'd known that I needed to fight Skeletor...

December 15, 2009 at 6:01 PM  
Anonymous julia::ordinarysaturdays said...

Your dad's shoes make me happy. They are exactly what I think a man of a certain age ought to wear with his tweedy sweaters and lovey dog.

December 15, 2009 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Toad said...

Ted the Wonder Dog and I are arty professor types. We can, and will, on command pull out all the high wasp staples what we have owned all our lives (or grandparents) but much prefer out hobbies, and uniform Khakis, moleskins and tattered OCBD's.

December 15, 2009 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

That last paragraph is pure poetry!
And I love this line: intellect so sharp you bleed at its touch.
I love your dad's sweater.

December 15, 2009 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Mrslouwho said...

My husband is the Professor-in-training, I think he's too young at not quite 30 to be the professor he is getting there. He is going to be so happy that someone who doesn't know his can describe him so well I'm sure I'll get a hopefully brief lecture on Jungian archetypes and class distinction, but it will be well worth it.

December 16, 2009 at 1:00 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

By your description...I think this artsy cousin has married her artsy cousin...isn't that illegal?!

December 16, 2009 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

Oh, I love Arty Cousin guy! Sometimes Masters' tailoring is so exquisite that it lifts them to splendour despite their gravity. The Professors are sweetly timeless, tweedy.

December 16, 2009 at 6:46 AM  
Blogger The Mrs. said...

That is so funny. Hated professor type but always love artsy cousin!

December 16, 2009 at 7:23 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

I had to look up OCBD. Oxford cloth button downs, aha. My father, being the West Coast Democrat that he is, has moved on to t-shirts which occasionally feature Obama. I'm glad you all like his slippers and sweater, they were certainly presents. I imagine even young professors like slippers. And Jill, I've seen your husband on your blog. He's got some serious Master of the Universe going on. I think you are OK.

December 16, 2009 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Summer is a Verb said...

Babe actually has the perfect mix of all three. A little BSD, a smidgie artsy farsty that's rubbed off from his brother, and a school ring that he will only be caught wearing on his ring finger. He likes to keep one foot in each category without fully commiting to any...XXOO

December 16, 2009 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

The east coast version of the Arty Cousin is James Taylor - complete with the 'vacation' at McLean.

My waspy husband would have to be a subset of the arty cousin - maybe the nautical nephew? he usually looks like he's just getting on or off a boat.

December 16, 2009 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

The nautical nephew, hahahaha. I think there are wide regional variations. And the work vs. recreation gap is wide with most men. If we can all keep a foot in several camps, comfortably, in my opinion that's a good thing.

December 16, 2009 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Sher said...

In my house it took me years to train hubby that casual didn't mean a TShirt with words. And formal was a polo *yeesh*

December 16, 2009 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger ELS said...

'shards of boy childhood' oh that broke my heart. I am greedily stockpiling all mine prior to the smells, silence and sulks.

For now, sweet, dimply and edible.

December 16, 2009 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger prashant said...

I think there are wide regional variations. And the work vs. recreation gap is wide with most men.

Work from home India

December 16, 2009 at 5:49 PM  
Anonymous The Preppy Princess said...

It was very kind of you to dedicate almost an entire post to my father! (Heh-heh-heh.) Honestly, you nailed them quite well Miss LPC. To echo sentiments already expressed, "intellect so sharp you bleed at its touch" and "shards of boy childhood" are both exquisite.

You are so good it is incredible,

December 16, 2009 at 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh the pink shirts. I don't know how much time you have or have not spent in the UK, but pink shirts on men over there are one of the most ubiquitous signs of a "privileged" upbringing and a certain smug snobbery. As such, I have an almost physically horrified reaction to them. I imagine that in the US context the pink shirt phenomenon is less terrifying.

I used to have a similar horror re: signet rings (again, too many posh Oxford boys) but then I found out we had one in the family! And my parents had initially told me they wanted to give it to me as a wedding ring! And then they gave it to my sister! And she reset the stone in it before I even saw the darn thing! Bah!

December 16, 2009 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Joyce Hor-Chung Lau said...

Oh, Accordion. Oh, Oxford. That brings up another stereotype, "The Dandy," which I believe is also called the "Lord Sebastian," after the character in Brideshead Revisited.
The Lord Sebastian wears a suit from when he starts private school at 5, right through university (when everyone else is wearing sweat pants) and into old age. He goes to college dinners in a tux, riding an old one-speed bike, even though his Daddy can well afford a car. He occasionally wears a cravat. He thinks he is very quirky.
I saw one, once, in the beginning of the school year. I swear, he picked up a flower, stopped and conspicuously smelled it on an Oxford sidewalk.

December 17, 2009 at 12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He also smokes a pipe, at far too young an age for a man to smoke a pipe. (I used to want to smack those out of their hands when they flaunted them at street corners!)

He is also a member of a wine tasting club.

There is a dude I knew in Oxford that was the most incredible example of a "Dandy" I have ever seen, and he was even a Yank! He moved a grandfather clock into his dorm room and when people would come over he'd hide his laptop and cover his desk with copies of "Country Life" magazine. He was kind of awesome.

December 17, 2009 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Here at the Humble Bungalow I've always thought of Mr. L as a MOTU, and we actually use that term when we shop and find a well executed garment that fits like a glove. He owns an Italian wool coat that "reeks of quality" and it is his business of architecture that dictate he "appear powerful and command respect."
I am the shopper, so I choose black trousers and colorful shirts with arty ties, black shoes. Simple. He also has a custom locally designed diamond and gold abstract tie pin. Add a cashmere scarf with the MOTU coat and he's dressed.
For warmer days he wears a buttery soft leather jacket.

Where does he fit in?

December 17, 2009 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

So let us add in the "Dandy", if only for the Oxford pedigree:). I believe he is a variant of the Artsy Cousin, take away fishing, But perhaps a completely separate species. Research is required. Hostess, I believe your husband is MOTU with Artsy Cousin rising. That's the way of architects::. And ELS, yes, weren't they all once dimpled and little.

December 17, 2009 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Belle de Ville said...

All of your archetypes are brilliant. Personally, I'm a sturdy gal who thinks she's a grand dame, looking for a master of the universe with the soul of an artsy cousin.

December 17, 2009 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Mrs. G said...

Both Father and Husband fall into the MOTU catagory. They can be a hand full. But, dress one of them in a flannel shirt to grill steaks outside on a freezing night, put a baby in his hands, and he turns into a marshmallow. A rare moment that deserves taking a picture of.

December 17, 2009 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Don't tell him that, LPC! He'll start insisting I call him Master of the Universe!

December 17, 2009 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger agirl said...

I'm not sure, (not being either WASP or English), but I suspect there are different variants on priviledged male style on this side of the Atlantic. Certainly my husband seems to meet some of the criteria for all three of these. Maybe it's just him.

And the right kind of Dandies are no end of awesome.

December 17, 2009 at 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Bumby said...

Miss LPC, I must agree with Toad on this one. I tend to lean towards the Artsy Professor type when I am alone. However, the most interesting observation that I have made about myself, and my peers is our change in mind set. No matter which one of the three or four types you are born into.( Yes ladies, I did say born into) You are that man forever. I was born into the MOTU world,this mind set is always there no matter my dress. I move with ease from White Tie to full on Pulitzer( Lilly not Burt) to standing in a nite shirt BBQ ing,in my weejuns,wearing a bucket hat to keep off the snow,smoking a pipe of fine tobacco,all the while singing the Princeton fight song, and in three hours time be back in White Tie to look good for my sweetheart, so that she is not embarassed at the charity ball. Now, back to the change in mind set. My experience is. that I am much more comfortable in my own skin and role now than I was 20 years ago. As a High WASP and a Preppy I have a certain obligation to maintain all four of the types as best as I can. And as to the ring, I only wear on type a school ring my own my Daddys or my GrandDads and only on the right pinky finger

December 19, 2009 at 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Bumby said...

LPC, sorry about the typo its not always easy to be a MOTU.

December 19, 2009 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Joyce Hor-Chung Lau said...

Hello Accordion. In my (admittedly short) time at Oxford, I only saw one person who wore a bow-tie, glasses and tweed jackets with elbow patches. He was a Yank, too!

December 22, 2009 at 4:16 AM  
Blogger kanishk said...

I think there are wide regional variations. And the work vs. recreation gap is wide with most men.

Wagyu Steaks

December 30, 2009 at 5:14 PM  

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