The annual Annapolis Cup, held last month, pits against one another two unlikely foes: the St. John’s College “Johnnies” and the U.S. Naval Academy “Mids.” The croquet challenge that ensues is as cohesive as it is civilized.
Lounging languidly on the lawns beneath shady trees and strolling slowly amid brilliant beams of sun are spectators who relate to another era. For the afternoon, anyway.
There are sun hats and sundresses, seersucker suits, bowties, and boaters. The madras can be a bit much, but it beats graphic tees.
Anything goes, so long as it doesn’t go past the 1950s. Hoop skirts and fantastic millinery from the Civil War period are in full, if limited, bloom. Roaring Twenties flapper fashion is common, as are fedoras and whatever the get-up men wore back then is called.
From above the festivities must look like a lavish garden, with humans on the verdant grass playing the part of flamboyant flowers.
It seems either that the event attracts a more refined crowd, or else debauchery is diluted when one is well dressed. Who, after all, would want to spoil clothes that were so hard-got, and so meticulously gotten into?
A friend in attendance comments to me in half-agony and half-wonder, “Why can’t we always look like this?!”
Indeed, why not always?
Just when, the champagne prompted my brain to bubble, did the decline in human presentation noticeably begin? When did hats, coquettishly placed to hide a blush, stop being the modus operandi? And at just what time, precisely, did men stop caring if the bottom button of their vests was buttoned or not? It matters, guys!
Fashion is a reflection of the times we live in. And currently, both appear to be in very dismal shape. Though the focus of this particular event was a heated rivalry (maybe) between two very different schools, the underlying theme was showing off one’s aesthetic sense. And by an astounding majority, the crowds populating the grounds agreed that the 21st century has little to show for itself.
There’s something to be said about the correlation between the deterioration of our country’s morality and the dissolution of artistic standards. I blame the sexual revolution.
Harper’s Magazine wrote that fashion was declining in 1962, which sounds about right to me. The sexual revolution was in full-swing by this point, and with men’s tailors forced to construct trousers for the female form, it’s no wonder the cut and fit of clothes became less about flattery and fine workmanship and more about workwomanship.
As the sexes revolt (in such a revolting way), they lose regard for the beauty that comes in actually celebrating the characteristics that embody, literally, human sexuality. Instead of respecting, say, the delicacy of the feminine figure, we flaunt the fact that woman is equal to man, right down to the not getting pregnant part.
Lost along with the age of innocence during the sexual revolution was the age of elegance. Asexualizing our wardrobes is just one of the creative malfeasances that manifested themselves around this same time.
Language, décor, music, etiquette — they’ve all gone downhill. Millennials, the leaders of tomorrow, communicate to one another largely with emojis — a practice the Ancient Egyptians may approve, but not Fitzgerald or Shakespeare. We’ve lost sight of artistic expression as we’ve progressively become more concerned with sex in the form of gay rights, bisexuality, transsexuality, and the LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM community (talk about shades of grey!).
Look at the cars, buildings, and furniture constructed even just 60 years ago, and compare the care and embellishment to what’s applied to contemporary stuff. We’ve lost the pride of craft that went into making things beautiful, and toward making beautiful things last. There’s no attention to detail because we don’t pay attention. We’ve become shallow, sex-obsessed beasts induced toward sloth by a nanny state that doesn’t require us to go to work, let alone dress for it.
Sex and sexual liberation are the modern religion, and so far as men and women are seen primarily as sexual beings, the beauty of personhood as a majestic creature, both in sight and ability, is destroyed. There’s no sense of glorifying God, or respect for, as Pope Benedict described it, the “authentic beauty that unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other.”
There is hope, though. Bastions of refinery remain and appear at affairs where nature’s boundaries are respected and revered in the most wholesome fashion. If for an afternoon.