Gustav Mahler

Gentlemen’s Quotations

Lately, I have come across a number of interesting quotations and hence, I thought I would open a new category of quotations that stimulate one’s mind and provide food for thought and discussion.

Gustav Mahler 1909

Gustav Mahler 1909

Today, I would like to start with a quote that is sometimes attributed to the famous composer Gustav Mahler,   who used music in such a radically different way than his predecessors.

He supposedly said:

Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame

The German original reads: “Tradition ist nicht die Anbetung der Asche, sondern die Weitergabe des Feuers” ….. Gustav Mahler

However, others such as Benjamin Franklin or John XXIII have been known to  evoke similar statements. Some even claim it was first expressed by Sir Thomas More. However, that does not really matter because it is about the essence of this sentence – and in our case – its meaning for clothing and savoir vivre.

The more I read about classic men’s clothing, the more obvious it becomes to me that rules and their strict enforcement for their own sake do not really have anything to do with true style, in my opinion. Rules can be a crutch: those who follow them sometimes may not think about their style choices anymore because they assume they have found eternal wisdom in that matter. This has the unfortunate side effect of preventing them of thinking about the fundamentals of design and style. I really enjoy the history of clothes and accessories, and as you can hopefully see on the Gentleman’s Gazette, I always try to outline where things come from, how they were and how they shape the present day version.

Staff in Evening Tailcoat with Striped Trousers

Staff in Evening Tailcoat with Striped Trousers

Although this heritage and background information have shaped my sense of aesthetics, beauty and proper dress,  it makes me realize that a simple change in fashion by influential characters could have changed an outcome for a certain rule dramatically. Think about the evolution of the morning dress and the abolition of the frock coat. What if it would have looked like an evening tailcoat? We probably would still wear that today.

Personally, I find the morning coat to be a most elegant piece of clothing. Just like the frock coat, it is a body coat meaning that it fits very closely. But unlike it, it has an cutaway line that creates a superb look. To me, this is a great example for passing on the flame.

Today, I wonder whether strict adherence to rules makes us often blind to new creations that may eventually become a classic – like the morning coat.In my opinion the key is to balance the two elements of Mahler’s quotation: past and the future, without just blindly following tradition.

What do you think ?

8 replies
  1. Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Splendid thoughts … style is nothing if not thorough knowledge and application of rules, and a personal signature on top of that !!!

    P.S. Fueled by the article, I’m emailing some images regarding my personal takes on the standard grey suit, white shirt and navy tie.

  2. Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken says:

    Although I am not quite a fan of Mahler’s music, I couldn’t agree more to this statement of his.

  3. Joseph sparks says:

    The butler seems to be wearing a morning coat ,and this is borne out as the man with the brolly is also dressed for morning. But they could be Americans and all bets are off.

  4. John Jay says:

    The square-cut, knee-length double-breasted six-button Prince Albert frock has remained the coat of choice among the simple rural townsfolk of Scandinavia, Germany and even France for weddings, christenings, funerals and major religious feasts, It still is possible to find very fine starched and sanforized wing and standing collars in England, Germany and France as they remain required items for barristers, many clergymen and those that serve in the households of the great. The morning suit, once the day uniform of the English barrister, has been gradually replaced by the stroller suit. A stroller suit is the foundation of a morning suit, (grey waistcoat and striped gray trouser) with a black, charcoal or other dark grey sack coat. Before 1914, it was not uncommon to find gentlemen owning morning coats not just in black or grey, but in blue, and brown combintations with lighter foundations too. Patterned fabrics with stripes could be used as well for such a coat. In the last quarter or the nineteenth century, it was often observed that the morning or “swallow-tailed” coat was preferred by the young, (or simply young of heart and form), when their elders generally wore the Albert frock.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear John, I have no idea what your sources of information are, but being German and having passed the German bar exam, I can assure you that the Prince Albert Frock coat is absolutely not the coat of choice for any of the events you listed. You can find wing collars in England, but not in Germany, and there they are not worn by lawyers. Btw, there is not distinction between barrister and solicitor in Germany. We are very well aware of the stroller suit. By the beginning of the 20th century almost all morning coats were charcoal or black, before you would find patterned ones or colored ones.

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