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Monday, February 21, 2011

My Country 'Tis of Thee

I used to work with this older guy named Joe.  He was a white, tall, slender gent who must now be in his mid 80's and hopefully retired by now.  What struck me as oddly  interesting about Joe was his almost cravenous desire for sailing.  He couldn't wait till the weather would warm up or there was some big marina festival, so he could kick back relax and show up his seaman skills on the inky brine.  On the flip side, I also remember my high school friend Jorge.  Around my age, Latino, slightly thicker in build, dimples that drove the chicas loco and the potential to be great in architecture, our shared high school major.  Now what I found oddly interesting about him was his tourist-like exhuberance to visit run of the mill city landmarks whenever there was a half-day or a 'they won't miss us after the fire drill' day. 



So here I had two people I had known at some point in time that for some reason, although the were from completely different walks of life, reminded me of each other.  How?  By what they wore.  I came to find out that Joe went to all of the best schools like Choate, Yale and NYU and that American ivy league, navy blazer, khaki, varsity color wind-slicker, boat shoe frat boy down by the marina was essentially ingrained in him.  Oddly enough, Jorge was born in San Juan and came here when he was a toddler.  His dad was a tailor's apprentice in the garment district while his sister worked for years in a retro movie theater.  So he was able to become that awkwardly waspish high schooler whose seen many a 60's, 70's and 80's movie depicting the young upper crust, trust fund holding, small town USA partying slackers.  The impact on him was that in his vision there was nothing more clean and coolly patriotic than your campus colors, sweater vests, polo shirts, blazers and duck boots.




Why are Joe and Jorge relevant?  They represent what fashion does.  It creates, through cut, cloth and legacy, a common union of culture that can't necessarily be readily differentiated by class or race.  I distinctly remember seeing Jorge strangely dressed in a button-down, loose knit tie, khakis and sweater vest in high school almost mirroring the attitude of what I'd seen Joe wear to work tons of times.  It was second nature to them influenced by the legacy of a lifestyle either lived or admired but definitely determinant of their voice.  It's a pretty longwinded way to approach the Nautica Fall 2011 presentation, or is it? 

What Nautica does every season is bring the Americana spirit through men's clothing to the masses.  I think it excels since for a brand to truly subscribe to what the American spirit is, doesn't it have to join voices of different cultures under the uniquely American guise?  It just so happens that Nautica just utilizes and updates the traditions of the maritime and ivy leaguery to continue to propel the thriving of the American spirit. 




What Nautica showed was classic Americana only updated through fit, finishing and styling.  There were slight nuances here and there of shortened blazers, updated boat shoes, sporty details and closures atop more streamlined transitional silhouettes and a capsule collection mix and match strategy to classic sweaters, trousers and outerwear.  Nautica seems to understand that to capture and maintain the American legacy is to almost never stray far off the beaten path of all that has classically built that legacy.  You just tailor it so that each generation understands it enough to incorporate it in a modern way with a classic reverance.

This is part of what makes the American expression so covetable, also despicable, to other countries.  The freedom to don wears and the option to unapologetically mix cultures as part of the national aesthetic.  Where the waspy suburbanite and the inner city confidant may not meet at the same watering hole, but may meet at the same checkout counter.





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