Menswear And Media

July 5, 2011

The whole system has become completely democratic. Literally anyone who has a £250 Argos computer can start their own blog, and can publish to the world anything and everything from their views on the merits of the double-breasted suit to the size to what they had for breakfast that morning.

The result of this, of course, is that when you open the sluice gates, you let everything in, good and bad. The upside is that we, the readers, get access to almost everything that is happening in the world of menswear. The downside is that we, the readers, get access to almost everything that is happening in the world of menswear.

ThisFits just posted a link to this really interesting article about how things have changed with the arrival of menswear bloggers. 

Outside of menswear, I spend a lot of my time reading about economics and politics, and this issue has been treaded over many times. As one argument goes, before the internet, we had identifiable public intellectuals who had to climb their way up through the ranks – usually academic or journalism ranks – before they could be taken seriously. They had to have rigorous training of some kind, and were held to high professional standards. Nowadays, anyone with a laptop can prattle on about the Middle East conflict or state of the global economy. There is no need to prove yourself to other intellectuals or have newspaper editors check your facts. All you need is an account at Blogspot. 

One of the important things to recognize here is that traditional media failed the public long before blogs were even around. The death of the public intellectual happened arguably in the 1980s or 1990s, and that’s just in social commentary; it happened much earlier in the arts. Where we used to have Bertrand Russell and George Orwell, we now have David Brooks and Paul Krugman. Even Maureen Dowd has a column (how I have no idea). I like Brooks and Krugman, but they’re no Russell or Orwell. 

Contrast that with blogs, where the conversation is a thousand times richer than what you’d find in most mainstream magazines and newspapers. To be sure, there are still great publications such as The Financial TimesThe Economist, and Harpers, but most mainstream publications are pretty devoid of any serious insight. In my opinion, blogs have saved the public discourse on politics and economics. 

Bringing this back to menswear, I think it’s the same situation. Outside of some niche Japanese magazines, I find the conversation on the blogosphere to be generally richer than anywhere else. Sure, we bloggers don’t have editors to vet us or people to check our facts. Most of us don’t even get access to trade shows or receive any press releases. But we’re kicking ass. 

Long before I started blogging, I was a huge fan of A Continuous Lean, Put This On, Sartorially Inclined, etc. Michael Williams at ACL created a really compelling view of men’s style, Jesse wrote great posts on the basics of how to dress well, and Lawrence at Sartorially Inclined introduced me to more interesting brands each week than I probably got from any magazine in a year. These people were not only posting great content, but given how much stuff was written in a month, it was actually more information about menswear than I would receive in my magazines. 

I also think people are pretty good at identifying who’s worth reading. Check out this old post that Jesse made at the beginning of this year. I would bet money that if you looked at the Google Reader stats for any crappy blog, they wouldn’t match up to any of the blogs on Jesse’s list. Though some of my favorite blogs are actually at the bottom of that list, it remains that the people who deserve attention are getting it. My own blog, Die, Workwear!, has had the amazing fortune of growing really well since I’ve started. I’d like to think it’s because I try to write as substantively as I can, and people respond to that. 

There’s a theory out there called Condorcet’s theorem. Roughly speaking, it says that if you take a group of people who each have over a 50% chance of being correct, they will as a collective make a better decision than any single person. I’d like to think that this is happening with menswear blogs. Allowing the public to decide which voices are worthy of listening to, instead of just giving that power to one editor, seems to have allowed better content to emerge. This is one instance with rapid democratization has been incredibly successful.