Manners, Customs, Clothing
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Clothing for Men & Clothing for Children

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
How can one not smile at the sight of this photograph of the great Churchill in the vigor of his 15 years, wearing the typical clothing of the students of the famous school of Harrow?

Churchill youth in Harrow apparel
The serious clothing, manly, doctoral and even solemn, makes the adolescent a miniature State minister or counselor of the Crown. The young man, with an ardent longing for responsibility, maturity and action, feels himself imbued with the incipient importance that his costume seems to transmit. His attitude is one of a person with a role proportional to the problems of the British Empire and the world.

My aim here is not to analyze the clothing or the person except as an expression of a pedagogy that aimed to form from an early age in a youth the desire to be a man of full intellectual and moral plenitude. In such a way that all the faculties of the spirit were oriented and trained toward deep insights, grand missions and the arduous duties of public or private life.

The result was a Churchill – and a whole generation of Englishmen – who filled history with the brilliance of his personality and the greatness of his good achievements ... and at times bad ones.

But the Revolution – with a lethal wind that makes everything wither, decay and diminish in beauty and value – changed the concept that men had of themselves to eventually become the object of general applause. This type of man was portrayed as too sober, unpleasant to the eyes of modern superficiality by the very fact of being serious, and was replaced by the "friendly guy."

And so we have the “big boy” of any age, funny, carefree, superficial, unthinking, doing everything with a playful spontaneity.


Just as there should be a relationship between a picture and its frame, so also there must be between the man and his clothing. The human type changed, and so did his clothing.

As a result, young men dress like children as long as possible. And mature men wear such apparel as often as they can, dressing year round in clothing that Churchill would not have worn during his summer vacations at age 15.

truman hawaii shirt vacation
You are exaggerating, some readers might say. You are attributing to everyone a custom assumed only by some eccentrics. And so eccentric that they are on the fringe of society, pointed to and ridiculed by all. In a word, you are portraying the exception as the rule.

However, in the picture at right you can see a politician, a statesman, Truman when he was President of the United States, wearing clothing that the 15-year-old Churchill would have thought extravagant and childish. But Truman cheerfully allows himself to be photographed in this way with the certainty that it will win him popularity.

A defect of Truman alone? No, absolutely not. We are not speaking here of one man, but rather of a style that belongs to an epoch. A defect, yes, but one of a whole conception of men and things that has changed, and whose influence is noticed – though perhaps less pronounced – even in the later photos of Churchill.

When the conception of what the model ideal of a man changes to this point, who can be surprised if it all ends in the "twist" and "rock-and-roll"?

They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind…


Blason de Charlemagne
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First published in Catolicismo, n. 154 - October 1963
Posted January 8, 2016

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