Zeitgeisty

By William Haefeli in the 12/2/19 New Yorker, this entry in his chronicles of fashionable urban upper middle class gay men, especially in couples, especially in New York City:


(#1) “Someday I’ll buy a little place in the country and take my finger off the Zeitgeist.”

Meanwhile, both men are on the cutting edge of the Zeitgeist in fashion for men. Black guy with dreads and a neck tattoo on the left, white guy with a short ponytail and an ornate curly beard on the right. (I won’t even go into the clothes and accessories.)

Zeitgeist. From NOAD:

noun zeitgeist: [in singular] the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time: the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s. ORIGIN mid 19th century: from German Zeitgeist, from Zeit ‘time’ + Geist ‘spirit’.

With an update in Wikipedia:

The zeitgeist … is a concept from eighteenth- to nineteenth-century German philosophy, meaning “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the times”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history.

… Contemporary use of the term may, more pragmatically, refer to a schema of fashions or fads [either in high culture or in pop culture] that prescribes what is considered to be acceptable or tasteful for an era

Two instances of the contemporary usage from earlier postings on this blog.

on 4/17/11, in “Bulges”, on JeanPants from Japan Trend Shop:

There are two obvious selling points here: the bulge and the material, though the perky ad copy focuses on the latter:

The tight and chic JeanPants from local clothes brand CUW are pert, durable and oozing zeitgeist appeal.

on 5/11/12, in “Fresh ideas”, from a 2009 L.A. Times feature story complaining about -ista words:

While we’re tackling tired terminology, how about a permanent moratorium on any more cute “-istas”? The suffix that refuses to die lumbers on like a zombie in the zeitgeist.

The term conveys trendiness to such an extent that it’s been chosen as the name of a seriously trendy dive bar in San Francisco:


(#2) From its website: “Founded in 1977, the bar and beer garden Zeitgeist is a Historic Legacy Business in San Francisco.”

Short ponytails and curly beards. On the central figure, the speaker, in #1. Both currently trendy in some circles.

From Wikipedia on ponytails:


(#3) Actor Brad Pitt with a short ponytail

In Europe in the second half of the 18th century, most men wore their hair long and tied back with a ribbon into what we would now describe as a ponytail, although it was sometimes gathered into a silk bag rather than allowed to hang freely. At that time, it was commonly known as queue; the French word for “tail”. The queue lost favor amongst civilians, but continued as the mandatory hairstyle for men in all European armies until the early 19th century. The British Army was the first to dispense with it, and by the end of the Napoleonic Wars most armies had changed their regulations to make short hair compulsory.

In Asia, the queue was a specifically male hairstyle worn by the Manchu people from central Manchuria, and later imposed on the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty. From 1645 until 1910 Chinese men wore this waist-length pigtail.

Recent history: In the 1970s, many men wore their hair long and in ponytails. This look was popularized by 1970s-era rock musicians.

In the late 1980s, a short ponytail was seen as an impudent, edgy look for men who wanted to individualize, but keep their hair flat and functional. Steven Seagal’s ponytail in Marked for Death is an example.


(#4) Steven Seagal and Keith David in Marked for Death

They’re back again.

And then curly beards, which turn up on the net primarily in articles on how to straighten them, but are also worn proudly by some models:


(#5) A wild and curly guy: Greek fashion model Paskevas Boubourakis

In #1, Haefeli gives us highly stylized versions of both men’s hair and facial hair, including a particularly remarkable stylization of the curly beard.

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