Monday, January 26, 2015

The Kingsmen: Secret Service & a Great Suit

I think I have mentioned this before: a dear friend of mine's husband had Alzheimer's, and I would look after him when she went out of town for rest, so I became very close to him; Frank passed away last weekend, complications from pneumonia, and I have had a difficult time dealing with it.  Your prayers for Carol, Frank and their family would be deeply appreciated, as your never-ending patience with me always is. (The full review for the film can be found here: This Isn't That Kind Of Movie: the Kingsman).
It's not "Manners maketh the man," rather, "Manners maketh man." This is utterly important; why? First, if you are not a man, you are an animal, and that's what socialists what people to become: animals. Manners, then, are a way of insuring that we don't slip into that "animal" category. Secondly, Harry (Colin Firth) is a white male, and who is it that has been so heavily targeted as of late in films and politics? White men. The so-called "Progressive Party" in America is more aptly described as the "Digressive Party" because they seek an end to the free market and all technological advances; literally, they want to see everyone living in a village, with no communication with anyone outside that village, and each village controlled by a local party member (why, yes, it was called feudalism in the Middle Ages, and that's exactly what they want to bring back). So far, then, we have an unabashed celebration of "the white male," the greatest enemy of Western liberalism. From a clip we have seen in a trailer, we know that--at least part of--Valentine's plan to "cure" humanity is the outbreak of violent fighting, which we see in America today in the Ferguson riots and Al Sharpton marching and calling for the instant death of cops (these things would have been unthinkable in America before 2008). Most importantly, what The Kingsman appears to be doing, is advocating that white men become even whiter, rather than try to compromise or surrender their identity because it is inconvenient for some (this discussion continues below). 
So, if you are lucky enough to be in London-town, The Kingsmen: The Secret Service opens for you Thursday (I am terribly jealous!!); stateside, it doesn't open until February 13 (so for those of us not wanting to see Fifty Shades Of Grey, we, too, have something to look forward to), but they have been kind enough to "throw us a bone":

According to "The Gentleman's Guide" on the film's official website, "The Rules" of a Kingsman Gentleman are as follows: 
(1) A gentleman never tells about conquests, private matters, or dealings. His business is nobody else's. 
(2) A gentleman doesn't clash in public with enemies or exes, or worse, with out-of-fashion contrasts, colors or styles. 
(3) A gentleman is always happy to serve, whether it's opening the door, picking up the bill, or merely calling a cab the next morning. Ask him for help and he cannot refuse. 
(4) A gentleman never reacts to rudeness. He pretends he doesn't recognize it and moves on like it never happened, because it never should have. 
(5) A gentleman is always on target with witty remarks, interesting facts, and conversation starters that bring the best out of everyone. And,... 
(6) A gentleman asks non-invasive questions to keep a conversation going and attention focused on others. He makes them feel like the most interesting person he's ever met, whether that's true or not.
Eggsy says a lot in this poster. First, he looks much more like Valentine (below) than Harry (above). "Eggsy" is definitely a strange name, but it consciously invokes the new life symbolized by the "egg." This is consciously referred to when Harry tells Eggsy he can re-invent himself as in Pretty Woman, and Eggsy chimes in, "Like in My Fair Lady?" Eggsy is going to trade in one style of dress--the jacket and hat he wears in this poster--for another style of dress, the suit of the Kingsmen. The suit, then, becomes a kind of uniform of identity that translates to the exterior world the interior transformation that Eggsy has achieved. With this transformation also comes his purpose, and giving Eggsy a purpose is what will save him from ending up like a hooligan. 
Why are there all these rules on being a gentleman? Because the opposite behavior denotes villainy, which means we will see Valentine behaving in the opposite way of being a gentleman; if you are going to defend civilized society, you must be civilized yourself, and anyone (read: villain) wanting to destroy civilized society (as Valentine does, portrayed by Samuel L Jackson) inherently lacks "civilization" within them. What's the big deal about that? In the era when a certain President of the United States has gone out of his way to create strife and fan the flames of class and ethnic warfare in the country, calling upon Millennial white men (symbolized by Eggsy) to take up their talents and defend the civilization being handed down to them is quite bold.
You probably know by now what an important part costumes play in developing character for the audience, but I really like to provide "hard evidence" when available so I don't push your faith in me too much: Fashion editior, consultant and Net-a-porter empire founder Natalie Massenet has said of this film to show-business trade paper 'The Hollywood Reporter': "I knew the clothese had to really serve the plot - and do in our film. An elite secret group of gentleman spies camouflage their identity by holding meetings in a Savile Row tailor's shop. It's not like the clothes are an added benefit or not utterly functional to the story. They are a bigger part of the story. Colin [Firth] is grooming a young man to be the next gentleman spy - and in this case, the clothes do make the man." If the clothes "make the man," the wrong clothes "un-make the man." With Valentine, his clothes are not custom tailored (or, if they are, they don't look it) and he does not wear a suit, but clothes "ready-made" and worn sloppily compared to Harry (his shirt not tucked in, for example). Savile Row isn't an accident, that it takes place here is a statement of wealth, lifestyle and individuality. 
The rules of being a gentleman are not just about the individual man exhibiting socially acceptable behavior: it's about him bringing out his own individuality in the manners socially acceptable to society, and contributing to the individuality of others as well ("conversation starters that bring out the best in everyone"). The "front" of The Kingsmen is a tailor shop in Savile Row; big deal. But it is. These suits are hand-cut and tailored for the individual man: even though Eggsy might look like every other Kingsmen in his suit (a loss of individuality) the suit is made just for him that no one else can wear (rather like the gun Q gives Bond in Skyfall that is registered to his palm print so only he can fire it).
We know that many of the items in this wardrobe--if not all of them--double as weapons, and that's because the suit and accessory itself is the weapon.  In America today, there is a "trend" of young men wearing their jeans half-way around their underwear: I think, unconsciously, this might be a statement of quickly society is "pulling the pants off young men" to sexualize them before they are ready (because there is no rational reason for them to wear their pants like this, therefore, there must be an emotional/psychological reason); it is my understanding that, men in prison who wear their pants like this are advertising they are available for sex to other men,. I could be wrong. Anyway, dressing like the gentleman insinuated by the wardrobe above, is literally a weapon to becoming one of those "baggy jeans" boys who looks as if he has no self-respect in the world. It's not just that a knife blade comes out of the toe of the well-crafted shoe, but that the well-crafted shoe must be polished and cared for, and that, in turn, is a sign you care about yourself: that "caring for yourself" is a weapon for the young, white men in today's world who need strong male examples of what it means to respect yourself and why you are worth fighting for. 
Additionally, one of the arguments socialists use (not very often, just when they think they can get away with it) is when they contend that work is meaningless today because the craftsman is removed from the product they make since everything is made in a factory. The 1% (and far more than that, quite frankly) who can afford and want suits of such bespoke quality are the ones targeted by socialists but who make it possible for fine craftsmen--like those on Savile Row--to earn a highly respectable wage for their wares.
This fine book is but one example of the numerous studies done on the excellent artistry of the English suit; this link contains an impressive number of other such books about Savile Row and its key role in British culture.
There is nothing but depth and layers of meaning in what I have so far seen in released footage for The Kingsmen: The Secret Service; we haven't even begun to touch on it here, but we shall once the film is released, because I think it's going to be, truly, fun and significant commentary on culture and white men today.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner