Architects may say they only like modern design, but deep down they love comfortable classics just as much as the next person. A cozy wood paneled library, a worn-in wingback chair, even grandma’s handmade knit scarf that makes people wonder aloud if it isn’t actually a full grown sheep wrapped around your neck. There is something about ‘vintage’ items and classic design that commands a certain level of respect. Much in the same way we are commanded to ‘respect our elders’, classic designs still turn heads and make us pause to reflect and admire.
Architects are not allowed to publicly praise classicism, so they must disguise any affinity for it as something else. Take for instance the architect’s fashion choices. Most often you will find an architect dressed in distressed jeans, a white undershirt and a velveteen or corduroy jacket. What does this have to do with classicism, you ask?
Although this pairing is wildly popular - and nothing new - among the club going crowd, it is a bold statement when worn by architects. The architect must carefully balance the trendy, cutting edge style with a professional look that exudes confidence and class. A business suit is much too stuffy and bland, causing mix ups between bankers and architects (especially if the architect forgot to put on some exclusive eye wear). A t-shirt and jeans is much too casual and will drive away the more wealthy clients that architects desperately need. Business casual attire is sometimes acceptable, but doesn’t allow the architect to stand out as cutting edge or in charge. At this point, the only viable option left is to pair completely opposite items and market it as ‘a contemporary, suave interpretation of juxtaposition in fashion’. What that really means is the architect is too helpless to pick out another combination on their own, too proud to be confused with other professionals, and too stuck on using big words like ‘juxtaposition’ to stop and think if this was a good idea in the first place. ”The jeans,” they’ll say, “are just distressed enough to hint at a classic era where hard work in the fields would take a toll on clothes. The rips and tears indicate that I’m a hard worker. The undershirt says to people that I’m comfortable and approachable. The velveteen jacket speaks of my prominence in the design world and proves I know how to impress the rich clients with classic opulence.”
Yeah, nothing says professional like under garments, torn pants and velvet jackets. Keep on believing with that post-rationalization.
Can you pick out the real architect in this image:
For those having trouble, I’ll break it down by process of elimination using both fashion and photo staging.
The two seated gentlemen are wearing jeans, which is a good starting point. However, they are not in charge of the firm, because they are wearing business casual shirts and they are both seated. Business casual shirts are not worn by real architects, and the architect of power always stands to exude dominance and presence. Now we are left with the two men standing. The one in the background is obviously not in charge, as he is wearing a full suit. He must be in charge of the finances and bringing in clients, but he is definitely not a cutting edge designer. In fact, he appears a bit confused as to why he is standing in the background and wearing a suit at all. This leaves us with the obvious, and final, choice: The man on the left is the architect. He is casually (but not too casually) leaning against a table, wearing jeans and a sports coat. Although he is not as trendy as the architects who wear only an undershirt, his expression and careful placement of his hand (ready to pick up a pen and begin sketching at a moments notice), make him the winner. Someone should remind him to always have exclusive eye wear on hand so there is no doubt in the future.
Architects are predisposed to being critical of all things. Because of this, they tend to think that, given the opportunity, they could do anything better. The logic then leads them to think that they are a jack of all trades.
While this is not outside the realm of possibilities, it is highly unlikely that there is a Leonardo DaVinci inside each one of us just waiting to be unleashed. If, on average, we all believe ourselves to above average, then the math is just all wrong. Likewise, just because we learned about the Renaissance man during our studies does not make us one.
What is more likely: that an architect is trained in design for 5 years and then is a fashion expert and furniture craftsman, or that an architect is trained in design for 5 years and is slightly more likely to understand the reasoning behind other’s design decisions?
Let’s just say that before you hang out your shingle to supply the world with sofas that are better than IKEA’s, make sure that they actually are.
Oh, and don’t ask for your architect friend’s opinion; you’ll be monologuing about the virtues of design and end precisely where you started: Both of you thinking you out critiqued the other and still believing you are a jack of all trades.