English utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill famously wrote that "the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained”. Eccentricity is a behavioural phenomenon that has fascinated and defined many instrumental thinkers throughout history.
Eccentricity is not only a way to demonstrate one’s individuality to the full, but about systematically and courageously rejecting those rules imposed by society. Eccentricity as behaviour, as opposed to mental disorder, is a demonstration of strength and a will to break with convention in order to pursue one’s individuality and not purely as shock value.Historically, fur was not only a female driven fashion, yet today, men who choose to wear fur coats are considered eccentric.
Historically, eccentricity and genius have often gone hand in hand. Curiosity, innovation, courage and the will to break with convention have lead to ground breaking discoveries which, without those eccentric characters that concretised their imagination, might have not happened. Scientists like Galileo and Newton as well as the eccentric par excellence Albert Einstein, were fuelled by their desire to break with convention when challenging the rules of physics.
Bright or interestingly printed knitwear is a staple for that eccentric look.
In art, eccentricity has also lead to unparalleled discoveries and revolutions. Geniuses like Leonardo Da Vinci, who lived somewhere between science and art, broke with convention and introduced a new aesthetic and cerebral sphere to art. In the Twentieth Century on the other hand, the surrealist movement, lead by Salvador Dali, Magritte, Ernst and Escher, gave an artistic voice to eccentricity.Truncated blazers or unusual colour combinations channel that idiosyncratic look.
In literature, the surrealist movement and post modern magical surrealism also bare relevance to eccentricity. Dada and Rimbaud as well as later writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Antonio Tabucchi and Salman Rushdie have created challenging masterpieces in their typical eccentric styles.The collegiate bomber jacket continues to be a physical representation of the “rules”, but when fashioned like this they are all about challenging the “rules”.
Fashion, of course could have not escaped the eccentric and surrealist trends. In their FW2011 menswear collection, Dolce&Gabbana have taken a tradition like tailoring and turned it on its head. The dimension changed, the jackets were truncated, the width of the trousers was turned upside down, being softer on top and tapered towards the hem. Fabrics were also used eccentrically, thick felt fashioned classic blazers, bright red brocades and silk velvet constructed head to toe three-piece suits.
Taking a leaf out of the Victorian Eccentrics, FW11 eccentric tailoring is a truly idiosyncratic endeavour.
Other tastemakers such as Lanvin, Alexander McQueen and Louis Vuitton also explored eccentricity, channelling Isabella Rossellini’s belief that “true elegance is […] the manifestation of an independent mind. “
Styled by: Yuri Ahn
Written by: Valentina Zannoni