“I was born in the wrong era.” It is a common refrain. It is very natural for us as human beings to peer back through the annals of history and find a time that seems better suited to us. For many people, myself included, one of those times is the mythical roaring 1920s. The dapper dress, the hot jazz, the peephole of a speakeasy sliding open as you pronounce the password.
Oh, to have lived in the ’20s. But wait. In just a few days, we will be living in the ’20s. And it is up to us to decide if these 10 years that start with “2” can rival the style, glamour, and legend of the 20th century’s party decade. Let’s face it, the ’10s or whatever you call them were fine, but a bit dull. Now as we embark on a fresh set of downs, let’s commit ourselves to beauty, fun, and a carefree life of no tomorrows.
We are actually pretty well poised for this. The economy is booming as it was at the height of the jazz age, new technologies that we are now accustomed to whirl around us such as planes, fast cars, telephones, and radios. Inhibition has no purchase in our judgment-free society. But a recreation of 1920s won’t happen all by itself. We all have a part to play.
This arguably starts with attire. This past decade has — how shall we put it — it hasn’t been an iconic one for fashion. Our debates regarding dress have centered on whether cargo shorts and leggings are appropriate for the office. People attend Broadway shows in Utah Jazz sweatshirts and jean jackets. We can, no, we must do better.
I propose that starting in January, every man in America should purchase at least one tuxedo, a pair of two-toned wingtips, and a smoking jacket. For the ladies, fascinators and cloche hats. And by God, let all of it be tailored. Now this is a conservative outlet, so I won’t suggest that the government should subsidize these purchases, but if the Democrats ever get power…
Once we are all dressed up like million-dollar troopers, it will be time to choose our vices. Alcohol obviously is at the top of that pyramid, but in regard to it, we ought to be discerning. Imagine the look of disdain your great-great-grandmother who sipped champagne at the Ziegfeld Follies would have shot you had she seen you crack open a White Claw. No, no. Let’s vow to imbibe more Manhattans, more martinis, more old-fashioned old fashioneds.
This brings us to the question of smoking, to which the answer is yes.
But all was not vice in the 1920s. Out of the smoke-filled haze of illegal gin joints, art and culture bloomed. The racy prose of James Joyce, the wild forms and colors of Kandinsky, and of course the howling horns and pounding drums of jazz. And there is a lesson in this culmination of culture that exploded a century ago, a roadmap if you will.
For all of America’s self-flagellation regarding its past sins of racism and bigotry, in the 1920s something happened that was not only remarkable, but that laid the groundwork for a more equitable society. In Harlem, a renaissance occurred in which black Americans, still under the thumb of legal and societal racism, seized the keys to American culture in books and music and dance. A bit to the south on the Lower East Side, the Jewish egg of vaudeville and the Yiddish theater cracked open new styles of comedy and storytelling that still frame our entertainment.
The diversity that exists in America today is unprecedented. It is a buffet of sights and sounds and tastes and tales. Let’s embrace all of it. Let’s appropriate the hell out of everything and forge new art, new beauty, new ways to conceive of the world. Fearless, let’s take advantage of the time we have together to share and mingle the myriad traditions that dwell among us.
Now I know we all hate each other because of Trump and everything, but look, there were a lot of people who weren’t nuts about Calvin Coolidge. Even though he was awesome. It doesn’t have to stand in the way of a good time. Whether he wins or he loses, the sky won’t fall, the sun will come up, and when it does, we owe it to ourselves to be stumbling home from a late night of frivolity.
Now I know what you’re going to say. The 1920s didn’t exactly end on a high note. Fine. You can’t have a party without a hangover. I mean, you could, but it would be a very dull party. I for one am willing to take this risk.
So come the New Year, let’s all meet at the Hotel Algonquin to tip a few glasses, cleverly quip, invent some new dances, and slip into this new decade in style. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ’20s.