When we look back upon what people were wearing a century ago it is probable that things look a bit “dated”.  Even our musical preferences sometimes suffer the identical abrasion. When exactly did we decide that everything began and ended with the Baroque period? Recently for example I’ve discovered Ludovico Einaudi and Alexis Ffrench.  They’re both classically trained but their style is decidedly new. Already its appeal has insinuated my tastes and penchants.

Alexis Ffrench (born 1970) is a British classical soul musician, composer, producer, and pianist. Not only is Ffrench the UK’s biggest selling pianist of 2020, he has headlined London’s Royal Albert Hall, collaborated with fashion houses Miyake and Hugo Boss, played Latitude Festival, worked with Paloma Faith, composed several film scores and shares the same management team as Little Mix and Niall Horan.

An even more current and popular musical rendition has been captured by Lana Del Rey. I especially like her international hit “Summertime Sadness”.

Elizabeth Woolridge Grant (born June 21, 1985), known professionally as Lana Del Rey, is an American singer-songwriter. Her music is noted for its stylized, cinematic quality and exploration of themes of sadness, tragic romance, glamor, and melancholia, containing many references to pop culture, particularly 1950s and 1960s Americana. In fall of 2004, at age 19, Grant enrolled at Fordham University in The Bronx where she majored in philosophy, with an emphasis on metaphysics. She has said she chose to study the subject because it “bridged the gap between God and science… I was interested in God and how technology could bring us closer to finding out where we came from and why.”

On choosing a stage name for her feature debut album, she said: “I wanted a name I could shape the music towards. I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba – Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue.” The name was also inspired by actress Lana Turner and the Ford Del Rey sedan, produced and sold in Brazil in the 1980s.

Inevitably the so-called modern expressions draw upon the past but not always with minor alteration. It is easy to become disentangled from popular culture and appearances; and similarly to become startled by what we see. By coincidence today – in the most unlikely environment (a hospital) – I spoke briefly with a clerk who exemplified what I can charitably call a trendy sartorial idiom. Recalling as I do from my own youthful era the absurdity of bell-bottom trousers, I haven’t the privilege to point a mocking finger! If the truth be known, I found the get-up rather refreshing, a welcome abandon from the wearing reality of COVID. Considering the background of some of these young people it is a mistake to dismiss their likes as ingenuous.

The curiosity about fashion extends to popular language, words such “Karen” and “sick”. They can’t be any worse than “Right on!” that contaminated my post-graduate studies at Dalhousie University in 1970. But sometimes it takes a really old fogey like 92-year old Shelley Berman to set the stage.

Sheldon Leonard Berman was an American comedian, actor, writer, teacher, and lecturer. In his comedic career, he was awarded three gold records and he won the first Grammy Award for a spoken comedy recording in 1959.

His comic spectacles employed in Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” have proven to be strangely popular with young people – though I confess that apart from the hilarity of the look it seems that exaggeration is the predominant theme.

What attracts me to modern fashion is as much its bespoke quality as its novelty. It is insufficient that men just stopped wearing a tie.  Saturday Night Live was not just a different late night show, it was good! I remember the first time I bought a rayon shirt. And eventually Apple overtook Microsoft. Spectacles like Tom Ford and Ray-Ban made in Italy  just work.

The only disappointing feature of these changing trends is that they deepen the gloss that surrounds them.  It’s a reminder that nothing  – emphasis no thing – is permanent. But it isn’t only that things change, it’s that they’re utterly changeable and  more importantly that they deteriorate if nothing else. So maybe it’s the inconstancy that keeps the machinery oiled. Or maybe to be safe we should just hang onto the past.