Ultimately, good taste is nothing more than the ability to distinguish between beauty and the rest. It can be both a blessing and a curse, making our teeth itch when we see something wrong, and our hearts leap when we chance upon aesthetic excellence.
Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Proper is the second volume from The Mod Project, and the follow-up to Mod Ghosts from 2019. The book explores the concept of beauty in clothing, food, automotive design, cinema and popular music through the eyes of a Modernist. In the characteristics of everyday objects and works of art Proper examines whether, far from always being in the eye of the beholder, beauty can occasionally be an intrinsic quality.
The story of heightened discernment begins on the fertile plains of east Africa four million years ago, when a few stylish apes decided to stand on their own two feet. A modest beginning to what proved to be a fascinating story of a uniquely human quality of impeccably good taste.
Conventional thinking dictates that heightened cultural discernment is somehow baked into the DNA of the most privileged among us. An attribute available only to those with deep pockets, a good bloodline, a classical education and exposure from birth to the very best the world has to offer. No such correlation exists. Conventional thinking is wrong. Even the term is the prefixing of one of the English language’s most attractive concepts with one of its least. Imagine how dispiriting conventional dressing might be, or conventional eating or, heaven forbid, listening to conventional music. Qualifying anything with ‘conventional’ strips away most of its value at a stroke. Aesthetic acuity is available to all of us. We just need to work at it and care enough to try.