Chapter 109: The Secrets of Style
As Lan Jue entered the classroom, all eyes turned to him in constrained excitement.
He strode past them in his perfectly tailored sapphire suit, snow white shirt, black tie and white kerchief. With his impish smile and meticulously kept hair, he could certainly draw attention.
“Good afternoon,” he began. He positioned himself behind the podium, and gave his audience a nod.
“Good afternoon, Professor!” the students replied in unison.
His eyes quickly swept the room, but he found no sign of Zhou Qianlin. Her friend Tang Mi, however, was in attendance, sitting near the back. In total it looked like men accounted for seventy percent of participants.
From the back, Director Wu gave him a nod of acknowledgement, and Jin Yan beamed a pretty smile his way.
“I’d like to begin by expressing my apologies to you all. Unfortunately, a pressing matter arose after my last class that left me with no choice but to temporarily ask for leave. I’ve only just arrived back on Skyfire the day before yesterday.” As he spoke, Lan Jue retreated a step from the podium and bowed respectfully to his students. It was practiced, bearing no flourish or unnecessary flair. The students fell silent.
Most of the students who’d come did so to sate their curiosity. Like last time, many of them were considered the ‘problem students.’ Information passed among the students gave them the impression none of this was to be taken too seriously. Lan Jue wasn’t sure how this class would turn out, but his bow at least assured he showed them the proper respect.
Of course, no matter the quality and status of a university, no instructor enjoyed dealing with problem students. For the NEU, many of the students found entry only by virtue of very stringent entrance criteria. But despite this, the pressure of studies sometimes brought out the worst in them. Likewise most teachers don’t ‘waste’ their time with students who are troublemakers, preferring to focus their efforts on the majority. Anyone other than the best students couldn’t keep up, and would be removed. In the end there were always those who had no means of graduating. Jin Tao was a good example.
Under these unfortunate social constructs a problem student rarely even saw a teacher’s smiling face, much less got a quality education. Although these youths often faced the world with scorn, they were still young men and women! They still had fantasies of being a teacher’s pride, receiving the love and attention of an instructor as a talented pupil.
For this reason Lan Jue’s bow resonated with them. Despite what was to come, in this moment their impression of Professor Lan increased significantly.
Lan Jue straightened and, smiling, went on. “I wont delay you any further. In our last lecture we discussed what it meant, precisely, to be ‘nobility.’ For those students who missed our first class and are interested, you can find a video of my first lesson in the College Forum. From today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the subject of etiquette, examining topics both modern and historical.”
“Basic necessities; as the name suggest, the things required by all men and women. First among them in clothing, and so it is fair to say that what we wear is indeed important. So, today we will discuss just that – what we’re wearing.”
Lan Jue once more distanced himself from the podium and walked towards the front row. “What do you all think of my outfit today? And don’t worry, speak your mind. You here, young lady.”
“Oh, quite handsome Professor,” the young woman he indicated replied. “It’s a good match for you.” She spoke with her head cradled in her hands, eyes shinning as she beamed up at him.
“Pfft, looks like a flamer too me.” A young gentlemen at her side couldn’t help but interject.
With a smile still on his face, Lan Jue turned to the young man. “Go on?”
“Some kinda crossdressing idiot!” He scowled disdainfully. Judging by the arrogance in this one, he was a particularly troubling student.
Lan Jue only laughed. “Not quite. How about I show you something more along the lines of what you described.” As he spoke, his fingers rose to undo the single button keeping his jacket in place. As he pulled it open, he revealed the inner lining.
“Waa…” nearly the entire class exclaimed as they peered at him. Students in the back clamored to stand for a better view.
The inner lining of his suit was an eye-popping hot pink. In contrast with the sapphire blue of his suit it certainly was distinctly effeminate.
Jin Tao, seated directly in the front row, blinked his eyes dramatically. “Man Professor, my color-blind dog eyes were blinded by that nonsense!”
Lan Jue closed the jacket and fastened the button anew, hiding the inner lining. He returned his attention to the young gentlemen who’d spoken earlier. “So, what do you think now?”
“A man’s coquettishness shouldn’t be revealed on the surface. It’s considered impetuous. However, if a man hopes to attract a woman he must have some measure of it. The saying goes ‘girls like bad boys’ – without any flirty air, one is simply apathetic. So if a young man would like to have the attention of a young woman, he mustn’t be overwhelmingly seductive, but keep it close to the vest as it were.1 The proverbial ‘surprise package.’” His devilish grin and the naughty topic elicited a round of laughter from the class.
He waited for the laughter to cease before continuing. “Today I’ll be discussing clothing, specifically formal wear. Why this specifically? In fact the reason is simple; for the young men in attendance, attracting the attention of the fairer sex through your choice of clothing will bring self-confidence. For the lades, learning more about the clothing choice of a man can help you be more discriminating in your decision-making, making judgments on their character based by their aesthetics.”
“Any successful individual will tell you ‘The Devil is in the Details.’ So that’s where we’re starting, with the details. If you would help me…” Lan Jue indicated a young woman nearby, Tang Mi who was situated directly in front of him, but in the back.
She blinked in surprise, pointing to herself. “Me?”
Lan Jue nodded. “Mmhm. If you wouldn’t mind coming to the front of the class…”
Tang Xiao was also surprised at hearing his sister’s voice and turned to watch her rise. A strange look overcame his face.
Lan Jue hadn’t originally intended to select Tang Mi, but as he spied the figure furtively trying to hide in the back his finger reached out. He couldn’t simply change his mind before the entire class, so Tang Mi it was. He removed his jacket and handed it to her as she arrived.
“If you’d indulge me for a moment.”
Tang Mi took up the jacket. Once more the striking interior was revealed to the students and, although it wasn’t their first time seeing it, wolf-whistles rang through the classroom.
Hua Li, who’d just snuck in, arrived just in time to see that beautiful – if rather effeminate – color revealed. He couldn’t help but lift his hand and give Lan Jue a giant thumbs up. Of course only he and Lan Jue knew his sarcastic intent.
Lan Jue went on. “Firstly, fine formal wear must be handmade. Generally speaking, even though many of the more expensive brands use glued lining for their suits, and although it’s usually hidden from view, it’s nonetheless a glaring blemish in the quality of design. The best lining are done by hand, needle and thread.”
He turned his attention back to Tang Mi, who was holding his jacket between her fingers before the eyes of the students.
“If you’d please walk around the class so they can examine in detail?”
Tang Mi was a prideful one. But for reasons unknown even to herself, she couldn’t refuse in the face of this professor’s charming smile. She did as instructed.
“This isn’t just true for the lining, either. Every buttonhole should be similarly handcrafted. These are the best quality suits. If we’re talking about even the very best tailored suits, they are still only a fraction of the cost of those name brands. What this means is you should absolutely not fall in to the trap of being infatuated with a name2. Just because it’s famous doesn’t mean it’s the best.”
“The second point of interest is when buttoning. One must never fasten up to the top. Whether it’s a vest, cuffs, or jacket the rule remains true. Well, that’s not entirely accurate – you should probably always ensure your zipper is all the way up.”
Again a round of laughter rumbled through the crowd.
“Then it’s on to how precisely to wear a suit. Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, ‘it’s a suit, don’t you just put it on? What kind of ‘technique’ is needed?’ As I’m sure you’ll find, it isn’t that simple. Firstly a suit is classified as either a two-piece, or three-piece. If one is missing a vest, what are their missing? Etiquette.”
“In practice a vest is rarely required. They’re usually employed in very formal occasions. However I must implore you to keep in mind that you must always wear a tie and handkerchief when pairing your suit with a vest.” He indicated his own tie and the kerchief stuffed in his left coat pocket for emphasis.
“All together, it makes a perfect suit. However without a vest neither of the other two are required. You can even unfastened a few buttons, giving yourself a more relaxed look.”
By the time Lan Jue had finished his exposition, Tang Mi had finished displaying the jacket for her classmates. Her own attentions were focused on the item in her grip. Like her classmates, this was the first time she was hearing any of this and it captured her attention.
“All finished, Professor,” she said, returning to his side.
Lan Jue smiled pleasantly. “I’m sorry, but I mist trouble you to hold on to it for a moment longer. Miss, what was your name?”
“Tang Mi,” she replied.
He stepped forward then, suddenly so close they could hear each other’s breathing.