Swedish traditional dress:
There is a habit of mind I fall into.  It is a matter of thinking about an ideal type.  The ancient Greeks had the idea, and it did not make them blush.  For instance there was classical ideal beauty.  They tended to make all of their statues look like this idea.  By extension there would be the ideal dog.  I could not agree more.  My dog when I was a boy was the perfect dog, that other dogs are a mere partial reflection of.  At least that is what I think when I am in the “ideal type” mental set.

It sneaks up on you.  There is a book: The Map that Changed the World, by Simon Winchester.  A marvelous read.  It turns out that the geological richness and variety of England is virtually unmatched on the planet for an area of the same size.  Winchester points out that traditionally the cottages of farmers were made from local rock, which of course varied greatly.  So just about every village looked different.  I realized I had in mind a sort of a national type of the typical English village.  In fact much of their charm is their variety.  It’s like the colors of the spectrum.  You wouldn’t want to give any of them up.

My father had a far sharper ear than most mortals and grew up in a different world.  He said he could listen to a person from South Carolina talk briefly and know which county the person was from.  He also knew the most common name in each county.  In those days South Carolinians had a large social circle so if the name was common everybody in the county knew at least a few people by the name.  His trick was to listen for a few minutes and then venture, “You know Mr. So-and-so, don’t you?”  The answer was always yes, and then they could chat about why my father knew.  There was no “southern accent.”  There were hundreds.  Nobody ever bothered to record the differences so far as I know.

There is a wealth of village and tribal folkways.  Sometimes people do take an interest.  American Indian tribes are duly tracked and efforts made to preserve their lore.  Occasionally one does see a display of Scottish clan plaids.  (In the United States one speaks of a cloak as tartan of plaid pattern; in Scotland it is a plaid with a tartan pattern.  That is just typical English language meaning reversal.)  I have read where such collections are dismissed as a hoax, that the collector was not even a Scot.  I am unimpressed unless the writer produces his own collection. 

I once spent two gloriously happy months studying in Scania.  They spell it Skåne and pronounce it something like Scoanah.  If you want to find it, the capital is Lund.  It is a province in the south of Sweden.  While I was there, actually on a short trip to Gothenburg, a friend showed me a collection of pictures.  They were traditional Swedish village or provincial dresses.  The dresses were very decorous and very charming.  The thing that struck me about them was that they were all different from each other.  They were not just different; they were very different, brilliantly different and defiantly different.  It was all done with the sweetest spirit, it seemed, but the message was clear.  “We are really different from those people just over there.  It’s nice that we are different. ” 

But collections of local culture are rare.  Usually one gets the national dress, the national cuisine, the national music or whatever.  The village culture taken all together is far richer.  Villages survive longer than nations. 

There have been 930 visitors so far.  This is research, not advice.  Linton Herbert

Home page.