Archive - July, 2008

Der Shorn Artist

Werner Herzog with moustacheclean-shaven Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog, the obsessive director of obsessives real and imaginary, a filmmaker whose career began with his stealing a camera from film school, serves as a stark example of a gentleman who ought to have kept his moustache.  That horizontal strip of hair flatters a long face and de-emphasizes a mountainous nose.  Given that one of Herzog’s chief fixations has been the nature of manliness, it’s all the stranger that the director of Fitzcarraldo deforested the wide swath between his nose and mouth.

The Manstalker Hat

the hat squad

Having read about the sartorial choices of New York detectives not too long ago, Izzy was pleased to read an article about the Atlanta homicide squad’s fondness for fedoras:

The first fedoras are usually black, sometimes brown, almost always made of fine, soft fur felt. They wear Stetson and Dobbs, names that have been around for decades as institutions of haberdashery.

Atlanta police homicide detectives like their traditions the way they like their hats. Classy.  Meaningful.

Every one of the 16 homicide detectives has at least one fedora. It’s a solemn, stylish reward the first time he or she solves a case, paid for and delivered by the more experienced officers.

“It makes you feel like you’re part of something,” says Detective Mark Cooper, part of the unit since 2002. “Once you get it in your blood, you don’t want to do anything else.”

[...]

The fedora was a part of a detective’s garb through the late 1950s, when the pinched-and-creased hat was in style. Many credit retired Atlanta police Lt. Danny Agan for bringing it back when he joined the unit in 1979, and his partner, Sgt. Charles Horton, for keeping it going. Fedoras were long out of fashion — they’re tough to wear with big hair and big collars — but Agan says it made him feel completely dressed. He bought his son, homicide Detective Danny Agan Jr., his first fedora, too.

“You dress the part, you dress like a detective, you get better results,” says the senior Agan, 55, of Douglasville, who retired five years ago. “It commands respect: Who’s showing up to take charge of this mess?”

Even when Agan left the unit for a few years, snappy dressers continued the style.

In the early 1990s, it became less fashion statement, more symbol. Solve a case, earn a hat.

It was only in the early 2000s, though, that detectives started chipping in to buy the first hat. Now, it’s often presented at dinner or a meeting, Lt. Keith Meadows says, to catch its wearer off-guard.

Detectives say the head gear is popular enough now that people living around a crime scene know a homicide is suspected when a man in a fedora steps out of a car.

“When you see a fedora on TV, you know what the story is going to be about,” says Rick Linkwald, owner of the Executive Shop, a downtown clothing and hat store.

You can tell the police officers by their walk, he says. When they shop at this store, they gravitate to black fur felt Stetsons with wide brims and brown-and-red feathers, priced at $159. First-time hat buyers usually stare in the mirror and admit how much they look like their fathers and grandfathers; it’s not so different for detectives following a tradition instead of a trend.

“They want to dress like guys they admire,” Linkwald says.

All of this is well and good, assuming the brims are not too large, but Izzy was dismayed to see (in the photo above) how the detectives maltreat their fedoras.  As any haberdasher will tell you, a fine hat is to be placed on its crown when not being worn so as not to warp the brim.

Far From Straightlaced

Virtual Shoe Museum Converse Extension 1

Like a bodice for your feet and legs, these Converse-inspired boots (for lack of a better term) can be found on display at the Virtual Shoe Museum, home to footwear both fantastic and nightmarish.

Sandalous

Alexander McQueen shoes

In case you’re the kind of professor or grad student who likes to wear socks with sandals, Alexander McQueen has just the pair of “dress” shoes for you.  Just hope it doesn’t rain.

Pressing the Flesh

Armani human branding

Having once before warned of the dangers of human branding, Izzy was dismayed to see Armani tag this model with his vaguely Fascist eagle logo.

Everyman Is No Man

dorky ObamaObama with Blackberry

If, while recently visiting the troops in Kuwait and Afghanistan, Barack Obama strove to look like the ordinary man, he succeeded all too well.  With his shapeless black polo shirt, ill-fitting pleated khakis (note the bunching in the crotch and the pooling at the ankles), and prominently-displayed Blackberry and wireless microphone, he is dressed for dorky casual Friday (a/k/a golfwear at the office).  The only exception to that sorry look are his brown suede boots, which clash with his black shirt and belt.  Making matters worse, his unbuttoned collar emphasizes the scrawniness of his neck.

Izzy’s biggest objection, however, is the visibility of Obama’s electronic gear.  If it’s true that you should never let them see you sweat, it’s all the more the case that you should never let them see your Blackberry.  Visibly wearing such equipment makes a man look like a slave to the office, a terrible thing for any would-be chief executive.   Obama should either have worn a jacket to conceal such necessities or, better yet, have had his assistants carry them.

Not a Girly Boy

manly male model

Having bemoaned the plague of less-than-masculine male models, Izzy is not quite willing to praise this rare example of the opposite extreme: a hairy, meaty chav with teeth that only an orthodontist could love—all courtesy of punk fashionist Vivienne Westwood.  Izzy hasn’t seen this much bling since Hans Holbein the Younger.

Tape Me

Alexander McQueen tape shirt

It’s “shirts” like this that explain why male models have no chest hair.  And maybe Izzy should have put “male” in quotation marks, too.

Pockets Needing Change

Christopher Bailey in jeans

A shy-looking Christopher Bailey, the creative force behind Burberry Prorsum, demonstrates a major design flaw in all jeans:  They make it impossible to put your hands in your pockets.

Give Me Shelter

Missoni hexagon sweaterfallout shelter sign

Where some people see Missoni hexagons, Izzy sees a place of refuge.  If only this survival kit came with

- One forty-five caliber automatic
- Two boxes of ammunition
- Four days’ concentrated emergency rations
- One drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills
- One miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible
- One hundred dollars in rubles
- One hundred dollars in gold
- Nine packs of chewing gum
- One issue of prophylactics
- Three lipsticks
- Three pair of nylon stockings.

Remember, what happens in Vegas…

Single Fault

Nadal and Feder at Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal may have bested Roger Federer at Wimbledon, but the defeated, in classic tennis apparel, outclassed the victor, who went slumming in a sleeveless, collarless muscle shirt.  Ready for a body slam, not a Grand Slam, all that Nadal was lacked was some visible tattoos.

The visual contrast of these two players reminded Izzy of an excellent, if little known, book on the history of tennis: Sporting Gentlemen: Men’s Tennis from the Age of Honor to the Cult of the Superstar.  Written by E. Digby Baltzell, the sociologist who both coined the term “WASP” and taxonomized that species, the book discusses the decline of tennis from a game of amateur sportsmen upholding an aristocratic code of honor (e.g., the unwritten rule that close calls go to your opponent) into a mercenary high-stakes sport in which players throw temper tantrums on the court.  In the modern era, Arthur Ashe epitomized the old ideal, while John McEnroe represented all that was rotten.  Sartorially at least, Nadal rejects the gentlemanly tradition.

Federer’s white polo shirt, interestingly, traces back to the French tennis player René Lacoste himself.  According to Wikipedia:

While winning the 1927 U.S. Open championship, René Lacoste of France wore something that he himself had created: a white, short-sleeve shirt made exclusively of a light knitted fabric called “jersey petit piqué” that served to wick away moisture due to heat, the very first version of performance clothing in sports. The shirt was a radical departure from tennis fashion of the day, which called for stiff, woven, long-sleeve oxfords. In 1923 during the Davis Cup, the American press nicknamed Lacoste “the Alligator” because of a bet made about an alligator-skin suitcase. With no cognate in his native tongue, the nickname was changed to le crocodile in French. The nickname stuck due to his tenacious behavior on the courts, never giving up his prey. Lacoste’s friend, Robert George, drew him a crocodile which Lacoste then embroidered on the blazer he wore on the courts.

Once he retired from the sport, Lacoste went into the shirt business, savvily putting a crocodile logo on the shirt’s breast—the first time a trademark was placed on the exterior of clothing.   If that wasn’t the Mark of the Beast, Izzy doesn’t know what is.

The No-Band Camp

Dean Martin in camp collar

There is perhaps no more casually elegant shirt collar than the camp collar.  Constructed without a collar band (the strip of fabric that fastens around the neck), the soft collar is part of the same piece of fabric as the body of the shirt, giving it a truly seamless look.  Generally worn unbuttoned, they have a tendency to spread wide.  As Dean Martin proved, they can help separate a gentleman from the pack.

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