Archive - September, 2008

X Marks the Toff

Hackett tie with bowler hat and crossed umbrellas

Of all the items on eBay Izzy has missed bidding on, this Hackett necktie is truly the one that got away.  Featuring a bowler hat and umbrellas arranged like a skull and crossbones, it is the ultimate accoutrement of the Anglophile dandy.

A Man of the Cloth-Covered Button

fabric-covered buttons

You might never have consciously noticed it, but buttons covered in matching fabric are the norm on a tuxedo.  On suits, however, they’re either the sign of a dandy or a mafioso—or both.  If either applies to you, and you can’t afford bespoke tailoring, check out this Tom James suit now selling on eBay.

The Making of a Cowboy

Ronald Reagan in cowboy hat

The accusation, now frequently heard, of “cowboy politics” stems from the iconic image of Ronald Reagan as an all-American denim-clad horseman.   But it turns out that, while Reagan had long enjoyed riding horses, his cowboy attire originated as a bit of showmanship:

In 1966, a local reporter from KTIX in San Francisco wanted to do a segment on horseback with the candidate for governor of California. Lyn Nofziger, Mr. Reagan’s press secretary, accompanied the reporter and was shocked to see his candidate in jaspers [jodphurs?] and English riding boots.

“When he changed into his riding clothes, he came out. And I looked at him—and he was not yet the governor—and I said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Mr. Nofziger recalled. “He said, ‘This is the way I always ride.’ I said, ‘This is not the purpose of that. It’s to get votes. They’re going to think you look like a sissy!’ He’s a great cowboy, looking at him. He played a cowboy in movies.

You can find photos of Reagan in his more aristocratic, English riding-wear here.

Pocketful of Sunshine

Elio Berhanyer suit

There might not be anything particularly exciting about this suit from Elio Berhanyer, but the well-puffed pocket square certainly grabs the attention.  The color combination of yellow and gray is a rare one, but those with a strong grip on the palette can make it work.

Hat Tip

While strolling around town today, Izzy saw a gentleman unknowingly drop some papers from his wallet.  Doing no less than should be expected, Izzy spoke up and said, “Sir, I think you might have dropped something.”  The absent-minded gentleman thanked Izzy, and bent down to pick up his belongings.  As he looked up, he gave Izzy a full look and remarked, “Classy hat.”  Such is the power of the fedora.

Critical Snap Judgment

Roger Ebert

As reported in the Daily News, a recent film screening in New York became the site of a case of extraordinarily bad manners:

Soon after the lights went down, a source tells us, “a man in the audience started yelling, ‘Don’t touch me!’ People looked around and shrugged. Ten minutes later, the voice yells again, ‘I said don’t touch me!’”

Again, people shrugged off the disturbance. But a few minutes later, says our source, “the guy stands up in the darkness and thwacks the guy behind him with a big festival binder. He hit him so hard everybody could hear it. Everyone freaked out and turned around.”

The thwacker? New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick.

The thwackee? Esteemed Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert.

After battling thyroid and salivary gland cancer for years, Ebert, 66, can no longer speak.

“Apparently, Roger was just trying to tap Lumenick on the shoulder to signal him that he couldn’t see the movie,” surmises our source. “He was trying to ask him to move over a bit.”

Though Lumenick seemed surprised to see whom he had struck, he offered no apology, according to another source.

Obviously, Lumenick’s hitting of Ebert was beyond the pale, but even if the former had just responded rudely, he would have been at fault.   He ought to have upheld a principle of charity: on first glance, assume that other people have good intentions and motives, even if they’re not obvious at first. But even if in this case the tappee had been actually rude, Lumenick should have remembered that the true test of manners is how you deal with people with no manners.

Zorro He Ain’t

Cafe Tacuba

Rubén Albarrán, lead singer of the popular Mexican rock band Café Tacuba, nearly always wears a white fedora/mask to feign anonymity, perhaps even that of a luchadore.  (This is even more obvious when he wears his bizarre coxcomb cap.)  But Izzy can’t help but thinking of Dumb Donald, the lunkheaded character from the TV show Fat Albert who literally pulled he wool over his eyes in his permanent pink stocking hat.

Dumb Donald

Velvet Underfoot

Christian Louboutin men’s pumps

Unlike The Manolo, Izzy can barely comprehend the mystifying, wonderful world of women’s shoes, but if he had to name his favorite designer for the female foot, it would have to be the fanciful Christian Louboutin.  Hence, Izzy was pleased to discover that the Frenchman has created at least one model  for gentleman.  Now, Izzy wouldn’t actually advise wearing these velvet opera pumps—which are best left to Cinderella’s footmen—but he is happy that they exist.

Aryan Master Drapes

drapes suit

Whether or not this Obedient Sons suit is made of wallpaper, curtains, or drapes, Izzy thinks it would be wunderbar were it from the designer’s Von Trapp collection.

Good Lieutenant

Maryland Governor Michael Steele

On the right, Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, does something rare among politicians: flaunt a bespoke suit by leaving not just one, but two, sleeve buttons undone.   On another occasion, he has even worn a shirt with a spread collar in a contrasting color.  As if being a prominent black Republican wasn’t enough to make him an outlier.

Apparel Disfunction

George Clooney and Brad Pitt with open collars

There are only two ways to wear an open collar under a jacket: 1) firm and erect, 2) limp and flaccid. Someone, please get Mr. Clooney some Viagra for his shirt.

On Tightening One’s Belt

James Cook of Turnbull & Asser

If this interview of James Cook, the bespoke manager of Turnbull & Asser, can be trusted, economic downturns turn out to be booms not just for bankruptcy lawyers but high-end conservative tailoring.   According to Cook (who, incidentally, wears his jacket sleeves unusually short—perhaps to show off T&A’s best work: their shirts?):

In the 90′s, many Americans came into Turnbull & Asser in London and every single person was talking of the dot com craze and how they would never have to buy a tie again. They were only ordering shirts. And then there was a massive crash, and everyone went back to a tie because the Bank Manager showed up, or the Finance Minister. Gradually people started wearing less and less ties again until this recession.

You notice in this recession that people are dressing up again. Every time that [an economic downturn] happens, people have to get suits and shirts. They have to sharpen themselves up again.

Everyone forgets about history; the shirt, the tie and the suit never change. I don’t know why people think it is okay to be casual at work…. [I]f I show up and my bank manager isn’t suitably attired, I am not going to trust that person with my money. Same thing with my lawyer.