John Inman—the British comedic actor best known for playing Mr. Humphries, the campy menswear salesman on the BBC’s Are You Being Served?—has died. The hilarious sitcom, which ran from 1972 to 1985, was set in a department store so old-fashioned that the salespersons called each other mister and miss. (The closest Izzy has ever come to experiencing such a place is at Paul Stuart in New York.) A master of the double entrendre, the is-he-or-isn’t-he? Mr. Humphries was notoriously all-too-eager to measure an inside leg. An interverate scene-stealer whose trilled catch phrase was “I’m free,” Mr. Inman shall be missed.
Izzy had never given much thought to Sir Alec Guiness’ costume in Star Wars, which was recently auctioned off for $104,000, until he visited Morocco for the first time. To his delight, he discovered that a good percentage of Moroccan dress like Obi Wan Kenobi all the time. The loose-fitting robe with a distinctive pointy hood is called a djellaba, which is apparently an excellent means of keeping warm in a desert at night, whether on Earth or Tatooine.
An article in Slate magazine is heralding the arrival of Jewish fashion, in which Orthodox attire is inspiring the latest runway looks. According to its author, Alana Newhouse, this is unqualifiedly a good thing. Alexandre Herchcovitch, she tells us, is not afraid to flaunt his heritage, unlike those supposedly unproud Jewish designers of the past. But perhaps they understood, whether consciously or not, that the garb of traditionalist religious communities, whether that of the Orthodox or the Amish, is fundamentally anti-fashion: it opposes itself to innovation for its own sake, the cult of the new, and the vices of materialism. (The latter was what Saturday Night Live mocked in its controversial fake commercial for Jewess Jeans, which came with a Star of David embroidered on the tush.)
While it’s obvious that Orthodox clothing aims at sexual modesty, its restraint and conservatism are also products of the sumptuary laws that Jewish communities imposed on themselves to reduce harmful envy both among themselves and between them and the gentile world. And needless to say, the fashion business would amount to bupkis without that deadly sin.
In his tweed jacket, button-down oxford, and lackluster tie, the man on the right might be a college professor or a small-town lawyer. But in fact he is Gerard Wertheimer, co-owner of Chanel and a billionaire. It has often been observed that—in contrast to the nouveaux riches, who are insecure about their social status—old money will go about in ancient togs, unembarrassed by holes or signs of wear. Though Wertheimer escapes being frumpy, there is something to be said for a fashion magnate who is immune to the seductions of glamour.
A macho boutique might sound like a contradiction in terms, but one new shop in New York is trying to do just that. Part haberdasher, part barbershop, Freemans Sporting Club aims to be all things masculine. Whether they’re able to achieve that, Izzy doesn’t yet know, but he is definitely excited by the fact that they are offering suits tailored by the illustrious Martin Greenfield out of deadstock. According to this article about one of the store’s owners:
Durability of material and shape underpins his decision to use vintage deadstock, most of which dates to the ’40s and ’50s. Unlike Super 180s and other popular high-twist wools, FSC’s vintage stock is often only 70 or 90 twist, and, therefore, much stronger. Greenfield’s son, Jay, explains that “most suits today are designed to be made by machine and glued together,” and the fabric is therefore very light. “Because we make it by hand,” he says, “we can use fabric with more body and shape.”
FSC’s emphasis on durability translates into a crisp, structured suit body that will soften with age, but will always maintain its form. The suits are built around Swiss cotton and black horsehair canvas with black gossamer linings that reveal the basting and other remnants of construction.
Izzy hopes to stop by the shop for a look and feel on his next trip to Gotham.
Looking a bit like a turtle sticking its head out of its shell, Eddie Murphy would have benefited from a higher collar. Also, while midnight blue is an acceptable and sophisticated alternative to black in formal wear, the color of Murphy’s jacket is both unflattering and too light to qualify as such.
Kean Etro seems to have stolen a tape measure or two from the sculptor Claes Oldenburg, lover of all things colossal.