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Frank Sinatra Has No Wrinkles

Gay Talese

The son of Italian tailors, esteemed writer Gay Talese is himself quite the dandy, with “fishmouth” lapels being his personal trademark. As this profile of him reports:

His closet is stacked with more than 50 handmade suits and more than a dozen pairs of hand-cobbled shoes.

“I have one of the great wardrobes in American journalism,” he said.

It was with this in mind that Izzy just read for the first time Talese’s famous 1966 Esquire article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” Not only does Talese devote great attention to Sinatra’s wardrobe, but he also makes this intriguing comment:

Frank Sinatra can fall asleep anywhere, something he learned when he used to ride bumpy roads with band buses; he also learned at that time, when sitting in a tuxedo, how to pinch the trouser creases in the back and tuck the jacket under and out, and fall asleep perfectly pressed.

Can any of Izzy’s loyal readers explain exactly what sort of tricks Talese is referring to?

The Sloppy Tux

Jeremy Piven in sloppy tux

Jeremy Piven showed up to the Emmy’s looking like he’d slept in his tux after a long night of drinking. While this hungover look is unlikely to work outside of Hollywood, Izzy has to admit there’s something endearing about that shirt stud hanging free.

Matt Groaning

Matt Groening

Ay caramba! If he’s not careful, Simpsons‘ creator Matt Groening might publicly strangle himself.

All Buttoned Up

buttoned tux

In case you needed any evidence that tuxes, like most jackets, look far better when buttoned.

The Scrawny Hobbit

Tiny Elijah Wood

It’s one thing to be short, another to be skinny. But when the two are combined, as in the case of Elijah Wood, a painted-on “tux” with overly long trousers only makes things worse.

Save Lipshitz

Ralph Lauren at CFDA

First he wore this. And now here is how Ralph Lauren (né Lipshitz) recently showed up to a black-tie event. Is that the same turquoise (?) on his jeans as on his earlier giant belt?

Dear readers, Izzy believes we must stage an intervention.

Choral Dirge

Izzy recently received the following distress call from a reader:

Lady Prisspott here again with another burning question about formal wear. It seems her Ladyship has gotten herself in a bit of a pickle. Her Ladyship has insinuated herself into an unofficial position as the fashion advisor to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC. It has been a crusade of her Ladyship to update their look. The official concert attire has been a tuxedo worn with a wing collar, bow tie and cummerbund. It is her Ladyship’s contention that the wing collar should only be worn with the more formal waistcoat and that when wearing a cummerbund the less formal turndown (sometimes called tennis collar) was the only appropriate choice. The pleas and lectures (ok, whining and bitching) have not fallen on deaf ears and for the silver anniversary concert at the Kennedy Center the chorus will make the switch to turndown collars. “Huzah and welcome to the 21st century” I say, however this change comes with the bitter sting of unintended consequences but I do plead damnum absque injuria. It seems this change is made possible by a generous donation of cravats to be worn with the new collar style. Her Ladyship is informed that the wearing of a cravat rather than a bow tie, albeit with a turndown collar, may continue. It appears that the general trend toward less formality in dress has finally caught up with formal attire. It is bad enough that the notched lapel has crept into formal attire but now it is considered acceptable to wear a cravat with a tuxedo. This cravat and tuxedo look has even been worn to the Oscars to the raves of so called fashion critics. Well fine, if that’s the way it must be her Ladyship shall not remain hidebound but shall accept the inevitable. Here then is the dilemma. How does her Ladyship advise the fine gentleman of the chorus to wear the tuxedo and cravat? Since the chorus chooses to wear a cummerbund does one tuck the end of the tie under the cummerbund or let it flop about over the cummerbund? Does one eschew the cummerbund as too formal with a cravat? If so how does one cover the unpleated portion of the pleated front tux shirt (with turndown collar of course)? Does one eschew the pleated front shirt also as too formal? If so then isn’t one left simply wearing business attire with shiny lapels? Help me dearest Izzy the repercussions are endless and as we are entering uncharted territory her Ladyship has no reference material upon which to rely and is at a loss as to how to advise her dear charges.

Alas, this news leaves Izzy utterly distraught and demoralized. When even gay men are wearing ties with tuxedos, what hope can there be for the rest of mankind?

To respond first to the issue of the choice of collar, although the original ideal was that of a wing collar paired with a waistcoat and peaked-lapel jacket, for quite some time it has been perfectly fine to wear a wing collar with a cummerbund. (Incidentally, it was the Duke of Windsor who popularized wearing a turn-down collar with a dinner jacket.)

As for wearing a tie with a tuxedo, has Lady Prisspott truly beseeched the chorus to avoid this horrendous mistake? Do they really wish to look like they’re going to the prom in Oshkosh? Do they really wish to hide their shirt studs, one of the few pieces of jewelry a gentleman is permitted to wear? Shouldn’t their patriotism spur them to do their part to improve style in Washington, DC, as opposed to reinforce the awful status quo?

If, however, they simply will not relent, then the next best solution is to have them exchange the cummerbund for a vest, which will go far better with a tie. If, perish the thought, they don’t like that idea, then they should ditch the cummerbund, and try to find a shirt whose pleats extend all the way to the waist. If they find that search too difficult, they should simply go with a plain-fronted shirt.

Izzy hopes her Ladyship will persuade the chorus to make the right decision. In the meantime, he will be praying for our country.

The Tiny Tux

Thom Browne in tux

Inspired by suits from the late 1950s and early 1960s—think early James Bond—Thom Browne’s signature style uses drain-pipe trousers, soft collars, and short, fitted jackets with narrow lapels. One of the hottest new designers of menswear, he here arrives at a Costume Institute Party in a tuxedo of his own making. Note the lack of a cummberbund, an absence which is partially offset by the relatively high-waisted pants. Izzy doubts that Browne can even button his jacket.

Although making use the same fabrics and forms of classic high-quality men’s clothing, Browne’s style rebels against tradition via the use of unusual, youthful cuts. But at least his is a mature, measured rebellion in that it acknowledges and takes seriously what has worked in the past.

Of course, youthful taken too far can become childish (it is no accident that Pee Wee Herman’s suits showed a lot of sock and cuff), and the great authority Alan Flusser has even accused Browne of being irresponsible in his designs. But it is Izzy’s considered opinion that if you are a young man who is not afraid of flirting with faddishness, and you fully understand that Browne’s offerings are fashion-forward, not classic, then you should not be discouraged from taking inspiration from him, though in a less exaggerated manner.

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