Izzy recently popped into H. Herzfeld, possibly New York’s last true habedasher. Inside the cozy store, which has been in business since 1890, it is easy to imagine one is on Jermyn Street in London, not E. 57th Street in Manhattan. It probably the only place in New York city that sells shirts by Hilditch & Key and Harvie & Hudson, among with many other rarities in America, such as sock garters. Browsing toward the back of the shop, Izzy felt a pair of gloves from Dents, the leather of which was so surprisingly soft that it truly sent a shiver up his spine. The salesman said that the British glovemaker was the best in the world, which, Izzy had to agree, was not a hyperbolic claim.
As autumn approaches, protection for a gentleman’s hands that is both classic and masculine can be found in gloves made of boar skin (or peccary), which has a distinctive appearance. Rarely seen nowadays, they are not easy to find in stores, but Izzy spoored this tobacco-colored sueded pair at Ben Silver. Even more traditional is this unsueded model from Pickett of England, though it it’ll break the piggy bank at £215.00.
This gentleman in Milan is doing so many things right, it’s hard to know where to begin. There are his narrow, short trousers which show off the sensational antiqued shoes (Berluti?). And it’s not every day one sees a pocket square in an overcoat. But the gloves, cradling a cigar, are really what set the outfit apart. If there’s one accessory any dandy must absolutely possess, it is a pair of canary yellow gloves.
FUZZY WUZZY: It’s a bear market out there — at least where Karl Lagerfeld is concerned. The famous German teddy bear maker Steiff plans to immortalize the indefatigable couturier in stuffed-animal form. The fuzzy Karl comes complete with dark glasses, a dark suit, high collar and logo belt buckle — nuclear-powered design prowess not included.
Izzy can’t help thinking that the teddy bear ought to be a creepy robot like the one featured in Steven Speilberg’s A.I. (which was originally a project of Stanley Kubrick’s, a director with a far darker sensibility).
The plot, including the character of Teddy, was inspired by Brian Aldiss’ short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long,” which contains a passage that could well describe any ursine automaton based on Lagerfeld:
“Come down here, Teddy!”
She stood impassively, watching the little furry figure as it climbed down from step to step on its stubby limbs. When it reached the bottom, she picked it up and carried it into the living room. It lay unmoving in her arms, staring up at her. She could feel just the slightest vibration from its motor.
Suppose it’s freezing out, and you need to fiddle with your iPod. Maybe, heaven forfend, you put Whitney Houston’s ”I Will Always Love You” on infinite repeat, to your severe regret. Taking off your gloves can be cumbersome, not to say painful. But these trigger finger gloves from Orvis, the outdoors outfitter, might just be the solution. Each glove even has small magnets to hold its index finger out of the way. And even if you don’t have an iPod (or a hunting rifle), it’s often useful to have a free digit.
Just in time for Halloween, a horror-show of a documentary about Karl Lagerfeld has opened in New York. According to one review:
Mr. Lagerfeld claims to be “a complete improvisation.”
“I don’t want to be real in other people’s minds,” he declares. “I want to be an apparition.”
As a child, he admits, he was “unbearable and spoiled” and compares himself to Shirley Temple. Even now, he cannot go to sleep without a pillow clutched to his stomach.
His mother, he says, was “the polar opposite of a typical German mother.” She “exuded frivolity” and “made slaves of everyone.” Mr. Lagerfeld displays a similar mixture of eccentricity and severity. With his white ponytail, high white collars, sunglasses, fingerless gloves (his hands are festooned with rings) and preference for black, he resembles a man of the cloth, “a defrocked one,” he says matter-of-factly.
His most unsettling remarks concern friendship. Hanging over every close relationship, he asserts, is a sword of Damocles. And he implies that many have been permanently exiled from his court. “Forgiveness isn’t something I’m preoccupied with,” he says. “Turning the other cheek is not my trip. The curtain falls: an iron curtain.”
Izzy thinks that Lagerfeld needs a hug.
A long-time sufferer from Anglophilia, Izzy is in the midst of reading Ian Buruma’s tribute to that passion, Anglomania. The book contains this fascinating description of Theodore Herzl, the Austro-Hungarian founder of Zionism:
Herzl had always loved dressing up. He was a dandy, with the politics of a dandy. Here he is in a photograph of his Viennese student fraternity, looking more immaculate than his gentile friends: cap at a rakish tilt, coat buttoned up just so, ivory-topped cane clasped under arm like a sword. There he is, in morning coat, gloves, cane, and top hat, looking remarkably like comte Robert de Montesquiou, the famous Parisian aesthete, in the portrait by Boldini [pictured at right]. And there we find him, waiting for an audience with the kaiser in the Palestinian desert, sweltering in black formal wear and white tie…And there, in Basel, at the first Zionist Congress in 1897, he is in top hat and tails greeting the delegates. He insisted that all delegates, many of them poor Jews from the east who had never worn such clothes in their lives, attend in white tie. That way, he said, they would appear, in their own as well as as they eyes of the world, as gentlemen of substance.
How ironic that Israeli politicians, in rejecting the jacket and tie and other niceties, became the least formal in the world.
Buruma also includes this tibdit:
Herzl’s Anglophilia as a young man, typically, was largely a matter of his taste in clothes. The playwright Arthur Schnitzler never forgot the devastating occasion when the young Herzl examined Schnitzler’s cravat with a look of distate and said: “And I had considered you a—Brummel!”
While reading Louis Auchincloss’ biography of Teddy Roosevelt, Izzy came across this nugget of pink gold:
TR needed a good deal of physical exercise, particularly to control a waistline responding to his hearty meals. He played tennis with aides, but he preferred riding and long hikes. On one of the latter, accompanied by some more or less willing diplomats, he encountered a stream that could be forded only by the removal of all clothing. J. J. Jusserand, the French ambassador and TR’s good friend, emulated his host except for a pair of pink gloves. Asked why he retained these, he replied: “In case we should run into ladies.”
*Always Prepared (The Coast Guard’s motto)
Izzy wonders whether driving gloves are ever really necessary, but he’d splurge on this pair from Dunhill had he a red Ferrari with which to accessorize them.