Izzy has, if not a liking, a curiosity towards seersucker shoes, which made it all the more pleasant when he came across this very unusual pair of seersucker espadrilles. Espadrilles on men have a bad reputation in the U.S., perhaps because of their association with Sonny Crockett, perhaps because the traditional, cheap version (in black) wears out quickly and can become malodorous (because of the jute rope sole). But nicer models like this one, as well as those made by Pare Gabia, make Izzy want to give them a shot—though admittedly in a more traditional fabric, such as canvas. The shoes themselves originated as peasant footwear in the Pyrenees Mountains at least as early as the 14th century, and are popular today in Catalonia and the Basque Country.
Aching to be paired with some motorcycle boots and a square jaw, this vintage-inspired belt from J. Crew shouts, “I am man. Grrr.”
Conservative curmudgeon Ben Stein, himself never seen in public without a necktie—whether a militantly preppy one with dogs on it, or a militantly elitist one from Yale Law School—recently responded on TV to the supposed demise of the tie. Apparently he always keeps his high horse tethered nearby:
You see this lovely silken thing around my neck? It’s called a necktie.
When I was a lad and a younger man, men wore these to show they did not work with picks and shovels and pitchforks.
Ties were a symbol of white collar status, although even some workmen wore them under their leather aprons.
If you had on a necktie, it showed you had some sense of organization, some sense of dignity about yourself.
Even schoolboys wore them. At fabulous boarding schools like Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire, where my handsome son went, boys still wear them. It showed, to use a word that you rarely hear, class.
Now, I read in The Wall Street Journal, on the front page, if you please, that.
This will probably come as a bit of a surprise to Senators McCain and Obama, as well as to President Bush. They generally wear neckties, at least on TV.
It will probably come as a shock to all of the network newscasters and the late night talk show hosts. They’re the coolest guys on the planet, and they wear neckties.
But never mind. The Journal says only 6% of men wear neckties to work, and the necktie is being run down by history.
I hereby quote my late great friend Bill Buckley and say, I am going to stand in front of the train of sartorial history and shout, “STOP!”
The necktie is a sign of a man who is there to work, not to play. It’s what a man who takes his responsibilities seriously wears. Men who want to look and act like small children dress like small children, or surfers, or hoboes, or something.
Plus, the necktie covers over a little part of one’s paunchy stomach. And it just generally makes a man look better, smarter.
My fellow men: stop dressing like children. Start dressing like grownups and acting like grownups. The necktie is a start.
Kids, it’s the perfect time of year to get your dads a necktie. Get with the program, before we become a nation of open-collared slackers.
I mean it. Right now. And then straighten up your room.
Izzy gives Prince Charles credit for being, er, ballsy enough to wear kilts in celebration of the union of Scotland and England, but he erred royally in combining a loud tartan with a bold argyle. Either the kilt or socks ought to have been muted or plain, as the Scottish nationalist Sean Connery demonstrates.
It’s not easy to wear a sweater on one’s shoulders without looking unbearably preppy, but this gentleman in Manhattan succeeds, perhaps because the dark navy melds into the shirt and jacket. His entire outfit is a well-balanced study in brown and blue, even in such details as his tortoise-shell glasses, woven belt, and puffed-up pocket square.
Recently, The Wall Street Journal published a (to Izzy) depressing story on the state of the world of accessories:
After 60 years, the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association, the trade group that represents American tie makers, is expected to shut down Thursday.
Association members now number just 25, down from 120 during the 1980s power-tie era. U.S. tie companies have been consolidating. Others have closed because of overseas competition as the U.S. market share for American-made ties has fallen to about 40%, from 75% in 1995.
Members have lost interest. But the biggest reason for the group’s demise: Men aren’t wearing ties.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, the number of men who wore ties every day to work last year dropped to a record low of 6%, down from 10% in 2002. U.S. sales have plummeted to $677.7 million in the 12 months ending March 31, from their peak of $1.3 billion in 1995, according to market researcher NPD Group. Although sales are expected to get a bump around Father’s Day, June 15, the future of neckties is very much in doubt.
But perhaps the saddest part the article was its mention of makers, and even popularizers, of neckties not wearing them themselves:
Scott Sternberg, 33, who founded the Band of Outsiders tie label in 2004, has quickly developed a following of young hipsters who buy his skinny ties, sold at stores including Jeffrey, Barneys New York and Ron Herman.
He says younger men find wearing ties more interesting today when they are “outside of obligation.” While he himself wears a tie on “whims and special occasions,” Mr. Sternberg admits that he doesn’t wear one to the office on a regular basis. “Ties get in the way,” he says.
To Izzy, this sartorial hypocrisy is good evidence that for Sternberg and his ilk wearing a tie is merely a matter of fleeting fashion, not enduring style.
Although the article doesn’t mention them as possible explanations for the demise of the tie, Izzy suspects that two major factors are the unfortunate decline of formality in all aspects of social life (whether in manners, rhetoric, etc.) as well as the widespread opposition to anything that smack of inhibition or self-restraint.
Andre Leon Talley, the eccentric editor-at-large (no pun intended) of Vogue, arrived at a fashion show wearing an alligator (?) coat that looks suspiciously, and embarrassingly, familiar. Izzy never forgets a hide.
These cufflinks from Fender, one of the most famous makers of electric guitars, should pluck the heartstrings of any would-be rock star.
GQ described New York-based haberdasher Duncan Quinn as “rock ‘n roll meets Savile Row,” which well captures its combination of traditional tailoring with flashy colors and patterns. Izzy is particularly taken with this fleur de lis necktie, a bold take on a classical shape. Alas, at $255 only French monarchs are likely to afford it.
In his recently published memoir, The Place to Be, television newsman Roger Mudd writes about a time he was late to Air Force One as President John F. Kennedy was about to leave for a trip. The reporter was forced to take a different staircase than was usual: “To get to my seat in the rear I had to pass through the presidential quarters. There stood the president of the United States himself, with [press secretary Pierre] Salinger grinning and hovering, ready to pounce if I dared ask a question. I dared not. The president stepped aside to let me pass….As I slipped by, I noticed that there were shelves in the space usually used for coats—shelf after shelf of shirts, stacks of freshly laundered presidential shirts. There must have been four dozen of them. Only later did I learn that Kennedy put on a fresh shirt each and every time he deplaned from Air Force One for a public appearance.”
According to a recent scientific paper, artificially enhancing the appearance of male barn swallows, thereby making them more attractive to females, upped their testosterone and even trimmed their weight.
“Other females might be looking at them as being a little more sexy, and the birds might be feeling better about themselves in response to that,” said study co-author Kevin McGraw, an evolutionary biology professor at Arizona State University.
“It’s the ‘clothes make the man’” idea, [lead author Rebecca] Safran said. “It’s like you walk down the street and you’re driving a Rolls Royce and people notice. And your physiology accommodates this.”
Obviously, one shouldn’t be too quick to draw conclusions about humans from a study of birds, but the underlying mechanism shouldn’t be ignored: How a gentleman dresses affects how others treat him, which in turns affects his mood and even his personality. Izzy, for instance, has noticed that when he is well-turned out in a jacket and tie, strangers treat him better, which makes him more chipper and gracious than he would be otherwise. While it’s an old idea that clothes make the man, this study helps to explain how that can occur even if the man is unaware of what he is actually wearing.