It’s hard to believe, but the above photo isn’t some colorized snapshot of one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, but was taken in the very unglamorous 1985. The subject is the recently deceased Gene Savoy, a flamboyant adventurer, archaeologist, and all-around throwback in the tradition of Indiana Jones.Â He might never have discovered the Fountain of Youth, but he certainly knew where to find hard-wearing trousers with thick belt loops, western-front pockets, and an amazing drape.
Arrrrgh. Somehow, me maties, Capt’n Izzy missed that yesterday was International Talk like a Pirate Day. Were Izzy to enter the swashbuckling ranks (which is unlikely given his concern for, er, gallantry, not to mention his fear of stains that no drycleaner can remove), he’d wear a skull-and-crossbones bow tieâ€”threatening, but not too threateningâ€”and be accompanied by his loyal parrot, “Popinjay.” Pirate Izzy, a/k/a Isidore the Mauve, would fantasize about having bigger shoulders, so that he could carry around an actual peacock on them. “Gangway!“, indeed.
Jeremy Hackett, the man behind Hackettâ€”a brand that, by copying and improving upon English classics, is in many ways the British equivalent of Ralph Laurenâ€”waxes eloquent about the time he discovered the virtues of a Barbour jacket:
When I opened my first shop in London in 1983, I sold â€” as one magazine kindly put it â€” dead men’s clothes. Today they are known as vintage, and some items can fetch exorbitant prices. Once, on one of my frequent forays to Portobello Market, I chanced upon an ancient, patched-up Barbour jacket. I bought it and put it in the window, where it sold within minutes at a price not far from what it cost new. The attraction, I realized, was precisely that it was worn. In no time at all, no self-respecting Sloane Ranger would be seen without this distinctive olive green coat. Young army officers wore them as part of their mufti, teamed with straw-colored corduroys, suede shoes and red socks. Aspiring bankers adopted the Barbour, and it also became de rigueur over black tie. It was a way of airing your country pedigree, though you may have actually lived in a two-up, two-down in Fulham.
It spoke of damp dogs sleeping on tartan coat linings in the back of battered Land Rovers, of point-to-points and Badminton Horse Trials, all things dear to an Englishman. I recently retrieved my old Beaufort Barbour â€” with its oily texture, brown corduroy collar and brass zipper as strong as a railway line â€” from the attic, where it had lain neglected for nearly 20 years. Suddenly, I was filled with nostalgia for the countryside. So, despite not owning a large pile in the shires, I shall wear my shabby Barbour the next time I go shopping on Sloane Street â€” but I think I’ll leave my green wellies in the Land Rover.
Far from being a traditional Scottish kilt, the Utilikilt is a proud representative of the “men’s unbifurcated garment” a/k/a the manskirt. Offered in eight styles, in materials including cotton, leather, duck cloth, and lightweight nylon, it aims to be a manly, well-ventilated alternative to the tyranny of trousers. It’s also great for anyone looking to pick a fight.Â Obviously only for the brave, the garment is best attempted by big, burly men.
First published in 1964, and long out of print, the ABC of Men’s Fashion has just been re-issued. Izzy can’t claim ever to have read the guide, but it was at least written by Hardy Amies, the conservative-minded British designer most famous for being dressmaker to the Queen. (The son of a civil servant, he was notorious for his in-your-face snobbery: “I can’t help it,” he once defended himself, “I’m immensely impressed by all genuine upper-class manifestations.”) Izzy thinks it a shame that the new, bland cover ditched the original’s head-turning gentleman in a mod suitâ€”note his narrow trousers and the jacket’s high gorge (where the lapels meet). His hat’s proportions are unfortunate, but such were the times. Even James Bond had to suffer a high-crown, narrow-brim trilby in Dr. No.
Having once criticized Jude Law for wearing a too tiny collar and tie, Izzy must admit that the combo above does work.Â Could it be that they’re just the smallest bit larger than his earlier, unsuccessful try?Â Or perhaps his leaving the tie askew does the trick.
Izzy generally doesn’t wear t-shirts, at least not visibly, but this video is such a fun homage to hipster tees that it almost changed his mind. (The song is “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice, a French electro-funk outfit.) For a brief while, some of the shirts were being sold at trÃ¨s supercool Colette, but they’re all gone now.
From the looks of this Perry Ellis jacket, recently on show at New York Fashion Week, it looks like Izzy spoke too soon about the Tyvek windbreaker.
Pulitzer-prize-winning poet James Merrill was raised in a highly privileged setting (his father was a co-founder of Merrill Lynch), which should be kept in mind when reading his “Self-Portrait in Tyvekâ„¢ Windbreaker,” a meditation on the effects of dressing down. Here’s an excerpt, but Izzy encourages you to read the whole thing:
The windbreaker is white with a world map.
DuPont contributed the seeming-frail,
Unrippable stuff first used for Priority Mail.
Weightless as shoes reflected in deep water,
The countries are violet, orange, yellow, green;
Names of the principal towns and rivers, black.
A zipper’s hiss, and the Atlantic Ocean closes
Over my blood-red T-shirt from the Gap.
I found it in one of those vaguely imbecile
Emporia catering to the collective unconscious
Of our time and place. This one featured crystals,
Cassettes of whalesong and rain-forest whistles,
Barometers, herbal cosmetics, pillows like puffins,
Recycled notebooks, mechanized lucite coffins
For sapphire waves that creast, break, and recede,
As they presumably do in nature still.
Sweat-panted and Reeboked, I wear it to the gym.
My terry-cloth headband is green as laurel.
A yellow plastic Walkman at my hip
Sends shiny yellow tendrils to either ear.
Americans, blithe as the last straw,
Shrug off accountability by dressing
Younger than their kidsâ€”jeans, ski-pants, sneakers,
A baseball cap, a happy-face T-shirt . . .
Like first-graders we “love” our mother Earth,
Know she’s been sick, and mean to care for her
When we grown up. Seeing my windbreaker,
People hail me with nostalgic awe.
“Great jacket!” strangers on streetcorners impart.
The Albanian doorman pats it: “Where you buy?”
Over his ear-splitting drill a hunky guy
Yells, “Hey, you’ll always know where you are, right?”
“Ever the fashionable cosmopolite,”
Beams Ray. And “VoilÃ mon pays”â€”the carrot-haired
Girl in the bakery, touching with her finger
The little orange France above my heart.
Everyman, c’est moi, the whole world’s pal!
The pity is how soon such feelings sour.
As I leave the gym a smiling-as-if-I-should-know-her
Teenagerâ€”oh but I mean, she’s wearing “our”
Windbreaker, and assumes . . . Yet I return her wave
Like an accomplice. For while all humans aren’t
Countable as equals, we must behave
As if they were, or the spirit dies (Pascal).
Sean “Diddy” Combs shows some inventiveness in a custom-made peak-lapeled suit made of a material Izzy has never seen before, black and white seersucker (a word, incidentally, that derives from the Hindi “shir shakkar,” meaning “milk and sugar”; like the fabric’s alternating stripes, milk is smooth, while sugar is rough).Â While Izzy can tolerate such flamboyance in an entertainer, Diddy’s untucked t-shirt, by sloppily peeking out below the jacket, ruins the whole outfit.
In honor of Labor Day, Izzy wishes to remind his readers of the travails of the working man. After all, even Cary Grant nearly burst a blood vessel in his forehead while knitting his own sweaters.