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The Nap of the Bow Tie

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A serious danger in wearing a bow tie is to come off as a fuddy-duddy or even a sartorial prig. If that’s not the impression you’re going for, the trick  is to choose a bow tie with an interesting texture. As Izzy previously noted, raw silk works wonderfully, but so too does velvet, like this gunmetal number from Band of Outsiders. Its small size, seen in action here, also helps makes it anything but stodgy. Other excellent textilian (Izzy’s coinage) choices include pinwale corduroy and wool.

Power Tie-in

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From the trailers for The Spirit, it seems that the forthcoming movie is about some kind of masked comic-book hero in a fedora and trenchcoat. The film’s true star, however, is a red tie forever flapping in the wind.

By Your Own Very Soft Bootstraps

When it comes to velvet footwear, Izzy thought he had seen it all.  But, yes Virginia, velvet boots do exist—thanks at least to the fine folks at John Varvatos.  Presumably this pair is the choice of Puss ‘n’ Boots, or, as the far classier original French has it, Le Chat botté.

Hauteur Theory

The author of books such as My Life Among the Deathworks and The Triumph of the Therapeutic, Philip Rieff was a formidable conservative cultural critic and a formidable conservative dresser. Here he is in a custom pinstriped peak-lapelled single-breasted suit, pocket square, fawn waistcoat, watch fob, and homburg hat. They don’t make professors like that anymore—for which lazy, fearful students should be thankful.

Men and Their Hose

Izzy was blissfully unaware of the trend of men wearing pantyhose, until a reader sent him this article:

The trend for straight men to invade female fashion territory is seemingly unstoppable. Even before manscara and guyliner there were man bras, or manzieres. Now there are umpteen websites for male nylons. One, e-MANcipate!, describes itself as “a project to accelerate the acceptance of male pantyhose as a regular clothing item” with tips on how to deal with snagging (a dab of clear nail varnish, I find, fellas, and do watch those shoe buckles).

Surely you don’t need Izzy to tell you that “mantyhose,” even with a special “male comfort panel,” is stretching things too far. They only time a gentleman should ever be caught with hose on is when he has pulled a pair over his head to rob a grocery store for diapers.

Comma Chameleon

Izzy never would have thought that suede paisley loafers could be done tastefully, but this pair from Cole Haan—not Etro, as one might expect—proved him wrong. Almost a pair of slippers, they are just the thing for reposing at home in a smoking jacket.

My Adidas

While in elementary school, Izzy and his classmates used to titter that “Adidas” stood for “All Day I Dream About Sex”—not that we had any idea what that meant. Thus, when Izzy saw the juxtaposition of that brand name with the Cuban flag, he had to wonder whether Castro had in mind “All Day I Dream About Socialism.” Though, really, Fidel ought to create his own logo: “Adidats,” for “All Day I Dream About Track Suits.”

Will Steal for Clothes

While political corruption is a dog-bites-man story, according to the New York Times the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama has been “charged in [an] 101-count indictment with taking over $230,000 in cash, clothing, and jewelry.” Could this be an alleged crooked pol Izzy can sympathize with?  Not if the mayor’s ill-gotten gains include that painfully loud Burberry-esque shirt.  He does have great hair, though.

Prozac on Your Feet

 

From the delightfully named Happy Socks come, well, socks that will cheer up anyone’s mood. The huge selection includes bold argyle socks, which are perfect for your inner harlequin (romantic or not), and “high heel” socks that make for a fun surprise. The company is based in Sweden, and its socks are, happily, Ikea-priced at $10 each.

When Moustaches Were All the Raj

While recently reading Piers Brendon’s excellent new book The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, Izzy came across this fascinating digression on how the imperial British moustache largely originated in India:

Also reflecting the customs of [India] was the growth of “the Moustache movement.” Some British officers had begun to sport hair on their top lip during the Napoleonic Wars. They did so, largely, it seems, in dashing imitation of coxcombical Frenchmen, who took the Spanish view that an “an hombre de bigote” was a man of resolution, their whiskers evidently being “appurtenences of Terror.” The mode became imperative in India, where beards were deemed sacred but the moustache was a symbol of virility. . . . So in 1831 the 16th Lancers hailed with delight an order permitting them to wear moustaches. . . . In 1854 moustaches were made compulsory for European troops of the Company’s Bombay army and they were enthusiastically adopted elsewhere. . . . 

Moustaches were clipped and trimmed until they curved like sabers and bristled like bayonets. Their ends were waxed and given a soldierly erection. Imitating warriors, civilians too stiffened their upper lips: Frederich Engels mocked Anglo-Irish aristocrats with “enormous moustaches under colossal noses.” . . . For different reasons sailors and parsons eschewed the fashion but it was jealously guarded by the beau monde. Edwardian tuskers rebuked servants who aped the “fancy hairdressing” of their betters. Nothing would be permitted to devalue these military insignia, which achieved their apotheosis in the crossed scimitars of Lord Kitchener and gained iconic status in the famous Great War recruiting poster. So the moustache became the emblem of empire, roughly coterminous with the Raj but largely derived from it—much as the Romans derived the habit of wearing trousers from the barbarians.

The tradition of warriors choosing to be proudly hirsute lives on in the U.S. Special Forces, whose soldiers are the only American troops permitted to wear facial hair (and not just so they can blend in with locals abroad). It’s hard to quantify such things, but sometimes it appears that an outright majority of Navy SEALs wear mustaches. Of course, such facial hair is also a badge of honor, allowing the elite to stand out from the ordinary rank-and-file.

Bondage by Tom Ford

The Los Angeles Times has a long but excellent article on the new wardrobe 007 in Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond movie. Ditching Brioni, Bond now has Tom Ford as his custom tailor. That helps to explain the above three-piece suit, a style Ford has tried to re-popularize in recent years. While a three-piece is appropriate now that the franchise is looking back to its early years (e.g., Sean Connery wore one in Goldfinger), it’s a shame that the vest was cut so voluminously and short. Also, Connery’s Bond knew not to fasten the bottom button.

In any case, Ford, acting like a sartorial Q, at least gave Bond some tricks up his pants:

one of Bond’s coolest secret weapons this time around is a small button tab inside the cuff of each trouser leg that never has a second of screen time, and whose sole purpose is to keep 007’s pant legs precisely where they should be

Izzy has never before heard of such a thing, and is curious how it works. Another interesting tidbit from the article is that the costume designer

desperately wanted to source a very specific, very expensive suiting fabric known as “mohair tonic,” a wool-cashmere blend with a subtle sheen not unlike that of a subdued sharkskin suit. “It was extremely popular in the ’60s; all the Mods and all the wannabe Bonds wore it,” she said. “I’m sure Sean Connery would have worn it at least once.” According to a Ford rep, when a sufficient quantity could not be found, the Tom Ford team developed the proprietary fabric to specification in its Italian mills (and cloaked in Bond-worthy industrial secrecy, she declined to identify the specific mill).

Note that the costume designer does not say that Bond himself ever wore such shiny fabric, which, whatever its merits, has never been considered high class.

Suiting Up for Power

As befits a president, Barack Obama has finally gone custom. Izzy missed this at the time, but Obama wore a custom navy blue worsted Hartmarx suit for his acceptance speech.

Obama, who wears a 40 long with a 33-inch waist, has worn Hart Schaffner Marx suits in the past but always off the rack, said an inside source. He favors the Gold Trumpeter collection. This time, he made appointments with Hartmarx tailors for his nomination-night suit.

[…]

The fabric is 97 percent merino wool and 3 percent cashmere.

The pants are pleated and have an inch and a quarter cuff.

A similar suit off the rack would retail for about $1,500.

Pleated pants? Isn’t Obama supposed to bring change and vigor to the White House? Is this a sartorial bait-and-switch?  After all, TV pundit Chris Matthews got all excited before the election:

“Think of the Kennedys,” Mr. Matthews said, when asked the impact on Washington if Obama wins. “A mixed administration. Pragmatic. Some liberal tendencies, not overwhelming. Very tough. Very smart. Thin ties — are you looking at this?”

While it’s nice to see that Obama’s custom suit has some waist suppression, unlike the superconservative sack cut a la J. Press or (traditional) Brooks Brothers, it doesn’t come close to achieving the flair of JFK’s narrow ties and lapels. Going with flat-fronted pants would give a sleeker look and would also be more flattering for a thin man such as Obama.  SAnd speaking of his gangliness, unless he gains some weight in office, he should start wearing higher collars to hide his long, scrawny neck.

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