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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.
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).
At a party not too long ago, Izzy saw one of his well-sauced English friendsÂ rearrange his jacket toÂ be wornÂ inside out, which seemed to be a quick and cleverÂ way to go from proper and formalÂ toÂ woo-hoo!.Â Â It’s too bad he wasn’t wearing this jacket from Paul Smith, which features a stunningÂ chatoyant map of London, which even includes some street names.Â It reminds Izzy ofÂ theÂ maps of EuropeÂ sewn into the linings of World War II bomber jackets, which downed Allied aviators could use to escape and evade.Â Come to think of it, perhaps the Paul Smith lining has a functional use as well:Â to assist a liquored-upÂ tourist return to his London lodgings.
Izzy had never given much thought to Sir Alec Guiness’ costume in Star Wars, which was recently auctioned off for $104,000, until he visited Morocco for the first time. To his delight, he discovered that a good percentage of Moroccan dress like Obi Wan Kenobi all the time. The loose-fitting robe with a distinctive pointy hood is called a djellaba, which is apparently an excellent means of keeping warm in a desert at night, whether on Earth or Tatooine.
Romeo Gigli, the Italian fashion house, just announced that Dario Fo, the Nobel-Prize-winning satirist, will galumph down the catwalk at their upcoming show in Milan. But by inviting Fo, who in this beast of a shearling coat looks like a giant Gore Vidal, it isn’t clear exactly on whom the joke is supposed to be.
From what Washington Post movie reviewer Stephen Hunter writes, the Good Shepherd sounds like it will be a holiday treat for the clothes-minded:
[Matt Damon’s character] is from one of those old families — you know, the ones who knew everybody, got the best jobs and knew which wine went with which course. Ever notice their lapels? They never bunched up when they sat down, like yours or mine did. They had drape, and that’s the giveaway right there….
As anthropology and archaeology, the film is first-class. If old WASP high Anglican haberdashery was the dullest, tweediest cavalcade of threads ever conceived, the movie certainly understands this. The suits fit beautifully and look like mud on asphalt, the shoes are both shiny and dull, nobody has the wit to wear a Burberry but only those sacklike London Fog single-breasted raincoats and the little ’50s small-brimmed hat, usually with the tail feather of a Bavarian woodcock in the band. Color? These guys never heard of it!
The New York Times is claiming that big puffy parkasÂ especially those by their originator, Moncler, are popular again. While they certainly are functional (except for keeping your legs warm), unless you happen to be living in Novosibirsk, Izzy doens’t think there’s any reason to look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.