Bill Cunningham, the famed New York Times street-fashion photographer, has created a new audio slideshow, in which he notes that pocket squares seem to be making a comeback, especially on men who aren’t wearing neckties. As a proponent of judiciously chosen ornament, Izzy thinks this is happy news.
Speaking of the joys of people-watching, as the weather is increasingly conducive to walks in the city, it’s worth remembering some lines from Walt Whitman:
Keep your splendid, silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods;
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and orchards;
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields, where the Ninth-month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms incessant and endless along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me comrades and lovers by the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones by the hand every day!
Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!
Despite being a designer and having all the money in the world, Tommy Hilfiger’s jacket is clearly too tight in the middle (note how the fabric pinches and the tie peeks through below the button). Maybe he’s spent too much time lifting weights at the gym. Indeed, his whole appearance gives the impression that he’s trying too hard: the gangster-bold pinstripes, the flashy tie in a color that’s “off,” the helmet hair, the steroidal neck, chest, and face. Hilfiger simply does not look comfortable in his own skin.
Presidents Bush and Putin recently met in Russia for some tense, and ultimately failed, talks on security issues including NATO expansion and Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Unlike in former, happier times, the two came suited for battle, if subtly. Bush wore a Texas-style Don’t-Tread-on-Me belt and a dress shirt with two front flapped pockets (just like Soviet-slayer Charlie Wilson), while Putin chose to wear an outright military jacket, complete with ammo pockets, epaulets, and belting. Looking at the two’s cheerful faces, the cynic in Izzy recalls a line from Will Rogers: “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”
Now here’s a t-shirt message Izzy can subscribe to: a gentleman in a tweed suit, high collar, and spats demonstrating civilization to an attentive boy, dressed with restraint. And the slogan is both perfect and true. The artist is Edward Gorey, who was famed for his vaguely ominous illustrations of Victorian and Edwardian subjects. But there’s nothing discomfiting here, except maybe the boy’s stiff collar.
While reading the obituary for publisher Simon Michael Bessie—who edited writers including Daniel J. Boorstin, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Kenneth Tynan, and Elie Wiesel—Izzy came across this passage about Bessie’s attempt to track down John Cheever, the novelist and chronicler of a vanishing WASP world:
As Susan Cheever recounts it in a memoir of her father, “Home Before Dark” (1984), Mr. Cheever had offered the novel to Random House in 1954, but the publisher turned it down. In despair, he rented a house that summer on Nantucket Island, took his family there and continued working on the novel. One day, as Cheever was staring out the window, a sailing yacht appeared in the harbor and dropped anchor. A man in white flannels and a double-breasted blazer was rowed ashore in a dinghy and announced in the voice of a literate aristocrat to the small crowd that had gathered to greet him, “I’m looking for John Cheever.”
“It was Simon Michael Bessie,” Ms. Cheever writes, “a senior editor at Harper & Row, and he had come to buy ‘The Wapshot Chronicle.’ ”
It’s worth noting that although Bessie was not himself a WASP, he clearly knew how to dress the part.
Testifying in front of Congress about the funding of the National Endowment for the Arts, Robert Redford costumed himself as an old-fashioned school teacher, complete with a tweed jacket with a narrow lapel and throat latch, as well as appropriately mussed hair. Izzy would have believed anything the man said.
As a general rule, Izzy enjoys white or off-white suits (even those with black buttons), but the tailoring of this one being worn by REM’s Michael Stipe just seems a bit off. Is the jacket too long? Certainly the sleeves are. Izzy does, however, like the tie, with its width continuous all the way up. And there’s nothing amiss with Stipe’s lack of belt, which creates an especially clean look. Plus, why attract attention to your waist is there’s no need to?
There are some bits of trivia that, once learned, can never be forgotten. But just because they’ve been deposited somewhere in the recesses of your brain, they can still require an unusual stimulus to bring them forth. Case in point: Upon seeing this bizarre necktie, Izzy remembered that pigs have corkscrew-shaped penises.
Rummaging around eBay, Izzy found this very rare specimen from Jean-Paul Gaultier’s now-notorious 1993 fashion show inspired by Hasidic Jews. Needless to say, it caused quite a controversy, given that models walked down the runway in yarmulkes and sidelocks. (It also probably didn’t help that the audience was served sickly-sweet Manischewitz wine.) While the unconstructed jacket for sale doesn’t look Jewish in any way, the sewn-in label is quite the discussion piece. If Izzy reads them right, the Hebrew characters say “Zee-ahn Puh-ool Goh-teek.” Now THAT’S a label.
Gaultier’s collection might have been the first but it definitely wasn’t the last fashion show to reflect a Hebraic influence, as Izzy has discussed before. But no one else as gone as far as American Apparel—which, alas, is best described as a smutty Gap—in paying homage to the shmatte business (i.e., rag trade).
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s suit is no doubt bespoke, but Izzy still objects to the cut and construction. Exaggerated shoulders are fine for matadors, but so much padding in a suit makes it look like the hanger is still inside. Also, while the stiffness of a jacket’s front is a matter of taste, and granting that the suit is a kind of armor in the modern world, there’s no need for it to look and feel like a steel breastplate.