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Man in Uniform

According to a profile in The New Yorker, the most influential person in American fashion believes that a man needs a uniform.

Every day J. Crew’s Mickey Drexler wears a heather-gray T-shirt, a striped “Thomas Mason” blue-and-white button-down with long sleeves rolled up and shirttails out, aged Swedish jeans, and Alden cordovan wingtips. Sometimes he adds a plain black blazer.

That’s it, guys, the new-millennial uniform for aged hipsters. It’s a good look, casual yet savvy. At least it’s not black – the default fashionista uniform.

Straight cut blue jeans on a guy in his sixties? After a certain age, don’t men need a little forgiveness in the seat, waist, and thigh?

Speaking personally, Mr. Henry finds that whenever he spends an entire day wearing pants that pinch his privates, his mood suffers.

Consistent with the hard-driving CEO personality, Mickey Drexler is short-tempered. Could this be a symptom of tight pants syndrome?

Let ‘em loose, Mr. Drexler. Your underlings will appreciate it.

Glambassador

mutassim-qaddafi-in-shiny-suit

In his memorable essay “The Secret Vice,” Tom Wolfe writes:

one day in December, 1960 . . . Lyndon Johnson, the salt of the good earth of Austin, Texas, turned up on Savile Row in London, England, and walked into the firm of Carr, Son & Woor. He said he wanted six suits, and the instructions he gave were: “I want to look like a British diplomat.” Lyndon Johnson! Like a British diplomat! You can look it up.

Note well: Never ask your tailor to make you look like a Libyan diplomat, or else you’ll get the shiniest suit known to man.  Apparently, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas, sartorially speaking.

But at least Libya’s National Security Advisor, Mutassim Qaddafi (son of Muammar Qaddafi), is carrying on the family tradition of eccentric flamboyance.

Let ‘Er Rip

YE Venezuela Independence Day

While parading during Venezuela’s Independence Day, this army cadet looked down to discover that it his crotch was celebrating its newfound freedom.  It’s a good thing the soldier wasn’t going commando.

A Portait of the President on Casual Friday

The National Portrait Gallery just unveiled the official portrait of President George W. Bush, which should look familiar to Izzy’s most faithful readers.

official-george-w-bush-portrait

Izzy is almost certain that that light-blue shirt, with its two unusual pocket flaps, is the same one Bush wore when engaging in diplomacy with Vladimir Putin. As Izzy pointed out at the time, that quasi-militaristic style has also been favored by fellow Texan Charlie Wilson. Clearly, Bush’s choice of shirt and pose—bent over, sitting on a couch while smiling—was intended to give an air of casualness and familiarity. Unfortunately, given how the shirt’s cuffs ride up due to bent arms, Izzy mainly sees poor tailoring. (The pleats adjacent to the cuffs are a further sign that the shirt was not custom-made.)

Artistically, Izzy thinks that the official portrait pales next to one by the same painter, Robert Alexander Anderson, which was created for the Yale Club of New York City.

george-w-bush-portrait-for-the-yale-club

Here, Bush actually looks somewhat presidential, though it’s amusing that he crosses his leg in the European style that some American yahoos consider effete. (Also, what’s with Barney’s demon eyes?) It’s a shame that even this portrait contains a sartorial blunder: loafers with a suit. W simply can’t escape informality, which, admittedly, is a very American peccadillo. It even looks like his right French cuff is undone.

And is it Izzy, or does that sofa bring to mind a Rorschach test?

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.

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.

The Clash of Civilizations

Prince Charles meets the Sultan of the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta. Notice how the Sultan’s decoration is barely visible in the midst of his technicolored top, while the Prince’s poppy, well, pops.

A Man of the Cloth-Covered Button

fabric-covered buttons

You might never have consciously noticed it, but buttons covered in matching fabric are the norm on a tuxedo.  On suits, however, they’re either the sign of a dandy or a mafioso—or both.  If either applies to you, and you can’t afford bespoke tailoring, check out this Tom James suit now selling on eBay.

Good Lieutenant

Maryland Governor Michael Steele

On the right, Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, does something rare among politicians: flaunt a bespoke suit by leaving not just one, but two, sleeve buttons undone.   On another occasion, he has even worn a shirt with a spread collar in a contrasting color.  As if being a prominent black Republican wasn’t enough to make him an outlier.

On Tightening One’s Belt

James Cook of Turnbull & Asser

If this interview of James Cook, the bespoke manager of Turnbull & Asser, can be trusted, economic downturns turn out to be booms not just for bankruptcy lawyers but high-end conservative tailoring.   According to Cook (who, incidentally, wears his jacket sleeves unusually short—perhaps to show off T&A’s best work: their shirts?):

In the 90’s, many Americans came into Turnbull & Asser in London and every single person was talking of the dot com craze and how they would never have to buy a tie again. They were only ordering shirts. And then there was a massive crash, and everyone went back to a tie because the Bank Manager showed up, or the Finance Minister. Gradually people started wearing less and less ties again until this recession.

You notice in this recession that people are dressing up again. Every time that [an economic downturn] happens, people have to get suits and shirts. They have to sharpen themselves up again.

Everyone forgets about history; the shirt, the tie and the suit never change. I don’t know why people think it is okay to be casual at work…. [I]f I show up and my bank manager isn’t suitably attired, I am not going to trust that person with my money. Same thing with my lawyer.

Overly Big Willie Style

Will Smith in three-piece suit

While attending the premier of his latest movie, Will Smith boldly wore an unusual three-piece, peak-lapel suit with a shepherd’s check and black detailing around the button holes.  Unfortunately, the gape in the in shirt collar and the billowing fabric in his vest make it look like his outfit was a cheap formal-wear rental, unlike the custom job it presumably was.

Swiss Mister

Arpad Busson

Not being a habitué of Gstaad, Izzy had never heard of French/Swiss financier Arpad Busson prior to the announcment of his engagement to Uma Thurman, but the self-made ladykiller definitely has the rich-playboy style down pat.  Note his high shirt collar, decolletage, unbuttoned (or are they uncuffed?) mitred cuffs, and funky bracelets.

In the past, with a different beauty on his arm, he has even been able to add color to a tuxedo without looking gauche.  But Izzy is even more impressed with Busson’s ultra-slim-fitting peak-lapel dinner jacket. (Are those bracelets his trademark?)

Arpad Busson in tuxedo

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