The Hardworking Loafer

Tommy Bahama Havana loafers

After recently walking miles and miles on hard city sidewalks, Izzy learned the hard way that even the best-made dress shoes are not made for long-distance travel.  Wanting  a shoe that felt and performed like a sneaker but looked somewhat dressy, he was please to discover these comfortable brown suede loafers from Tommy Bahama.  The rubber sole is generously thick, without looking so, and more important, the shoe has only a small heel.

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

Rubbers

Prada latex jacketPrada latex trench coat

Perfect for any biohazard emergency, Prada recently unsheathed what appears to be a jacket and trenchcoat made of latex rubber.  A big downside of the “fabric” is that it will make you sweat like a wrestler cutting weight, but Izzy also worried that these raincoats are bit too reminiscent of the full-body condoms in the love scene in The Naked Gun.

Naked Gun condom scene

Pregnant Pause

Thomas Beatie pregnant with beard

Like milk and orange juice, pregnant and bearded are two things that were never meant to go together.   Izzy hopes that, upon being born, the baby girl will not curdle our blood.

Sheep-Dip

Jil Sander tricolor

This ghastly tricolor ensemble by Jil Sander reminds Izzy of a classic anecdote about Groucho Marx.  Upon being informed that he would not be allowed to go in a country club’s swimming pool since it did not admit Jews, he replied, “Well, my son is half Jewish.  Can he go in up to his waist?”

Homage to Catalonia

seersucker espadrilles

Izzy has, if not a liking, a curiosity towards seersucker shoes, which made it all the more pleasant when he came across this very unusual pair of seersucker espadrilles.  Espadrilles on men have a bad reputation in the U.S., perhaps because of their association with Sonny Crockett, perhaps because the traditional, cheap version (in black) wears out quickly and can become malodorous (because of the jute rope sole).  But nicer models like this one, as well as those made by Pare Gabia, make Izzy want to give them a shot—though admittedly in a more traditional fabric, such as canvas.  The shoes themselves originated as peasant footwear in the Pyrenees Mountains at least as early as the 14th century, and are popular today in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

Enter the Octagon

J Crew hand-tooled belt

Aching to be paired with some motorcycle boots and a square jaw, this vintage-inspired belt from J. Crew shouts, “I am man. Grrr.”

Business Casual-ty

Ben Stein in necktie

Conservative curmudgeon Ben Stein, himself never seen in public without a necktie—whether a militantly preppy one with dogs on it, or a militantly elitist one from Yale Law School—recently responded on TV to the supposed demise of the tie.  Apparently he always keeps his high horse tethered nearby:

You see this lovely silken thing around my neck? It’s called a necktie.

When I was a lad and a younger man, men wore these to show they did not work with picks and shovels and pitchforks.

Ties were a symbol of white collar status, although even some workmen wore them under their leather aprons.

If you had on a necktie, it showed you had some sense of organization, some sense of dignity about yourself.

Even schoolboys wore them. At fabulous boarding schools like Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire, where my handsome son went, boys still wear them. It showed, to use a word that you rarely hear, class.

Now, I read in The Wall Street Journal, on the front page, if you please, that men don’t wear neckties any longer unless they are in subservient posts.

This will probably come as a bit of a surprise to Senators McCain and Obama, as well as to President Bush. They generally wear neckties, at least on TV.

It will probably come as a shock to all of the network newscasters and the late night talk show hosts. They’re the coolest guys on the planet, and they wear neckties.

But never mind. The Journal says only 6% of men wear neckties to work, and the necktie is being run down by history.

I hereby quote my late great friend Bill Buckley and say, I am going to stand in front of the train of sartorial history and shout, “STOP!”

The necktie is a sign of a man who is there to work, not to play. It’s what a man who takes his responsibilities seriously wears. Men who want to look and act like small children dress like small children, or surfers, or hoboes, or something.

Plus, the necktie covers over a little part of one’s paunchy stomach. And it just generally makes a man look better, smarter.

My fellow men: stop dressing like children. Start dressing like grownups and acting like grownups. The necktie is a start.

Kids, it’s the perfect time of year to get your dads a necktie. Get with the program, before we become a nation of open-collared slackers.

I mean it. Right now. And then straighten up your room.

Pattern Recognition

Prince Charles in kilt

Izzy gives Prince Charles credit for being, er, ballsy enough to wear kilts in celebration of the union of Scotland and England, but he erred royally in combining a loud tartan with a bold argyle.  Either the kilt or socks ought to have been muted or plain, as the Scottish nationalist Sean Connery demonstrates.

Pulling Off the Pullover

brown and blue in Manhattan

It’s not easy to wear a sweater on one’s shoulders without looking unbearably preppy, but this gentleman in Manhattan succeeds, perhaps because the dark navy melds into the shirt and jacket.  His entire outfit is a well-balanced study in brown and blue, even in such details as his tortoise-shell glasses, woven belt, and puffed-up pocket square.

The Bowing Out of the Necktie

man cutting necktie

Recently, The Wall Street Journal published a (to Izzy) depressing story on the state of the world of accessories:

After 60 years, the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association, the trade group that represents American tie makers, is expected to shut down Thursday.

Association members now number just 25, down from 120 during the 1980s power-tie era. U.S. tie companies have been consolidating. Others have closed because of overseas competition as the U.S. market share for American-made ties has fallen to about 40%, from 75% in 1995.

Members have lost interest. But the biggest reason for the group’s demise: Men aren’t wearing ties.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, the number of men who wore ties every day to work last year dropped to a record low of 6%, down from 10% in 2002. U.S. sales have plummeted to $677.7 million in the 12 months ending March 31, from their peak of $1.3 billion in 1995, according to market researcher NPD Group. Although sales are expected to get a bump around Father’s Day, June 15, the future of neckties is very much in doubt.

But perhaps the saddest part the article was its mention of makers, and even popularizers, of neckties not wearing them themselves:

Scott Sternberg, 33, who founded the Band of Outsiders tie label in 2004, has quickly developed a following of young hipsters who buy his skinny ties, sold at stores including Jeffrey, Barneys New York and Ron Herman.

He says younger men find wearing ties more interesting today when they are “outside of obligation.” While he himself wears a tie on “whims and special occasions,” Mr. Sternberg admits that he doesn’t wear one to the office on a regular basis. “Ties get in the way,” he says.

To Izzy, this sartorial hypocrisy is good evidence that for Sternberg and his ilk wearing a tie is merely a matter of fleeting fashion, not enduring style.

Although the article doesn’t mention them as possible explanations for the demise of the tie, Izzy suspects that two major factors are the unfortunate decline of formality in all aspects of social life (whether in manners, rhetoric, etc.) as well as the widespread opposition to anything that smack of inhibition or self-restraint.

 

 



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