Going Corporate in Style

The Style Guy has gone to work for a living. If this comes as a shock to you, imagine how I feel. I haven't actually gone to an office daily outside my domicile for…well…generations. But here I am, once again encorporated, and I'm a boss. It is a bit strange, but it's a little like riding a bike. You never forget. And it's also been amusing. I have a staff and I like working with them very much. They are happy. That makes me happy. And like my old boss Mr. Warhol, I do believe that business can be an art.

Going to the office daily has made it far more interesting when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. I visualize my day—the meetings I'm going to have, whatever business lunch or drinks might be on the schedule, and whatever tasks I might have to perform.

Mostly I have worn a suit. I'm figuring Fridays are good for sport jackets. Today I met with writers, so I wore Supreme jeans, an old Issey Miyake striped shirt with a vertical breast pocket, and a stretchy jersey blazer from Freemans with a shawl collar. I looked just the right amount of haute and just the right amount of bohemian.

Tomorrow I have a serious meeting. I plan to wear a dark gray wool suit and a sober tie. When you're going to fire someone, I say wear black shoes and belt. A white shirt is good. If you're going to wear something in your pocket, make it linen in case tears erupt.

When you're going to balance the budget and influence the numbers people, checks are good. Wear black or blue, not red. But here's the perfect tie for impressing a CFO or banker.


It has balance sheet written all over it. And how about a Thom Browne Brooks Brothers Black Fleece pinstripe wool three-button suit to top things off? Black Fleece has been a brilliant moment. Radical conservative. I can't believe that Brooks hasn't signed Thom up for life. They'll never find a designer with a deeper connection to the essence of the brand, which is related to modernism.

Part of leadership is projecting an image of realism. When the weather is changeable: Carry a raincoat and umbrella. Practicality begins at the top. Hats are still exotic in the business world. They are so out you don't even see them on Mad Men.

It's important to project creativity. At least when you're a boss. I used to freelance as a creative in advertising and I'd get a kick out of showing up for work at a big agency wearing a beautiful suit, shirt, tie, and shoes, because I knew I'd be working with guys in rock-and-roll T-shirts and flip flops. They had such clichéd ideas of creativity. It was like growing a pinky fingernail long to prove you don't work with your hands. Real creatives can dress with zeal and complexity. I feel like I'm setting a tone here.

When you're going to a photo shoot: Denim suit? Sport coat with jeans? Safari-jacket-type unconstructed cotton sport coat? Arty tie? For a heavy art-world day this seems like the perfect kind of tie—figurative but with a subtle chromatic palette. It's by Ralph Lauren.


From Hermès, here's a perfect tie for getting some writing done. For those days when wisdom is required, you can combine it with a tweed jacket with elbow patches.


For lunch with publishers and ad reps, here's a tie with a Bacchic theme that projects a certain savoir faire:


Sometimes stealthy creativity is called for. I like wearing something that seems quite conservative on first impression and then becomes surprising or even mystifying on further examination. Here is a good example of a tie that works two ways. It's a hand-painted number from John Pearse of London. With one's jacket buttoned it looks quite conservative. But after cocktails, open the jacket to reveal the art of living. Suspenders can be employed in the same fashion, or socks.


Here's a vintage Cardin tie that also permits a subtle usage that subverts expectations.


We are at a very interesting point in American cultural history. In many ways the work uniform has never been so rigid and boring—consider the flap Barack Obama has generated simply by not wearing the American flag lapel pin that has apparently become required by the Patriot Actors who dominate the political establishment. Obama is controversial simply by refraining from a rote cliché. I'll bet he has some stars-and-stripes underwear in his drawer. But his cool and composed appearance, like that of JFK, is showing us once again that thoughtful elegance can be a transcendent force in our culture.

As I write this tomorrow is Friday. Spring training is underway. Nature is beginning to assert herself in subtle, seductive ways. I think I'll go with a sport jacket tomorrow. Suede shoes. Blue end-on-end shirt. And maybe this vintage Calvin Curtis tie which has augury written all over it. Clothes are a language and we can use that language to lead our crews toward promising lands.


Dressing for Dinner





When you get your tax rebate check from the Federal Government, I hope you do the right thing and spend it. You're not going to help jump-start a stalled economy if you just save that $600 to $1200. Besides, that would be so boring. This is free money! Keep it moving! It's not going to get this country moving again if you use it to pay down your credit card debt. No, the patriotic thing is to go out and spend it, and for me the American way requires that it be spent on conspicuous consumption. That's really the engine that drives the economy, let's face it. What killed the middle class was that nobody wanted to be middle class any more. That's the only possible explanation for a majority of Americans going along with policies designed to help the rich. They all plan to be rich.

I haven't gotten my check yet, but I have done my part to help the country out of the blahs by buying something absolutely unnecessary: a pair of evening shoes from Barker Black. I have a theory that if we all dressed for dinner everything would be okay, and these shoes have really perked up my black-tie look. For several years I have considered getting a pair of calf opera pumps and I could have sworn I'd seen them at Brooks Brothers recently, but on my last visit there all the so-called evening shoes looked like something a tap-dancing troupe would wear. I'm not a patent leather type of guy.

Paul Stuart does have a very beautiful, simple black calf pump without a bow, and I would have bought it but they didn't have my size. But recently my walks around the neighborhood have taken me past the Barker Black boutique on Elizabeth Street, and I've found myself wandering in to consider their wares. This old British shoe company has been relaunched in recent years, offering beautifully made shoes that give traditional styles some edge. Sometimes a little more edge than I require, as with their loafers with crossbones. I know that skulls and bones are very popular today, but I can't help but agree with my wife that the skull and bones is the 21st-century equivalent of the happy face.

I did have my eye on a very swell pair of paddock boots, but then something happened. I was on my way to L.A. for the black-tie opening of the Eli Broad Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I had my kit already, but one look at my black calf Belgian shoes told me that they needed soles, so I took them to my local on Bleecker Street and said I needed them in a few hours. And then came the call. I was being picked up in an hour. I knew what to do. I ran to Barker Black and picked up their take on the opera pump, probably exceeding my refund considerably. Their version of the classic is slightly racy, with that striped piping and the perforations on the toe. Just the thing for a haute boheme type soiree in LALA land.

I have no doubt that I had the best-dressed feet at this over-the-top opening, and I found that striped piping went perfectly with a pair of black-and-white horizontal-striped Paul Smith socks. I tend to go with the classic black-tie look, foregoing such Oscar-wear as the long tie or the notch lapel, but these slightly fashion-forward shoes were the perfect punctuation for a classic tux.

So I encourage all you fellows to take that Federal check and go out and pick up some new studs or a white dinner jacket or maybe a few bottles of Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill and join me in a celebration of economic recovery. I'm sure Barack Obama would agree that few things give one more hope than freshly pressed evening clothes.

Dandies of the Apocalypse

I was walking the dog down my once-bohemian, now-chichi block the other night, and I saw a good-looking young guy and a fine-looking young gal, arm in arm, strolling toward my favorite ristorante. He was dressed in black, wearing a bowler hat, a slim black coat, and slim black pants, and was carrying an umbrella. Rain was possible. I thought he looked really smart. Usually you only see a bowler or a derby on TV, on something like Deadwood or McCabe and Mrs. Miller or A Clockwork Orange. I can’t think of anyone rocking a bowler significantly since Mr. Steed on The Avengers. Somehow it didn’t look theatrical, but right. Hmm.

Well then I was looking through the men’s runway shows and what do you know? Bowlers! And other Chaplin-like accoutrements, as you’ll note if you look at men.style.com’s top ten looks. Gaultier, Yohji, and Junya Watanabe all featured those crisp, black, short brims. Now, I’m not about to rush out and get myself a bowler. With my big face I’d probably look like Lou Costello. But somehow it does seem strangely right now. Dressed-up looks—eccentric, perhaps, but dressed-up—are back big time. I think we’re seeing a new kind of dandyism, a dressed-up bohemianism.


The Gaultier show was a knockout. The best dandified looks we’ve seen in a long time. Not just bowlers with skinny trousers, but really sharp tailoring, taking Savile Row to the races. I think doing Hermès has rubbed off on the maestro, and the looks were urbane and elegant and snazzy.

Jean-Paul Gaultier’s fall collection is modern dandyism done to perfection. And that’s what dandyism is all about: perfection. This is exuberant, challenging, rakish, and luxurious. It’s about impeccable tailoring with attitude. Gaultier flouts the rules of traditional kit while flaunting its workmanship, quality, and attention to detail. The collection is eccentric and cool, but really wearable. I could get away with most of this stuff, and the bold-striped blazer and pants are things I’d give up pasta to get into.


Every season the men’s shows have some interesting new directions and some well-calculated outrages, and this one was no different. It’s getting so men’s runway is as arty and nutty as the women’s. I don’t know if it’s Barack Obama’s Kennedy vibe coming on, but I’m feeling all sixties again. And there was a lot of stuff on the runway that would have captured the fancy of Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix. Alexander McQueen showed a sort of uber-minidress that looked like it was made of burgundy shag carpeting. A kind of a fab, over-the-top solution for freezing days. I remember once reviewing the new designer clothes with Fred Pressman of Barneys. The always elegant Fred was about seventy then. He was dressed in a gray flannel Kiton suit and his trademark black knit tie, and he was eying an almost theatrical Gaultier overcoat. He said, “If I were twenty years younger and three inches taller, I’d wear this.” That’s how I feel about McQueen.


The brilliant Stefano Pilati has brought an exciting men’s style to Yves St. Laurent—cool suits with extraordinary personality. Flaring trousers, shapely jackets, and subtly out-there colors. Why not wear a green suit or a plum suit? I remember when YSL first changed menswear—I had a fantastic blue velvet blazer he made, and it went with all sorts of odd trousers. Pilati’s blazers evoke that same verve, and his odd trousers are spectacular. Check out the whole show on men.style.com. Tim Blanks writes that the collection reflects the Warhol Factory. He’s right. We dressed like this. Although our pants weren’t quite this good, and I think I like these 4-on-6 blazers even more than the old ones. There’s nothing freaky about YSL. This is classic cool at its very best—luxurious but a bit louche. Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon would have been all over this stuff.


Ann Demeulemeester showed a rich hippie look. The problem with hippies was that they weren’t rich enough. Maybe the new new age will change all that. I think the imagination and variety of style of that time has been forgotten. There is a fantastic passage in Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night where he describes the hippie horde that assembled to march on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. Mailer sees Arab sheiks, Park Avenue doorman greatcoats, Daniel Boone in buckskin, wild Indians with feathers, Charlie Chaplin, Foreign Legionaires, Turkish shepherds and Roman senators, gurus, and samurai in dirty smocks. “They were close to being assembled from all the intersections between history and the comic books, between legend and television, the Biblical archetypes and the movies.”

Mailer saw this phenomenon as LSD tearing away the veil between past and present. Today we see the same thing happening around us, as our culture has become an identity grab bag. There is no convention or authenticity, so we choose our images from a vast repertoire of historical roles, sometimes collaging disparate looks to create something new. Demeuelemeester showed a fusion of disparate influences—olive, drab, fringed Victorian shawls, felt hats from the attic, fur and feathers, and flower prints. A little from Grandma and a little from Grandpa are combined to create a slick and perfected version of a venerable rock-and-roll outsider look.


At Alexander McQueen there were tartan poncho-and-kilt suits with rasta-size fedoras and blanket-wrapped heads. It was a sort of Inca/Highlander fusion. Imagine a civilization halfway between Braveheart and Apocalypto. The new McQueen is right-on, should we go psychedelic and try to restage a….well, not a Summer of Love, I guess a Fall of Love. Would I wear these things? I wish I could. I couldn’t handle the schemata. I’d look like a muppet. But I would wear this hat (above). I think it might be thinning.



The always exciting showman John Galliano, whose every collection looks like a movie, from swashbuckling pirate sagas to post-apocalyptic meltdowns, has gone sort of Tudor highwayman on us this time. His troops marched out in big fat Henry VIII berets and leather and fur with touches of brocade, ribbon, and velvet, studs, and chain mail kits, layered the way they did back in the day when one wore a considerable amount of one’s wardrobe at all times. The look is gnarly, tough—over-the-top yet roguishly poncy. Will we all be wearing executioners masks next fall? Maybe not, but if we do decide to march on the Pentagon once more, I’m wearing Galliano.