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.

White Shoe Anarchy

Customs are all well and good, but as Miles Davis said to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "everybody gotta change." That's why I have decided that I will no longer observe the no-white-shoes-before-Memorial-Day "rule." I am moving the annual inaugural wearing of white shoes back to April 22nd, Earth Day. Henceforth, white shoes may be worn without compunction after that date if the temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. I am also moving the cut-off date for wearing white shoes from Labor Day to the end of baseball season. I see no reason that common-sense dress codes should be linked to honoring our war dead or trade unionism. Should anyone question my wearing of white shoes or suggest that it's inappropriate, I will inform them that this is my way of expressing that global warming is a reality.

I am especially happy to break out the summer shoes this spring, mainly because I have a nice, rather new pair of bucks from Brooks Brothers and a beautiful pair of saddle shoes from Ralph Lauren. They aren't just from the store, mind you, they are from Mr. Lauren himself. The man who brought American menswear back from the brink almost singlehandedly does so many things right, and one of the reasons for that is his determination and curiosity. Whenever I have seen him he's asked my opinion on what he could do better. In fact, Mr. Lauren does what he does so well that I have little to say, but last time I did manage to inform him that I had found it impossible to find his men's saddle shoes in a size twelve. I should add that Mr. Lauren seems to make the only genuine white saddle shoes for men that are not intended for golf (Alden makes nice cordovan saddles), so I considered this a matter of some importance.

Well, feast your eyes on these:


I have also recently debuted a beautiful pair of Brigatti golf shoes that had been sitting in my closet since I bought them in Milan five years ago. Brigatti, founded in 1884, is perhaps the world's most stylish sporting goods store, and I got a fantastic deal on these pebble-grain-and-calf spectators. I don't know why I didn't wear these spikes, but they made their debut in Austin, Texas, and performed splendidly for a pair of new shoes. I had one little tiny blister, but felt so magnificent in them that it was nothing. I'm sure by the end of my next 18 they will be totally in harmony with my large yet sensitive feet. Have you ever seen a better-looking pair of golf shoes?


Here are the Brooks Brothers white bucks. Much more comfy than my old ones, and they were easy on the wallet.


And finally, these venerable Church's of England wingtips have turned the color of clotted cream. They have true patina. I think it's going to be a good summer for walking. And remember, if you're out tonight on your bike, wear white.


Follow Me to the Finals


After Georgetown's amazing come-from-behind, overtime blowout of the University of North Carolina in the "Elite Eight," which left me hoarse and giddy, I had to pull the old Hoya Nike Terminators out of the closet. I'm wearing them until Saturday, when Coach John Thompson III and his stalwart squad will take on Ohio State in the semis. The winner will face the winner of Florida vs. UCLA.

GQ podcast listeners may recall that at the beginning of the basketball season, GQ Style Czar Adam Rapoport asked the Style Guy who he liked in the NBA finals. As a former Knicks fan and ex-season-ticketholder of 19 years who no longer watches NBA basketball, I replied that I liked North Carolina, UCLA, Ohio State, and Georgetown. Somehow in the heat of the moment I forgot Florida. Anyway, this is the most excited I've been for a final four since 1985, when Georgetown and Villanova squared off in the final, with St. John's and Memphis State rounding out the four.

As a prejudiced fan—though one of knowledge and critical faculties—I like my great alma mater Georgetown to take it all; just like the informed Senator Bill Bradley does, who no doubt loves seeing those great, speedy, and sometimes enormous athletes playing that disciplined Pete Carril Princeton offense and scoring all those back-door points. This squad, with the artistic All-American forward Jeff Green; the balletic, 86-inch pivot Roy Hibbert; the canny sophomore guard Jessie Sapp; the icewater-veined 3-point shooter Jonathan Wallace; the freshman phenom forward DaJuan Summers, who scored a season high 20 on U.N,C.; and defensive stopper Patrick Ewing Jr., this squad is as exciting as those of Coach Thompson's dad, which boasted the likes of Patrick Ewing Sr., Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Michael Graham, Bill Martin, and Michael Jackson.

Fellows, this is as close as the Style Guy comes to face painting.

And I have this to say to my friend, the painter James Rizzi. Florida better watch out. The Hoyas are going all the way. We can be friends again next Tuesday.

This is a Tarheel's eye view of me, headed for the Final Four!

New Kicks


I'm not a sneaker person. It's an aesthetic issue. For years I wore almost nothing but New Balance running shoes—not that I ran, unless I was being chased or was trying to get a taxi, but I was a serious walker, happy to stroll from midtown to Noho if I had the time, and, being a Pisces, I'm very concerned with foot comfort. I wore these shoes with everything, including suits.

But as the years passed the sneaker category became generally uglier and more grotesque, a situation not helped by the basketball-shoe craze with its suspension systems, hydraulics, and science-fiction design sense. The nadir of the shoe, for me, was the Jerry Seinfeld-epitomized adoption of the ugly sneaker as diurnal footwear.

I rebelled, and it's only in recent years that I've worn sneaks. I have a pair of plain white canvas Jack Purcells and a few pairs of Vans, which I love because they're comfortable and they're the price sneakers should be, as opposed to the NBA-hyped monstrosities that think they're John Lobbs. My favorite Vans are actually made with a fabric designed by George Nelson in the fifties.

But then last week I saw another pair of gym shoes I had to have at Nom de Guerre, the wonderful underground (literally) men's fashion boutique at Bleecker and Broadway. They are smart navy Jack Purcells with white polka dots. They also have red eyelets on the top, which seems to mean that some of the profits are being donated to some worthy cause. Fine. But they are handsome, inside and out, and to me the Jack Purcell is a shoe that is eternal. It's like a Barcelona table or an Eames chair. And that flat tacky sole gives you traction.

I love the fact that the real Jack Purcell (1903-1991) was a world champion badminton player. He retired undefeated in 1945 at the age of 42. I love badminton and can't wait to play in these shoes. It's spring, and I've got a spring in my step.

Bolshevik Luxury


I get up every morning at 6:30 to get Oscar O'Brien ready for school, and then I take him down to catch the yellow bus. Sometimes I put my jeans on right over my jammies. The one consistent element in my morning outfit is my footwear. Every morning I wear my traditional Russian wool boots, or "valenki." They have been made this way from 100% boiled wool for 300 years, except that now, in the modern era, they come with detachable galoshes for when it snows. Boy are they cozy. And you don't even really need socks. (Well, maybe if it goes below zero.) Yesterday it was nippy and I wore them out on the town with my jeans tucked in, and got compliments from my agent, my publisher, and my dentist. They're hipper than Uggs and can be had for only $80 from www.valenkisrus.com.

Speaking of Shoes, These Are Champs


I just came across these in the closet, one of my prized possessions—a pair of "Hoya Destroyas," the team shoes of the 1984 NCAA basketball champion Georgetown Hoyas. In the late eighties I did a job for Nike, and when I was at their headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, they said I could have any pair of shoes I wanted. What I wanted was a pair of team shoes from my alma mater, blue-and-gray hightops similar to Nike's Air Jordans, with HOYAS printed on the heels. A few weeks later they arrived in the mail.

I remember walking around Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, in them and Spike Lee staring at me. Ah, these ancient kicks take me back to the days when college players stayed in school and competition in the NCAA was fierce. I fear we'll never see college hoops that good again, although I must say the college game is still a lot more fun and interesting to watch than the National Billionaires Association.

I remember the eighties with fondness. I could name the starting five of every team in the Big East. I think I remember the whole Hoya squad. Let's see… Patrick Ewing, David Wingate, Reggie Williams, Michael Graham, Bill Martin, Sleepy Floyd, Fred Brown, Michael Jackson. Horace Broadnax, and Ewing's backup, Ralph Dalton… I still see Ralph at Knicks games. I think he works on Wall Street. I wonder if he'll be back at the Garden this fall. I don't think I will. A guy can only take so much. I will be following the Hoyas this year under coach John Thompson III. They've got the class the Knicks lack and I love their sophomore big man Roy Hibbert. He could be the best since Ewing. "Let's go Ho-yas!"

My Peter Beard Sandals


These are the dressiest sandals I own. I won't wear my Birkies with a linen suit, but I will wear my "Peter Beard sandals." That's what my friend Wayne Maser, the globetrotting photographer, calls these Kenyan-made leather sandals, because they are a sort of trademark of Peter Beard, the great photographer, adventurer, and all-around character. Wayne had these made up for me in Nairobi from a faxed drawing of my foot. I love them so much they've been re-heeled and half-soled twice. I'm going to need a new pair soon. I hope I don't have to go all the way to Kenya to get them. Maybe they make them in Ethiopia, too.

My Geeveh


It's 91 in the shade at my house and I'm about to slip into something more comfortable. Around the house, I'll probably go with my Persian espadrilles, which my friend Hooman picked up for me in Tehran. They aren't really espadrilles, they're called "geeveh," and they're a little sturdier than espadrilles, but they're sort of an Iranian equivalent. There's no left or right—they're interchangeable. I love the pointed toes. They make me feel like rugs could fly. They are super comfortable, cool, and washable. I throw them right in the machine. Right now the other geeveh is so filthy it couldn't be photographed.

Geeveh are the national footwear of Iran and they are still worn by villagers. In the big city, however, they have been pretty much displaced by Nikes and Adidas. Fashion tends to kill the great traditions. I sure wish the trade embargo would come down, because I think these cotton shoes with leather-and-rope soles are really great, and I'd buy them by the dozen. International understanding starts with baby steps, and stepping in these is really comfy.