Meet Hooman Majd: Gentleman, Scholar, and Modest Hero

Majd in Persian lamb diplomat (and maybe a Revolutionary Guard keffiyeh)

I met my dear friend Hooman Majd about a decade ago, when Chris Blackwell got the idea that I might be a good head of marketing for Island Records. I had known Chris for years. He is a visionary; a businessman who thinks and behaves like an artist. He brought reggae music and the Wailers to the world, not to mention developing and supporting artists like Traffic, Roxy Music, Grace Jones, Brian Eno, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Marianne Faithfull, Malcolm McLaren, U2, Tom Waits, and many others—as well as producing important films, being an important player in re-developing Miami's South Beach, and turning Jamaica into an even more delightful destination. I thought it would be great working for Chris, and it was, from the moment I started until he sold Island Records. But the best thing about it was meeting my friend Hooman.

Hooman Majd was the Executive Vice President of Island, which meant that he was Chris's right hand and left brain, the guy running the company day to day and doing much of the heavy lifting. Hooman had a fantastic ear, a great eye, superb executive ability, and the DNA of a diplomat. We were ensconced in "Worldwide Plaza," a big ugly building on the west side of midtown Manhattan that creaked and moved every time it was windy out. I had never met anyone named Hooman before, but my only surprise was that despite his unusual Iranian name, how very American he was. Well, not exactly American. Sort of haute American. A true cosmopolite. In fact one could make a case that Hooman, who I believe was what they call "stateless" at the time, was living proof that there is no nationality or culture superior to transcendental statelessness. Mr. Majd belongs to the world.

Like many of my friends Hooman had gone to "public school" in England, which accounted for his superior manners, his well-chosen words, and his pervading sense of irony. As I recall we were laughing within minutes and we never stopped. Hooman often laughed about public school, an experience he shared with Chris Blackwell and our mutual friend Michael Zilkha. Hooman would recall the headmaster warning the boys off the local girls. "For god's sake," the headmaster said, "If you must have sex, have it with a boy."


Although he was running one of the most important record companies in the world, Hooman was not a typical show-business exec. He wasn't a suit. In fact he generally didn't wear suits. I had come from ten years working as creative director of advertising for Barneys New York and I generally wore suits. One day one of our most successful acts, the Cranberries, came up to the office and I introduced myself to them as the chairman of Polygram, the conglomerate parent of Island. They didn't even blink. I guess I looked like a chairman. In fact I was really just a creative director, masquerading as a marketing director. I really don't like the idea of marketing, and all I really wanted to do was make album covers, videos, web sites, and those bizarre items record companies use for promotion—like light-up logoed yoyos or liquorice LPs. They gave me an office down the hall from Hooman's corner office, and a secretary, neither of which I wanted. If I had an office that meant someone expected me to be in it. My secretary's main job was actually divvying up the office between others who were visiting from out of town, or who wanted to make phone calls or have sex. I spent most of my time on the sofa in Hooman's office, brainstorming, drinking Evian from his fridge, laughing, and smoking cigarettes.

Hooman and I were big influences on one another. I got him into buying custom-made suits. He got me into smoking George Karelias, a Greek cigarette that we decided was the finest in the world and went to great lengths to get our hands on. We would sit around Hooman's Damien Hirst cigarette-patterned ashtray and discuss how to sell more records, how to make better videos and packaging, how to get around certain people in the company, and where to have lunch. Usually it was Barbetta, the oldest Italian restaurant in the city, where we could eat in the bar and smoke.

Producer Abbie Terhukle with Hooman at just about his most bearded

Although when I met him Hooman wasn't much of a suit guy, he was splendidly dressed. He wasn't against suits, I think he just felt that in a creative industry one didn't want to be a suit so one didn't often wear one; but I think that my rather eccentric way of wearing them was a bit of an influence, as his taste in shoes, sweaters, polos, watches, and sport shirts certainly rubbed off on me. Dandy is a misunderstood word, but Hooman exhibited a gift for combining clothes and colors that is certainly aesthetic and might be considered an art. He is the only man I know who can pull off a lavender overcoat and excite women simultaneously. We also shared certain habits. We were both into housecleaning as a hobby. I find it really zen as I believe Hooman does, and it is a testament to his absolute impeccability that although he smokes about as much as anyone still does you can't smell tobacco in his apartment. (He credits the Papiers d'Armenie that he burns. I credit his hygienic genius.)

We had a good run at Island, selling a lot of U2 records. I made a few nice album sleeves (although whenever I managed to get a sleeve or a video made I seemed to be intruding on another department). Hooman got into film production, executive producing The Cup, a wonderful film about Tibetan Monks trying to watch the World Cup soccer matches on TV, and Black and White, the ultimate wigger film, a black comedy by James Toback that starred Robert Downey, Mike Tyson, and Brooke Shields, among an all-unlikely cast.

Then after a few years, when CB sold his shares in Island, we were out—although Hooman's replacement, our mutual friend Davitt Sigerson (now a novelist) continued to pay my salary for a while out of benign neglect. But by then Hooman and I were friends for life. He is Uncle Hooman to my nine-year-old son, and practically every Christmas Eve Hooman has been there to help trim our tree. And one Halloween, I dragged Hooman out to a high-end cocktail bar, explained to him that the beautiful bartender had eyes for him, then made him go back later, alone. They have been together ever since, although today she is a master yoga teacher.

Anyway, I am getting into this for several reasons. One is that if there is someone that the Style Guy would look to for advice in sartorial matters, or matters of etiquette or protocol, it would be Mr. Majd, the son of a professional diplomat who worked for the Shah of Iran. That diplomatic background is why Hooman grew up in Washington, London, New Delhi, and Tokyo, among other places, after being born in Tehran. And because of the Shah's fall, Hooman never visited his native country between the ages of seven and, well, forty-something. But in the last few years he has been going back to Iran regularly, traveling the country and reporting on what's going on there for publications including GQ, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, the New York Observer, and the Huffington Post. Hooman also writes wonderful fiction. I published a bit in my now defunct literary magazine Bald Ego, a story about Iran that was illustrated by his excellent photographs. And now he has a best selling non-fiction book, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, which explains in an entertaining and superbly informed manner what exactly is going on in a country that is perhaps more misunderstood in America than any other.

I think most of us who have Persian (Iranian) friends know that they are not Arabs. They may be Muslims or not. I'm not exactly what you'd call Hooman, who has some Jewish ancestors, descends from Zoroastrians, is the nephew of an important ayatollah (they don't come more important than Khatami), and who really, really enjoys Christmas. I hope I'm not blowing his cover by saying he's probably an observant atheist or an agnostic with Rastafarian sympathies or that his sympathies lie somewhere with mine, between Druidism and Olympus. But whatever their religion, the Persians I know are sophisticates and enthusiasts. Iran is not a backward country, it is not only a cradle of civilization but a hotbed of aspiration, where poetry and art are not ivory tower pursuits but a way of life. Their joie de vivre is expressed in the way they talk, the way the cook, and even the way they party. I find few feminine concepts sexier today than a chador worn to conceal a flimsy decolette cocktail dress and Manolo Blahnik heels.

In the final days of Bush I was terrified that the U.S. would bomb Iran. Hooman seemed certain of it. Neither of us were fans of Ahmedinejad, although I think we were both bemused by certain of his performances, but we knew enough to know that Iran has never attacked another country and its possession of nukes would be far less dangerous than the situation that exists today in Israel, Pakistan, and India. But we have made it to Obama-world and now it seems unlikely that artificially agitated hysteria will lead to a confrontation with Iran—a country that is rapidly evolving before our eyes right now.


The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran (Doubleday) is available as a hardback, now discounted to $15.89 at Amazon and the paperback will probably be out in August. You may have seen Hooman on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher on June 19th or on John Stewart's The Daily Show. He has become something of a regular on Charlie Rose and the rest of the pundit circuit, as he knows his stuff and is a truly gifted conversationalist. On Bill Maher, Hooman shocked the fairly unplappable host by wearing, with an otherwise rather Savile Row kit, his giveh, the traditional folk knit Iranian shoes, dyed green for the Moussavi revolution. I had seen him in them just a few days earlier, and I've asked him to help me dye the giveh that he just brought back for me from Tehran. Also to help me try to stretch them out. I don't think these are size 12 like my last pair. The green shoes really seemed to send to Bill Maher for a loop. And that's exactly what men's apparel can do, when there is thought and wit behind it.

Hooman's pre-green giveh

What really threw me for a loop a while back was turning on C-Span to watch Ahmedinejad address the United Nations; and when Iran's "dictator" (he wasn't then, but maybe is now) opened his mouth, my pal's voice came out. I knew that Hooman had been spending a lot of time with Iranian politicians and diplomats but I had no idea about this. Hooman is not a fan of Mr. Ahmedinejad or his politics (quite the opposite, in fact), and is probably more horrified by the man's sartorial habits than I can imagine, and there he was—his mouthpiece. But I understood completely. One of the most difficult problems in relations between Iran and the West is what gets lost or confused in the translation. For example Ahmedinejad may have a bad attitude toward Israel, but he never said it should be wiped off the map, as in nuked. He said, "the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time." He's talking history, not megatons here. He has gone on to say that the "Zionist regime will be wiped out the same way the Soviet Union was," which was hardly through violence, but through political change.

To me my friend is a hero, utterly unsung and without any desire for such recognition. By associating himself with this despised foreign leader he was putting himself at risk in one way or another, but he understood that by twisting the Iranian president's words, even rather slightly, the administration that perpetrated a fraudulent war in Iraq might just try to excuse another gratuitious and egregious attack through fear mongering. Although Hooman might disapprove of most of what Ahmedinejad was saying, he wanted to make sure that he was understood, which is precisely what reasonable men must seek to do in times of hysteria, distortion, and unreason. What he sought to do as a translator, and what he does in his book, and everyday in his what he says and writes, is to express what was said in the cover line of Newsweek which featured an essay by him: Everything you know about Iran is wrong. Mr. Majd could probably be sitting around the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Hotel du Cap making movie deals. Instead he is patiently, painstakingly explaining what is portrayed as simple and is in fact very, very complex. Should things turn out well in Iran, that ancient storied country could turn out to be a paragon for the Middle East, a most civilized and cultured nation at peace and at ease with the West. And should that happen, Mr. Majd will have played an important role in spreading truth, by standing not only by his own word, but the word in general.


Just for the record, Mr. Majd likes Anderson & Sheppard suits, shoes from Alden and Edward Green, ties from Brooks Brothers Black Fleece, Band of Outsiders, and Hermès, and, due to the domestic unavailability of George Karelias smokes, he now puffs on Camel straights and Iranian Bahman's when he can get them. A true globetrotter, Mr. Majd always arrives with beautiful luggage—old Tanner Kroll and Globetrotter, Brigg, or Swaine-Addney—and he's on time. When we met he was driving a Landrover Discover, then switched to a Porsche 911, and now can be seen tooling round Manhattan on an extremely handsome Vespa. If you see him, wave.

The Seasonal Wardrobe Shift Is Here

Today is the first day of the summer clothing season. It’s 60º in New York, and 52º in Paris, where I wish I was today. I’ll bet the Chestnut buds are about to pop. It’s sweater weather (a tan cashmere Martin Margiela V-neck) and I’m wearing white-and-brown saddle shoes. My assistant Michael showed up for work in off-white-and-brown saddles today. I know we were both shod for summer, because today is the first business day of the year where white is traditionally considered right. It’s one of those nice old fogey rules that I like to keep up, the same as taking my hat off in an elevator or walking on the curb side of a lady.

Nobody loves rules like an anarchist, which I consider myself in theory. To a real anarchist, laws are unnecessary because good manners should be enough to deter improper actions. Usury is tacky. Assault is undignified. Identity theft is simply not done. I know I’m an idealistic dreamer in this, but I have every confidence that some day humanity will be guided by cultural principles, not legal codes.

To me the rules of dress are simply proven principles, like the Golden Section or the Fibonacci number. I don’t say you can’t wear white shoes before Memorial Day; but I tend not to. And in my own personal code, because of global warming, I have moved the official white shoe day forward to Major League Baseball's opening day, and extended the white shoe season through the World Series.


Correct shoes during baseball season.

My white dinner jacket has finally been located. (I couldn’t find it the other day when I wanted to show it to some guests. It was in the basement, thank the insect god unharmed by the moths, carpet beetles, and other vermin that frequent that dicey space.) The seersucker is ready to go, although it will not be premiered on a sub-80º day, as are the linen and madras.

Let’s think about linen for a moment. There is no good reason why linen should be worn only in the warmest months. In our time of global warming, linen should be worn much more often. For one thing it is a much more environmentally-friendly fabric than cotton, which is one of the most problematic crops in the world. (For enlightenment on the problem of cotton I highly recommend watching the documentary The World of Monsanto.) Linen is not only Earth-friendly, it is also longlasting and superior in strength. I have a great old Issey Miyake linen suit that is heavy enough for October and I have no compunction about wearing it then.

The natty art dealer Barry Friedman in a proper linen jacket.

White suits or suits in the ice-cream hue range are traditionally for summer, although NBA coaches seem entirely unaware of the convention. And of course Tom Wolfe has made winter white a dandy’s splendor, and women have made it an institution—so there’s no reason men can’t wear white of a certain weight in outerwear. It has a long and honorable tradition among “Alpine troops,” and my wife has a wonderful Jean-Paul Gaultier toggle coat that I would wear if it were my size.

The author in a white cotton Ralph Lauren blazer and Hermes sailor shirt with hat designer Stephen Jones, in Stephen Jones hat.

All of this is common-sense stuff. But I would have absolutely not worn my saddle shoes last Friday. A man has to draw the line somewhere. (Such as the Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn.)

Anyway, the last week or so has seen me storing away the overcoats, the cold weather gear, and my heaviest suits (the 13- to 14-ounce Savile Row numbers conceived in their best no-central-heating tradition), and pulling out the Bermudas, the polos, and the patterned trousers. And suddenly here’s a whole new selection of duds that I haven’t seen or thought about since last September or so. The seasonal transition is interesting because it’s a natural moment for wardrobe appraisal and analysis, not to mention taking stock of one’s figure. Are you ready for the pool, the links, the clay and grass courts? Are you ready for lolling, basking, and shade-sitting? Are you ready for the seasonal plumage display of an expanded visual spectrum in line with the floral splendor of the botanical world? Are you?

The Madras Full Monty

With my madras and linen pressed, I feel rather ready. But every season one notices a few areas that could use reinforcement, improvement, or elaboration. I believe in buying substantial wardrobe additions when I’m flush, but shopping seasonally even when on a budget, believing that you can stick with the same basics, suits, blazers, trousers, etc., by refreshing them with new shirts, ties, and socks. And so I’ll be out there over the next week looking for ties that say “this summer,” some new polos, and socks.

I’ll be out looking for white socks to wear with my white shoes. And I don’t mean tube socks. I mean white hose. It’s something every well-dressed man should own. I’ve found good white socks at a good price at Barneys New York, on and off, and have also found good quality thin white socks at Uniqlo. In fact I may head over there right now. And after years of trading barbs on the issue I may go over to the position of GQ “style czar” Adam Rapoport on shorty socks. I have been mocking these for years, suggesting that the men’s sub-anklets should feature the same pom-poms one sees on some of the ladies’ equivalents, but after several seasons of observing these socks in foursomes I have developed a tolerance that, combined with my own tan line, has shifted my position. So where do you buy yours, Adam?

Mr. Hooman Majd’s bare ankle with traditional Persian shoe

Of course, for a lot of my friends summer means no socks at all till September. I am not one of the perpetually bare-ankled crowd, as my large Irish feet tend to perspire, but I do find tanned bare ankles okay. But they have to be tanned first. So I’m working on them weekends.

The author, in bespoke seersucker from John Pearse and Martin Margiela tee, with the artist Richard Prince

What will I buy this season? I’m always on the lookout for good tees wherever I go. A.P.C., Agnes B., Margiela, Supreme. As for tailoring, I have my old two-button light blue pincord suit in the pile of clothes to be donated to charity. I’m sure it will still look good on someone, but I need a hipper cut. I’m guessing that I bought this at Brooks Brothers ten years ago—as I recall I was on a break from a commercial and I went into the store with Kate Moss. They are cheap to begin with and this one was on sale. I may have paid about a hundred bucks for it. Kate wanted a pincord suit too, but they only had them in boys and they couldn’t fit her. Anyway, I need a slimmer suit.

Brooks still offers pin cord, and they’ve modernized the silhouette with slim lapels and flat-fronts, but at $598 they’re not the steal they once were. The GQ boys seem to favor the Uniqlo whipcord suit and I don’t blame them. They’re sharp and absurdly inexpensive. Sold separately, I think the jacket is $79.50 and the trousers $39.50. You almost can’t afford not to buy one.

My Plan for the Auto Industry

I am told that when I had just learned to talk my favorite activity was shouting out the names of the cars we passed on the road: “Ford,” “Chevy,” “Cadillac,” “Plymouth,” “Studebaker.” There were cars called Plymouth and Studebaker back then. The former was the entry-level brand of the Chrysler corporation; the latter was a sporty looking car manufactured in South Bend, Indiana, within sight of Notre Dame’s “Touchdown Jesus.” According to my mother I could name every car on the road. A feat I could not duplicate today.

Cars used to be unforgettable. A dream car was something you really dreamed about.


It was exciting to be a kid in a car in those days, with no kiddie seat or even seatbelts to hold you back from bouncing around like a ping-pong ball, IDing every bogie on the road. We weren’t strapped in like astronauts; we even rode in the front seat, not having to worry about having our crania crushed by our cars’ safety features. But I digress.

My lack of car-naming ability today is, I believe, not due to any diminished mental capacity (as is my decreasing ability to remember the names of acquaintances), at least I don’t think so. No, I blame the auto industry, because even though there are far fewer brands and models on the market today, they are so much less memorable. A Stutz looked like a Stutz. A Rambler looked like a Rambler. What does a Hyundai look like? It looks like a Toyota trying to look like a Mercedes.

Back in the good old days Chryslers had fins, Buicks had portholes on the front fenders, and Continentals and Imperials had snazzy tire cases on their trunks. If silhouette alone wasn’t enough you could ID a car by its distinctive grille design or its gun-site-like hood ornament. The Pontiac featured an Indian head alluding to the Native American chieftain the brand was named for. The Oldsmobile had a rocket leading the way and one of its best models was the Rocket 88, which was celebrated in a great R & B song by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner.


Today there are some distinctive cars on the road. You can’t help but recognize the Hummer elbowing you off the road, or a two-tone Maybach; that’s the one with drapes. But most automobiles of our day have assumed a rather homogenous shape, with wind-tunnel designed lines and abbreviated back ends. Gone are the fins and the chrome and the scoops and the dramatic bumpers. Gone are the two-tone paint jobs. Even color is a rarity, aside from a handful of metallic tones that sort of blend into the smogscape. Today you’re in luck if you like black or white or a silver resembling the dull side of aluminum foil. You can still find a red car from sportier brands, but good luck finding orange, brown, turquoise, navy, or anything non-metallic except black or white. Why? Who knows. Maybe these colors look better dirty. But the chromatic monotony of the American automobile has contributed to the general turdliness of design abroad in the industry. Even expensive cars come in boring colors. I would have loved to have my S Class in British Racing Green but the closest I could get was a metallic green that looks like it should be on a fishing reel instead. But I wasn’t going to be just another black Benz cat—I’d feel like a chauffeur. If you want a cool color you have to order a Mini, which is fine for kids, but I need a family sedan.

It wasn’t all that long ago—well, actually it was decades—that Mercedes and Porsche offered real colors. The 911 came in fantastic colors—chocolate brown, mustard yellow, pumpkin orange.


So did many a Benz. Mercedes offered a fire-engine red station wagon, and two cars ago I had one in navy blue. I don’t think that’s available any more. Why? There can’t be any good reason. Why are most rental cars the color of Ocean Spray cranberry juice? It’s a mystery.

What’s wrong with lime?


Or orange?


The days when toddlers could name the brands were the great days of the American automobile, the days when a large, powerful vehicle was a crucial component of the American dream. You identified with a brand. A certain kind of wealthy person drove a Cadillac, another drove the Continental, and rich oddballs drove Chrysler Imperials.

So excuse me for this, but I don’t really blame the decline of the American auto industry on union contracts, the superiority of Japanese and German engineering and manufacturing quality, the price of gas and the industry’s lack of response to same, or even the dumb management style which maintains too many brands and models with too little differentiation. I blame the decline of the industry—from the long-ago death of Studebaker and American Motors to the recent insolvency of the Big Three—on sheer lack of creativity. What killed the American car was a lack of glamour. Those other things factored in, but I figure that when they dropped the convertible, phased out 9-passenger wagons, forgot about suicide doors and landau tops, killed the hood ornament, and emasculated the muscle car, they had pretty much given up.


I have a plan for the American auto industry. Hire artists to revive it. If I were running Chrysler I’d hire Richard Prince to bring back the Charger and the Road Runner and the Duster. How about a John Chamberlain car that looks crashed but isn’t? Artists could straighten things out in Detroit. It was 33 years ago that the prescient artist Chris Burden showed the B-Car which he built himself to achieve 100 miles per hour and 100 miles per gallon. If I were running GM I’d hire artists to rethink the whole thing and I’d hire consultants like Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z and the artist James Rizzi to vet designs for a revived Eldorado Biarritz Cadillac. Why should absurdly rich athletes have to buy Maybachs? They should be able to buy American convertibles just as long with options such as bulletproofing, saunas, and hot tubs. The great industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who designed the Coke bottle and the Lucky Strike pack, also designed a great American car, the Avanti, that was so architecturally beautiful its survived the company that produced it, and it’s still made today.

Here’s a ’62 Avanti.


Supposedly we live in an era of great industrial design. How about a Ron Arad sports car? A Philippe Starck limo? A Michael Graves taxi? A Karim Rashid cop car? Instead we have design by corporate committee and cars shaped like cockroaches.

Here’s what we want: Bright colors and two-tone cars. Convertibles. Big station wagons (not SUVs). Bucket seats, especially ones that swivel like the captain’s chairs in the old Chrysler 300 series. Crazy names. Futurist aesthetics, like the Citroen. Design references to high technology. Cadillac has gone halfway there, taking design cues from American military Stealth aircraft design, but if they were really good the CTS would be invisible on radar, too. Why not a Ford Shuttle with a heat diffusing tile exterior?



The Detroit fat cats don’t need cars shaped like jets anymore. They have their own jets to fly to D.C. in and beg for tax dollars. Hey, the head of G.M. actually owns a fighter jet or two, too. But somehow the personal gusto of the execs has failed to make it to the drawing board or translate into cars that fire the imaginations of the kids of today. My kid isn’t yelling out “Camry!”, “Civic!”

Even if a kid could name every car today, he’d probably be too embarrassed. The names are pathetic. Mercury Milan? Hyundai Tiburon? Subaru Impreza? Toyota Yaris? Nissan Versa? Volkwagen Tiguan? Ford Focus? The people naming these things must be the same ones naming prescription drugs. They must be on those drugs.

Republican Style Is Shifting

I suppose that you should vote your conscience, or at least your intellect, but the funny thing is, I keep thinking that if you voted for style or for aesthetics you’d probably be just as likely to make the right choice, maybe even more so.

I’m sure some of my readers will think this is a jaded perspective, and that this is the elitism that the Republicans have been talking up in their campaign against Obama. He’s an elitist, he’s a celebrity. He’s a latte sipper and an arugula eater. Funny, it used to be quiche they were incensed about. But now the millions of iceberg loyalists are up in arms about salad. Because McCain presumably eats wedges of iceberg with bottled ranch at his seven houses, he’s more of a man of the people than Obama, who presumably eats salad like a Frenchman. (And no French dressing.) So we might as well fight it out on that front. At least if we’re as green as we say we are we can support the guy most likely to toss up frisee, mache, finocchio (code word for “homo” in Italian), mizuna, radicchio, and endive.

Several months back, assessing the candidates for President, I had this to say about Joe Biden: ”Biden may look a little too bespoke for a White House run. Still, there's something likeable about him, and I'm hoping for Secretary of State Biden. It's about time we had a statesman who, when he puts his foot in his mouth, it at least has a Berluti shoe on it.”

And this about Obama: “How can you not like Barack Obama? He gets you at hello. That radiant smile; that long, lean profile; that quiet dynamism. That Camelot preppie chic. He's almost too stylish, or let's say he's almost too Kennedy-esque….Of course, high style worked for Kennedy. He made ‘charisma’ a household word. Style is what got him elected. The cool breezy glamour of Kennedy trumped the sweaty five o'clock shadow and scripted delivery of Tricky Dick Nixon. And now Obama brings a similarly modernist gleam to this crucial race. While Hillary brays at stentorian volume and Biden turns on the old-school power moves, Obama sets just the right tone and volume for today. He speaks with cool, measured reason in a network-quality deep baritone, making serene, steady eye contact and using JFK-like hand signals. Watching him in the debates, the hand signals were almost eerily similar to Jack Kennedy's, and this candidate, self-consciously or not, presents the same youthful vigor and charm that made Jackie's husband the idol and hope of millions.”

Hmm. It seems that the most stylish men made the ticket. And maybe if Hillary had listened to me she would have, too. I must say though, that she has made a wonderful loser. Her appearance at the Democratic Convention was extraordinary. Not just the speech, but the way she handled her voice and face. The contortions were gone, along with the brays and honks. She was nearly presidential. As one not fond of her pantsuits and their traveling sisterhood, I must admit that she did look radiant at the convention in that almost dayglo orange suit, against that almost dayglo blue backdrop. One of the best photos from the convention was the posse of Hillary handlers holding up a veritable pantone book of pantsuits to see which looked best against that cerulean wall. It wasn’t just the pantsuit that was radiant; she seemed to glow from the core. In defeat she finally appeared presidential.

Stylishness does not seem to help in the Republican Party, where the frumpiest contender of the lot tops the ticket. Obviously they are cleaning McCain up a bit, getting him out of grandpa’s sweater and making sure his shirt is tucked in, but in keeping with the Republican’s ironically populist stance, maybe McCain’s sheer stylistic clumsiness has appeal to the world of regular guys. He might have seven houses, but does he have seven suits?


Meanwhile his running mate is not only the first woman on a Republican ticket, she's the first bimbo on any ticket.


She is one of that rare breed of Americans who, when she picks up the Monopoly card “You have won second prize in a beauty contest,” can say, “Yes, indeed I have!” She also won a “Miss Congeniality” contest, and her pitbull-with-lipstick image is something that Sandra Bullock should be able to sink her teeth into. I can see the TV movie now. The former mayor and governor obviously made her way to the top by displaying that combination of cuteness and meanness, that feisty Bullockness, that very American quality of thinking that insulting a man is attractive. I know that persona is tremendously popular among women of my generation, which accounts for so many of the “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.” They think that sarcastic mocking performed with a bit of sexual innuendo thrown in actually attracts men. And they wonder why their husbands left them for post-feminist trophy vixens.

Sarah Palin is the candidate of the first wives club. She knows that men like a challenge and she undoubtedly knows how to tease them with icy coldness.


She’s definitely no dummy. That’s why she wears glasses and goes for that Nana Mouskouri look. And no doubt lots of voters will identify with her K-Mart wardrobe. Her name is an anagram of “plain.” That’s the message here folks. She’s one of us!


She'll be a veep in velour. With beehive, bangs, and highlights! And down-home styling touches like the banana clips.



And she leaves no doubt on the score of man's dominion over animals. What good are they if you can't shoot 'em, eat 'em, or wear 'em?


This coat looks like she shot it herself. And this jacket…no, maybe that’s Naugahyde. I wonder if they still have naugas up on the North Slope.


John McCain would be the oldest President ever. And the first who has had two bouts with melanoma. So we wonder, should McCain/Palin win, what odds Vegas would lay on Sarah Palin becoming the 45th President of the United States?


If so we know what will get. Theocracy. No right to choose (even in cases of rape), Creationism taught in schools, banning same-sex marriage and benefits. She not only prays for you and me and all right-thinking Americans, she also prayed for a $30 billion natural gas pipeline. And for God’s plan for Iraq: “Our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [troops] out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for—that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan."

In the coming days we’ll be learning more about God’s other plans, and I suspect He plans to do something about our heathen culture. Apparently Governor Palin believed that Alaska would, in the end times, which might just be now, become a refuge for fleeing Christians. Maybe God told her about trouble ahead. He seems to talk to her, just like He did with George W. Remember your Bible. God spoke to Moses through a Burning Bush. What’s next?

Some people think Sarah Palin is hot. She might just be hot enough to burn a library—or a country.

Some Things Just Aren't Done

Sorry I haven't posted lately. I've been up to my jade-green fedora in work. Hopefully I will return to a more genteel existence soon. This overworked condition is making me cranky, and when I'm cranky I start noticing things that bother me. Here are a few of them.

Leather hippie hats: Absolutely no one can get away with wearing a leather-brimmed hat. You know, those leather, cowboy-type hats. I saw a guy walking down Houston Street in one yesterday, and if I had been wearing a sword… Well, this is not the type of headgear that should be worn in an urban area, or even, when you think about it, on a pig farm. I don't care if you are wearing fringed buckskin pants and riding a Harley Davidson or if you are in the the Doobie Brothers, you are not getting away it. I don't care if you have feathers from some rare bird stuck in the hat's band. The only character who ever got away with wearing a leather hippie hat was Freewheelin' Franklin of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and that's because he was a cartoon. Even Crocodile Dundee wouldn't wear one.



Square-toed shoes: I know this will be controversial, but I've been thinking about it for ten years. Square-toed shoes are jive. I am not talking about Lou "the Toe" Groza's kicking shoe (left), which has been obsolete anyway since Garo Yepremian demonstrated once and for all the superiority of soccer-style kicking for distance and accuracy. I am not talking about Frye Boots or any other footwear with an industrial or practical excuse for their existence. I am talking about fashion. Square shoes make you look like a Dutch insurance adjuster. The only character who could get away with square-toed shoes is Donald Duck. Or maybe Howard the Duck.

Sneakers that look influenced by science fiction: I'm not naming any names here because we've got advertisers, but shoes with hydraulics, springs, and various scientific, pseudo-scientific, or architectural influences are simply trying too hard. The same for shoes which are sold in accordance with some sort of philosophy. I don't spend a lot of time listening to the collected works of Sean Combs or Jay-Z, but I do have to admire them for one thing. They made it cool not to wear sneakers. They dress like gentlemen. Wearing sneakers to the job—unless you are an athlete—is a clear sign that you have given up on advancement or on being taken seriously. Or if your name happens to be something like "Turtle." There are, of course, some exceptions. White Keds slip-ons. Anything designed by Comme des Garçons or Dries van Noten. And, of course, classic Air Jordans, Converse All-Stars, or Jack Purcells can be worn when taking the dog for a walk or polishing the rims. But yesterday I saw a pair of clear plastic sneakers. Now those might be interesting if worn sockless with earthworms or something added, but basically athletic shoes dependent on the concept of modernism are a dicey proposition. Sure, they are comfortable. But so are any shoes that cost more than five hundred dollars. Save your money. I have noticed lately that I see far fewer men wearing baseball caps on the streets of New York. I take full credit for shaming them out of it. Let's see what we can do here, guys.

Showing chest: There are times when this is okay, like when you're on the back porch having a bloody mary and trying to keep the newspaper from shaking, but there is a guy in my office who wears V-neck sweaters with no shirt underneath. He is so never getting a raise.

Vestigial Pockets: Maybe I'm an old-fashioned form-follows-function guy, but shouldn't pockets be usable? And if they are well below ass level, well, what do you put in them? I feel like I'm seeing less extreme boxer-shorts-display via low-riding jeans (except among white suburban ebonics students), but this has been replaced by designer jeans with pockets on the hamstrings. When I see this that old Clash song keeps popping into my head, "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A."

Tube socks: There is no excuse for wearing tube socks. Ever. Even to the gym. All socks must have heels. I wouldn't even use a tube sock as an emergency head-cover for my 5-wood.

Pants be draggin': If there were a law against your trousers bunching up on your shoes then most of Congress would be in the slammer. Which might be a good thing. Maybe a real "fashion police" could do more for this country than tough law enforcement types like Rudy Giuliani and Eliot Spitzer. I will never wear my pants in the style that my grandmother called "highwater," as some fashion leaders like the radical dandy Thom Browne do, but far better to show some sock or lack thereof than to tromp around with ten-percent of your trousers bagged around the ankles and polishing your shoes. Although the Presidential valet seems to have cleaned up George W.'s act in his second term, he came into office looking like a hick CEO, with pants bunched up and sleeves heading toward knuckles. Who here doesn't understand the difference between "break" and "bunch?"


Brand-new distressed: I've harped on this before, too, but the real meaning of decadence has nothing to do with sex, drugs, or rock and roll. It has to do with stuff like carbon footprints and artificially worn-out clothes. A man should wear out his own jeans, otherwise he is a poseur. The markings on one's jeans should reflect the hours spent kneeling on a roof replacing cedar shingles, or the fall you took off your BSA Lightning where you skidded over fifty yards of asphalt. Not long ago I was walking on the Bowery, where one used to encounter what we blithely called bums and which still has its share of disadvantaged, and I ran into a legendary rock-and-roll manager. His jeans were torn, he was wearing frayed Converse sneakers with no laces, and he was wearing a pea coat that was in shreds. I asked him if everything was all right, and he pointed out that each item he was wearing was new and from a top designer. He even showed me the label in the pea coat, which obviously cost four figures. I advised him to immediately brush his teeth and comb his hair so people might realize that this was a fashion look.

By the way, I just got a fantastic digital Leica and would have loved to document these horrid abuses myself, but I haven't figured out how to use the thing yet.

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.


Global Warming, Local Chilling

Extremes of weather provide interesting people-watching, perhaps especially in cities, and the wild swings of temperature we have been experiencing in recent years make it all the more amusing. There I was, walking to Whole Foods on Houston Street in what is almost a late-afternoon ritual. It was the second week in January, and it had been 60 degrees out. A fellow jogged by in shorts, and then a middle-aged woman emerged from the grocery store in a long overcoat, scarf, and flip-flops. I actually saw quite a few flip-flops that day, and several pairs of shorts. But what I have noticed repeatedly is that a large segment of the population dresses according to the calendar, and not prevailing conditions. On a balmy day you will see down jackets, gloves, scarves, and ski caps aplenty. Such overdressing tends to make the perpetrator look like a schizophrenic. I’m sure you’ve noticed that street crazies dress like it’s winter in the summer. I used to wonder if it was because the homeless tended to wear everything they owned for security reasons, but then I discovered that this compulsive layering among the mentally unsound was noted by Shakespeare.

Here’s a tip: Check the temperature and forecast before you go outside. I have the weather set up on the “Dashboard” of my MacBook. As I write it is 47 and sunny. Light overcoat, light scarf, and fedora weather. I think men should wear hats. They keep your brain warm; protect you from small falling objects; give you a regal, crowned feeling; and generally top off your look.

A scarf isn’t really necessary today, but it’s cool enough to get away with one, and so I’m wearing my Dries van Noten silk-and-wool scarf embroidered with flowers and a snake. When the temperature drops I’ll move into a larger, heavier scarf. Here’s the Dries van Noten scarf—the brown fedora is from Worth & Worth and the green pea jacket is vintage, Austrian I think.


When we’re below freezing and there’s a wind chill, I start thinking about my ears. This may mean the big fake fur hat with ear flaps or the real rabbit-skin trooper cap. Don’t start on the rabbits. I eat them, so I might as well wear them. And you know the little critter wasn’t trapped.

The other alternative is the stocking or watch cap. I have one in a French sailor-stripe from Saint James with a matching scarf. And I have a really silly Norway ski cap that I bought in Oslo when it was starting to blizzard. I don’t like earmuffs, and I have no problem wearing this hat with an overcoat and dressy kit.  The point is to look sensible.

Here I am in my Norwegian street vendor pom-pom ski cap, with the Saint James scarf.


Guys walking around in suits, hatless, on a freezing day may feel macho, but they look stupid. They look as stupid as the guys you see dressed that way trying to run between raindrops, maybe holding the Financial Times over their heads. Get with it, chumps! When it rains, you wear a raincoat and carry an umbrella. When it rains heavily, or snows, you wear boots or galoshes.  If you don’t, you look stupid.

On chilly days in Midtown I often see men in suits, overcoats, and baseball caps. This looks preposterous, and it seems especially so if it’s a Yankees or a Mets cap. If it’s Titleist you just feel sad for the guy, and if it’s plain and non-adjustable and possibly heavy wool or leather, you think, “Well, he’s trying.” Trying, but failing.

There are several other natty alternatives—the touring cap, aka coppola; the golfer’s or newsboy cap; the deerstalker, aka “the Sherlock Holmes cap”, with a double brim and earflaps; the traditional Persian diplomat, which is often made of Persian lamb; and the similar Astrakhan or Politburo hat, the type favored by Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and other cold warriors.

Here’s a shot of my friend Hooman Majd in his diplomat. Apt in his case because he’s very diplomatic and his father was a career Iranian diplomat (Hooman writes for the Huffington Post and his informative and amusing book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ will be published by Doubleday this year.) The scarf was swiped from the Revolutionary Guard.


It’s similar to the Arab scarf, the kaffiyeh or shemagh, which we see in the news on all sorts of Palestinians. It’s standard kit anywhere where there’s desert because it’s cotton and warms you when its chilly, but also protects you from blowing sand and the like when it’s hot. These have become a quite popular fashion item among young folks in Britain. And not-so-young folks like Sting, Colin Farrell… and David Beckham wears one, mate.

I have one given to me by an old Palestinian girlfriend (a Christian, actually, nothing Muslim about it), although I haven’t worn it much since an angry older lady punched me in Dean & DeLuca. I guess she thought it meant I support Hamas. I do support the Palestinian people in their struggles, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-Jewish. Incredible how many people take offense. Actually, you often see them on our boys and girls serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Especially the Special Forces cats in beards and shades. Here I am in a kaffiyeh with a tweed cap from Bates of Jermyn Street, London. Sunglasses by Fabien Baron, coat by Anderson & Sheppard.


The tam is a nice hat, too. They're big in Jamaica, where they are made to contain dreadlocks. Since I don’t have those, I can pull my rasta-made tam down to cover my ears. Here I’m wearing a Jamaican tam with a reversible cashmere-and-paisley silk scarf I bought from Barneys a few years back.


For cold weather it’s nice to have a big scarf. This cashmere scarf by Armand Diradourian for Paul Smith runs a spectrum of greens, from dark to Kelly, and it’s 28” x 78.” A bit pricey, this was my big Christmas present to myself. The green fedora is from Worth & Worth of West 57th Street, New York.


When it’s absolutely freeze-your-ass-off cold there’s nothing like serious ear coverage, which is provided by this fake fur hat from Paul Smith from several collections ago. It’s acrylic, so only trees died for my ears. I found an even more over-the-top one by Gaultier about a decade ago at Maxfield in L.A., and I hesitated and lost it. Tried to track one down from Gaultier in Paris later, but too late. I learned by lesson. When you see something great, buy it.


Okay, I’m going to be watching. I don’t want to see you guys out there shivering in your suits or flitting between raindrops. Real men dress for adversity.

Dandy in the Underworld

John Pearse, a most artistic tailor who enjoys my custom, has his shop on Meard Street, a quaint byway in London's Soho now restricted to pedestrian traffic. On one of my visits I noticed an interesting sign on the front door of the house across the way: THIS IS NOT A BROTHEL. THERE ARE NO PROSTITUTES AT THIS ADDRESS. I asked John about the sign and in his weary and sketchy way he explained that there was an eccentric fellow living there whose rather unconventional “lifestyle” might have led to some misunderstandings.

Here is Pearse by the door.


Since Soho is one of those neighborhoods (the sort we don’t have anymore in New York) where a harmless skin trade takes place routinely alongside more conventional industries, I didn’t think much more of it until I was browsing through “The Affected Provincial’s Almanack,” the excellent blog by Lord Whimsy that I dealt with in my last entry here, and I came upon some YouTube film clips of one Sebastian Horsley speaking on music, sex, drugs, death, dandyism, and his book, Dandy in the Underworld. Yes, that is Horsley’s door opposite John’s shop. I confirmed it with John, who also confirmed that he had put special hypodermic syringe pockets in Horsely’s jackets. Naturally I immediately ordered the book.

Those clips are riveting entertainment. No? There is so little genuine outrageousness (or sense of outrage) these days that Mr. Horsely’s casual asides are as warming as a slap in the face followed by a nice cup of PG Tips. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this fellow before, although I dimly recalled hearing of an Englishman journeying to the Philippines to be crucified on Good Friday, as extremist young male Jesus enthusiasts there are wont to do (too riveting, that video), but I wasn’t familiar with this very amusing character. (I began to realize that I have not been spending nearly enough time in England. I have to get rich or the dollar has to perk up.) The occasional club crawl should have crossed his trail long ago.

Anyway, Horsley is the genuine article; he is a real phony, and the story of his life is far better than anything made up. He is the perfect example of someone whose extravagant pose has become an undeniable, organic reality. The harrowingly hilarious Dandy in the Underworld is billed as an "unauthorized autobiography." Clever, but Ray Davies did it first with his fictionalized confessions X-Ray. Yet Horsley’s book is much more than that; it is a saga among the annals of self-indulgence. Dandy stands on its own, even as it stumbles, trips, and freefalls through the wreckage of his precarious life.

Here’s Horsley in his book jacket photo.


Mr. Horsley comes from a family of wealthy degenerates and his story, especially his childhood, I suppose, would be painful to follow if his view of it were not so funny. I put a lot of stock in opening sentences. How’s this? “When Mother found out she was pregnant with me she took an overdose. Father gave her the pills.” Horsley is born, nevertheless, and he concludes: “I was so appalled I couldn’t talk for two years.” There begins a great love affair with himself that continues today, and an adventure that encompasses careers as vandal, punk rocker, art student, kept catamite of a convicted murderer, parachutist, husband, homosexual, heterosexual, alcoholic, crackhead, junkie, prostitute addict, male prostitute, shark aficionado, sex columnist, lie-about, self-publicist, and painter. Horsley’s life has had so many low points that it doesn’t surprise that he is a failed suicide, and yet he has this fantastic way of picking himself up out of the gutter (perhaps by the huge points on his Turnbull and Asser “Horsley shirts,”) that I came to admire his heroic resilience.

Incidentally, the title of this book is taken from Mr. Horsley’s first hero, Marc Bolan, whose final album was entitled Dandy in the Underworld. Interestingly (mildly), T.Rex’s twelfth album was released on March 11th, 1977, and thirty-one years from that date Dandy in the Underworld’s American edition will be released. No reason to wait. I recommend the English edition, which can be had speedily from Amazon and the like, and usually British editions have better covers. I recommend hardcover because chances are you will drop it while laughing. Anyway, Bolan was a profound influence on Horsley, who in fact resembles Adam Ant, and Dandy was a fitting final testament from Bolan, who died six months later when a Mini he was riding in struck a sycamore tree.


Now his lovers have left him / And his youth's ill spent / He cries in the dungeons and tries to repent / But change is a monster and changing is hard / But he'll freeze away his summers in his / Underground yard

Yes, Horsley is intimately familiar with the monstrous, and he has undergone more changes than most Hindus do in a cycle of lifetimes, but this is precisely the nature of his possible and deeply flawed greatness. I believe there is a considerable romantic heart behind the fabulously baroque bluster and arch wit Horsley seems to generate without effort. His vision is dark (well, darkish) and he may easily be accused of cynicism, but I find his cynicism classical and redeeming, and this is a fellow who has a lot of redeeming to do. He is not cruel; he is kind, and if it is mainly to himself, well, that’s a start. Like anyone who steps on a cross voluntarily, he would be a redeemer if he could, and I believe his sentences do the redeeming for him. Rarely one encounters such a treasury of bon mots.

"Style is when they’re running you out of town and you make it look like you’re leading the parade," is actually on the same page as, "If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there."

Although Horsley seems currently to abstain enough to get things done, he is not a quitter in the fashionable sense. He revels in sex, drugs, and I suppose rock and roll with heroic resolve and fantastical relish despite the disasters that bring him low again and again. And somehow that tarnished enthusiasm seems more sane or at least more glorious than a dozen highly-recommended steps precisely taken. Seems is the keyword, I suppose, but I can’t help but be taken by sentiments such as “Sex is just a sublimation of drug addiction.” And, “I remember the first time I had real sex—I still have the receipt.”

Lest I spoil the ending, I’ll leave the rest to Horsley. He’s so good at the last word.

The Best- and Worst-Dressed Leaders in the World, Continued: Part Three


Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil


The boss of Brazil has good style for a guy verging on portly, and he demonstrates that tailoring can counter many physical shortcomings. His beard works for him, camouflaging an incipient secondary chin and giving him a paternal aura. His three-button jackets work to reduce the impression of his gut and give him verticality and, wisely, he rarely unbuttons. He has natty tendencies; we can tell from his ties and fine semi-sheer hosiery. He dresses wealthy but his is the "Worker's Party." He understands that being presidential means speaking everyone's language and appealing to both wings of politics. I think that must be why he parts his hair in the middle.


Akihito, Japan


I know they have a Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, but I prefer to think of the Emperor as the head of state. The Prime Minister looks pretty much like any other salaryman. The emperor, however, looks pretty darn imperial. And if you think about Akihito and, say, Prince Charles, there is a lesson to be learned. Maybe all countries should have two heads of state. One of them should be responsible for things such as taste. I'd feel comfortable if the architects had to answer to a man like the 125th occupant of the Chrysanthemum throne.


He is a man of taste and knowledge. Compare his sihouette and trouser break to that of the American Vice President.


Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan


If you think that clothes don't make the man, or the head of state, think about this: Recently opposition leaders in Pakistan have offered to accept another term in office for President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, if he is willing to be inaugurated in civilian clothes. The fact is that Mr. Musharraf looks so much better in civvies that if he's smart he'll just avoid uniforms altogether, although he might, like President Bush, put on a flight jacket once in a while. He looks very professional and confident in a suit. Hey, if I were introduced to him as a urologist, I wouldn't hesitate to let him stick his finger up my butt. Whereas in uniform, well, he looks a bit like a headmaster, kind of uptight.


Look at Mr. Pakistan among his peers, enjoying himself here in a striped shirt and sky-blue sport jacket.


Just the kind of guy you'd enjoy across the high rollers table in Vegas. Civvies are obviously good for the guy's head. See, you can change.


Than Shwe, Myanmar

Talk about change. No wonder things are so uptight in what we used to call Burma. Look at the head of the military government.


If you ask me, the problem is the uniform itself. It gives a guy ideas. I know it's not easy to go cold turkey when it comes to the gold braid, but maybe he could lose some of the "fruit salad" on his chest and switch to a nice, soft beret or a snappy baseball cap with scrambled eggs on the brim. He might find less flaming effigies around Yangoon.

Don't miss: Part One and Part Two in Glenn's series

Related: "Vladimir Putin Would Like His Shirt Back," by Glenn O'Brien

Got a question for the Style Guy? Click here to ask it.

The Best- and Worst-Dressed Leaders in the World, Continued: Part Two

Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei


The Sultan of Brunei obviously loves movies like The King and I, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and Aladdin. His over-the-top clothes rule the old-fashioned way—spectacle. How many potentates can you say are profoundly influenced by Bob Mackie and Edith Head? Give the man a variety show and some dancing girls and maybe he could become an emperor.


Hugo Chavez, Venezuela


Sure, Curtis Sliwa did the red beret first. But Chavez does it better, with a predilection for all things red and a nice post-Fidel take on fatigues.



King Mswati III, Swaziland


The second of 210 sons, the king succeeded his father as king at the age of eighteen. He has twelve wives and two fiancées. He also has a lot of suits and ties, but he seems to understand that fashion is magic. He knows how to do casual with sumptuousity and he's got great tribal ju-ju-wear chops.



Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai


The President of the UAR and Ruler of Dubai is usually seen in traditional Bedouin style. He does it well, wearing exquisite djellaba that look like they were made by Romeo Gigli or John Galliano. Too bad he's not more of an influence. But that beard—well, sometimes more is more. Shave it or grow it.


Jens Stoltenberg, Norway


The Prime Minister of Norway is the Derek Zoolander of the EU. He's almost too good looking. He's fashion forward, with the narrowest lapels in NATO. He walks around with two days' growth. He wears cool shirts and ties and has better hair than John Edwards. He might pay 400 kroner for his haircut, but here that's only $73.


Don't miss: Part One and Part Three in Glenn's series

Related: "Vladimir Putin Would Like His Shirt Back," by Glenn O'Brien

Got a question for the Style Guy? Click here to ask it.