Monday, 30 November 2009


And now for a post that doesn't feature me in it

   As an addendum to The Party Post, I'd like to reiterate that we're rolling headlong into the party season; a time of frivolity, stupidity, overconsumption, enjoyment and your parents being overly embarrassing/overly affectionate/overly or not so overly generous/overbearing pompous asses. For those of you who have more strings to your social bow than the ritual cheese overload and rite of humiliation/schadenfreude/sexual misadventuring that is the office Christmas Party, get dressed to express, impress and flounce the night away in as strut-worthy a manner as possible. Be glamourous. And if you cannot, be mildly insane:

Sammy Davis Jr.

From the aptly named Iconic Photos, Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in a London nightspot in 1936. The photographer, James Jarche, covertly concealed his camera in his bowler for just such an occasion. When did the paparazzi stop being so creatively underhanded? Today, such deviousness means that you're also paid to write about it or are reporting to a superior in at least one governmental departmment

Alain Delon

Claus von Bulow; socialite, theatre critic and Man With a Dark Side

Truman Capote accompanied by then Washington Post president Katherine Graham at his Black and White Ball, November 1966

Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones; the suit is actually an appealingly carefree shade of purple

Keef's bandmate and dandy drummer par excellence, Charlie Watts, in good company

On the far left, Julian Ormsby-Gore, late son of the also belated David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech and diplomat, accompanied by his sister, Victoria, and interior designer David Mlinaric, who sports a Mr. Fish suit since donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Alongside the other Ormsby-Gore siblings, the lifestyles of all three existed at the intersection of rock, aristocracy and hippydom during the Swinging 60s; Mlinaric was once asked to leave Annabel's for his flagrant sporting of a white suit. I can't help but approve

Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick

Liliane Bettencourt with her late husband, André

The late Brooke Astor, long-lived socialite and social activist

Antonio Azzuolo A/W 2008

Renowned operatic soprano, the late Maria Callas

A recently departed pop colossus

   Note the stylish proliferation and use of accessories, from signature eyeframes to louchely held cigarettes, nonchalantly draped scarves to ethnic jewelry, studded sparkling belts to lustrous furs. Looks that kill

(Author's note: I'm shocked at how easily the opening paragraph wrote itself. Misanthropy Mode has its advantages. Perhaps by (re)attaching my "Keep Away" sign to my forehead over the holidays, I may finally get to catch up on my reading)

Blue and Green are Never Seen

   It's strange, but I'm reasonably certain that this is a rather uncommon garment colour pairing in menswear, hence the borrowed title. This doesn't have to be the case. The trick is usually to vary shade and manage the intensity that either colour is more than capable of. What I'm demonstrating below is both the tip of the iceberg and starting to approach an extreme where formal looks are concerned. A more sober and perhaps more harmonic take is a navy suit with a more restrained shade of green tie, which I'm also fond of utilising on occasion:

   Additionally, a green odd jacket can work wonders with a blue shirt. This is fairly tone dependent, to be fair - a deep green can handle possibly any variation of blue, but it's best to shy away from particularly bright greens no matter the shirt unless you are pure prep perfection, a la the Hamptons visions of Ralph Lauren's summer ensembles. I've a purple jacket , a burgundy jacket and two light blues , but a mint green hardly tops the next 20 on my wishlist. Nevertheless, my sage green jacket is liked and is also neutral and dull enough that I've gone all the way up to royal blue shirtings, although strong sky blues seem to be the most fun:

   For a look at perhaps the most fun I've experienced with this mixture, a memory lane trip into this column's infancy exhibits my rarely worn "secret weapon" - my green shirt . The shirt actually has blue stripes woven in, which nods to another suggestion - wearing two garments predominantly shaded in blue and green with complementing overtones of one in the other; say, a green pinstriped blue suit with a light green shirt. I don't have a blue suit with a green pattern, but perhaps I have time to find one

   Writing this also begs the question of which comes first - mastery over colour or over pattern? I don't think it's too uninformed to posit that Europe has a great handle on both, due in no small part to the proliferation of coloured, patterned shirts that have cemented the reputations of the likes of Hilditch & Key, Charvet and Turnbull & Asser, further adorning and/or inspiring well dressed men worldwide. At the end of the day, anyone can wear patterns, but not everyone is particularly willing to wear colour. But if the most daring one could go is blue and green, it's far more simple than it may first appear

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Party Post

Photograph by Daniel Barnett

   Always wear something interesting to a party, even when it's a costume. Parties are a dime a dozen for the average social animal, so don't count on the atmosphere, guests and copious alcohol consumption to make it memorable (especially the last one, unless your braincells happen to be of singularly resilient genetic stock)

   The most "young" party-friendly piece I own is the tailored tracksuit-derived jacket from Junya Watanabe Man S/S 07, which, perhaps too literally, puts the "sport" in "sportjacket." At least a third of its brilliance rests in the fact that it's publicly unwearable beyond flamboyant social occasions and the occasional "Go to Hell" day. Another third is that the construction is absolutely amazing, showing off an array of decorative stitches and nylon strips set on top of practically seamless patching and shaping. It looks utterly insane... and it's nevertheless an utter dream to wear, even moreso than the more subtle trenchcoat I wear from the same collection. It pairs well with rollnecks, with bowties, with scarves and very judiciously selected neckties

   Despite being my second choice for the Psychedelic 60s party I swaggered about at recently, as displayed above, it proved a hit where accuracy was concerned (I aimed to channel a fusion of Jimi Hendrix and The Who's Pete Townshend, though suffice to say, a combination of Nutter's and Mr. Fish was my ideal. It helps to actually own such things first)

(Author's note: the hat was acquired at a party; I awoke wearing it the next morning and I never saw its previous owner again. I do hope she's not missing it much, six years down the line)

   As for more traditional, and sedate, occasions, you cannot go wrong with the old black tie. If inclined, or required, to jazz it up, I find a patterned white scarf and a crushed velvet double breasted go a long way, even when everyone else at a "Black Tie With a Hint of Après-Ski" party is dressed more ostentatiously:

What do you like to wear to parties?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Fall To Earth - Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche A/W 2008 (A Look Back)

   On rare occasion, people e-mail me regarding the designer reviews I occasionally do and some of them like to ask why I do them at all, citing reasons such as a disconnect from my or their aesthetics, quibbles with the designs, a minor grievance with the styling, skinny models. You know, serious stuff

   I know where they're coming from, but it must be said that classicism should not involve an ignorance of fashion. Everything changes - even menswear - and it's a passion of mine to look for the good amongst all the mutables. Your father's 1980s suiting is not your own 2009 look because fashion and common sense reasoned that oversized shoulders and chests were nothing short of unbecoming and lacking in refinement and sleekness (though I readily note that most of my suits are from the 1980s and buck many of the cliches of the time with nary a care). Over this year, I've noted that older gentlemen, some of whom read this column, are appreciative of my ensembles, but frankly, those outfits would be worthy of no one's attention if I wasn't able to take inspiration from more than the history books or my father's wardrobe

   Still, if there's one thing I'm unashamedly fond of, it's exhuming a particular past and bringing it back to life. So it is with Stefano Pilati's YSL Rive Gauche collection of la dernier automne et hiver, which ran with menswear designs that were seeded in the same decades that the House first came to prominence under its not forgotten founder; the 1960s and 1970s. Retro-modern is an awful, hackneyed label, but it's an easy shorthand that does partially describe these garments and the ethos behind them. Thankfully, I swallowed a dictionary once, so I'm certain more erudite vocabulary shall be forthcoming, perhaps somewhere in the final paragraph. And even if the clothes are now a year in the past, 'tis the season for old inspirations

   Totally swank and utterly energetic, the collection and presentation succeeded in evoking a time that, if not necessarily better dressed, was certainly more sartorially attuned to days and nights of luxe, glamour, fantasy and awe. Capably memorialising an era in which men dressed to get away from it all; to feel like stars, Pilati's creations seemed attuned to a particularly louche but elegant and creative spirit. This feeling was instantly encapsulated by the Thin White Duke stylings of fitted jackets with sweeping lapels and the floor sweeping lengths of Oxford Bags that comprised the suiting and immediately let onlookers discern where Pilati's heart was at

   One of the core values of 1960s and 70s tailoring was about accentuating of the male form, expressing this ideal through grand and form fitting cutting. Pilati modified this vision for the days of now through a classically autumnal colour palette, a lack of flaring (in reality, the wide dress trousers are cut more or less straight), an emphasis on fine, if not ultra-luxurious materials and a pinch of the psychedelia and pure glam that characterise his source material. The coupling of this restraint with a more generalised reference to two distinctive decades distinguishes the collection from the similar regenerative nostalgia produced by Tom Ford, whose boldness of colour and slim cut trousers only somewhat apply here

   It's actually the use of colours that proves to be one of this collection's secret strengths. Much of the outerwear took on this aspect, being proffered in apple green, pale salmon, peach, electric blue and yellow, and all of it to a particularly natural effect. Rather than a garment that used colour to shock, what actually resulted were pieces that were very well constructed and realised and which so happened to be made in colours less rarely seen on most men's outer garments. As an extra mark of characterisation, the selection of fabrics for pieces such as motorcycle jackets tended towards the unexpected such as wool felt. The most unanticipated item of all was the hybrid of an overcoat, a cardigan and the classic opera cloak that made me curious as to how many besides myself would covet it.

   The earlier citing of Tom Ford as a comparison point is key beyond the obvious connections to the House of YSL, the fondness for the 1970s and both lines having their production handled by Zegna. Superficially, one could present arguments as to why the two collections could not co-exist during the same season, but there are clear differences in vision as well as nuances. Ford's styling is quintessentially Nutter's of Savile Row, with particular attention to the shoulder and chest in a manner that is almost brash. These tics, combined with nipped waists and fuller sleeves tend to make for a more British affair that is then infused with colours and fabrics that are halfway between patrician heritage and old Hollywood. Pilati's, by contrast, is softer, a touch more relaxed and beguilingly playful. Physical examination of the jackets also revealed that they were rather lightly structured and softly tailored, in a manner that befits an Italian designer and the legacy of continental tailoring. It's no small gift to make such heavier and warmer wools handle and wear almost as lightly as summer cloths - such attention goes a long way in promoting desirable clothing

   Pilati's flights of fancy are at their best when they take direction from his own "Last of the International Playboys" dandified aesthetic; seemingly, he's one of the last men on earth who upholds a somewhat Romantic ideal in his manner of dress and deportment. Favouring cropped trousers, silk scarves, loafers and rollnecks, he embodies a now rare classical style of discreet glamour, often with nods to the open shirts, slim dress trousers and high heeled boots that adorned young men in the 1960s. Therefore, his best work tends to manifest when it contains references to his own manner of mode, which in turn can anchor imaginative flights of fancy such as a blazer cut to mimic a cardigan and military cuff dress trousers:

   Some time ago, I designated a past Junya collection as my ideal summer aesthetic. It would be more than safe to say that this is mine for winter. It motivated me to purchase a rollneck and the two pairs of trousers I own from it are easily amongst the best in my rotation, well made for preening and dancing. And it reminds me that sometimes the thrill of dressing to enjoy one's nightlife is reward enough. So, that was YSL's A/W 2008 - a collection to make any lounge lizard put a little more grace and swagger in his step

   Laisser les bon temps rouler

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Accessory Service Announcement

   My rose pins, which I wear in the manner of boutonnieres, have entranced and mystified both regular readers and the people I interact with outside of this column

   Having tired of being asked if I'm making a political statement in sporting them, I've officially lost discarded them for the time being. If you wish to take up my baton, hie thee hither to Rose Paradise and place an order or three

   This season, I shall be wearing a Remembrance Poppy and, post Remembrance Day, actual boutonnieres whilst I upgrade my lapel accessories

   This is for the anonymous reader who keeps asking about them

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Fashion Thought of The Day

For now, this says it all

From The Fashion Museum, Bath. Image by Master-Classter at StyleForvm