Mad Mien
December 17, 2009

Tell us how you really feel David Colman! In a story for the New York Times style section today (with delightful photo-illustrations, by the way, shot by Douglas Friedman), he celebrates the ’50s- and ’60s-style of young men these days – seen mostly in New York, natch – and lowers the sartorial boom on their elders:  “Young men are embracing the “Mad Men” elements of style in a way that the older men never did, still don’t and just won’t. The result is a kind of rift emerging between the generation of men in their 20s and 30s and those in their late 40s and 50s for whom a suit was not merely square but cubed, and caring about how one looked was effeminate.”

Whoa there, boy. Colman makes some convincing points about young men becoming entranced with the sartorial bounce of Rat Pack style as well as the dreary conformity of casual wear that has been adopted wholesale by our society because “it’s comfortable.” But his undisguised scorn for anyone older than (horrors!) 45, who Colman says, is always “the worst-dressed man in the room, wearing a saggy T-shirt and jeans,” permeates the whole story to the point of absurdity.

Equally absurd are some of his conclusions, starting with the one above that boomers find caring about fashion “effeminate” – his word, not mine. I don’t know where he’s been the last 20 years or so, but men of that generation have been as exacting about their style as they have been about their wine, their coffee and their cuisine – and somehow remaining secure in their masculinity at the same time.  And yes, young men may have rediscovered the suit, but the “olds” somehow spent millions of dollars on suits from Armani, Prada, Gucci, Ralph and Dolce & Gabbana since they came of age in the ’80s.

Colman also cites blogs like A Continuous Lean and The Trad to bolster his case but that works both ways – even a casual reader of the grandaddy of style blogs, The Sartorialist, will come away with a renewed appreciation for the often-dashing style of men in their middle years – and beyond.  Next to images like the one below, some kid rocking a ’60s sack suit in the name of “irony” looks like a rank amateur.

Colman does have one good point – yes, there are lots of men who couldn’t care less about what they put on in the morning, but unfortunately that malaise cuts across all ages. Here’s hoping his precious vanguard of hipster suit-wearers has some effect on the rest of their own generation outside of Brooklyn and Manhattan. But I’m not holding my breath.

The Butler Did It!
October 7, 2009

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Let us now praise famous men. Or, as Rachel Ray might say, “Yum-o!” I came across this picture of Gerard Butler at last night’s premiere of Law Abiding Citizen and, as far as I am concerned, 20061110justinlongthis is the new template for Hollywood men on the red carpet. I’ve been styling in Hollywood for 10 years and for most of that it seems time male stars affected an “I-don’t-care” dishevelled appearance whenever they showed up in public, in their T-shirts, ball caps, carpenter jackets – and worse. No longer – now you see lots of sharp suits on the red carpet. In recent months, Eric Bana, Chris Pine and Shia LeBeouf have especially stood out. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say the turnabout started with Daniel Craig a few years back when he was cast as the original sartorialist James Bond and transformed himself from a casually-clad British character actor to a dashing worldwide movie star – faultless in a wardrobe of sublime Tom Ford suits. (So much so, the story goes, that at a photo shoot with the leading US men’s magazine, he pushed aside the editor’s rack of pro-offered duds to wear his own fantastic Fords he brought along with him!)

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From afar, Butler deftly bridges old and new Hollywood in his sleek dark suit, looking both leading-man handsome and chick-magnet sexy. He definitely wears the pants (and jacket) in this realm; no way does the Versace suit “wear” him and the fit is perfect, right down to the exposed amount of shirt cuff. Up close, you can clock the cool fashion details – the genius black-on-black patterned tie, the subtle stitched cording on the jacket lapel. Of course it’s Hollywood, so the scruff is still with us. But like his casually cropped hair, it just takes the edge off. Hello there.

Skorting the Issue
September 17, 2009

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It’s spring again for 2010, at least on the runway this week, and a young man’s fancy turns to…halter tops. At least that’s the view from designer Thom Browne, he of the signature shrunken jackets and shin-baring trousers.  But with his runway boys sporting oversize polka-dots, lipstick rosebuds and those halters (along with mini-skorts and cuffed gaucho pants), Browne hit a nerve that seems awfully close to the surface. Women’s Wear Daily couldn’t wait to pounce: “The clothes were ridiculous…add the lipstick and its officially a drag show…to make unwearable art that takes no account of the wearer’s dignity is only dodging the challenge.”

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I don’t know for sure but I think WWD might be feeling their masculinity’s a little threatened. Ya think? But have they stepped outside lately?  When every twenty-something man around seems to have waxed his eyebrows, how far away is lipstick, really?  And the neoprene mini-skort?  I picked up a Barneys fall catalogue recently only to find on the cover a swell Raf Simon’s double-breasted suit, topped not with a smart topcoat or trench but instead with a “neoprene shrug, $375.”

And then there’s the skort, which actually might be the garment of the future, combining shorts in back and a skirt panel in front – intersex styling that’s functional, non- patriarchal and anatomically neuter.  And people used to think we were all gonna run around in spacesuits in the 21st Century! One early-adopter has already made the skort his uniform and he’s pretty influential – top-o-the-heap designer Marc Jacobs lives in his, day in and day out, only changing his shirt from black to white, accessorized in summer with a sandal and winter with a combat boot.

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Sometimes when he’s out and about, he adds a smart black leather envelope bag – a clutch really.  I’m sure it’s all about utility to Jacobs  but there’s probably a Women’s Wear editor somewhere breaking out in a sweat just at the thought. It’s all right, because this week’s fashion issue of the New Yorker has just the answer:

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