Hello everyone, and welcome to The Rakish Man. My name is Léon Philippe and I am here with all the right responses to your sartorial queries. I’ve poured my first glass of Grand Marnier, so let’s get started.
I read a lot about "sprezzatura" on blogs and forums, and I've got it all going on-- unstrapped monk straps, extra long back tie blade, partially/inversely unbuttoned DB sport coat, etc, etc. I've really put in the hours and done a lot of research, going so far as to study pictures of the world's best-dressed men.
But my friend argues HIS sprezzatura is better than mine-- cigarette burns on his ties, unwashed underwear, coffee stains on his sweatpants, sweatpants, etc. He doesn't even know Passaggio Cravatte from the Al Bazar 7-fold.
I feel like I have a commanding grasp on this practice of casual insouciance, as well as sufficient time in my mornings to really nail down "the look", but my friend still insists he does it better. Who is right?
Yours in distress, Everett
P.S. I would have attached a photo of myself for your reference, but the best mirror in my house is in the bathroom, and unfortunately my wife has just settled down for a #2 with the new Oprah magazine in hand.
Thank you for your query. First of all, a gentleman never uses Italian in conversation. Charles the Fifth once said that he spoke “Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.” It’s a good policy, as no one understands Spanish or German, so you might as well speak them to someone who isn’t listening. But the point is, as gentlemen, we should address each other in French. However, if Charles the Fifth were alive today, he would have added that he speaks to the Internet in English, which is why we are using that language now.
In any case, back to your query.
I don’t know what this Italian nonsense is that you’re describing. But I think the issue is mainly one of attitude. The dandy becomes a fop when he is overly vain, overly fastidious in his dress (even if fastidious in the proper degree of disarray), or overly unctuous in currying the favor of those whose style he admires. The dandy must therefore temper his care for his appearance and delight in his wardrobe with a nonchalant attitude and self-defecating humor.
I will offer an example from my own experience. I remember one dinner at a very stylish and elegant restaurant, many years ago. I had been looking forward to a night out for a while, as it offered me an opportunity to wear my finest navy suit, of which I was then quite proud, and rightly so. Naturally, during the meat course, the lady next to me overshot her french fries and squirted ketchup all over my sleeve.
She apologized profusely, thinking that I must be distraught at her defacing my beautiful suit. But I assembled all my sang-froid and gallantly saved us both from an embarrassing situation:
“Oh, not at all, madam. Don’t you worry. I didn’t pay anything for this suit, it is a hand-me-down from my uncle. He’ll be dead soon anyway, and then I’ll have a whole closet full of them. And besides, these things happen all the time, don’t you see?”
At which point I took my own ketchup bottle and sprayed it right in her little vandal face. Of course, the suit wasn’t actually my uncle’s. It was just a little white lie, to make her feel better, you see? Those are the type of tricks you pull when you want to show people that’s it’s really how you wear your clothes that matters, not what clothes you wear.
Anyway, there’s no need to send the photo of yourself. The latest Oprah is rather incontinent, words-wise, I’m afraid, and so you may have a long wait ahead of you. By the by, if you happen to have any advice for getting ketchup out of wool, I would be much obliged.
Ed. note: If you have a query for The Rakish Man, please send an email to david at nomanwalksalone dot com and I will make sure he sees it.