We listened so often we memorized lyrics like the secret readers in Fahrenheit 451, at least the lyrics to the songs Stipe enunciated. Famously elusive, mumbled and indirect, many of his songs were like codes, with meanings no more than roundabout guesses. All that and more came back hearing that snatch of song, and reading Grace Elizabeth Hale’s incredible Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture. In it she not only clearly and thoroughly tells the fascinating story of the Athens scene around University of Georgia that gave rise to R.E.M. and so many other acts, she captures and conveys the liberation, joy and sweetness of youth.
Like Poole’s neighbor and contemporary Gieves & Hawkes, Poole has followed up a studiously dry, detailed tome from several decades ago with a heavier, flashier collection of pictures and monographs on famous customers, including their recorded lifetime spend at Henry Poole (with helpful conversion into current-day values) and signature garment.
I’ve been inspired to turn to The Sartorial Travel Guide by the inimitable Simon Crompton for a glimpse of what already seems like a very different time, one where we were free to move around without fear of killing or being killed, one where brick-and-mortar retail existed and was worth the journey.
Most books on dandies attempt to suggest they are all of many conflicting concepts of the word, so that the very least of the dandies they feature is not just an eccentric who fetishizes dressing well, but also, supposedly, a political revolutionary, an intellectual incendiary, and a retrograde elegant gentleman to (champagne-polished) boot. Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style, by Shantrelle P. Lewis, is not one of those books.
This November marks the 50th anniversary of Ralph Lauren’s juggernaut clothing, home, and lifestyle brand, Polo. What began as a little tie business known making for napkin-sized neckwear out of upholstery fabrics has evolved into one of the most successful, influential, and lasting fashion brands of all time. And so, to commemorate this milestone, Abrams Books has published a coffee table sized illustrated biography of Ralph for this auspicious anniversary, Ralph Lauren: In His Own Fashion, penned by none other than menswear guru Alan Flusser.
Many of the best clothing-industry memoirs, such as Martin Greenfield’s Measure of a Man, spend less time describing the writer’s time in the industry than they do the circumstances that led the writer to the business. Or, as Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day calls it in the fascinating Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem, the hustle. And for him, it was the attraction of, for the first time, carrying out “a hustle with no vic[tim]s.”
There’s a danger in our latter-day dandy syncretism: the rolling of anyone who dresses in flashy or anachronistic jackets and sportcoats into a loaf of the indigestible and incoherent. By its title, Dandysmesacknowledges various different types of dandies, and different conceptions of the dandy, all seen through the prism of Beau Brummell, the putative dandy zero.