I’m terrible at recognizing celebrities. Friends who moved to LA quickly learned to pick out any of the A-, B-, C-, D- or Jason Patric-list who become, I am told, part of the furniture of its bars and restaurants. For my part, I didn’t realize who the bum in a Paris wine shop who looked like Johnny Depp actually was until International Man of Mystery Michael Alden asked me if I’d noticed it was Depp himself.
For some reason, recent years have seen a surge of discussion of how people could be so gullible they believed the obvious distortions of so-called reality TV shows and their stars. If my memory serves me correctly, I, too, was that credulous several decades ago. I was so disappointed to discover that Kitchen Stadium was not a real place in Japan, and that Takeshi Kaga was not an eccentric millionaire obsessed with discovering the most refined experiences for his jaded palate, at least those which could be prepared within an hour by a stable of specialized iron men of cooking. I suspect he was not even a real chairman of any organization.
His appearance, for the last forty years of his life, was alien, mannered, armored by various styles of outfit that were less uniforms than the carapace of some unique extraterrestrial being. It was this persona, behind gently waving fans, knuckle-length gloves, heavy-looking Chrome Hearts jewelry, that made him such a memorable media figure. An unforgettable bowsprit, rather than figurehead, for the many different fashion houses he designed for – at times creating collections simultaneously for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé and his own Lagerfeld label, among others.
A reaction to the response of a friend. That friend, the prolific #menswear blogger Dirnelli, frequently models his secondhand bespoke suits. What he calls “respoke” is suits made by a custom tailor for someone else, altered to fit a new wearer.
Today There Are No Gentlemen, wrote fashion historian and fabulist Nik Cohn in 1971. Upper-class British Member of Parliament Jeremy Thorpe was soon to prove him right. And now, thanks to Stephen Frears’ excellent television adaptation of John Preston’s book about the infamous Thorpe Affair, we have a much-needed reminder of that lesson. Or at least those of us with access to Amazon Prime and to a sense of insight do.
Among the many forms of self-abuse that we iGents need to disabuse ourselves at some point in our sartorial Ausbildung is the idea that because anything is theoretically possible in custom clothing, we should try for it. As with other such abuse, I’ve come to believe that the only way past this stage is through sating the urge, and then eventually growing out of it.
Long ago, when your correspondent was only beginning his sartorial journey, a well-informed Paris resident offered him these wise words: “The most beautiful shoes of the Paris shoemakers you love are the ones in the window…”
The struggle for sartorial revolution creates strange alliances. It’s rare to find another style writer with whom I would link arms and, in the words of an Internet sage, “face God and walk backwards into hell.“ Because of his erudition, wit and dogmatic insight, Le Chouan des villes, the (collective) pseudonym for the writers of the now-dormant blog of the same name, is one of them. Les chroniques de l’homme élégant, a collection of essays by Le chouan, is fascinating to read.