mid-century maunderings for men who know better

Vanity Fair Enough part 1.

If you are familiar with the Condé Nast suite of publications, then you will know that their titles are predicated on the glamour of acquisition and the collateral symbols of exclusivity and privilege. Vanity Fair is no exception. It is a disingenuous title for this magazine. A flip through the first 20 pages of ads for jewel encrusted watches, swiss riding boots, celebrity parfum and ugly handbags brings to mind Fabulous, Fascinating and even Fatuous but certainly not Fair. Obviously a nod to Thackeray’s satire which in turn was referring to Bunyan’s pilgrim and his progress through that tempting zone, Vanity Fair is probably a closer kin to Bunyan’s description of a town attached to wordly goods  than Thackeray’s satire of greed, sloth, rapacity, hypocrisy and mendacity; these being the pillars which support the VF edifice.

smoothmodernist is a subscriber.

Once found, the editorial is always enjoyable. Each month, prior to publication, editor, Graydon Carter is apparently presented with a magazine flensed of 75% of its content. He will mention financial impropriety on Capitol Hill, an investigative report in whistleblower protection, perhaps a Eurozone exposé and and an analysis of the state of the planet. The semi-nude models, celebrity gossip, Austrian Princes, Spanish Contessas, Italian roués and luxury spas of the world are rarely mentioned.

This month his editorial begins with a topic readers of smoothmodernist will be familiar with. It is in fact a neat condensation of the first post on this blog.

It is September and while in the past VF refused to plant vines on Vogue’s terroir,  it is hard to deny that VF has delivered what can only be called a FASHION ISSUE. Here is smoothmodernist’s take on some of the world’s best dressed men for 2012, according to Amy Fine Collins:smoothmodernist casts no aspertion and makes no claim to be so widely popular that a man of Graydon Carter’s stature need filch from a blog with barely a dozen readers. Fair enough, ideas are universal and VF have bigger fish to fry.

Colin Firth knows a good thing when he sees one, as his choice of spouse attests. It’s not often a man can please both the director of his best film in years and the designer of his wardrobe, so full marks for loyalty. However, his Tom Ford cruise ship Entertainment Director’s dinner jacket is perhaps better suited to a man in Jay-Z’s line of work. Colin Firth ought to stick to an 11oz mohair with a simple barathea shawl collar.

Clearly not trusting in his fur collar, Carlos Souza has brought a diaphanous scarf just in case the air-conditioning chills the throat—perhaps he’ll be singing later on. Of course he could do up a couple of shirt buttons but that would rob us of the rich profusion of of gold symbology dangling across his sternum (he is a jewelry designer). And those zebra-skin moccasins? Further investigation reveals Carlos has a penchant for novelty footwear and an apparent allergy to socks. Carlos Souza is the Worldwide Brand Ambassador for Valentino, the eponymous label of the man with the most famous pompadour in Christendom. Carlos lists his favourite item of clothing as ‘suits’. This and subsequent pictures on the VF website do not bear this out. Jeans (I’m taking a guess here. The cut of the pockets, hem and creases suggest the ubiquitous pantalon de Nimes. I will concede the shiny fabric may elevate them to jeans cut trouser. Either way…) and a shiny jacket do not in any way, shape or form constitute a suit; lounge, evening, boilermaker or otherwise. Perhaps he meant ‘suits’ as in suits anyone with a tan, too much money and too little taste.

Now if you must wear fur…

Need I say more? Richard E. Grant sports a Richard James Teddy Bear coat over Hackett evening dress. We remember Grant’s dashing Andrea Galer  shooting coat made especially for his outrageous turn in ‘Withnail and I’ (unsurpassed by anything he has done since). James’ coat recalls those jaunty astrakhans that were all the rage in the 1920s. We can’t see much of Hackett’s dinner suit but he has an advertising spread further in the magazine which is replete with elegant and stylish ensembles so it’s nice he gets a look in here.

smoothmodernist likes to see a man’s hands for a change. The carelessly knotted rep tie goes well with this apparently conservative ensemble. Matteo Marzotto uses a firm in Bologna who can’t seem to talk him out of having a ticket pocket on his banker’s DB chalk-stripe (or get the stripes on his sleeves, which are too long, to line up with the body of the coat). Ticket pockets have no place on business suits. Perhaps it is one of those Italian affectations (Gianni Agnelli wearing a massive watch strapped over the top of his sleeve, or undoing a button or two on a bespoke jacket sleeve) that cries: “Look at me! I am not really a business man. I have a ticket pocket. And I tuck my pocket flaps inside!” Matteo is one of the better examples in these pages. Who doesn’t love an eccentric?

Dandies love a Charvet tie and always make a point of letting you know they are wearing one. Iké Udé does a good mix and match job here with a combination of bespoke, vintage and rack. You can see  that it is possible to wear a snug trouser without those unfortunate creases around the crotch.

Victor Cruz is a professional gridiron player. This photo illustrates why men should wear bespoke suits. Obviously the crotch and thighs threaten to split the fabric, whereas below the knee the trousers billow and bunch. Not just athletes, but all men are differently proportioned to the way an off the rack suit fits. His jacket doesn’t seem too bad in the shoulders but if you look at the biceps and elbows, it is too tight. A suit is not a unitard. smoothmodernist favours slim fitting garments but also requires blood to circulate through the limbs and even has occasion to bend them from time to time. It should go without saying that a tie and pocket square must NEVER match. A good suit is expensive, as it should be. But an expensive suit is not necessarily good. A cheap suit’s cost is reflected in more than just the price tag.

Now if you’re looking for someone to refuel your motor launch, or perhaps tend to the horses after a brisk canter through the orangerie, then Robert Rabensteiner, fashion editor at L’Uomo Vogue  might just be your man. He favours a restrained palette and much repaired utility pants.

This is of course just a sample. There are many more examples of financiers, art dealers and insignificant members of various royal families; all of them dressed in very expensive clothes. You can buy the magazine or check it out online.  There are a lot of pictures of men with hands in their pockets. I presume this is to lend the subjects a look of louche sophistication.  As if a bunch of posers like these would be caught dead posing  for a photograph. Most of the subjects look rumpled and sloppy with their trousers too tight across the crotch, or too long in the leg.

Part two will have some more best dressed men plus a couple who didn’t make the list, but should have.


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