TRIED & TRUE STYLE | THE WHITE SHIRT

Montgomery Clift white shirt

Montgomery Clift

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Recently a certain reader took issue with my asserting the classic & indispensable style of the white shirt. And I quote–

“My God, How boring and predictable, a white shirt? Please… These rules are for men who don’t have a clue and just want to leave their house half decent without embarrassing themselves. This I don’t have a problem with, when it’s for convenience, comfort or not having to THINK at all about what to wear, but don’t confuse it with style.”

Huh…  Montgomery Clift– seeking convenience and comfort?  No, I don’t think so.  Errol Flynn– on a quest for decency and concerned with not embarrassing himself?  Somehow I don’t think he was all that worried about it, buddy.  Maybe Johnny Depp appeals to you more?  Bingo.  White shirt.

So let’s set the record straight once and for all–

The white shirt is for guys, what the little black dress is for our lady friends. It is absolutely a style icon in itself, and it can provide the perfect backdrop for the expression of style by letting it’s accompanying accessories sing.  Done.

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DESIGNER or MERCHANDISER?

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I have to be honest, I’m always more than a little dubious when someone coming from a Fashion Director or Merchandise Manager-type post throws his hat into the design ring.  As a Fashion Director at somewhere special like Bergdorf Goodman, you have access to the best menswear labels and goods that the world has to offer, and your playground is one of the tastiest retail environments going.  It’s hard not to look good with those kind of resources at your fingertips.  The question is– can you truly create your own vision?

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Brooks Brothers’ Continental Bent (is more like it)

I’m still not getting what I want from Brooks Brothers, and I’m starting to wonder if I ever will.  Bring back the pure, unapologetic, timeless icons of American sportswear & clothing– make it fresh, get the fit right, and roll it out.  It still feels too much like a European (Italian) interpreting classic American style.  It has a very continental feel in these photos from WWD.

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SLIM AARONS | THE STILL UNDISPUTED KING OF HOLLYWOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

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the kings of hollywood slim aarons

Slim Aaron’s most celebrated image was shot on New Year’s Eve of 1957 in the Crown Room at Romanoff’s restaurant in Hollywood.  Called ”The Kings of Hollywood,” it shows Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart — what Smithsonian magazine called ”a Mount Rushmore of stardom” and the novelist Louis Auchincloss ”the very image of American he-men.”  Why are the men in the picture all laughing?  Mr. Aarons sometimes said he did not know why.  In all truth, those chortling stars in ”The Kings of Hollywood,” Mr. Aarons sometimes admitted, were really laughing at him.  Mr. Gable had said how bad he thought Mr. Aarons’s acting was in a small movie part.

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BILL BLASS CLASS

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The beauty of being able to draw, or paint, from an early age is that you never feel trapped, least of all by your immediate circumstances.”

–Bill Blass

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From The New York Times

In early December 1999, the mood in the Bill Blass showroom at 550 Seventh Avenue was as gray as the film of dust on a potted plant that sat in the corner and always seemed to be dying.

Blass, arguably the most famous of all the American designers, had shown his farewell collection that September and sold the company a few weeks later.  He had been ill for some time, living with throat cancer for years — he was then 77 — and he didn’t seem much inclined to argue with the new owners about who would fill his oversize shoes.  They wanted a name.  So the future of Blass’s longtime assistants was far from certain.  Laura Montalban, one of two top designers, left to work for Oscar de la Renta; Blass called the other, Craig Natiello, who had been with him for a decade, into his office.

“You’re not going to like the people who bought the company,” Blass said.  He made a phone call, then told Mr. Natiello, who recalled the conversation in a recent interview, that there was a job waiting for him at Halston.  “Here is your out. Do you want it?”

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That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is class.  Keep a stiff upper lip, tell it straight, and repay loyalty with loyalty. This kind of character is an increasing rarity, unfortunately. Kudos, Mr. Blass.

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THE “REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE” CURSE | A CURIOUS CAST OF CHARACTERS

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James Dean in 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause”

The 1950s were a very cool time, I only wish I could have experienced them for myself. It is a time in American pop culture that is highly idealized for it’s music, fashion, style and culture. Everyone looked incredible, and seemed so squeaky clean– but you just knew there had to be much more going on behind the scenes. Rebel Without a Cause is one of the most iconic films from that era, and the stories behind the making of the James Dean classic are as incredible as the movie itself. And truth be told, Dean was not the only rebel on the set. Nicholas Ray, Dennis Hopper, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood definitely held there own.

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Jimmy Stewart’s Honorable Style

Jimmy Stewart Rope

With seemingly every known sportswear brand with a nickel’s worth of history coming out with an “authentic” or “vintage” line, I’m left wanting to step away and rediscover the “heritage” of dressing well.  At least I won’t have to worry about being stoned to death for not wearing the correct of-the-moment hipster boot anymore.  So I’ll have that going for me- which is good.

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