April 15, 2015

Just Dandy

Lord Ribblesdale by Sargent. Originally known as The Ancestor, a nickname
Edward VII gave his friend for being what he considered the archetype of
the English Aristocrat. 

While GSL's appreciation and interest in women's fashion is known far and wide, we thought a statement regarding men's attire was in order to give young men guidance. Unlike other male species in the animal kingdom, male homo-sapiens are the less physically attractive gender with nature not endowing bright plumage to attract a mate so they must use money...or guile.

Beau Brummell who set the standard during Regency England.
I recommend the movie Beau Brummell: This Charming Man starring a then
little known James Purefoy as the English Icon with The Smith's great
song ringing in during closing credits.
A man's strategy in personal dress should be to subtly reinforce his true general nature but far too often it is an aspirational image beyond his reach he tries to project. Shakespeare's infinite wisdom applies here: To thine own self be true. You can always tell a man dressed beyond his station as his schoolboy on Prom night air of insecurity gives him away.
James Purefoy as Beau Brummell

If you haven't yet had the good fortune of visiting the fabulous blog Chronica Domus do make a point of putting her in your rotation. Her father was a Savile Row tailor extraordinaire now retired who did a celebrated stint in the Tommy Nutter atelier. My sources reveal him to be a 1st ballot Hall-of-Famer in the annals of High Haberdashery. Tommy Nutter was a Welsh dandy whose shop virtually single-handedly brought English tailoring back from the dead during the 1960s. The charming hostess of Chromica Domus did a fabulous 3-part series honoring her father on his birthday and recent retirement and can be found here.  It's beautifully written and a fine example of a post that is personal yet educates and enchants.

My Auntie J with her father (my grandfather), JRL, or 'Pete' as everyone (including his own kids and grandkids) always referred to him.
This actually was what any businessman wore everyday and such a contrast to today's shabby sartorial standards.

Up my patrilineal line, my grandfather JRL ('Pete') was known as a snazzy dresser always hatted, suited, and waistcoated...of yuletide tartan during the season, and often in spats. He cut a fine figure. My father and uncles were outfitted from Ed Mitchell's (now known simply as Mitchell's) and were among the very first customers when that now legendary retailer began operations during the mid 1950s.
Adam Ant knew how to make it work

Growing up, once I graduated beyond kneepants, I dressed much the same way my father and uncles did. Kackis, polo shirts, madras shorts, OCBDs in white and lightblue, navy blazer, etc. Nothing interesting or imaginative and haven't veered far from that look since. It's mostly LL Bean for casual/activewear and Brooks Brothers for anything more dressy... which has become increasingly seldom. Back in 2006, I hastily threw my entire wardrobe in trash bags and then in storage for 4 1/2 years and all my woolies were ravaged by moths. I'm rebuilding the wardrobe bit by bit. Being only 5 foot 6 in height, I'll never cut the dashing figure that would provide the necessary return on investment of spending significant money on tailor made suits. However, one day I do want to acquire a wardrobe of exquisite tailoring such as CD's father created because I want that art form to endure. I'll go for subtle patterns of the basics that only upon a 2nd glance draw attention to the cut and quality.
Gary Oldman for Prada. This is how you enter a room. Knowing you're one of the
greatest living artists does wonders for a man's self-possession.

While my own dress is understated, I am a big fan of dandies who really know how to artfully put themselves together. They add an interesting dynamic to any room they enter. But it's all about how you carry it. A high self-regard is a given but Ribblesdalian Hauteur can grant you immortality.

Gary Oldman as Gary Oldman for Prada.


  1. Surely a selfie is in order to illustrate your sartorial preferences! Claire

    1. My dear beguiling Claire,
      The only relatively recent dressy pics I possess of your dreamboat show him attired, and in settings, that I now know offend your sensibilities. That will likely change soon as I have a few events on the calender where the paps will stalk.

  2. Dearest GSL,

    You honor my beloved father greatly by including him in this wonderful post, and it is nice to see you wax lyrical on the male wardrobe for a change. I despair at the sight of the majority of modern males and their dress sense, particularly so whenever I see one juxtaposed with a female who has obviously bothered to dress for a date and he has not. What are these males thinking?

    Over the years as I watched my father work, and viewed his creations being worn by family members and others, I can categorically tell you that each and every piece plays a part in the illusion that makes the wearer appear either 10 lbs lighter or 10 inches taller so your pennies will reap you tenfold on your tailoring investment.

    Mr. Oldman looks so very dashing in his black frock coat for no other reason than because it was made to fit every contour of his body, and that is what bespoke garments deliver.

    I also see you included a picture of the charming Mr. Purefoy in his portrayal of the finest dandy that ever was. Upon your recommendation, I did watch This Charming Man, and was thrilled to have done so. It was an excellent piece of television work.

    Your grandfather also knew a thing or two about dressing.

    1. My Dear CD,
      If only I had your father tailoring my little league unis, my boyhood dreams of playing Centerfield for the Cubbies might have been realized.
      The decline of standards in dress, particularly men is depressing and is also reflected in their conversation and manners.
      It is consoling to know that I am not alone in fighting the good fight.

  3. Love Gary Oldman. Thank you for the afternoon visual treat!

    1. Jen, I think he's the best there is!

  4. "Every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man...." :-)

    1. I forgot all about that ZZ Top song!

  5. I love this post esp the photo of Grandfather Pete looking a million bucks.

    My Mr FF is a super sharp dresser and spends a fortune on suits shoes ties (he has like 700). It's nice to have a hobby.

    I always get better service in shops when I am with him, and I think it's because he is the sharpest dresser. And looks like a spender probably x

  6. After I saw the crisp tailoring on Mr FF's seersucker, my seersucker started looking like a dishrag. I'll bet he does prompt better service as they suspect anything he likes you're leaving with. Pete was a character and had the best American speaking voice I've ever heard outside of Orson Welles.

  7. I loved that series of posts CD did so much. I think the key thing for anything is tailoring. Even if you buy ready to wear and have a good tailor alter it. It's particularly important for those of us not blessed with supermodel length limbs, as everything these days are cut for those proportions. I remember a guy that we knew around 16 years ago who was a shorter man, and also fashion conscious. It was a disastrous combination. At the time a longer length suit jacket was coming into Vogue, and while he spent a small fortune at Paul Smith buying himself a fashionable new suit, the jacket came down to the tops of his knees, which did not look right at all (it did not look remotely like Gary in the photo you provided above). Frankly, he looked like he had either shrunk, or was a child playing dress ups in someone else's suit.
    I also bemoan the constant casualisation of dress. My husband will often point out when you're out in the evening that the women are all dressed up in dresses and heels, and the men they're with are wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Regardless of where they are (like at the ballet).

    1. You are so right Heidi regarding having a tailor alter even off the rack cheapie duds and it's all the more important when you're short. The problem is there are so few good tailors any more and with websites like yelp shouting the good ones praises from the web rooftop, they quickly get overrun with work and then you're on a week - 10day leadtime and I'm a last minute guy. Apparently you've got a fine tailor in Adelaide who did a great job on that coat with the hem at the perfectly flattering length taking it from just another frumpy winter wrap to an elegant sexy accessory. A petite woman can with perfectly tailored well chosen frocks make up a lot of ground on taller women but it doesn't work quite the same way with men.
      I'm with you and CD on how men fall far short when dressing for an evening out.

  8. Darling G,

    Chronica Domus is a delight! Whatever the topic, it is written with an elegant and sparkling prose that brings even the most mundane of subjects to life. Illustrations are carefully selected and beautiful. The posts transport the reader to another level of understanding and serve to raise the blogging bar ........we love it!

    As for dandies....yes, please......and the dandier the better. From breakfast to bedtime there are so many opportunities for dressing up and living life extraordinarily. The size of wardrobe is seldom of the greatest significance, we find. For, with snazzy socks or a psychedelic scarf even the most unmemorable clothes can be given a new lease of life.

    It is personality not clothes that make the Dandy, we feel

    1. Darlings Jane and Lance,
      Your high praise of Chronica Domus is not only richly deserved but once again better expresses what a treasure that blog and it's charming hostess are.
      You are certainly yet again right on the money regarding the Dandy as it is the personality that must be the distinguishing feature and to a far lesser extent the clothes but they often do serve as an artful extension of that personality we find so interesting as they often spend hours getting assembled with every minute detail fussed over. It is a key ingredient to their Performance Art.

  9. Your grandfather was just so elegant, what a wonderful photo. My husband loves clothes and even though he now works from home, he pays a lot of attention to his new clothes. recently he was devasted when tallulah told him he always looked like he was going camping! here, no one wears suits or ties anymore, even at meetings, it's casual Friday everyday, I just had someone turn up to a meeting in two kinds of denim and my friends says her colleagues turn up in their PJS - yes it's THAT casual here.
    I missed the dressing up when i arrived from London where i used to wear high heels everywhere (and my feet have paid for it) but now I'm used to it.

    1. Jody,
      Even starting in business in the mid '80s, I wore a jacket and tie every day and usually a suit and would never ever even think about anything else if meeting with a customer. Nowadays, it's unusual to see anyone wearing ties outside of the professions (docs, lawyers, etc.). Of course manners and conversation have also worsened as you'd expect.
      You certainly displayed a fab array of summer frocks last year and I'm certain you could rock a pencil skirt in a business skirt!

  10. Gary Oldman is awesome. I remember when men dressed like gentlemen. It was wonderful. The hats, the tailoring, the charm. Your Grandfather looks quite dapper!! It always feels so good to dress up. It's a shame casual is slipping into sloppy, but that's what's happening in many places these days.

    1. Once again, we are in complete agreement once again my dear Jennifer!