Dressing Up is Cool Again

For the longest time I’ve been remarking to anyone who would care to listen that I could never understand why people think it’s OK to wear the same thing out to a restaurant  for dinner that they would wear doing their laundry. I really don’t think everyone needs to go out dressed to the nines — far from it. But I think, frankly, I’ve absorbed the Italian dictum of dressing for the stage, so to speak… And I mean whatever stage you find yourself on.

To take a little care in putting yourself together shows a respect for yourself as well as those around you. That’s what I learned from my mother and her Old World European sensibility.

This article comes from my favorite section in the Wall Street Journal, Off Duty, which runs on the weekend. I’m always clipping interesting stories about menswear and this one really hit home for me. It’s called “Jacket (Not) Required” and it’s about how despite the fact that practically every restaurant under the sun has dropped its jacket-and-tie requirement, “a new generation of formality-loving dandies is choosing (not being told) to dress up.”

According to Tyler Thoreson of the web site Gilt Manual, it amounts to “a rebellion against our fathers, and the casual baby-boomer generation.”

Photo by David Field for The Wall Street Journal

My favorite quote comes from writer Gay Talese. I have to laugh when he says (with characteristic forthrightness) that when he sees people around him at a  restaurant dressed like hell, he thinks “why aren’t you at a  baseball game, or eating popcorn somewhere? Anywhere but here.”

He summarizes my thoughts perfectly: “Dressing conscientiously is exalting in the act of being alive. When you go out on the town, it’s an act of celebration…that you’re here.”

 

Writer Gay Talese on the Tailoring Craft

I wanted to share an article I came across not too long ago written by Italian-American writer Gay Talese for Vanity Fair magazine’s web site a couple of years ago. I met Mr. Talese several years ago when I first started working on MEN OF THE CLOTH and was researching my characters and the world they inhabit. I had read Unto the Sons, his immigrant saga of how his family came to America. In the opening pages of the book, I loved how Talese described his Calabrian father and his tailoring trade as “the reputable but precarious life of an artist with a needle and thread.” It’s a phrase I’ve often borrowed.

I also knew that Gay Talese favored Brioni suits and was interviewed for the book Brioni: Fifty Years of Style. I recently watched an interesting video interview with him online in which he maintained that one of the lessons he took from his father was to approach his work as a writer in a way that is “not done quickly or casually, because it had to withstand time.” Needless to say, I share that view, for I’ve spent a great deal of time getting to know my characters and their craft, and building a trust and rapport with them.

In the article for the Vanity Fair site, “The Scion, the Stitch, and the Wardrobe,” he reminisces about his father, and his father’s cousin, Antonio Cristiani, a successful tailor in Paris. Talese characterizes these craftsmen as “an endangered species” — and indeed they are. He writes, “I’m mainly interested in is the aesthetics of the tailoring profession, and my small part within it as a patron, a preservationist, and an advocate of the perfect fit— and the idea that measurements can alter the mind.”

And here he expresses a sentiment I’m trying awfully hard to get across in my film: “When I’m wearing one of my custom suits, I’m in harmony with my highest ideals, my worship of great workmanship.”


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