Tuesday, September 24, 2019. Very warm and summer-like days in New York on the first full day of Autumn. Temps in the high 80s but not so much humidity but a soft-breeze to remind us the season has changed. Then down to the mid-60s at night. It’s the kind of weather where people move around comfortably and more easily.
Fashion is the passion. The Thursday before last (you can see how far behind I am) over at the Polo Mansion on East 72nd Street and Madison Avenue, Ralph Lauren — the man himself — hosted a party for GQ’s legendary fashion editor Jim Moore and his new book “Hunks & Heroes: Four Decades of Fashion” (Rizzoli).
The Gilded Age mansion built in 1898 by a Rhinelander real estate heiress (but never lived in), now the longtime home of Ralph Lauren/Polo in New York, was packed with hundreds of guests. Among the dozens of fashion’s most influential who were present: Jon Hamm, Zachary Quinto, Alfie Allen, William Jackson Harper, Brian d’Arcy James, Kevin Love, and Saquon Barkley.
Moore started out at GQ as an intern, a kid who came to New York with dreams of working in the magazine world as an editor. That was in 1977. His story is a classic New York one. The big town’s always been a magnet for those of us from Out There who came with dreams of a professional life in the Big Town. It’s in the air. It must be in the water. I think it started with the Dutch (until the British caught on).
I’m not that interested in men’s fashion. It’s partly an age thing. I grew up with the aspirational images of worldly, sophisticated figures like Cary Grant or Gary Cooper or Fred Astaire. Their images defined the ideal male fashion for Americans of a certain economic class (which ran from middle- to high-). Now I wear jeans as much as possible and AllBirds whenever possible.
Most of us never attained that movie-star visual distinction (or that “class”) although it was a pleasant pretense while it lasted. When I was a teenager, there were two distinct styles: the public school kid (shirt and pants) and the preppies whose uniform of aspiration was a blue blazer, a button-down Brooks Brothers’ shirt and khakis (also Weejun loafers until Gucci opened up a shop on Fifth Avenue in the mid-60s).
That was when Ralph Lauren, the man, came on the scene, at first with a wider solid color silk tie. This was the beginning of an empire. Because the Ralph Lauren tie was just a little snazzier than Brooks, and a little wider, which gave the wearer a kind of sartorial pride, it was also a couple of bucks more expensive. (I think it was five bucks to Brooks’ average three bucks.)
After that Ralph took on all of Brooks Bros bringing the classic styles into the late 20th century. Snazzier, classier, and building a retail empire known round the world.
Jim Moore’s book is at once an art book – fashion, photography – a memoir, a history of how we men have addressed dressing in the last fifty years. And how it’s changed for everybody. You can trace the winds of change to the arrival of the Beatles in New York in 1964. They were soon the most popular rock performers on the planet. They were young like their audience and most distinctively, they wore their hair long! Length for men was revolutionary in those days.
At their first press conference on arrival, some reporter asked Ringo Starr: “Whatta you call that hair of yours?” (referring to the shoulder length –worn only by women up to that time).
Ringo replied “Arthur.”
Hilarity abounded. By 1970 men’s hair length had grown to ponytails and more. And with it, their style of dress. (Sybil Burton Christopher later opened a very popular discotheque on East 54th Street which she called “Arthur” after Ringo’s hair.)
Jim Moore’s anthology of a fashion stylist demonstrates how that initial influence of the Beatles is now part of the consciousness of men’s fashion. It’s a personal thing now. There is no uniform anymore when it comes to personal choices. There are no rules — at least outside of the work place — and looking at the changes that move in and out of the photographs, you find yourself accepting all of it. It looks right. Not for me, necessarily (the all of it part) but for others for whom it works.
Fashion passion comes in all sizes, types and choices. Yesterday JH and I went over to Susan Gutfreund’s to have a last look at her magnificent duplex apartment where she has lived since 1985 with her late husband John.
It’s an enormous residence in a Fifth Avenue cooperative building, and for a long long time, it was one of the most accommodating and spectacular to see and to visit. The Gutfreunds, graced by their choices and their interior designer, Henri Samuel, achieved a grandeur that was warm and inviting as well as quietly, but clearly (that word again) spectacular.
Now the apartment has been sold, and its longtime chatelaine is packing up, dismantling and organizing three and a half decades of acquisitions, fashion and otherwise. JH and I took some shots of some of the items.
There are racks and racks of couturiers’ designs both formal and everyday. They are being donated to Parsons/Paris, to the Met and to the Museum at FIT. There are round tables covered with the lady’s shoes, dozens and dozens of pairs. They are going to Vanessa Noel’s Shoe Museum. Many other items are being tagged for auction at Christie’s.
Leaving Susan Gutfreund’s we decided to walk up Madison Avenue to Via Quadronno for some lunch when we suddenly came upon more fashion: over-the-top garments created by students SVA (School of Visual Arts) in their BFA Design and BFA Interior Design programs. Entitled “Hemlines from Skylines: Architectural Fashion,” it’s part of their “Madison Avenue Salutes Fall Fashion.” You can’t help stopping to look. They are also an “up” in a world full of “downs,” proving once again that the human spirit prevails with us.