There are some truly stunning photos in this roundup of Carl Van Vechten’s portraits of Harlem figures of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Above is James Earl Jones at 30 in 1961. Don’t miss W.E.B. Dubois with striped suit and handkerchief or the almost distressingly handsome Harry Belafonte.
I had a Brooks Brothers herringbone almost exactly like this. Size 41L. Mid-60s. Half-lined. Lost it in Heathrow Airport, running for a flight, carrying my baby son and all our luggage. I started sweating, so I took it off and draped it over my shoulder bag. Slipped off in the tunnel between terminals.
One of the saddest material losses of my life.
From The New Yorker, 7/23/60
I got a kick out of this San Francisco Chronicle retrospective on the style of basketball legend Rick Barry, from his preppy days through an extended neck scarf period through till today’s elderly mountain gentleman (?) aesthetic. Some good, some truly horrible, a lot of interesting.
(Moonrise Kingdom is totally wonderful - Wes Anderson at his best.)
And as you might expect, it’s one of the most aesthetically beautiful films I’ve seen in some time, with some truly spectacular men’s clothing. Not least of which is Bob Balaban’s neckerchief.
Keep It Simple, Stupid.
I was watching The Odd Couple the other night, and I was struck by a question: why does Walter Matthau look so good?
If you haven’t seen the film, see it. It’s hilarious. It’s a famous cultural archetype for a reason: because it is so great. You need to know a little background to catch what I’m pitching, though.
In the opening sequence, Jack Lemmon’s character, Felix, tries to commit suicide, and fails, only because he throws out his back trying to open the window he’d planned to throw himself through. He ends up at his friend Oscar’s house - that’s Matthau - mid-poker game, and the place is disgusting. There’s no A/C, and everyone’s a mess and the place is a mess and things are just a mess in general.
Felix is a compulsive neatnik. Oscar is a slob. That’s the Odd Couple part of the story.
So that’s why Felix looks sharp, if conservative. He’s the kind of guy who puts on a tie to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And Oscar’s the opposite - wearing the most casual clothes of the day.
But in that opening sequence, Matthau, as Oscar, looks fantastic. As a slob. And I wondered why.
There are two reasons. The first is that Walter Matthau wasn’t a movie star for nothing. He’s immensely charismatic, very handsome (though not traditionally so) and spectacularly charming. I can advise you to work on that in your spare time, but this is a style blog, so I’ll get to the next bit now.
His clothes are simple.
What’s he wearing? Canvas sneakers, high-waisted, military-style chinos, a heathered gray t-shirt, and a Mets hat.
Almost all neutral colors, almost no patterns. No “statement pieces” (other than the ballcap). No words. No pictures. It’s the t-shirt outfit, as appropriate in 1962 as in 2012, fifty years later. And the man looks tremendous.
(And thank God it’s not a Yankees hat. That’s just irredeemable.)
Bruce Lee, in this screen test for his role as Kato in The Green Hornet, demonstrates that if your tailored clothes fit, you can do anything in them.