A Lifetime of Infrequent Wearing
StyleForum member MafooFan – who’s famous on that board for not only his good sense of style, but also his ability to cause controversy – has some simple advice on how men can dress better: build smaller wardrobes. To him, the problem for most men is not that they don’t have the right clothes (though, there’s that), but that when faced with a massive wall of choices, they’re apt to picking the wrong things and looking haphazardly put together. Better, he thinks, to thoughtfully and slowly accumulate things that more or less work together, rather than build a massive wardrobe of clothes one doesn’t really know how to wear. 
It’s a nice theory, but not one I’ve ever bought (can you not buy a theory about not buying?), if only because most well dressed men I know of have big wardrobes. Think of historical dandies such as Evander Berry Wall, style icons such as Noel Coward, and contemporary figures such as Luciano Babera. All had wardrobes that were multiple times bigger than most men’s today. I’m not sure any of us could be made to dress more like them if we just limited our choices. Maybe if we adopted one or two personal “uniforms” (like Thom Browne in his signature grey flannel suit), but where’s the fun in that?
No, I believe in big wardrobes. Not just because I think clothes are fun and choosing what to wear should be an enjoyable activity, but also because I think to be truly well dressed, you need to have the right clothes for any kind of weather or social occasion. Instead of five suits or sport coats made from a year-round material, it’s better to have five suited for spring and summer, and five for fall and winter. Instead of having a wardrobe of just tailored clothing, it’s better to have a mix of suits, sport coats, and true-blue casualwear, so that you can be appropriately dressed at the office, dive bars, fancy restaurants, camping trips, holiday parties, sporting games, weddings, etc. 
The downside of big wardrobes, however, is that with too many things, nothing gets regular use. And without regular use, it can be difficult to “break-in” clothes so that they look and feel more natural. Think of how much better a tweed jacket looks once the fabric begins to really soften, or how much more handsome an oxford-cloth button-down shirt becomes once the collar starts fraying. It’s this kind of “broken-in” look that makes pre-distressed clothes so popular (even when they feel like poor imitations of the real thing). I’m also reminded of this passage Christian Chensvold once wrote on his blog Ivy Style back in 2009:

I’ve never understood the web’s notorious clotheshorses and their compulsive acquiring. Money is not the issue, as some spend lavishly while others are inveterate thrifters. At some point both must reach a stage of surfeit, when it’s impossible for every item in their wardrobe to be fondly cherished. It’s the difference between having a dog and having a kennel. At some point it’s just variety for its own sake, and at that point are your clothes really an extension of you?
And just because an item is already broken in doesn’t mean it will automatically feel second nature to wear it. Whether it’s an old rep tie or a vintage Harris Tweed, an item new to you is still new, and will take time until you’re wholly unaware of wearing it. But before then the item will not feel like a part of you, but a kind of awkward sartorial prosthesis.

On the upside, check out these suede shoes you see above. They were once owned by the famous Douglas Fairbanks Jr., before being sold off to the writer David Coggins in a massive estate auction three years ago. These were made bespoke for Fairbanks by Henry Maxwell, a 250 year-old English shoemaking firm, and presumably earned this condition through a lifetime of wearing, even if the wearings were infrequent. The condition of these shoes makes me think they were as old and familiar to Fairbanks as some of our most beloved pieces. I can imagine them looking excellent — much better than brand new suede shoes — sitting below a pair of grey woolen flannel trousers and a well-worn tweed jacket. 
There’s hope for us clotheshorses yet. 
(Picture by Liam Goslett via GQ)

A Lifetime of Infrequent Wearing

StyleForum member MafooFan – who’s famous on that board for not only his good sense of style, but also his ability to cause controversy – has some simple advice on how men can dress better: build smaller wardrobes. To him, the problem for most men is not that they don’t have the right clothes (though, there’s that), but that when faced with a massive wall of choices, they’re apt to picking the wrong things and looking haphazardly put together. Better, he thinks, to thoughtfully and slowly accumulate things that more or less work together, rather than build a massive wardrobe of clothes one doesn’t really know how to wear.

It’s a nice theory, but not one I’ve ever bought (can you not buy a theory about not buying?), if only because most well dressed men I know of have big wardrobes. Think of historical dandies such as Evander Berry Wall, style icons such as Noel Coward, and contemporary figures such as Luciano Babera. All had wardrobes that were multiple times bigger than most men’s today. I’m not sure any of us could be made to dress more like them if we just limited our choices. Maybe if we adopted one or two personal “uniforms” (like Thom Browne in his signature grey flannel suit), but where’s the fun in that?

No, I believe in big wardrobes. Not just because I think clothes are fun and choosing what to wear should be an enjoyable activity, but also because I think to be truly well dressed, you need to have the right clothes for any kind of weather or social occasion. Instead of five suits or sport coats made from a year-round material, it’s better to have five suited for spring and summer, and five for fall and winter. Instead of having a wardrobe of just tailored clothing, it’s better to have a mix of suits, sport coats, and true-blue casualwear, so that you can be appropriately dressed at the office, dive bars, fancy restaurants, camping trips, holiday parties, sporting games, weddings, etc.

The downside of big wardrobes, however, is that with too many things, nothing gets regular use. And without regular use, it can be difficult to “break-in” clothes so that they look and feel more natural. Think of how much better a tweed jacket looks once the fabric begins to really soften, or how much more handsome an oxford-cloth button-down shirt becomes once the collar starts fraying. It’s this kind of “broken-in” look that makes pre-distressed clothes so popular (even when they feel like poor imitations of the real thing). I’m also reminded of this passage Christian Chensvold once wrote on his blog Ivy Style back in 2009:

I’ve never understood the web’s notorious clotheshorses and their compulsive acquiring. Money is not the issue, as some spend lavishly while others are inveterate thrifters. At some point both must reach a stage of surfeit, when it’s impossible for every item in their wardrobe to be fondly cherished. It’s the difference between having a dog and having a kennel. At some point it’s just variety for its own sake, and at that point are your clothes really an extension of you?

And just because an item is already broken in doesn’t mean it will automatically feel second nature to wear it. Whether it’s an old rep tie or a vintage Harris Tweed, an item new to you is still new, and will take time until you’re wholly unaware of wearing it. But before then the item will not feel like a part of you, but a kind of awkward sartorial prosthesis.

On the upside, check out these suede shoes you see above. They were once owned by the famous Douglas Fairbanks Jr., before being sold off to the writer David Coggins in a massive estate auction three years ago. These were made bespoke for Fairbanks by Henry Maxwell, a 250 year-old English shoemaking firm, and presumably earned this condition through a lifetime of wearing, even if the wearings were infrequent. The condition of these shoes makes me think they were as old and familiar to Fairbanks as some of our most beloved pieces. I can imagine them looking excellent — much better than brand new suede shoes — sitting below a pair of grey woolen flannel trousers and a well-worn tweed jacket. 

There’s hope for us clotheshorses yet. 

(Picture by Liam Goslett via GQ)

I have been so hymmed as the King of the Dudes that I think that I should stand up for myself and my generation. We dressed as we pleased; it is personality that counts in clothes.

People should wear what suits them and pleases them and so add to the individuality of life. This is all that I did.

— Evander Berry Wall, 1940 (via voxsart)
“For almost half of his 79 years, E. (for Evander) Berry Wall set a smart sartorial pace as an international clotheshorse. He was called the best-dressed American in Europe, the King of the Dudes. He was reported to possess 285 pairs of pants, 5,000 custom-tailored neckties. It was rumored that he changed his ties six times a day. His conduct was motivated by a great principle: find out what suits you and always wear it. Berry Wall usually wore capes and coats of horse-blanket plaid, high horse-collars cinched with lush Ascot cravats. […] he was leading a tumultuous and crowded existence, he drifted from race track to race track, from hotel to hotel, from gambling casino to gambling casino, with a miscellaneous society that included the Duchess of Windsor, the Grand Duke Dmitri, the Aga Khan, King Alfonso and ex-King Nicholas of Montenegro, ‘a magnificent old darling.’” Review of Neither Pest Nor Puritan, in Time Magazine, 1940
Remember Evander Berry Wall? I wrote about him last month. He commissioned Charvet to make him and his dog matching pairs of custom cravats, and they would wear them when they dined together at the Ritz. 
Well apparently his dog has a memoir. And you can buy it on eBay. 
Kind of makes me feel like a failure as I’m puttering around the house today in my pajamas, eating canned garbanzo beans, and struggling to write my dissertation. 
(hat tip to the RJ cat, who is indisputably the King of eBay)

Remember Evander Berry Wall? I wrote about him last month. He commissioned Charvet to make him and his dog matching pairs of custom cravats, and they would wear them when they dined together at the Ritz. 

Well apparently his dog has a memoir. And you can buy it on eBay

Kind of makes me feel like a failure as I’m puttering around the house today in my pajamas, eating canned garbanzo beans, and struggling to write my dissertation. 

(hat tip to the RJ cat, who is indisputably the King of eBay)

The RJ cat sent me this awesome cartoon by Sem. It shows Evander Berry Wall at Charvet, demanding "Look here! I want a Chinese neck-tie [sic] for my dog!" Apparently Charvet has an image of this in their fabric room. 
RJ also noted that Wall’s memoir, Neither Pest Nor Puritan, is a nice read. If you’re interested in picking it up, check for it at DealOz. It’s a great site to find the best deals on books. 

The RJ cat sent me this awesome cartoon by Sem. It shows Evander Berry Wall at Charvet, demanding "Look here! I want a Chinese neck-tie [sic] for my dog!" Apparently Charvet has an image of this in their fabric room. 

RJ also noted that Wall’s memoir, Neither Pest Nor Puritan, is a nice read. If you’re interested in picking it up, check for it at DealOz. It’s a great site to find the best deals on books. 

Evander Berry Wall
In the annals of menswear there’s the legend of Evander Berry Wall. Wall was brought up in a fairly privileged, gentry-class family, but his lifestyle really took on certain grandeur after he inherited $1.5 million in 1880 (the equivalent of $33 million today) from his grandfather when he was only 20 years old. This allowed some remarkable extravagances. For example, after inheriting his fortune, he’s said to have never drunk water, only champagne. Most of his money and time, however, went to clothes, from which he built quite a reputation.  
Wall, the Dandy
Wall was known to own over 500 trousers and 5,000 neckties, and he dressed in extraordinary colors. For example, in the image above, he was wearing a reddish, havana brown dustcoat, grey shepherd check suit, and a brightly striped vest. His shirt was striped in red and sky blue, and it had a very high collar made from a contrasting pattern. His tapered trousers ended in a big turned up cuff, so that he could show off his highly varnished lavender spats. This was all accented with a widely spread cravat, bright pocket square, and beautiful cane that he always kept with him. 
He was known for having custom made cravats, collars, and ties made for him by Charvet. Matching pairs were also made for his dog, Chi-Chi, who wore the items when the two dined together at the Ritz. He was also renowned for his patronage of Henry Poole & Co., commonly considered the most prestigious tailoring house on Savile Row. Wall said that any man not dressed by Poole was “the sartorial equivalent of Happy Hooligan.” 
This is all background, however. There are two legends I wish to tell you about - The Battle of Dudes and The Wager. 
The Battle of the Dudes
Though Wall enjoyed a reputation for being a dandy through most of his life, he became truly famous when a reporter named Blakey Hall featured him every week in the New York American. The feature was quite popular, and consequently, Wall became a bit of a public figure. 
One of the journalist’s rivals decided to take advantage of the buzz and promote his own “sartorial race horse” - actor Robert Hilliard, who was another flashy dresser. Each week, the Wall and Hilliard tried to eclipse each other in sartorial extremes as they were featured in the competing newspapers. This was known as The Battle of the Dudes (dude being a term for a well dressed, city dwelling gentleman).The battle is said to have ended in the Great Blizzard of 1888, when Wall strode into the Hoffman House bar in gleaming patent leather boots that went up to his hips. The battled ended with that one grand display of custom boots and he was thereafter declared to be “The King of the Dudes.”
The Wager
Wall’s reputation grew when he won another contest. A famous financier named John “Bet-A-Million” Gates made a wager that Wall could not go through 40 changes of clothes in between breakfast and dinner. Rising to the challenge, on their agreed upon day, Wall repeatedly appeared at a racetrack in one flashy ensemble after another. Exhausted but victorious, Wall ended the day by attending a ball at the United States hotel in flawless evening attire. He was received by wild applause. 
As you can probably guess, a life of ordering custom Charvet cravats for a dog and engaging in incredible sartorial challenges isn’t cheap. By the time he died, Wall only left $12,608 to his family. I’m sure most people would consider him a bit of a failure, but I kind of love the colorful, extremeness of his life. 

Evander Berry Wall

In the annals of menswear there’s the legend of Evander Berry Wall. Wall was brought up in a fairly privileged, gentry-class family, but his lifestyle really took on certain grandeur after he inherited $1.5 million in 1880 (the equivalent of $33 million today) from his grandfather when he was only 20 years old. This allowed some remarkable extravagances. For example, after inheriting his fortune, he’s said to have never drunk water, only champagne. Most of his money and time, however, went to clothes, from which he built quite a reputation.  

Wall, the Dandy

Wall was known to own over 500 trousers and 5,000 neckties, and he dressed in extraordinary colors. For example, in the image above, he was wearing a reddish, havana brown dustcoat, grey shepherd check suit, and a brightly striped vest. His shirt was striped in red and sky blue, and it had a very high collar made from a contrasting pattern. His tapered trousers ended in a big turned up cuff, so that he could show off his highly varnished lavender spats. This was all accented with a widely spread cravat, bright pocket square, and beautiful cane that he always kept with him. 

He was known for having custom made cravats, collars, and ties made for him by Charvet. Matching pairs were also made for his dog, Chi-Chi, who wore the items when the two dined together at the Ritz. He was also renowned for his patronage of Henry Poole & Co., commonly considered the most prestigious tailoring house on Savile Row. Wall said that any man not dressed by Poole was “the sartorial equivalent of Happy Hooligan.” 

This is all background, however. There are two legends I wish to tell you about - The Battle of Dudes and The Wager. 

The Battle of the Dudes

Though Wall enjoyed a reputation for being a dandy through most of his life, he became truly famous when a reporter named Blakey Hall featured him every week in the New York American. The feature was quite popular, and consequently, Wall became a bit of a public figure. 

One of the journalist’s rivals decided to take advantage of the buzz and promote his own “sartorial race horse” - actor Robert Hilliard, who was another flashy dresser. Each week, the Wall and Hilliard tried to eclipse each other in sartorial extremes as they were featured in the competing newspapers. This was known as The Battle of the Dudes (dude being a term for a well dressed, city dwelling gentleman).The battle is said to have ended in the Great Blizzard of 1888, when Wall strode into the Hoffman House bar in gleaming patent leather boots that went up to his hips. The battled ended with that one grand display of custom boots and he was thereafter declared to be “The King of the Dudes.”

The Wager

Wall’s reputation grew when he won another contest. A famous financier named John “Bet-A-Million” Gates made a wager that Wall could not go through 40 changes of clothes in between breakfast and dinner. Rising to the challenge, on their agreed upon day, Wall repeatedly appeared at a racetrack in one flashy ensemble after another. Exhausted but victorious, Wall ended the day by attending a ball at the United States hotel in flawless evening attire. He was received by wild applause. 

As you can probably guess, a life of ordering custom Charvet cravats for a dog and engaging in incredible sartorial challenges isn’t cheap. By the time he died, Wall only left $12,608 to his family. I’m sure most people would consider him a bit of a failure, but I kind of love the colorful, extremeness of his life.