For men who care about clothes, fashion can be a strange mix of reality and fantasy. We choose clothes partly based on how they accord with our personalities and partly on how they allow us to be better versions of ourselves. Workwear brands such as RRL allow some men, including me, to fancy themselves as being outdoorsy and rugged. Italian casualwear carries the romance of being able to one day drive down the Amalfi coast. Our clothes are as much about our actual lifestyles as they are about our imagined ones.
Sot it was amazing yesterday to see the breadth and cost of Paul Manafort’s wardrobe, as it was laid out in the ongoing court case against him for bank fraud and tax evasion. Like with Madoff’s obscene collection of Belgian Shoes, there’s a bit gawking over the lifestyles of the uber rich. But in this case, it also gives us a chance to see how Manafort views himself.
Much has already been made of Paul Manafort’s wardrobe. Last October, we found out that he spent about $1.4 million over the course of six years to look like … well, Paul Manafort. But yesterday’s court proceedings gave a more in-depth review of his clothing purchases as part of the prosecution team’s effort to show he evaded taxes. At the House of Bijan, a gaudy menswear boutique on Rodeo Drive, Manafort spent $334,000 in just two years (one of the purchases included a limited edition, black titanium Royal Way watch — with crystal, the invoice noted).
Judge TS Ellis, who’s presiding over this case, has fought back against prosecutors, saying that the focus should be more about whether Manafort evaded taxes and less about whether he lived a lavish lifestyle. Yesterday, he asked if the shop is pronounced “Bi-yan,” as if it were Spanish (it’s not, the company’s founder Bijan Pakzad was Iranian and the name is pronounced with a hard “J.”). “I can’t recognize these names,” Ellis said. “If it doesn’t say ‘Men’s Wearhouse,’ I don’t know it.”
Invoices can add up fast at Bijan, where socks cost $100, ties $1,000, and suits upwards of $25,000. But prosecutors were less focused on the purchases themselves and more on how Manafort paid for such expensive items — via wire transfers from foreign bank accounts (gulp!). Ronald Wall, chief financial officer at House of Bijan, testified that customers typically paid with credit cards, checks, and cash, but it was unusual for a client to pay with wire transfers, as Manafort regularly did.
But does paying via wire transfer, even if from foreign bank accounts, necessarily mean Manafort was evading taxes? Or was he perhaps ashamed of a double life where he secretly dressed up as Steven Seagal?
Most of Manafort’s suits and sport coats are reasonably staid, even if some of them have a hard three button closure (those most Steven Seagal-y of button closures). But the most damning evidence might be these two exotic leather jackets from Alan Couture, a supremely expensive custom clothier based in New York City’s midtown.
These were made bespoke, which means Manafort thought up the designs all by himself. The black ostrich leather jacket, which costs $15,000, has a drawstring hood (again, very Steven Seagal-y in that it mixes luxury, exoticism, and sport). Not pictured is a $10,000 ostrich vest, presumably matching. And the $18,5000 brown python jacket was made for his wife, who we presume was made to look like someone who would marry Steven Seagal. Note the three-quarter length sleeves, which must have been an intentional design element. Because if it’s one thing you can get out of a python, it’s probably a full-length sleeve.
Maximillian Katzman, the manager at Alan Couture, testified yesterday that Manafort also paid via wire transfers from foreign bank accounts. And of the shop’s forty customers, he was the only one to do so.
Along with these leathers, Manafort purchased a $33,000 blue lizard jacket, an $18,000 suede coat, and a $14,000 quilted silk jacket. If these don’t sound like the costume holdings for Out for Justice, On Deadly Ground, and The Glimmer Man, we don’t know what does.