Robert wears a simple blue blazer, black sweater vest, black and white polka dot bow tie, and a stark white button down with a perfect roll. He's wearing a stone grey corduroy pant and when he crosses his legs I notice brown paddock boots.
The cords are a perfect shade of steel grey and pair well with the black and white. But whats up with the brown boots? I would've thought black. But it works. And it's not predictable. And it's Robert Bryan who wrote in his new book, American Fashion Menswear, "In one hundred years, men's attire has shifted from tailoring to T-shirts." That sums it up nicely.
To get things going I asked Robert a series of questions. He needed no elaboration.
Esquire or GQ? "Yesterday - Esquire without doubt. Today - GQ
Swivel or Link? Link looks so much better but swivel is much easier.
Flusser or Boyer? Alan knows his business better than anyone.
Italian or English? English without a doubt.
Center or Side? Actually, I prefer unvented.
Madras or Batik? Madras.
Brooks or Press? Brooks.
Browne or Bastian? That's cruel. I can't wear any Thom Browne. I can wear all of Michael Bastian. Bastian is connected with the ivy league feeling, the textures, the colors. Thom is more old fashioned and historical. Thom is a creative force. Bastian is much easier to wear.
Stick or Auto? I had a stick. A 1939 Cadillac Series 60 (Black four door). Whitewall tires have disappeared.
Bergdorf's or Bloomingdale's? Bergdorf's! I'm in awe of how beautiful it all is.
Orvis or Bean? Bean. They're both wonderful.
Shawl or Peak? Peak. Shawl is for the young.
Lobb or Green? I've never bought either but I prefer Lobb.
Hackett or Old England? That's a tough one. I guess Hackett.
Waistcoat or Vest? Vest
Frazier or Merkin? I would say Richard Merkin. I met him on occasion but a real character I knew very well was Hardy Amies.
Gucci or Alden? Alden! No question there.
Hermes or Ferragamo? You know, I have such a prejudice against Hermes ties I'll say Ferragamo. Really, I'm not in love with either but I loathe Hermes.
Robert and I discussed the fashion industry and what was happening in that world. Sparing no punches, he calls it, "Pretentiously unpretentious. That is the essence of what style is now. To have this unpretentious aesthetic but to work really hard at putting it...Like, as though you would normally wear jeans with a tailored jacket. You go out of your way to do that and to wear combat boots with that.
After almost 30 years of wearing the same type of clothing, it's hard for me to grasp the following . I mean, I always knew it but I just didn't know where it was coming from. Richard explains, "In general, a lot of them, certainly in fashion, are not really committed because they're trendy. They're fashion for the moment. On top of that they don't have an attention span to stay interested in anything. It's always, "What's next? What's new?" They're not really genuinely committed to a particular idea or look or style or feeling. It's just whatever's in style at the moment. They can't appreciate it until it's on the runway.
I tell stories to Robert. And from listening to the tapes, way too many. But I hear passion on these tapes when Robert tells me about vintage, the 60 series, ivy, pleated pants and his years at 'M.' After almost two and half hours we pack up to leave.
Waiting for the elevator, I see a tartan jacket with a shawl collar laying across an arm of a chair about 40 feet away. I ask Robert, "Is that a dinner jacket?" He squints his eyes, "Nope. Smoking jacket." Now that's what I call a professional.