Perry Ellis uniform: "Blue oxford shirt, beltless khakis and Top Siders"
...and make me very rich.
Ruff Hewn: Still around (here) but a shadow of what it once was
What am I supposed to be buying here?
Peak lapel Seersucker from S/S 1985
People in fashion are always telling me they have to, "play a game." When I was in the Army, I had a 1st Sergeant who told me, "I don't play games. I quit school because of fucking recess. Play games with me, Tinseth and you'll wind up with the bat up your ass." Anyway, "What game?" I ask. "That it's all bullshit." they whisper. "How so?" I ask, thinking this person would look funny with a Louisville Slugger up their ass.
They get serious, look around, breathe deep and sigh, "You know, at the end of the day it's the consumer who gets screwed." They launch into a description of how this arm of fashion needs to create hype, so this arm of fashion can design, so the other arm of fashion can magazine report, as long as the selling arm of fashion will advertise in the magazine, so you'll go out and buy, which will line all their pockets and we ain't talking with rabbit fur... something like that. I may be missing some arms and pockets.
The other thing I hear from people working in fashion is that Perry Ellis was the last great American designer. Newspaper editors, designers, photographers, garmentos, retailers, manufacturers, reporters...they all agree... Perry Ellis was the real deal. I first heard of Ellis in late 1984. I was coming off Alexander Julian shirts. They were colorful but they didn't take kindly to my washing habits, which to be fair, consisted of hot water and a 40 minute dry on high.
Ruff Hewn knew the way but they were limited to sportswear. Over exposed Pierre Cardin was a bad idea along with Daniel Hechter, Christian Dior, Armani, Henry Grethel, Cerruti, Ron Chereskin, Robert Stock...These were all heavily advertised companies and all were being gushed over by menswear media, one of those arms (usually bent) we discussed.
Perry Ellis was different. Logo-less, clean, classic American clothes. Unlike Ralph and Calvin, Ellis was never vulgar enough to appear in his own advertising. He also didn't steal his 'inspiration' from the English countryside. Instead, he designed what he knew and what he was. A southern middle class kid from Portsmouth, VA who would later dress for work everyday in a blue oxford shirt, beltless khakis and Top Siders.
Ellis advertised to be sure, and the media reciprocated, but there was an understated level of good taste in his clothing. He tweaked American classics with respect and restraint. The lack of pretension is striking. Especially during a time, the late '70s to mid '80s, where over-hyped menswear started to crowd out the quiet classics like Brooks Brothers, Chipp, J. Press and Tripler. You rarely saw these maker's clothes in Esquire and you never saw them in GQ. I guess they were missing some arms.
Had he lived, Ellis could have been for men what Bill Blass was to women. Fashionable enough for the trade but wearable enough for my 1st Sergeant. Perry Ellis died of AIDS in May of 1986. His company continues but it really hasn't since the early '90s. In a time when every retailer out there is banging a drum about their heritage or inventing a heritage, Perry Ellis seems blind to what they have. Maybe they're just on recess.