31 October 2011

T.W.A.T. 1984

1984 Greenwich Village Halloween Parade Photo by Bob Leafe

Long before the Village parade became over crowded with cliched Bridge & Tunnel Zombies, the sidewalks were lined with mostly straights while the parade featured everything from elaborate floats to a single black man dressed as a Drum Majorette in white boots with pom-poms, throwing a spinning baton in the air with one hand while he balanced a huge ghetto blaster on his shoulder playing marching music.

His style and performance were bested only by four moustached men dressed in 1940s airline stewardess uniforms, stockings, heels and matching pill box hats. They flank marched in step and every 50 feet or so would turn over large round hat boxes one by one revealing, "T. W. A. T." More photos of the '84 parade can be seen here.

Even the many blue suited and Ronald Regan masked cliches of the time allowed one to stand out through the intelligent use of a chain to drag around a hunched over senior citizen while carrying a sign that read, "EAT THE POOR."

28 October 2011

The World's Best Dressed Man

Alan Flusser featured 25 of the best dressed men (living or dead) in Esquire's Gentleman issue - Summer, 1993. Sadly, he missed one. Not just a well dressed man but, as a certificate from the Swiss Tailor's Guild announced, "The World's Best Dressed Man." Even his shirts bore 'W.B.D.M.' monograms. I'm not sure how this man could have slipped by Flusser. Unless of course the monogram was on his cuff.

Khaibar Khan Goodarzian was, in 1961, man about town -- a man's man --a man of style, substance and, "550 suits, 50 tuxedos, a dozen full-dress outfits, several hundred pairs of shoes, lots of silk underwear and handkerchiefs from Sulka, $750,000 worth of jewelry and four rare and costly oriental rugs." or so says the proof of loss statement provided to the Continental Insurance Company.

Goodarzian claimed he was the hereditary chieftain of a northern Iranian tribe called the Bakhitari. An investigation revealed the humble roots of a dispatcher in a British Army motor pool. Still, New York City opened it's arms and charge accounts to Goodarzian. Parties at El Morocco, haberdashers and department stores, all on credit.

The "fire" (you knew there was gonna be a fire) occured late one night in his two bedroom apartment. Actually, it was a one bedroom apartment with a bedroom converted to a closet. A witness saw Goodarzian removing clothes from his apartment the day before the fire. And there was the testimony that, during a party at the apartment the same night of the fire, Goodarzian was upset when butane containers were late in arriving.

Good luck prevailed after Goodarzian disappeared with the butane containers in his bedroom but rejoined his guests and moved the party to a nightclub. It would be seven years before Goodarzian would learn his case, Saks & Co. et al. v Continental Ins. Co. et al., named after the creditors, would pay him nothing. A few years later, the W.B.D.M. was deported. I have no idea where.

26 October 2011

Smoother Than I Ever Was...

Grahame Fowler's Trickers

I'm clunky enough as it is. I got clunky eyebrows, a clunky butt, clunky hair and a clunky gut. Nothing about my body is smooth anymore. But, I once was smooth... in places ... when I was young. Maybe that's why young people are enamoured with Trickers. They're smooth and they need some clunk. The UK made shoes & boots are built like a brick shit house and look like something a mailman would wear.

I told that to a friend of mine from London back in the '80s. Mutley called 'em Trompers. Not sure if that was a model or if it was just slang for Trickers in general. You'd see a few around the underwriting room at Lloyd's of London. They were Punk with a bit of the Wide Boy about them. Grahame Fowler and Chuka had a Trickers show last week. You can be sure Nick Wooster will be back for a pair or two...I wish he'd buy some socks while he's there.

Smooth Justin Ropers # 50025

My favorite boot is this Justin Roper with a riding heel. Pointy toed boots are a bigger turnoff than Trompers but the Roper has a simple rounded toe. They're the color of my coffee and I'm not too proud to confess they were ordered, Style # 50025, from J Peterman in 1993. They're smooth as all get out. You're not gonna walk very far in 'em, but they're not made for walking. They're best for riding Western and these have seen some riding.

Riding Heel

I took lessons as a kid. First, at the Air Force Academy and later with my sister from private stables close by. On my birthday she and a couple instructors locked me in a tack room. It was about 105 degrees in August. Flies swarmed around saddles and blankets thick with horse sweat and funk. After about 10 minutes I thought I was gonna throw up. They all thought that was pretty funny and laughed for about as long as Grahame and Chuka did when I showed them the Imperial Leather soap I bought for $6.

14th Street Cowboy Boots

Sometimes I'll catch the whiff of horseshit by Central Park and be reminded of riding in Winter. A gallop through the snow -- just as smooth as these old boots. Every Fall I tell myself I'm gonna get back in the saddle but I never do. Maybe 'cause I'm afraid I'd like it too much.

Too much hat...

I don't think you need to ride to wear Cowboy boots. Just go easy. Boots, jeans, cable knit sweater... skip the hat.

If you're young and need some Clunk - Grahame will sort you out here. New ones are being added as I type. Sadly, the Justin #50025 is no longer available.

25 October 2011

George Frazier: Lobb or Peal?

From 1993's, 'Esquire Gentleman' 25 Best-Dressed Men (Living or Dead) by Alan Flusser

Flusser has Frazier in custom Peals but the letter from John Lobb in London confirms Frazier's payment plan mentioned in, Another Man's Poison. Whether this is at the exclusion of custom Peals, who knows.

John Lobb letter regarding Frazier's monthly payments (click image to read)

In 1981, Flusser's review of John Lobb hints at a drop in quality, rigidness over the house aesthetic and a long turnaround.

"Lobb shoes used to be considered without peer, but in recent years the firm has lost many of its older workmen and the product has suffered. It is still an excellently hand-crafted shoe, but in my opinion it doesn't quite compare to the shoes made by Lobb, Paris, its French brother. The London shop, in addition, is too inflexible about styling. It wants the shoe to look the way it wants, and it also wants six months to make it."
Alan Flusser, Making The Man, 1981

Did Frazier have both Peal and Lobb make his shoes? I'm not sure he could afford both. He was always having problems with money. Then again, maybe this is why. Or, was Flusser reluctant to mention Lobb due to perceived issues of quality. Who knows. Who cares. I just wanted an excuse to put up that letterhead.

24 October 2011

American Film Polski

1947, Eryk Lipinski, Casablanca, 33 x 23in

1948, Henryk Tomaszewski, Citizen Kane, 34x24in Est. $1,200

1957, Waldemar Swierzy, Sunset Boulevard, 33.5 x 22.5in, Est. $4,500

1959, Maria Heidrich, Spellbound, 23 x 31.5in

1959 Franciszek Starowieyski, Satchmo the Great, 33 x 23in

1959, Marian Stachurski, Snows of Kilimanjaro, 34 x 23in

1973, Wiktor Gorka, Cabaret, 33 x 23in

1973, Waldemar Swierzy, Midnight Cowboy, 32 x 23in Est. $1,800

1978, Andrzej Klimowski, Taxi Driver, 38 x 26.5in

1978, Mieczyslaw Wasilewski, Three Women, 32.5 x 22.5in, Est. $90

1980, Marek Ploza-Dolinski, The Dirty Dozen, 27 x 39in, Est. $70

1984, Waldemar Swierzy, The Dogs of War, 38 x 26.5, Est. $132

1988, Mieczyslaw Wasilewski, Untouchables, 26.5 x 38in, Est. $107

2001, Wieslaw Walkuski, Face Off, 38.5 x 27in

2009, Joanna Gorska, Jerzy Sakun, Annie Hall, 27 x 29in, Est. $32

I loved watching foreign movies as a kid. They were my ticket and passport out of whatever crappy Army town I was living in. They were also a chance to share a film with my deaf sister thanks to subtitles. I'm not gonna tell you I was watching Bergman's, The Seventh Seal at 12, but I was a dedicated follower of the CBS Children's Film Festival. Never liked Kukla, Fran and Ollie much, but they were a small price for a ticket to Tokyo, London, Munich or even the Bronx.

Polish American Film Posters are a different point of view on established American ideas. Created a few years after the original release, the artists rarely saw the films but were given a written description. All but two of these (Dirty Dozen, Annie Hall) posters were taken from the 2002 exhibit, American Films in Polish Posters at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago.

If these float your boat, there are a number of dealers on the internet, and prices for all but the earliest works are affordable, if not down right cheap. There's a gap between 1949 and 1957 when American movies were banned by the communists. That really worked.

Compared to the huge American One-Sheets, these posters all run around 33" x 23", give or take. They also don't shout at you like American posters and tweed bicycle rides. There's an understatement that's intelligent, creative and fun. Just like my Polish grandmother.

21 October 2011

Stealing in Boston

An Affordable Wardrobe's Flea Market is on again this Sunday up in Boston. I understand everything has been dry cleaned so nothing smells like Lucky Strikes or has got bed bugs. Still, you may wanna go through the pockets 'cause you never know what you'll find.

Chicago with Tom

This year Mr. Waits was inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where he told the black-tie music-business crowd, “They say I have no hits and I’m difficult to work with, and they say that like it’s a bad thing.” New York Times

Tom's private party. Would you be okay with that? Try the album out here.

One Sexy Rear End: Penthouse 1973

Amazing isn't it? I'd like to wash her naked with a really big sponge and some...

Turtle Wax. The Volvo 1800 ES. Pretty sexy...

Especially for a wagon.

Mmm, A bucket of warm water, a bottle of Wash & Wax and thou...

20 October 2011

The Battle For Marjah

Released last month, The Battle for Marjah (available here) makes a strong case, at least for me, that Marine Corps officers are superior to Army officers. Delta Force member and retired CSGM Eric Haney once told me Marine generals were vastly superior to Army generals. Well, they gotta come from somewhere.

In the excellent documentary, Restrepo, Afghan villagers visit an Army outpost in the Kandahar Valley where they seek reimbursement for a cow that was accidentally killed, although not accidentally eaten, by paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne. The company commander, a young captain, argues with the villagers over the price of the cow. Dejected, the villagers leave mumbling and tugging their beards. Later, the same captain angrily accuses Afghan villagers of supporting the Taliban in a profanity laden tirade whose tone is that of a parent scolding a child.

I don't know what what the army thinks "Hearts & Minds" is about, but getting into a pissing contest over a $200 difference for a cow ain't it. Not surprisingly, the army abandoned their outpost, the captain was promoted, and he went home. The Taliban? They're still there. In Battle for Marjah, a young Marine lieutenant sees the problem for what it is when an Afghan tells him, "I don't mind Marines. I don't mind Taliban. I just wanna be left alone."

'Hearts and Minds' not only speaks to the simple strategy of winning them over. I always believed it had everything to do with securing personal freedom as well. In Vietnam, my father's SF team taught local villagers to grow strawberries. Those strawberries were then sold to the Army in a country where strawberries were non-existent. The Vietnamese refused to eat Bulgar wheat provided by US AID. So, the team created a fish farm and fed the wheat to the Carp. Even roof tiles made of clay by local villagers were sold to the Army for officer clubs. The upshot was the villagers wanted the V.C. and N.V.A. out, and why not? Not gonna get anything from them except conscripted.

The Marine Corp captain in Marjah seizes an opportunity and works to get shops open and trade resumed at a local market. He's also the first customer, his men after him, paying outta their own pockets. I'm not sure The Battle for Majar is a politically left or right film. It really doesn't matter. Truths come out that rise above political spin, but with an eerie deja vu. We've been here before...and it didn't turn out well.

19 October 2011

'When We Walked Above the Clouds'

When We Walked Above the Clouds by H. Lee Barnes available here.

H. Lee Barnes on far left with 57mm Recoilless Rifle and the Australians

Barnes firing recoilless rifle

Barnes in flip flops

Barnes (in Tiger Stripe fatigues) shakes hands with Charlton Heston. Heston was considering a film role that went to John Wayne.

H. Lee Barnes 2002

In 1963, H. Lee Barnes was an Army Brat living in El Paso and struggling through college. A disinterested and alcoholic mother wasn't helped by a radio announcer step father whose constant job searches would later be subsidized by Barnes himself. There comes a time in some men's lives when they discover they don't belong anywhere. This is usually followed with the recognition that they're pretty much alone. It's a ripe moment for an Army Recruiter.

Barnes enlisted in the Army and volunteered for Special Forces. "You know that song?" Barnes tells me. "One hundred men they'll test today --Only three win the green beret? I was the only one of 50 who made it." I tell Barnes only three in my class of 88 made it and I wasn't one of 'em. I'm looking for a laugh. I don't get one.

Memories of Ft Bragg in 1965 and '66 are seared into my brain despite being eight years old. The green beret itself was something holy to me. I revered the men who wore it. My father, his team members, the next door neighbor and all the men who inhabited Smoke Bomb Hill. This small corner of Bragg was home to Special Forces and was littered with white frame buildings from WWII stuck in the pines. I revered the place when I came back ten years later looking for my own beret.

Assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group at Ft Bragg, Barnes is sent to the small but promising hot spot of the Dominican Republic where Communists are trying to push over a domino. Barnes quotes a lifer's observation in the book, "Wherever Americans go, they turn the women into whores." It's easy duty, guilty even, so Barnes volunteers for Vietnam and winds up at SF Camp A - 107 in Tra Bong some 60 miles south of Da Nang.

Barnes specialty was Demo and secured the Spec 5 ($194 a month) two hazardous stipends of $55 each. One for jump pay and one for blowing things up or the more challenging job of keeping things from blowing up. This all sounds pretty sexy but life at Tra Bong is a thumping bore. As junior man on the team, Barnes gets the shit details...to include burning it.

Jame's Jones took tedium in the army to an art form in A Thin Red Line. A man's thoughts and memories of home in the book became film director Terrance Malick's flashbacks in the film version . A Walk Above the Clouds (author's blog here) takes us on patrols of surrounding mountains with a ruck and a weapon. But there's higher altitude.

Barnes mines his deeply personal reflections. Not only on his good luck, and the guilt that comes with it, but the value of a man's specialty over his value as a human being. Two senior noncoms whose alcoholism reflect a sad army tradition but whose honor and duty spoke to a responsibility the army instills. What Barnes calls, "An honorable action" and "Doing the right thing."

I ask Barnes if he can think of any traits unique to Special Forces members back then. He quickly ticks off a list: "A broken home. Poor. Rootless. Driven to be recognized. Bright and unstable." Tra Bong is one of three places in the world where Cinnamon grows naturally. It is also a place where Lee's captain was beheaded and three team members were killed. Barnes writes of the obsessive card playing with fellow team members, "Cards, like war, reduced to luck no matter a man's skills. No one wanted to be alone with his thoughts to think about that."

Barnes tells me he is done with writing about Vietnam and claims it's the hardest thing he's written. Not only because he was bound to the truth of it but because his team mates names were on it. These events occurred 45 years ago but they should be fresh on everyone's mind. War in a far off place and in a culture not understood. Where the object of "Hearts and Minds" becomes confusion over who the enemy really is. The surprising ending of this book is a reminder...sometimes our biggest enemy can be on our own team.

18 October 2011

William Bezek's Halloween: Beauty In The Dark

Against the vulgar backdrop of temporary Halloween costume stores (the 1st Pop Ups?), orange and black chotchkies and a cretinism that suits my country to it's razor bladed apple core... William Bezek's intelligent and tasteful Halloween sculptures rise above it all in their beautiful death. They're snappily dressed as well. Check 'em out at Bezek's blog here. I'd rather have a bunch of these than those silly English Christmas Carolers.

17 October 2011

The Double Take Tie

Back in the days of expense account yore, it was not unusual to drop $300 to $400 on lunch with a single client. Beers before lunch, wine with lunch, after lunch port and cigars. This was relationship building and I sure as hell wasn't going to endure three hours of a CFO's gushing about his favorite ride at Six Flags on my dime. Especially when my employer had an iron clad non-compete.

I have seen clients expense golf clubs, fur coats and prostitutes. That's not so much about building relationships as it's using your position to grab something for yourself. The client who bought a fur coat also bought this tie for me. Or, was it a pair of box cloth braces? I'm not too sure. It was after a very long lunch that we stumbled into Paul Stuart. The client wasn't so much generous as he was buying my silence when he whipped out company plastic to pay for a fur lined Loden coat.

That was 17 years ago and this tie remains a favorite despite its unethical origins. Everybody thinks it's a baseball tie until they take a closer look. Hugely popular with Brits and Bermudians, it never fails to secure a surprised double take. I guess they wonder why a Septic (Septic Tank- Yank) would wear a Cricket tie? They should ask the guy who expensed it.

14 October 2011

Joe Williams: He Just Sang

G. Bruce Boyer contributes his third Jazz review to The Trad. Count Basie and Joe Williams could be hard to handle at 8:30 on a Monday morning. But, today's Friday, and that all important, "Time, Place and Occasion" ain't just for getting dressed. Cue the cocktail shaker.

For me, Joe Williams always was, is, and will be the perfect male jazz singer. I say this with the greatest respect to Armstrong, Sinatra, Nat Cole, Johnny Hartman, Torme, Bennett, and anyone else you can think of from that fifty-year classic period of jazz singers, 1925 – 1975.

From the moment I first heard his recording of “Smack Dab in the Middle” in the early '50s ( I believe it was his only recording to ever make the charts), it was clear to me that he had everything a jazz singer ever needed. Actually, there wasn't any kind of popular music Joe Williams couldn't sing supremely well. He could have sung Handel's “Hallelujah Chorus” all by himself if he'd wanted to.

Sinatra could break your heart with slow, soft songs of lost love or swing with as much force as a whole trumpet section, but he couldn't really sing the blues. Nat King Cole could swing lightly and give you a refined version of blues, but his true métier was the ballad. Mel Torme could slide across lyrics as though they were butter, and he could scat with the best of them. Johnny Hartman may well have had the best natural voice and clearest interpretation. But Joe Williams had it all. You struggle for comparisons in vain.

The man Basie called “#1 Son” grew up in Chicago and played the clubs with the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk, and Hot Lips Page before joining the Basie crew. Basie had hired him to replace the great blues/swing singer Jimmy Rushing, that rotund and affable veteran of the famous Territory bands out of Kansas City in the 30s and 40s. Rushing had a voice that could pierce steel and seemed an impossible act to follow.

When he retired from the Basie Band in 1950, it took four years to find a replacement. By then Basie had constructed the swingingest big band there ever was, and every orchestrated punchy, bluesy note had that perfect “in the pocket” feel. It was a newer, harder driving, more sophisticated band, and, arguably one that no one could have stood up to other than Joe Williams.

The thing about Williams – something that's almost unheard of today – is that he just opened his mouth and sang. There wasn't any body language, no pyrotechnic movement, no arm-slapping gyrations. He just stood there behind the mike and sang. And the room filled with the wonder and awe and rapture of it.

I remember the night I saw him with Basie at a small club in the autumn of 1960, just a year before he left Basie to go it on his own. The room was long but very narrow, at least 100 feet long, but only around 30 feet wide, with a bar running down one long side, tables scattered about, a dance floor the size of a cuff link, and the small bandstand which accommodated the dozen or so musicians tightly jammed together.

The place was packed four deep at the bar and the small tables were jammed with 4 to 6 people each. Basie did one 50-minute set, starting off with his theme, “One O’clock Jump” and several other standard numbers.

Williams strode purposefully onto the small stage in a beautifully cut navy blue mohair suit, straightened the mike and surged into a rocking, pulsating version of Memphis Slim’s “Every Day I Have the Blues”, segued into “Who She Do” and “Goin' to Chicago”, then slowed down for a few ballads, and finished up with a slow-but-powerful “April in Paris”.

After two ten-minute encores – the crowd wouldn't let them go – of “Roll 'em Pete” and “All Right, O.K., You Win” , I couldn't believe the walls were still standing, they seemed to be throbbing with the beat. It's funny, I can't remember the young lady I was with.

Williams could sing Ella Fitzgerald to a draw in a scatting contest, do Rogers and Hart as poignantly as Sinatra, and shout the blues with all the vibrancy and soul of Big Joe Turner or Rushing himself. His was an unmatchable, cross-pollinated art of down-home Delta blues, Kansas City swing, Broadway ballad, joyous early Rhythm 'n Blues, and unforgettable versions of both gospel and protest music.

In his life (1918 – 1999), he seems to have sung with every great jazz musician of the 20th Century. It would also seem that, when Duke Ellington wrote “Doesn't matter if it's sweet or hot/ Just give the music everything you've got”, Joe Williams had it to give, took it to heart, and gave. The range of his abilities has never been approached.

Select Discography

Joe Williams Live (Fantasy)

Joe Williams: Nothin' But the Blues (Delos)

Joe Williams: A Man Ain't Supposed to Cry (Label M)

Joe Williams: Having the Blues Under European Sky (Denon)

The Overwhelming Joe Williams (RCA)

Havin' a Good Time: Joe Williams and Ben Webster (Hyena Records)

Joe Williams: A Swing' Night at Birdland (Roulette)

The Greatest: Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings (Verve)

Joe Williams Every Day: The Best of the Verve Years (Verve)

Joe Williams: At Newport/ Jump for Joy (Collectibles Jazz Classics)

13 October 2011

Halloween Costume Idea # 1

I first head this in college. I wanted to be Frank on Halloween. Short sleeve shirt & tie. Gas can in one hand and a Mickey's Big Mouth in the other. Never got around to it. Maybe you will. Here's how I'd introduce myself.

Hi, name's Frank
(shake hands),
Just settled down in the Valley.
Yeah, I like to say I hung my wild years
on a nail I drove through my wife's forehead.

What do I do? Anything I want.
No, seriously...I sell used office furniture out
there on San Fernando Road. Yep.
Assumed a $30,000 loan at 15 1/4% and
put a down payment on a little two bedroom place.

The wife? Spent piece of used jet trash...
Makes a good Bloody Mary. Keeps her mouth shut most
of the time. We have a little Chiuaua named Carlos.
Has some sort'a skin disease and is totally blind.
I drive a Nissan. Yeah, I'd say we're pretty happy.

Was coming home from work one night when
I stopped off at the liquor store and picked up a couple
Mickey's Big Mouths. Drank 'em in the car on the way to the
Shell Station. Got a gallon of gas in a can and drove home.

Doused everything in the house and
torched it.
Parked across the street and watched it burn...
All Halloween orange and chimney red.

Then I put on a top 40 station,
got on the Hollywood Freeway
and headed north.
Yeah, I'll have another one.

(to myself)
Never could stand that dog.

12 October 2011

Get Off The Bus!

Photo for The Trad by Alice Olive

It doesn't hurt to look at menswear like a European holiday. There are those who board the tour bus and never get off. They're taken where other people think they should go, see what other people think they should see and eat what other people think they can handle. Everything is taken care of and any interaction with the locals is liaised by the guide.

Here in NYC, there are a small number of people working in menswear design. Many hang out together, share ideas, move from one company to another, haunt the same vintage stores and flea markets, read the same Japanese menswear magazines and steal from each other. They love to quote Coco Chanel, "Creativity is the art of concealing your source."

Problem today --'source' is a four minute Google search open to anyone who can spell. So everything looks like everything else -- when you're on their bus.

When you get off the bus at Grahame Fowler, you'll discover a man doing his own thing. I love the bag up there. And so will some designer but by the time he picks that bag off and gets it into Capsule-2013, Fowler will have moved on to something new, intelligent, tasteful and funny. You're not gonna know anything about it riding on the bus. It's when you get off and walk up a winding street without a clue to where it ends. I somehow always seem to find a pub to liaise in.

Check out Grahame's new blog here.

11 October 2011

The Game & How Not To Play It

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

S/S 1985
Fall 1991

Fall 1991

Fall 1991

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.