MEN’S FASHION: Editor’s letter Spring 2012
In 1953, the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted a show that treated the automobile as an aesthetic achievement. In a Talk of the Town bit published in The New Yorker, the writer Brendan Gill played the Philistine, thinking old-fashioned thoughts about function and price as he was led through the exhibition by a curator from the museum’s department of architecture and design. The punchline of the piece occurred when, stopping by a Siata, the cool—Steve McQueen owned one—Italian sports car, Gill asked, “Handle nicely, does it?” The curator answered, “I don’t drive.”
Bill Blass, the American fashion designer, told a similar kind of joke in his memoir, Bare Blass. He confessed that “for eighteen years, beginning in the mid-seventies, I endorsed a line of Lincoln Continentals for the Ford Motor Company without knowing how to operate one.”
After reading those things, I—a non-driver for whom torque is something that happens on an ill-fitting T-shirt—felt less like a poseur going off to interview Max Wolff (page 78), a car designer now relishing his opportunity to reimagine the Lincoln.
Not that I ever doubted the link between fashion and the automotive realm. Remembering the fins of the 1959 Chevrolet, I realize that I was aware of seasonal news in cars long before I knew that the same thing could go on with overcoats, and way before I’d heard of Bill Blass or his men’s boutique at Bonwit Teller, which back in the late ’60s signalled a new plateau for men’s fashion.
But please don’t ask me where I get off positioning hammocks and quiet movies as matters of health maintenance (page 66), more than just excuses for doing nothing. You can blame that editorial decision on my gall, while I transfer responsibility for my line of thinking to George Prochnik’s wonderful book from 2010, In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. It’s perfect for a little read-and-rock therapy in your hamaca.
In fact, as this issue came together, I noticed that a search for quiet pastimes was on other people’s minds as well. Eli Yarhi looked for seclusion in the mountains of Peru (page 74). And twice I interviewed men—Kim Jones (page 38) and André 3000 (page 64)—who told me that their favourite exercise was walking and that what they liked about it was that it gave them the chance to think.
Returning to the topic of how an editor-in-chief gets to inflict his taste, I have to admit that I can offer no real evidence to support the view that cufflinks are a trend of the season (page 50). It was not as if I could see them as I pored over pictures of spring collections shown on the runways of the world, but the return of the double-breasted jacket was reason enough to suggest that cufflinks could once again have a spiffy part to play.
Besides, I like cufflinks. Among my favourites are these vintage beauties from Georg Jensen (shown below).
But, to speak more rationally, the only point to writing an editor’s letter is the hope that somebody will read it. Does anybody really read these things? I don’t drive a car, but I’m mechanical enough to want to know. Please drop me a line at [email protected].