06 July 2011

Imperial Closets: Washington Sartorial Standards (1)

Power Preps
'Washington, D.C., knows a lot about power but very little about clothes. Dedicated to the conservative business of politics and devoid of any bohemian quarter to provide inspiration otherwise, the capital breeds conformity. Year after year, decade after decade, the uniform for men remains basically the same: a gray or navy single-breasted three-button suit, a white buttondown shirt and a red tie. The mainstream here is J.Press, Brooks Brothers and Garfinckel's. Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner & Marx are getting out on the edge. Flusser, Armani and Boss are still considered the domain of gigolos and New York investment bankers.

"Anyone who shows any individuality is deemed a fop, eccentric or dangerous," says John Buckley, a Republican political consultant. "The Brooks Brothers dress code that wouldn't be to the minimum standards of Wall Street is the outer envelope of what they wear in Washington. There are entire categories of buttons for buttondown shirts earmarked just for the Washington market. Pleats didn't hit this town until 1987.

Roger Stone may be the only man in Washington with enough chutzpah to mix politics with high fashion. The political consultant, an aficianado of double-breasted suits and an investor in the pricey new Alan Flusser made-to-measure boutique in the District, takes a harsh view of Washington sartorial standards: "We're talking high-water pants, too tight in the crotch, black socks down around the ankles with a lot of skin showing, jacket sleeves that come down and almost cover the knuckles--the sort of look that's big with Chinese leaders."

Designer Flusser, who's based in New York and who franchised the shop in Washington, defines the difference between the two cities more diplomatically. While New York and Washington are both in the Eastern Corridor, he says, New York has been influenced by the international trends and Washington by the "Virginia Ivy League" look. Just as the women wear what one wag calls "contrived Virginia"--outfits from Neiman Marcus, patent-leather flats with bows, gold Chanel jewelry, black velvet headbands and  Hermès scarves--so the men who work in the capital lean toward a Dixie interpretation of the preppy look. "In the southern influence, there is a bit more of the Fifties idea of traditional business garb,' Flusser says, adding compassionately, "I would have to call Washington a single-vented town."'

'Read My Hips', GQ, August 1990


The Ancient said...

Roger Stone wore a white Oxford cloth button-down with his dinner jacket to a White House Correspondents' Dinner back in the Eighties. He's not someone worth taking seriously on the subject of clothing.

(Unless, of course, he wants to start retailing stories about his bondage regalia.)

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

Why would we expect sartorial competence from a group that daily gives proof of their administrative and legislative incompetence? Given the performance of our "leaders" in D.C. they should be wearing sackcloth and ashes.

Hilton said...

It appears that things have not changed much since this article was written. However, we do have a bohemian quarter:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adams_Morgan

Mr. Stone on video: http://reason.tv/video/show/212.html

initials CG said...

If that was the 90's, I'd hate to think (or even see) today.

Ford said...

My dear Cod, I wish I had more at my disposal than this brief and loathsome comment box with which to express my gratitude. Recently, you posted a wee ditty regarding The Punch Guide to Good Living. I, of course, acquired a copy post haste. The absolute pleasure I have had perusing those essays and articles has been immeasurable. Thank you, truly, kind sir, for all the gems you unearth. May there be many more.

Warm Regards,

Cyprian Korzeniowski said...

Hollywood for ugly people.

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, maybe it's less Washington and more politics? In 1981 Michael Foot, the British Leader of the Opposition wore a donkey jacket to the Centotaph on Rememberence Day. One more reason to be grateful he never became PM.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Ford ~ Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad to know you enjoy it.