- May 31, 2006
- Reaction score
Here is an fine article from today's San Francisco Chronicle that some of you will appreciate. It is authored by Style Forum member richstyle. Style Forum is mentioned. Nice article Richard! The New Gentleman Step aside, Mr. Metrosexual. Another sharp dresser is here, and he takes his cues from a higher authority -- the Golden Age of Hollywood. Richard Torregrossa, Special to The Chronicle Sunday, February 25, 2007 The Academy Awards ceremony tonight serves as a reminder that men need style tips too, even if they're movie stars. George Clooney presented his "Ocean's Thirteen" co-stars Brad Pitt and Matt Damon with copies of "Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style,'' a biography I wrote about the evolution of Grant as a style icon (Giorgio Armani wrote the foreword) soon after its September publication; the gift included a pair of cuff links, a subtle nudge toward classic dressing. The metrosexual, you'll recall, was a term coined by Mark Simpson, a British journalist, in 1994 that identified a narcissistic segment of the male population that was the antithesis of the Marlboro Man. They highlighted their hair, pampered themselves with manicures and spa treatments, and fussed over the latest fashions. Clooney, however, embodies a fresh approach to style -- what I call the New Gentleman -- and it's a trend that's gaining ground fast. Clooney, more than any other actor, has been heralded as the next Cary Grant. To his credit, he does not show the slightest interest in becoming a carbon copy of any actor, not even the iconic Grant. He might learn from Grant and other paragons of Hollywood's Golden Age, but he has not sacrificed his individuality by making a fetish of aping another man's style. And it shows in his work. Both A-list and independent, he astutely rattles the last dime out of the box office with commercial films like "Ocean's Eleven" -- and "Twelve" and the forthcoming "Thirteen" -- and then uses his box-office clout to direct smaller, riskier films with a more artistic bent, some less than enthralling to critics, like "The Good German," a stylish retro-noir thriller shot in black and white. Still, he goes his own way, undiscouraged, admirably adhering to a personal vision, regardless of the critical or commercial reaction. Last year, of course, it paid off with a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in "Syriana" and a best director nomination for "Good Night, and Good Luck.'' Offscreen, Clooney alternates between a sporty elegance and more formal Armani suits and dashing Covert coats; he's well dressed but not too well dressed. You don't get the sense that he has a lot of skin moisturizers in his bathroom or fusses with styling gels to perfect the warp and woof of his hair. He leaves all that to Ryan Seacrest, the metrosexual poster boy. Men have always sought ways to improve their appearance, but what has changed recently is where men look for style tips. The New Gentleman does not take fashion advice from "Queer Eye's" Carson Kressley. The glibbest member of the Fab Four might be entertaining in his checked sneakers and white suit, but his fashion sense seems to have been derived solely from a fixation on Barnum & Bailey Circus clowns. The New Gentleman takes his cues from a higher authority: the Golden Era of Hollywood. Just ask Tom Cruise. A West Hollywood tailor asked me to inscribe a copy of my book about Grant to the star of "Collateral'' and "The Last Samurai.'' The tailor was working with Cruise on a new look and used the book as a kind of guide. This was a few weeks before Cruise's wedding with Katie Holmes in Italy. Cruise soon emerged a newlywed and a New Gentleman, spirited away from his boyish muscle-hugging T-shirts and motorcycle jackets to a more mature sartorial incarnation. His custom-made suits display an attention to fit and pattern mixing that would have made Cary Grant proud. Cruise often adds a personal touch to his suits by wearing them with a sweater instead of the more traditional waistcoat or vest. Unlike the metrosexual, who openly and lavishly celebrated his own vanity, and thereby caused his own demise, the New Gentleman is not overly concerned with his appearance because he knows that strength of character and confidence will eclipse any small lapse in dress or physical imperfection. Even a bad manicure. "I get flummoxed by people who go into it too much and try to be too perfect," says Stephen Lachter, a Savile Row tailor whose client list includes Ralph Fiennes and Clint Eastwood. "Fred Astaire was a wonderful dresser, but he made it look as if it was simple. He didn't look for the sharpest creases in his trousers. He didn't try for the stiffest collars. It was a look and image that worked because he understood nuance and restraint." Leonardo DiCaprio started his career in a black leather jacket acting in commercials as one of "The Hot Wheels Kids." Leo is all grown up now -- and so are his movie roles. He's gone from cuddly cute to edgy and appealingly scary in "The Departed" and "Blood Diamond," for which he received a best actor nomination. But when he's attending awards ceremonies promoting "The Aviator,'' or this year's "Blood Diamond,'' the 32-year-old actor is a New Gentleman with youthful sartorial zest. At last year's Oscars he wore a stylish Prada two-button notch-lapel tuxedo, black formal tie and a white shirt with a matching pocket square. This year he'll have a new accessory -- the sleek new Samsung Black Carbon phone he recently purchased at Kitson Men, the ultra-hip West Hollywood boutique. The phone gets global service, so he can share any good news with a worldwide network of friends. The New Gentleman can also be old. At 74, Peter O'Toole is an actor who combines boozy Old Hollywood glamour with a thoroughly modern wit. His elegant rakishness in "Venus" helped earn him a best actor nomination -- his eighth -- for his portrayal of a charming old thespian seeking erotic salvation in a relationship with a young woman. Not all Hollywood stars are on board the dress-to-impress bandwagon, of course. Matthew McConaughey, last seen in "We Are Marshall" (and seemingly every other movie about football), said, "I like to break a sweat at least once a day." And I believe him. He's the most photographed half-naked man on the planet. Does he even own a shirt? When you're as buff as "the sexiest man alive," perhaps you don't need Versace, Armani or Ralph Lauren. Or do you? "We're moving more towards individuality, a formal-casual style of dress -- wearing a suit jacket with a separate trouser or formal jeans," says Carlo Brandelli, creative director of Savile Row's Kilgour, whose clients include Jude Law and Hugh Grant. "The modern gentleman is here; he knows what to wear for every occasion -- be it a walk in the park with his children or a state opening at Parliament. He can do jeans and a one-ply cashmere sweater with a great casual suede jacket, and he does charcoal gray conservative flannel one-button peak-lapel suits with a silk shirt and knitted navy tie. The modern gentleman also knows about sneakers, watches, luggage; he is subtle and wants to blend into a crowd when necessary. "The metrosexual is here, too, but he is a little more brash and wants to be noticed in a crowd; his voice is louder, the gym he frequents is showy, he doesn't get the color palette quite right -- it's more external." You can find a semblance of both personas in the past two Bond films. Daniel Craig's Bond in "Casino Royale'' is well groomed, well dressed, yet at the same time more rugged and less formal than his Bond predecessor, the more metrosexual Pierce Brosnan. But is this trend a purely Hollywood phenomenon? What about the masses of grungy guys wearing cargo pants, hooded pullovers and ball caps? Although there will always be those who dress down, men's style is looking up, and there are signs of it everywhere, from new men's fashion magazines to online forums, such as Fedora Lounge and Style Forum, where members post questions and comments about everything from how to match your socks with your pants and shoes to the intricacies of double-needle stitching and the new lightweight fabrics in bespoke tailoring. "Magazines like Men's Health are now running fashion articles next to the latest in weightlifting trends," says radio talk-show host Joseph Montebello, who edited menswear designer Alan Flusser's classic book, "Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion.'' "The yuppies and Generation Xers have grown up. The Baby Boomers are older, too, and I think they've all begun to realize that it's time to dress accordingly." Accessibility is another reason for the trend. Men's fashion is just a point and a click away. With more than 600,000 hits per day, Ask Andy About Clothes is one of the leading men's style Web sites. In 2001 Andy Gilchrist, an admitted clotheshorse, started the online forum as a hobby, but it took off like a rocket. And it's not just for grown-ups. Gilchrist attributes the success of his site to its ability to attract a global audience of both young and old, mainly young. "They've somehow missed a generation of learning the rules of how to dress from their fathers," says Gilchrist. "It was either the peacock revolution that threw out the rules or the 'casual in the workplace' trend that just lost those rules, or both. Now men are really interested in making a good impression, and they realize that proper clothing can really help. They're looking to outside sources, and one of them is the well-dressed men of the movies of the 1930s and '40s. Those guys really looked great, and everyone is suddenly realizing it." James Sherwood, style writer for the Financial Times and author of "The London Cut," agrees. "It's interesting that young politicians such as Barack Obama dress immaculately," says Sherwood. "It's the old generation, such as Bush and Blair, who rather pathetically try to appeal to the young generation by not wearing ties and taking a casual (read sloppy) approach to their appearance. For every kid wearing a hoodie, baseball cap and sneakers, there's a kid who is discovering sharp suits for the first time and understanding the power of dressing well. I even noticed Bill Gates wore a tie to launch Vista in the U.K. -- and he was always the poster boy for geek chic." Andrew Chilton, who is curating an exhibition devoted to the innovative courtier Paul Poiret at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, says that fashion is gaining ground even in the art world. "Fashion exhibitions at museums tend to be the most popular because they're accessible," he says. "Audiences might be intimidated by a painting or sculpture exhibition, but fashion seems democratic and everybody seems to have an opinion. And there's the personal aspect to it too, imagining yourself in a particular garment -- or not. It's about the body, and the body always engages people." There might even be a simpler explanation for the rise of the New Gentleman. "When you get dressed up and go out, it's more of an occasion," says Sven Petersen, who has worked at the Beverly Hills Hotel since 1959. Needless to say, he has seen many of Hollywood's best-dressed -- and worst-dressed -- celebrities up close. "When you're in a nice suit and tie and go to a restaurant, somehow even the food tastes better." Richard Torregrossa is a journalist and author of "Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style'' (Bulfinch Press.) www.richardtorregrossa.com.