Men and Style: Essays, Interviews and Considerations

 

”Dressing interested me then for the same reason it does now.
How you present yourself to the world, how you convey
what matters to you, what you aspire to (and what
you don’t) – these things are never indifferent.
And in the ideal case it’s an expression of self-knowledge.”

 
 
I was introduced to David Coggins’ book, Men and Style: Essays, Interviews and Considerations, by Todd Ritondaro (a regular guest on Classiq) who interviewed David on his podcast. I ordered the book immediately after I listened to the episode and one of the first things that came to my mind after just starting to read it was why is it that there is such great writing about men’s style and so little about women’s style – I think women’s style (yes, style, too, not only fashion) is so wrongly approached. That’s exactly why all the style books in my home are about men’s style. Because that’s where I take my style advice from. Because it is men’s style that has taught me that style is about so much more than clothes. Because it is men’s style and men’s talk about style that have taught me that it is not trivial to talk about clothes. I can not and will not do small talk with my girl friends about clothes and fashion (and I do what David does: “I would prefer that people aren’t able to tell where my clothes are from. And I don’t usually tell them.”) They know where I stand and avoid the subject. But I will, at any time, engage in any discussion about style with my husband, my father, my brother or any of our male friends.

There are many definitions of fashion vs style. And every man and woman with a strong sense of dress and self that I admire is perfectly right in their opinion. But none of them has sounded more true than Glenn O’Brien’s words in the forward to this book: “Fashion is industry; style is culture. That’s why this book is important… It’s about ideas and themes, arts and rituals, the things that constitute culture.” Style is culture. And indeed, that is why this book is so important. It does not teach men what style is, what they should wear and what they shouldn’t. It instead shows that the only rule to great style is authenticity.

With dry wit and self-deprecating attitude, David writes about situations, traditions, rituals, manners, aging, imperfection, and, yes, about clothes, but always in a bigger context. He writes about why he has always driven a car with manual transmission, about the intimacy and pleasure of another person’s company that a long lunch provide in today’s world lived on fast-forward and in the social media hum, about why a man should have enough cash for his evening on the town, about Ralph Lauren, about being “suspicious of any man who doesn’t have a weakness for books”, about the fact that all good things take time. Style is in the details, in the way you conduct and present yourself, in knowing certain unwritten rules.
 
 

“The best dressed men create their own sartorial world
with its own internal logic and controlled anarchy.”

 
 
Coggins’ contributors (some of the world’s most dapper men whom he interviewed for the book) examine their lives, talking about their fathers, childhood, school uniforms, college, mistakes, their first cars, their first crush, drinking, sports, music, cooking. They talk about the examples set by their fathers, about learning from their mistakes, about bettering themselves. Because style is about hard-earned individuality (you are not born with it, nor is it acquired in a day, nor, thank God, can it be bought), it is a long path towards self discovery, it is about refining your sensibility and not about constantly reinventing yourself, it is the slow distilling of culture that, only in time, seeps into our being and gives us a sense of who we are.

Men and Style tells us about how the world views of this group of stylish men (from the author to his interviewees and editorial guests, including Gay Talese) have been shaped, providing the perfect space for them to pass on their knowledge, appreciations and sense of selves. Men and women alike have something to learn from that.

David Coggins is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Esquire, Interview, Kinfolk and The Wall Street Journal, and he is a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler. He is one of the world’s most respected men’s style writers and his second book, Men and Manners: Essays, Advice and Considerations, the follow-up to this one, was published last year.

 

Website: davidrcoggins.com | Instagram: @davidrcoggins

 

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This Summer We Are Channelling: Jennifer Connelly in Blood Diamond

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly in “Blood Diamond”, 2006
Warner Bros., Virtual Studios, Spring Creek Productions

 
Revisiting some of your favourite summer movies can provide the best style inspiration. The usual likes of Plein soleil, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and all these other films easily come to mind. But there are other movies less obvious at first sight that offer great sartorial advice for the warm months ahead and I will bring them into our rotation, and your attention, this summer.

In Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio, as Danny Archer, is a South African diamond smuggler, or “soldier of fortune”, as he likes to call himself, and Jennifer Connelly, as Maddy Bowen, is a dedicated journalist who makes him think about interests bigger than his. “She’s about as fiery and feisty as they come,” Connelly said about her character in an interview for Marie Claire. “She has a passion for life, drinks her minibar, flirts a lot. But she’s striving to do some thing good — she’s sort of frustrated by herself and her limitations. She wants to be a toughie, but she’s not.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in Edward Zwick’s film remains one of his best. It’s one of his most singular roles. He explores the complexity of emotions he is capable of and especially a darker side that we didn’t get to see much until Blood Diamond. Too bad the film does not end on the same tough, risk-taking note it starts with and falls into the all too well-known safe Hollywoodian ending, seeking a hopeful and sentimenatal closing.

“I wanted someone who could give Leo a run for his money, who was confident and would not be overawed and would help him raise the level of his game. There are any number of actors who are perfectly talented who wouldn’t have had that effect on him. He sensed that from the beginning, and I saw him sit up straigther in his chair,” the director said about casting Jennifer. “The camera can always tell whether someone knows what they are saying in the deepest meanings, and she inhabits the lines.”
 

Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond”, 2006
Warner Bros., Virtual Studios, Spring Creek Productions

 
Sharp intelligence, lightness of being, passion for her profession can all be used to describe the character of Maddy Bowen, and Jennifer simply inhabits her role. “You find yourself a good man,” Danny tells her when they part. “I have three sisters. They are all married to good men. I like my life,” she answers. That, is obvious. That she has a commanding presence is obvious, too, even if her clothes have nothing to do with that. They are simple clothes, the kind every journalist in the field is wearing. Cargo trousers, plain t-shirts, chambray shirt, a navy tailored vest she wears over her khaki t-shirt (the most effortless take on masculine tailoring), a stack of bracelets, a metal necklace, a man’s watch. These are utilitarian items a reporter throws on without thinking about them because they are part of the job. But that is exactly where their appeal lies: in their sheer functionality, the well of so many timeless garments.

And it’s true that basic items can always find a place in one’s closet, whether you see them in a film or not. But it is Maddy’s attitude that draws most attention and added interest to her look and makes you want to make it part of your overall style. The minimalism of her wardrobe is something else to reflect on, and something to aim for in this society of consumerism that we are confronting with and which the film itself brings into our consciousness – the hellish reality of a country, Sierra Leone, that serves as source for the illegal diamond trade of the white-collar criminals in the Western world.

But that’s not the only reason her look is worth channelling. I read that Jennifer spent her days off while filming Blood Diamond, which was shot mostly in Mozambique, at a local orphanage. But unlike other celebrities, whose African humanitarian appearances make tabloid headlines, Connelly’s presence there didn’t get any press coverage. It was in fact director Edward Zwick who mentioned it in the Marie Claire interview. And that’s something else I want to channel: live life for yourself without constantly looking for the approval or admiration of others, do good without showing off. “Have more than you show. Speak less than you know.”
 

Jennifer Connelly in “Blood Diamond”, 2006
Warner Bros., Virtual Studios, Spring Creek Productions

 

Posted by classiq in Style in film | | Leave a comment

French Open Style

Barbara Schett, the co-host (with Mats Wilander) of “Game, Schett and Mats”, strolling the streets of Paris,
Roland Garros, 2019 | photo: Matthias Hauer

 
Although we have witnessed some great matches at the present Roland Garros (Benoit Paire and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Benoit Paire, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka) and more is yet to come (a Nadal-Federer semifinal, a possible Nadal-Djokovic final), and having previously covered some of the greatest players of the game here on the site, as well as the books and art revolving around tennis, there is yet another aspect of my favourite sport I want to bring into discussion today. Off-court style.

You do not have to comply with a strict dress code as is the case at Wimbledon, which, even if you are not an attendee in the Royal Box, still stipulates an unwritten rule that too casual a look is unwelcome, but that doesn’t mean that the French Open spectators don’t know a thing or two about style. Because I have to admit that looking to the stands at the French Open is part of the beautiful spectacle Roland Garros offers every year. Not only is the tournament one of the most beautiful displays of sport, but a seasonal milestone, too. Being the tennis aficionado that I am, I have come to regard the French Open as the unofficial symbol of the beginning of summer. And, for me, nothing says summer better than a crowd of people in Panama hats under the shining sky, transfixed by the tennis players on the ochre clay that sparkles in the intense June light – artist Fabienne Verdier, who created the official poster for the tournament last year, beautifully described how, for her, “Roland-Garros evokes those first warm days that herald the arrival of summer in Paris”. I sometimes think of the slow red dirt surface that produces those long and absorbing rallies, testing the players’ skill, patience and endurance, with a long hot summer day that tests one’s physical and mental strengths.
 

The Panama hat in the stands at the French Open | photo: Amélie Laurin

 
Let’s linger on that image: the king of summer headwear when watching from the stands the king of clay at Roland Garros. The Panama hat. Despite its name, the legendary accessory has its origins in Ecuador and it has since become the country’s most famous handcraft. As with many items that have stood the test of time, the Panama hat was born out of necessity and practicality: the hat woven from Ecuadorian toquilla straw offered the best protection from the sun for the thousands of workers assigned to the building site of the Panama Canal, who were required to wear this lightweight, wide-brimmed straw hat to protect them from the sun. The fruit of unique artisanal expertise, the original Panama hat is made completely by hand, by Ecuadorean craftsmen and women. The weavers take several weeks or even months to create a single hat. The hats are woven from toquilla palm leaves, which have many qualities, such as exceptional whiteness, finesse and flexibility.

But what was it that made this accessory a style game-changer, besides the craftsmanship that goes into its making? It was the classic movie stars, from Humphrey Bogart and Paul Newman to Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra, and the diverse likes of Mick Jagger and Salvador Dalí, who made it popular and a staple of menswear, and ultimately ensuring it an all-time classic status for both men and women. So, despite Wimbledon’s undeniable affiliation with style, and while the London public may master with ease the sartorial requirements of the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, the Roland Garros crowd has perfected the effortless and cool smart look, finding the simplest way to dress up for a match in the summer heat at the toughest tournament to dominate for any length of time. The Panama hat instantly elevates even the Wimbledon-inappropriate look of jeans and t-shirt.
 

Barbara Schett, Paris | photo: Matthias Hauer

 
Another Roland Garros point of interest, style wise, if I may venture to say, is watching Mats Wilander and Barbara Schett. Their Eurosport show, Game, Schett and Mats, is quite honestly one of my all time favourites, not just in sport, and about the only tv I have been watching in years. I am looking forward to their pertinent analysis just as much as I am to a good tennis match. I have talked about my admiration for Mats Wilander as tennis player and tennis expert before. Barbara is a former tennis player herself, and the two of them make a great team in front of the camera.

And it so happens that they both display a natural sense of dressing style. Is it a shallow comment from my part saying that? Are their aesthetic attributes really of interest in a discussion about their talent and professionalism? Yes, I dare say. Because looking good is not self importance, it’s self respect, as Charles Hix said, and, I might add, it is not only self respect, but respect towards the others as well. And watching Mats and Barbara, two tennis insiders, always so effortlessly put-together, is maybe to prove once again that tennis is the kind of sport that has always incorporated a heavy dose of individual style, on- and off-court. As Racquet magazine’s philosophy goes, I, too, like to “celebrate the art, ideas, style and culture that surround tennis”.
 

Mats Wilander: @matswilanderofficial
Barbara Schett-Eagle: @babasschett

 

Posted by classiq in A sporting life, Style | | Leave a comment

Hello Sunshine: A Playlist

Evoking Bruce Springsteen’s new album’s California dreaming feel and our summer playlist:
Bradley Cooper in “The Road Less Traveled” IWC Schaffhausen campaign, Mojave Desert, California, 2019

 
 
Summer is here. In time, I have learned to appreciate and enjoy each season and find the beauty in the everyday, but I will always refer to summer as “that time of the year”. That inescapable feeling of endless possibilities that a summer day promises. The unapologetic escape from the day-to-day grind without a moment’s thought. Playing hooky from work with a childlike joy. It is not however the image of an idyllic sandy beach, the idea of relaxing all day long by a body of water, or good vibes music that best conjures up summer for me. It’s rather the thought of a road trip on a path less travelled and music that stays with you long after the summer ends. It’s a lust for adventure, but all mildly tempered by the feeling that summer, too, is fleeting. Just like taking the beauty of life with a grain of salt.

Our beginning of summer playlist revolves around Bruce Springsteen’s new album, “Western Stars”, out on June 14 (of which Rolling Stone magazine says that it “sets out for wide open territory”, evoking “country-tinged California pop from the Sixties and Seventies, sounding like nothing he’s done before”), The Cure, who are touring this summer, Bob Dylan, because I have started to listen again to all the albums we have after I read that Mats Wilander always has Dylan on while he’s traveling through America for his Wilander on Wheels project (because, see, it’s everything surrounding tennis that I love, not just the game), and a few other favourite tunes in between.
 
 

 
 

1.Hello Sunshine, Bruce Springsteen / 2.Lovesong, The Cure / 3.Free Fallin’, Tom Petty / 4.(Don’t Fear) the Reaper, Blue Öyster Cult / 5.Gold Dust Woman, Fleetwood Mac / 6.Lay, Lady, Lay, Bob Dylan / 7.The Scope and Span of Pennsylvania, Matt Pond PA & Chris Hansen / 8.So Nice, Curtiss Maldoon / 9.Our Day Will Come, Amy Winehouse / 10.Last Nite, The Strokes / 11.I Can See for Miles, Allison Pierce / 12.Tucson Train, Bruce Springsteen / 13.It’s All Over Now, Them (feat. Van Morrison) / 14.The Boys of Summer, Don Henley / 15.Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits / 16.Tangled up in Blue, Bob Dylan / 17.In Between Days, The Cure / 18.To Love Somebody, Nina Simone / 19.Pink Cadillac, Bruce Springsteen

 
Tune in on Spotify to listen to all our playlists or find them in our archive.
 

Posted by classiq in Crafts & Culture, Playlists | | Leave a comment

Le ballon rouge: An Illustrated Short Story


 
Le ballon rouge (1956), which is one of the most beloved films of all time, reminds me about the beauty of childhood. Directed by Albert Lamorisse, it is a fantasy film which won the Palme D’Or for short films and the Oscar for best original screenplay, along with many other awards. The message is so simple, but the film, almost entirely wordless, is one of the best examples of pure cinema, so artistic, visually powerful and beautifully shot that it won a special place in my heart.

On his way to school one morning, Pascal finds a stray red balloon. Soon a bond is created between the child and his new toy and they become inseparable. Pascal discovers the red balloon has a mind of its own and it follows him everywhere by its own will, waiting for him in the schoolyard, outside his bedroom, following him even inside the church, teasing him to make sure Pascal deserves its friendship. The red balloon becomes the best friend he doesn’t have and they attract the envy of the boys in the neighbouhood, who soon destroy it. The ending of the film is magical, when all the balloons in Paris gather and come to Pascal’s rescue, taking him on a fairy tale balloon ride over the city.

Le ballon rouge will lift up your spirit. Aren’t we all children at heart? I only hope that, in today’s world, children haven’t lost the innocence and joy of play.
 

 
“This is the first illustration (ed. note: the artist is referring to the illustration above) in a series of six watercolours that took me to an old and now demolished part of Belleville in Paris. The research for reinterpreting these was quite intensive and meant watching the movie so many times I honestly can’t remember the exact number. Searching for pictures from that time and area, identifying buildings and spaces and reconfiguring the streets and houses like a giant puzzle. I chose to focus more on the city itself because it somehow becomes a character too. Some buildings are invented, some are taken from the fragmented images that exist of the neighborhood from the late 1800s until the demolition in 1970, very little is taken directly from the movie itself. A fascinating topographic and architectural research that I plan to continue in other illustrations, unrelated to the movie itself.” Illustrator Irina Georgescu
 

 
The idea for these illustrations came to me precisely from this desire of celebrating and encouraging play and imagination. But the biggest source of inspiration was my son. He is now four, he loves books and has a vivid imagination. We have very limited cartoons screen time because we have insisted on, and he prefers, making up our own stories. Looking at the vast collection of film DVDs and Blu-ray’s in our home, he sometimes asks when he will be able to watch movies. There is quite a while until then, and I know I would like for him to read as many books as possible until he will be able to watch the movies based on them, as well as other films. In that same sense, I wanted these illustrations to play the role of a short story that would sparkle his imagination until the moment comes when he can watch the film.

My biggest thanks go to the artist who so beautifully brought this idea to life. Romanian-born Irina Georgescu, currently based in London, is an architect and illustrator (one of my very favourites) and from the moment we met we bonded over out mutual love of cinema and storytelling. She’s a craftsman, a dreamer, a visual poet and I know that the story she has envisioned is bound to fascinate children and grown-ups alike.

The illustrations are available exclusively on shop.classiq.me, in two sizes. Discover all six artworks and all the product details here.
 

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