Funny – I was thinking about summer wardrobes tonight as the Missus and I got ready to go out for a nice (birthday – mine) dinner, when what did I encounter but David Ignatius’ post on the Daily Beast about, yes, summer wardrobes.
These days, serious men are expected to dress like heads of state, which means a dark suit for all occasions, even in the sweltering heat of midsummer. It’s the look that says: Trust me, I’m monochromatic, I’m dark and un-mysterious, I’m cool on the inside even though it’s hot as hell in this gray wool suit.
Ignatius, as it turns out, is not happy.
I have a handsome golden-tan double-breasted suit made by Yves Saint Laurent that I tried to wear when I was business editor of The Washington Post. Our retailing reporter, a perky, stylish young woman, told me once that I should never, ever put it on it again. I have two light-colored double-breasted suits made by my Hong Kong tailor, the incomparable A-Man Hing Cheong, but I have given up on them, too.
Occasionally, I can get away with a lightweight Glen plaid suit, but even that drew comments this year. (“Wow, a summer suit!”) As for the yellow linen blazer with thin blue stripes that was on sale at Brooks Brothers, my wife let me wear it once, just to show me that I was crazy to buy it, and then banned it. And my newly purchased royal blue Zegna blazer drew a rebuke even from my editor at The Daily Beast when I wore it on Morning Joe last week. The permissible range for men’s fashion is A to B.
That reminded me of the great A.J. Liebling’s book, The Earl of Louisiana, which chronicles the madcap adventures of Louisiana Gov. Earl Long and features this classic opening sentence:
Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly.
Liebling then waxes wardrobely in describing the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Honorable John Fournet Baptiste.
The suit he had on when I saw him, of rich, snuff-colored silk, was cut with the virtuosity that only sub-tropical tailors expend on hot-weather clothing. Summer clothes in the North are are makeshifts, like seasonal slipcovers on furniture, and look it.
Go south, David Ignatius, go south.