Once upon a time the intelligentsia lent credence to the art of dressing well.
Sartorial history from time immemorial is suitably explored today by culture critics including the estimable G. Bruce Boyer, author/designer Alan Flusser and Ivy Style curator Christian Chensvold.
However, George Frazier holds the crown. His acerbic 1960 Esquire commentary, The Art of Wearing Clothes, defined remains of the day. Alden Whitman’s June 15, 1974 New York Times obit defined the man, “…a prose stylist of wit, pungency and elegance whose work appeared in magazines and newspapers over the last 40 years.”
Arnold Gingrich, editor and co-founder of Esquire Magazine called Frazier an arbitrator of elegance, “He had a crotchety, testy integrity that insisted on the best and only the best.”
Frazier was often seen around Boston faultlessly turned out even to the white carnation in his buttonhole. The Boston Globe described him, “fueled with whiskey and cigarettes to pass the night’s hours in jazz dens and night clubs and then go home and write.”
Frazier was a pal of Charlie Davidson, co-owner of The Andover Shop who often contributed to his immaculate wardrobe. Frazier offered snarky remarks in several columns downgrading both Paul Press and the Press family business. My father believed the enmity was fueled after a drunken encounter between Frazier and a sober Paul Press in the basement of the Cambridge store at one of the legendary J. Press Yale/Harvard pre-game football parties.
Ivy Style blogger Christian Chensvold replanted the Ivy garden for me several years ago posting Frazier’s seminal essay, The Art of Wearing Clothes. Frazier listed “some of the men unquestionably among the ‘best dressed’ in the United States. Frazier also recounted the history of Ivy shops reporting former J. Press employees founding their own retail establishments. Describing Chipp, “unlike J. Press resists such gimmicks as lining the breast pocket of a jacket with foulard that can be turned inside-out to serve as a handkerchief.” Ouch!
Here’s Frazier’s best dressed list. J. Press barely made the squad via a favored twosome:
J. Anthony Boalt—At thirty-two, Boalt, of the class of ’50 at Yale, is the youngest and one of the most handsome men on the list. A businessman in New York, he resides in Greenwich, Connecticut. His tailor: J. Press
Ahmat M. Ertegun—A jazz authority and president of prospering Atlantic Records, Ertegun was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1923 and was educated abroad and at St. John’s College in Annapolis. Dedicated to chic living, he has a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce. He buys ready-made suits at J. Press (around $100 each and has them recut (for around $50) by Martin Kalaydjian, the legendary valet of the Algon-quin Hotel in New York.
As much as I disdain Mr. Frazier’s put-down of my father and our then family business, I share his admiration for what today seems to be a lost art, “The Art of Wearing Clothes.”