Man About Town: Lessons from The Master
At some point every great wise man needs a younger disciple to spread his knowledge. Socrates had Plato, Johnson had Boswell, and Alan Flusser has had numerous acolytes revolving around him like planets around a life-giving sun. The latest is bent on finding new ways to share the wisdom of the tailor and men’s wear historian whose 2003 classic, "Dressing The Man," continues to generate royalty checks his publisher finds incredulously large.
Andrew Yamato is a clothes-wearing-man with a background in video production who joined Flusser's Midtown Manhattan atelier a year ago, and has been developing ways to draw a new generation into the timeless world of what Flusser calls “permanent fashion,” including a recent lecture as part of the Fashion Speaks program at the National Arts Club on the history of black tie — an event whose dress code, naturally, was black tie.
I recently chatted with Mr. Yamato about his new role and how he sees it unfolding.
CC: To what do you attribute the success of "Dressing The Man"?
AY: The main factor in its longevity is the long view it takes of men's style. The book's core concept of “permanent fashion” has become the primary creed of men’s wear today, and it remains the single best source of information and inspiration about how and why to dress classically. I think it's hard to underestimate the extent to which the whole #menswear universe today traces back to Flusser and G. Bruce Boyer, both of whom I've always thought of as the sartorial equivalent of Irish monks, preserving the faith during the dark ages. Certainly their books were sacred for me personally, growing up in a small town in Michigan with no sartorial culture to speak of. I don't think younger dressers realize how difficult it once was to get the information that's all now just a click away.
CC: What are you planning as far as expanding Flusser's reach both digitally and in real life?
AY: Our main challenge at the Custom Shop is simply to remind people that we're still here, and still offering the same highly personalized service we always have. Alan became so closely identified with the Gordon Gekko look he created for Wall Street that many younger dressers might not realize how our clothing has evolved in the three decades since. It's still classically inspired, but lighter, sleeker, and as concerned as ever with making the individual client look his (or even her) best in a contemporary context. A perfect illustration of this are the clothes we made for the jazz bandleader (and Jazz Age Lawn Party founder) Michael Arenella. He was looking to upgrade from a vintage style to a more mature and elegant look that was in tune with his 1920s era music, while giving him a bit more gravitas in the 21st century. I think we delivered on that very well. Michael is just one particularly prominent member of a whole new generation of dapper dressers who are reinvigorating classic men's style, and as they gain the means, I'd love to see them come to us for their clothes.
The formal wear discussion at the National Arts Club is an example of a different kind of outreach that plays to our greatest asset: Alan himself. Few men's wear shops are so closely identified with a specific personality, and Alan really is quite a personality. Erudite, experienced, opinionated, funny -- he's is a living reminder that good clothes are fundamentally accoutrements to a life well lived.
Finally, there's our digital profile. We recently revamped our website, and one of my primary responsibilities is keeping it updated with fresh editorial content. Coming from a men's wear blogging background myself, this is a pleasure, and I really appreciate how supportive Alan has been about it from the start.
CC: Are Mr. Flusser’s principles less relevant, or perhaps ironically more so, in our age of tieless suits and business casual?
AY: Alan's guidelines on how to wear white tail and tails are probably not going to apply to many guys these days, but his fundamentals of proportion and color are as relevant as ever because the human body hasn't changed: one's personal proportions and coloring should still determine one's clothes. Traditional sartorial principles should be understood less as a rigid recipe and more as a flexible matrix: a tie-less suit will generally call for a stronger shirt (which we also make) and makes the pocket square an even more important accessory. I also think there's an interesting dynamic happening whereby tailored clothing is required less for work and desired more for pleasure.
CC: Having spent about a year side-by-side with Alan Flusser, what’s the biggest influence he’s had on your style?
AY: It's no overstatement to say that through his books, Alan has been one my biggest style influences from the start. Like Ralph Lauren, he updated the 1930s looks with softer cloths and construction in a way that made them more modern and wearable, and that's always been the essence of my own taste. Alan's personal style has become less traditional and more eclectic over the years, and our director Jonathan Sigmon has a trimmer look more in step with prevailing fashions, so I'm effectively the torchbearer for the original Flusser look around the shop these days. I think this kind of style diversity is ironically "on message" for a custom clothier: different personalities should be reflected in distinct styles.
And as individual personalities evolve, so too should style: I recently wrote a piece for the website about my recent "coming to terms" with wearing the traditionally verboten color of black since I've seen Alan pull it off so well.
Christian Chensvold is a long-time Apparel contributing writer and founder of http://www.ivy-style.com.