For the latest issue of The Rake I was asked to meditate on the concept of poolside elegance. My starting point was the work of Slim Aarons, while my ending note was James Bond. In between are stops in Palm Beach with a few notes on WASPdom. If anything, this piece should get you thinking about a summer getaway. — CC
* * *
The Life Aquatic:
It’s one of lifes’s nagging paradoxes: the areas surrounding the world’s most spectacular swimming pools are sartorial stages that demand stylistic panache — but with lamentably few garments. So what does a man wear while whittling away the hours next to a large well of shimmering aquamarine?
By Christian Chensvold
The Rake, issue 34
Women’s apparel is widely considered more artistic and varied than men’s, and that’s before you consider the nearly endless coiffure and cosmetic possibilities at their disposal. But dressing in masculine garb offers its own singular rewards, namely the special clothes gentlemen have worn in enclaves from which women have been historically excluded. There’s the splendor of maharajahs, caliphs and sultans, the papal pomp of the church, centuries of military splendor, and even the motley rag-tag garb of pirates, bedecked in the jewels and colorful fabrics that were the spoils of their plunder. Men have also devised special clothing for endeavors such as hunting, sailing and flying (does anything signify panache more than a white scarf flapping in an open cockpit?). There are even velvet jackets and fez-like caps specifically for the gentle act of smoking.
For another gentle act, that of lounging poolside with cocktail in hand, women clearly have the fashion edge. Their swimwear can be as modest or as risqué as they like, they can accessorize with sexy heels or laid-back sandals, silk wraps and broad-rimmed hats, oversized sunglasses and sparkling jewelry. Despite being 75 percent nude (or perhaps even because of it), women dressed for sun and water can look just as chic as for any other occasion.
But stripped of his full regalia, his authority-oozing bespoke garb with boulevardier touches like boutonnieres and spectator shoes, how’s the peacock of the species to compete when nearly everything is taken away? “Clothes make the man,” as Mark Twain said. “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” (Continue)
I was photographed for the latest issue of Free & Easy, which has a big feature on Allen Edmonds. They shot my Kenwood and Walden loafers, and I posed for the camera in my neighborhood. The shooter liked the American flag on the house across the street, and with that penchant for formulas characteristic of the Japanese, I was asked to hold a bag. They’d already shot my satchel, so I suggested my new golf “Sunday bag,” the one I use when I just need a half-dozen clubs. It’s a deadstock Wilson I found on eBay for a song, apparently made in Scotland and probably dating from the ’60s. I tried to look like I was waiting to be picked up for some golf practice, but the result doesn’t exact smack of verismilitude. (Continue)
We bring Seersucker Fest 2014 to a close with these wonderful recollections from Christopher Sharp, who spearheaded our fest.
* * *
Working on our seersucker fest reminded me of an old article in which the author finds himself staring out the window of a New England country inn on an autumn day. His only companions are a bottle of old sauterne and the ghosts of his past. He calls sauternes “memory in a glass.”
My epiphany is that seersucker has become my sauterne, with a memory in every wrinkle.
The gospel was that seersucker was to be somewhat disposable, yet my three cotton suits have been dogged companions over the years. The bill for the blue seersucker, gray seersucker and blue pincord suits, bought from Brooks Brother, is dated July, 1991. An extra pair of trousers included brought the cost up to $262.50 per outfit.
I can still picture myself at my first job wearing those suits on the sales floor of the Country Couple in Ithaca, NY, surrounded by mountains of Gitman shirts and Jacob Roberts regimental ties. It was a sartorially rich time, even if nationally independent clothing retailers were struggling.
Four years later, working for community newspaper, a swarm of media came to town for a high-profile trial. As the local reporter, I was in demand for providing background to the story. One day I met Maria Effirtimades of People magazine and offered to “show her the local color.” She took one look at me in my seersucker suit and bow tie and quipped, “You are the local color.”
I’m not sure if it is self-effacing or self-indulgent to admit that one’s dubious achievements are still one’s achievements, but I have come to the conclusion they are one and the same. For example, there’s the time I convinced French restaurateur and former manager of the Rainbow Room, Roger Bouillon, to take on the “Titanic” task of preparing the full 11-course menu from the night the pride of the White Star line went down. That has nothing to do with seersucker, but my two railroad smokers did.
Our community has a scenic railroad, and in 1995 they graciously allowed my cigar club to pollute their restored 1944 dinner car. It was on June 5th that the party made its way through the 19th-century depot en route to recreating a Lucius Beebe private-car experience. The staff newspaper photographer was shanghaied into providing photography services, and some memorable photos were the result. There is the portrait of myself at left, more hair then I knew what to do with, my face not yet wrinkled, appearing happy yet haunted in the blue seersucker suit, a white Brooks Brother’s shirt, and a dot tie from Randy Hanauer. Hidden are a pair of dandy-blowing-smoke-ring braces and WalkOver bucks. I am enjoying a La Gloria Cubana torpedo secured from a personal visit to the Little Havana factory of El Credito.
A less introspective photo (see below) was chosen by the editors of Cigar Aficionado for the autumn 1995 edition. A captured moment of ourselves standing on the railroad platform, the flag flapping in the breeze on a summer night. My friend Elliot Edwards stands next to me in a Panama hat. Summer is lived at the pitch of ice clinking in a glass. That night in the summer of ’95 — and all others since — seem to have evaporated into smoke, laughter and memory.
I tried on my seersucker suits this year and neither the pants nor jackets fit. This sad news corresponded with a recent call from Elliot. He told me in the charming and breezy way in which he announces big life changes, “that it was hell getting old” and that he was “moving south.” Upon hearing this my mind flashed back to when we first met, which was at a cigar dinner in an old bank building. The conversation had started to lag at my table, and over the din of the other diners you could hear a gregarious man holding court, his table enthralled by his story. At the appropriate time I went over and introduced myself to the man wearing the blue blazer and Weejuns without socks. He put me immediately at ease, saying that he was glad I had come over because he’d wanted to tell me he liked my suit. He then got a distant, wistful look, and what he said next has echoed from that cavernous bank to my present memory: “I had a seersucker suit like that, when I was a younger man… ”
It was Damon Runyon who suggested that seersucker reconciles the rich and the poor. For myself, I have come to believe that it reconciles the old and young. In my case, however, they are the same person, as now I too can say, “I had a seersucker suit like that, when I was a younger man.” — CHRISTOPHER SHARP (Continue)
If you think Seersucker Day is ripe for retail promotion, you would be right. Anthony Paranzino, AKA Tony The Tailor, has been celebrating it since 2009. He is currently
preparing for his sixth-annual Seersucker Day on June 19th. Whether the politicians are celebrating or not, Tony goes on.
Seersucker Day 2013 saw 50 people visit his Charleston, West Virginia shop. Paranzino sold 14 suits and 10 sportscoats. The popular accessory last year was neckties made by High Cotton.
We cannot promise that he can make the soft shoulder of your dreams, you would have the to discuss that with him. What we can say is he has put together an interesting web page dedicated to Seersucker Day. The fact that he is plying consumers with a cocktail called the Seersucker would certainly get us in the shop to see the wrinkly samples.
If you cannot make it to West Virginia you can celebrate at home with this recipe. “Seersucker,” as you surely know, comes from a Hindi corruption of the Persian phrase “milk and sugar.” You’ll need stronger ingredients to make this. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
2 ounces Flor de Cana white rum
1/2 ounce cinnamon schnapps
1 ounce lemon juice
Muddle one strawberry, shake
ingredients with three ice cubes,
and strain into a pilsner glass
with crushed ice. Garnish with
What goes best with seersucker?