Miles Ahead: Chens on Davis for The Rake

In 2009, The Rake asked me to write a little tribute to Miles Davis, who got hip to the Ivy League Look in 1954, right when the look was taking off across America. I just found out that the magazine has reprinted the story this month. I’m not sure whether it’s in the print issue, but it’s finally available online with a proper layout.

Here’s a teaser:

Under “The Warlord of the Weejuns,” the headline for the liner notes for a 1965 greatest hits collection, celebrated Esquire writer George Frazier called Davis “a truly well dressed man,” but someone the average man would be foolish to emulate. “I’m not advocating that all men aspire to dress like Davis,” Frazier writes. “That would be unrealistic, for it is this man’s particular charm that he is unique.”

In fact, Miles Davis should be every man’s sartorial role model, for he achieved what few others do: epitomizing changing eras while crafting an individual style. Davis was no stick-in-the-mud wedded to a lifelong look, but nor was he a malleable fashion follower taking orders from the marketplace. He was perennially a man of his times yet ahead of the pack, wearing, as Down Beat magazine wrote in 1960, “what the well-dressed man will wear next year.”

It wasn’t always that way. When he joined the St. Louis musicians’ union at age 16, he was too poor to be ahead of the curve, and had to settle for secondhand Brooks Brothers suits from the local pawn shop. Miles thought he looked sharp (“clean as a broke-dick dog” was his exact expression), but hipper cats like Dexter Gordon didn’t agree.

Head over here for the full story, and stay tuned for a new and very interesting post about Miles coming up next. — CC

25 Comments on "Miles Ahead: Chens on Davis for The Rake"

  1. At the end, his music and his attire went downhill rapidly.

  2. Excellent article – reminding everyone about cool Miles was. I saw Miles perform in London in the 1980s and he looked a mess by that time. Cool in a surreal way but a mess nevertheless.

  3. There was never anybody else like Miles, either later or newer. He was always two steps ahead.

  4. Davis’ views on race were complex, to be sure. But given what he had to go through (the infamous cop beating, just for starters), it’s understandable.

    Chet Baker and Anita O’Day were also drug addicts, but somehow I don’t think you’d make the same complaint against them, which makes your calling Davis a racist rather disingenuous.

    What boggles the mind, however, is saying that Davis should have been assassinated, and even more pernicious — “MLK style” — as if you’re celebrating King’s assassination.

    I hope bloggers who link to Laguna Beach Trad reconsider whether they want to continue endorsing someone willing to voice such an opinion.

    And speaking of voicing your opinion, why don’t you tell us your real name, LBT? Surely if the above is how you really feel, you ought to be willing to stand behind it.

  5. I hear you Richard, and normally I would keep this sort of thing off the blog. I think, however, I’ll keep them up as an act of public shame.

  6. Gregorius Mercator | December 19, 2009 at 4:01 pm |

    I’m sorry, but that suit jacket in the link looks like something you’d put on your flowerbeds in the spring or the padding you’d put down before the wall-to-wall carpeting. Maybe it’s just the lighting, but green was definitely not a good choice.

  7. “MLK Style”?!

    This Laguna Beach Trad character is ignorant and a jerk. To say the very least.

  8. What would Charlie Davidson say to the guttersnipe also known as Laguna Beach Bogey?

  9. fuckyourself | August 22, 2011 at 7:50 am |

    the fact of the matter is LBT is a fucking hill billy with a small penis.

  10. Miles was the Pablo Picasso of Music. He was ahead of times and a genius that changed music 5 times. He was very respected in Europe, Africa and Japan. Pitty he was misunderstood in the states. Just look at some comments…so sad.

  11. G. Bruce Boyer | May 27, 2017 at 11:46 am |

    I thought so at the time, and still do: this is a fine article.

  12. CC

    I agree that the comments by idiots like “LBT” should not be deleted. Exposing this kind of racist nonsense is healthy. It allows mentally healthy people to point out to “LBT” that he should not skip taking his scheduled medication, or if he has none, to get medical help IMMEDIATELY!!!

  13. I agree with Mr. Korn and wonder what ever became of Laguna Beach Trad.

    As for Miles Davis, shame he abandoned The Look.

  14. K. Langsam | May 28, 2017 at 2:07 am |

    Laguna Beach Trash does indeed seem to have disappeared.

  15. GS

    Maybe LBT started taking his medication and was to ashamed to comment again.

    Bye the bye — I like that phrase “The Look”. Far superior to the “Clothes” or “Trad” or “Ivy Style”.

  16. Thanks, Mr. Korn, I just thought of it as a shortened version of “The American Look,” which is Ivy Style.

  17. GS

    You are welcome. Well tomorrow we can breakout the Reds, the madras, and the seersucker.

  18. I think “the look” is the way English Ivy fans refer to the style.

  19. CC

    Given that – I will continue to use “ivy style “. I am certain that GS was not aware that English Ivy fans refer to the style as “the look”.

  20. I was unaware of the English using that term, guess it’s back to “Ivy style.”

  21. I saw the Coltrane document last night. It includes some good footage of Coltrane’s time with Miles. It points out that when Coltrane first appeared on the scene, other players thought he looked like a “country bumpkin”, and you can see that in the early clips and pics of Coltrane with Miles. Miles looks completely put together, while Coltrane is wearing baggy jackets that don’t quite fit, etc. Later, though (especially after kicking junk), Coltrane developed a real style of his own, with nice button-downs (often patterned), and knit ties. It just adds to the charm that he probably didn’t care all that much what he wore.

  22. That should be “documentary”, not “document”.

  23. Roger Sack | May 14, 2020 at 7:18 pm |

    I saw him at Basin Street East or the Five Spot in NYC during Christmas or
    Spring Break in ’59 or “60. I do not recall how hew was dressed. Most everyone
    under 50 who attended such clubs at the time dressed Ivy. Woody Allen, whom I
    saw doing stand-up around the same time, dressed like my Philosophy Professor.
    He still dresses the same way.

  24. Roger Sack

    I am envious of your having seen Miles Davis in the late fifties. My best was seeing the MJQ in the mid eighties
    and Art Farmer at The Village Vanguard in the early nineties. I got the entire Count Basie orchestra’s autographs on a concert poster but I was just a lad of five.



  25. Frazier’s “Warlord of the Weejuns”:

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