In 1965, Esquire jazz and style writer George Frazier wrote this essay for the liner notes of the album “Miles Davis’ Greatest Hits.”
The Warlord of the Weejuns
By George Frazier
I don’t mean to be a bastard about this, but, at the same time, I have no intention of being agreeable just for the sake of being agreeable. So, I’ll admit at the outset that, damn right, I don’t much care for men who dress badly. It’s not that I necessarily hate them or that I’d ever dream of doing anything to abridge their civil liberties, and, for that matter, I do have a few friends whose clothes are simply appalling (though that’s no problem, for I usually manage to look the other way when I’m with them), but, all the same, I see no point in trying to pretend that I feel very comfortable in the company of the ill-clad.
But the kind of man I do despise is the stupid son of a bitch who, in the arrogance of his ignorance, thinks he’s well-dressed, who assumed that he will arouse admiration because he happens to be wearing a campy blazer by Bill Blass or something swishy created by Cardin. Now that’s the kind of man I can’t stand the sight of, and so much the worse for him if he subscribes to such stuff and nonsense as that somebody named Frank O’Hara was a decent poet. You’d be astonished how many foppishly dressed men respond to O’Hara — the wrong O’Hara. But the hell with that.
All I’m trying to say, really, is that most boutique customers should be lined up before a firing squad at dawn and that there should be a minute of silence to thank God for the existence of people like Miles Davis: Except, of course, that there are no people like Miles Davis. He is an original. He is a truly well-dressed man. He is the Warlord of the Weejuns.
Oh. he’s a cool one all right, but writing about him presents certain problems, for although he is the most modern, the most contemporary of men, he is also a man born out of his time. In a godawful age when a lot of silly bastards dared appear in public in Nehru jackets (thank the Lord that Nehru didn’t have to live to witness that), Miles Davis, I’m afraid, is largely wasted. But before we have the next dance, I want it clearly understood that I’m not advocating that all men aspire to dress like Davis. That would be unrealistic, for it is this man’s particular charm that he is unique, not only in his apparel, but in his lifestyle. His apartment, for example — well, it is like no other apartment I know, tasteful and comfortable and push-buttony and without making anyone feel he better not dirty an ashtray. On days when Miles is in New York and I can take a few minutes from the task of transcribing the corpus of my writings to vellum (a chore I had a couple of monks doing until they became unionized and began to charge me an arm and a leg for a lousy thousand words), I drop in on Miles and, as they used to say, we dish.
We dish about a lot of things, like, for instance, Is AI Hirt necessary? or Whatever happened to Zinky Cohn? But mostly we talk about clothes, nor could any dialogue be more informed and enlightening. For I happen to know an awful lot about clothes, and Miles, knows as much, if not more, and we are a caution the way we carry on. The Davis wardrobe is very special — the creation of Miles and the craftsmanship of Mario at Emsley’s, who is reverential toward the Davis ideology. And well Mario should be, for Miles knows what becomes him. He likes his trousers bellbottom, often fringed, and his jackets long and highwaisted, with conspicuous suppression and a flare to the skirt. He also has an instinct for the right fabrics, and he knows how shirt collars should fit and the proper way to wear a silk neckerchief, things like that. He just knows.
But in the matter of being, not merely well- but best-dressed, knowing is not enough. A man can have exquisite, absolutely impeccable, taste in clothes and yet look like hell in them — and were I a bigger son of a bitch than I am, I’d name you a few. But we must think positively, not negatively, must we not? What is pertinent is that Davis, like the Beaus and Biddies before him, seems to have been born to wear what is on his back. He, no less than Richard Corey, glitters when he walks. He is tall, slim, handsome, and haughty. He is indeed the Warlord of the Weejuns, and if you don’t know what that means, don’t mess around, just go to your room.
But what I love about him most is his honesty. About him there is no coyness (as there is, unfortunately, about Astaire, who tries to pretend he couldn’t care less about his garb.) Miles is interested in clothes and he sees no reason to feign that he isn’t. One night, after a concert in French Lick, Indiana, he asked me how I thought he’d done. “You sounded superb. You — ” But he stopped me. “No, not that,” he said. “I mean how did my suit look?”
When not selecting additions to his wardrobe, Miles is a professional trumpet player. People who know about such things tell me he shows a lot of promise.