We cap off this week of Asia-themed posts with a little anecdote about Prince Siddhartha, who became known as the Buddha, or Awakened One. I’ve been reading about Buddhism lately, and went twice this week to the Metropolitan Museum to contemplate the dozens of statues of Buddha and other bodhisattva, or persons on the path of buddhahood.
But first, a shout-out encore to Joe Hemrajani of My Tailor, who made the double-breasted odd waistcoat pictured above. I wanted something flagrantly anachronistic, but given that I almost always wear blazers and sportcoats, I knew it would be a challenge to pull off. I eventually settled on a concept inspired by Alexander Kraft, whom I’d met last fall. He’s a CEO at Sotheby’s realty in the South of France, and has been featured many times in The Rake, and has been known to wear double-breasted odd waistcoats.
And since I planned to wear it with a blazer, the image came to mind of Beau Brummell, with his navy coat and buff-colored trousers:
So I settled on a Holland & Sherry tan fabric, a kind of subtle corduroy. In the outfit above I skipped my Brummell severity and ended up looking more like these guys from the LIFE archives:
The rest of my outfit consists of herringbone sportcoat by Polo RL, Bengal-striped club-collar shirt by Ratio, charcoal flannels by Brooks Brothers, paisley square by Drake’s, argyle socks from Paul Stuart, cordovan lace-ups from Allen Edmonds. As for the tie, it’s RL Purple Label and features a shield (many obvious symbolic meanings) and a cross, which, in my sartorial cosmology, if you’ll permit such an indulgence, symbolizes the world of becoming on the horizontal axis, and being on the vertical. Or in Buddhist terms, samsara and nirvana.
Last summer, you may recall, was my “hippie summer.” I hadn’t delved into Buddhism yet, but I read The Upanishads, the sacred Vedic text of India, the Tao te Ching of China, and was on my way to discovering the concept of the “perennial philosophy” underlying all the world’s religions. I spent a lot of time sitting in Central Park, soaking up sunshine and lost in contemplation. Over the winter, I experienced states of consciousness and excavations of the psyche that would have sent a lesser man — that is, an earlier version of me — into the psychiatric unit. I’m taking yoga seriously now, quit the gym and do all my workouts outdoors, which seems to stimulate the muscles and endocrine system much more effectively, and have started what is fast becoming a collection of incense.
Some of the Buddhist texts are a bit puzzling, however. Take this passage from one of my books, regarding the man who takes “pleasure in renunciation, pleasure in solitude, pleasure in clam, pleasure in awakening… ” Either you must force yourself to eat mollusks, or the proofreader had not yet awakened.
But I think the studies are already starting to pay off. Buddhism goes well with dandyism, whose sages preached the cultivation of sober elegance and imperturbable calm. And there’s something in the relaxed drape of a natural-shouldered jacket that facilitates a state of ease. As I strode up Fifth Avenue to the museum, two kids referred to me as “your majesty.” Thanks for showing the way, Prince Sid. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD