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