A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Rise of the Blank Slates

I came across an interesting article in the New York Times today  (you can view the article here) about the Brooklyn stylist Khalilah Williams-Webb who, among other things, is a personal stylist to Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. I didn't learn enough about Ms. Williams-Webb's sense of style to comment one way or the other about her effectiveness as a personal stylist. But Mr. Anthony does look nice, if somewhat costumey (although that may have been in keeping with the event he was attending), in his pinstriped double-breasted suit with wide-brimmed fedora, cane, and scarf.

There were two passages in the article which stood out, in my mind. The first was this:

"Her responsibilities include ridding Anthony’s closet of oversize T-shirts and dated outfits. But she does far more than that.

Every few weeks, Williams-Webb meticulously selects outfits for Anthony, down to his socks, underwear, belt and shoes. She then places each outfit into a garment bag, with instructions for Anthony pinned to the bag. She sometimes arranges more than a dozen outfits at once."

Wonderful use of accessories.

This struck me as rather sad. On the one hand, Ms. Williams-Webb should be commended for introducing Mr. Anthony to what some refer to as "grown-man style." On the other hand, for me, one of the things that I enjoy about clothing is putting together an outfit, playing with colors, patterns, fabrics and textures, and matching a particular pair of shoes with a pair of socks or tie or pocketsquare. Where is the fun in having an entire outfit sent to you ready-to-wear?

What also struck me as odd is the extent to which the media attempts to portray these "blank slates" as stylish individuals. I use that term because what you have are famous people literally being dressed by someone else. Certainly, in this case, Mr. Anthony is being dressed by a fashionable or stylish professional.

But how does that make Mr. Anthony a style icon or even someone qualified to dispense clothing advice?  As the article puts it, Ms. Williams-Webb "helped turn him into the kind of person who attends fashion shows and offers style tips in the British edition of GQ." But is he really? What's being described in this article is a grown man being dressed like a doll.

There is a trend of late to compare the "blank slate" to the fashion icons of yesteryear - most recently, the same phenomenon was applied to Justin Timberlake (you can view the article here) - the talented entertainer  who appears to be channeling the Ratpack in the last few months. Timberlake also appears to be less concerned with developing his own sense of style, instead leaving the heavy lifting to Tom Ford. Which is fine, but this makes the comparisons to Cary Grant somewhat hard to swallow.

Justin Timberlake Outfits So Bad They're AMAZING!
Mr. Timberlake before his recent sartorial conversion;
I'm still looking for an equally disastrous image of Cary Grant in his early years.

In any event - a word to the wise (or just to those with no access to a personal stylist): working with your wardrobe, matching patterns, mixing fabrics, and training your eye to work within certain color palettes can be enjoyable. In the end, it can only help to develop your own unique sense of style.


  1. Yes. Agreed. And reading your post brings to mind the following term: (human) paper dolls. Sure, he looks nice, but he's not really learning to develop the knowledge of how to dress HIMSELF. And, it must be said (well, maybe not) that the first photograph looks like an updated version of something that might have been worn in Superfly or some other blaxploitation film from the 1970s. Ditching that particular hat, overcoat, and cane would really help.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  2. Well spoken. Myself, I'm not too fond of the styling in the first photo, and I dislike the underlying implication, which is that only by dressing up as someone from the past (and someone unusal at that, such as a camp mobster) can a man of today express interest, expertise or pleasure in fine materials, cuts and juxtapositions. Only when such expression is accepted and practised as a normal part of everyday life will masculine style return to our streets. Best wishes, Nick

  3. How can you be a giant and still end up with pants and sleeves too long? I get that Anthony is probably only going to wear it once, but you would think for the amount of money he pays his stylist (and the amount of pictures that will be taken of him), she'd bother to have those simple alterations done.