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

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Hotheaded Haberdasher

Mickey Cohen, the diminutive ex-fighter who ended up leaving an out-sized impression on the Los Angeles underworld of the 1940s - 1960s, is probably almost as well known for his love of clothes as his role in the rackets of that era. While Cohen didn't receive much attention in the pages of The Best Dressed Man In The Room, primarily because his rise to prominence occurred after the Second World War, he is a prime example of the Horatio Alger-like racketeer with significant sartorial aspirations. Of course, Cohen went farther than most of his contemporaries by actually owning a men's haberdashery on Sunset Boulevard. I elaborate on Cohen's other passion in life in the article "Mickey's Haberdashery," written for Will Boehlke's great website on all things relating to classic men's style, A Suitable Wardrobe:



The rise and fall of the Jewish gangster in America has been duly noted, beginning with Albert Fried’s work of the same name and continuing to the present via more stylized fare such as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and, even more recently, the small-screen LA noir-ish Mob City.

With Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s frolic through golden-age Hollywood and his Las Vegas sojourn becoming the stuff of legend, he is principally remembered as the good-looking, well-dressed street tough from Brooklyn who invaded Tinseltown and occasionally suffered from a hair-trigger temper and a recurring case of homicidal tendencies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Bugsy was eventually accorded the full Hollywood treatment (who can forget one of the opening sequences from the eponymous film, wherein an elegantly-attired Warren Beatty casually guns a man down as the victim sits behind a desk littered with beautiful Sulka shirts?).

In stark contrast, Siegel henchman Mickey Cohen’s outsized temper and physical features - forged by an early career as a lightweight boxer - have been the primary characteristics on display in recent portrayals by actors such as Harvey Keitel and, more recently, Sean Penn in Gangster Squad. Yet Cohen was perhaps even more of a clothes-horse than the notorious sartorialist Siegel and, in his lifetime, was known almost as much for his love of clothing as his fondness for bombings and bribery.

While my book, The Best Dressed Man In The Room, explores the stylish tendencies of an entire generation of racketeers, gamblers, and gangsters, Cohen deserves special mention in that his sartorial inclinations led him to add the title of haberdasher to his list of accomplishments (it was, after all, an occupation worthy of the then-President of the United States). Not content to simply control a sizable portion of the West Coast rackets upon Siegel’s demise in 1947, Cohen set up a clothing shop (called Michael’s Exclusive Haberdashery) on Sunset Boulevard as a legitimate front for his numerous illicit activities.

Cohen credited Siegel as an early influence and a fine dresser, but if the latter indeed embraced his role as style mentor, he utterly failed in his attempts to impart to Cohen his love of all things cashmere. As Mickey put it, “Benny wore nothing but cashmere suits. He used to try to get me to wear them. He bought me cashmere material in fact, but I couldn’t stand the tickling, and cashmere things don’t hold a press as far as I’m concerned.”

To hear Cohen tell it - and he liked to tell anyone who would listen - he could be counted on to literally put his life in mortal danger if it meant keeping a new suit or overcoat out of harm’s way. Recalling one of the myriad attempts on his life, Mickey recounted, “I had on a camel hairs coat that, boy, I was really in love with. It had a big check in it, see – not a loud check – and I think this was the second time I ever wore it after buying it at Hill Brothers. So when they come by shooting, I didn’t even fall because I didn’t want to get my coat dirty.”

In another instance, Cohen described the thoughts racing through his mind when he found himself in yet another tight spot: “My tailor, Al Pignola, had just made me this beautiful suit and I had worn it for the first time that evening. So when I got hit with a 30.06 slug which went right through me, the first thing that come to my mind was that I didn’t want to fall and get my pants dirty. I didn’t have sense enough to know that the goddamn coat was shot anyway.”

Setting his seemingly limitless braggadocio aside momentarily, Cohen spoke for a generation of like-minded street toughs when he tried to define what clothes meant to him personally:

“I think becoming a fine dresser is something you decide when you’re a kid. See, I think that’s what’s lacking with kids today – they seem to lack the drive for the better things in life. I know that the greatest thing in my life was when I was able to possess one suit of clothes. Then when I was able to add the second suit to it, or even a pair of fine slacks. Maybe they cost five, six dollars at the time, and a beautiful sweater to go with it that maybe cost five dollars. And from there on it was on to something better and better.

That was my way of coming up in life. Even to this day, I always strive for the best and, with my limited education and my limited knowledge and with my limited ability, seek to do things in a professional way, like a dentist or a doctor or a lawyer. I just found other ways and means of doing it.”

Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Smooth Criminals" feature article in The Rake Issue #31

I've been praising The Rake as one of the best, if not the best, magazines on classic men's style for some time now. Certainly, the Japanese shoe magazines are something to see, but they're also something of a niche item (for shoe aficionados/obsessives like myself). As far as substantive content and amazing photography go in an English-language magazine, Wei Koh, Nick Scott, Simon Crompton & Co. may just be offering the best bang for your buck anywhere in the world. 

That, of course, would be my opinion even if the January 2014 issue did not feature an article that I wrote titled Smooth Criminals, on my book The Best Dressed Man In The Room. But I think the article looks great, and will hopefully act as something of an introduction to readers who might have an interest in the well-dressed racketeers of the Roaring Twenties but haven't come across the book yet.

Many thanks to the gentlemen of The Rake.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gaziano & Girling (for RLPL) On Sale at DSW

DSW recently had a few pairs of Edward Green shoes for Ralph Lauren's Purple Label on sale. Unfortunately, those shoes got snapped up, but there is a pair of plain-toe side-gusset shoes in dark oak, from Gaziano & Girling also for RLPL. You really can't go wrong with a pair of G&Gs for $499, which is a significant reduction from the $1350 retail price. I also don't think they come with trees, but you never know (and its still a great deal).


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy holidays from An Uptown Dandy!

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Life's Simple Pleasures: The Hot Shave

Rene Guemps goes to work on An Uptown Dandy

A few weeks ago, I sat down for a hot shave from Freelance Barber/Groomer Rene Guemps in New York City. I usually shy away from hot shaves with a straight-edge razor because, when I've sat down for them in the past, my face usually ends up on fire for the next two days. My skin is pretty sensitive, but Rene recognized this right away and reduced the number of times he went over my skin with the razor. He also preceded the shave with the application of hot towels, which was exquisite and one of the more pleasant grooming experiences I've ever had.

For those who might be interested, Rene runs a great blog on all things grooming - from the history of the sideburn, to the best places to get a haircut in the US, to recommended hair and shaving products. You can access the blog here.

Many thanks for the amazing photographs by Stephen LaMarche of www.stephenlamarche.com.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Holy Grail of Japanese Shoe Magazines: The Men's Ex High-End Shoes Archive

When it comes to magazines with content that features amazing photos of classic men's shoes, it really doesn't get any better than the special volumes on high-end men's shoes published from time to time by Men's Ex (although the new Last Magazine deserves some kind of special mention).

Having published the first volume in 2002, and following up with Volume 2 in 2004 and Volume 3 in 2007, its become very difficult to track down original editions of these collector's items. Volumes 4 and 5 were released in the last few years but even those issues are becoming scarce.

Thankfully, our brethren at Men's Ex just released the exquisite the High-End Men Shoes Archive, which lovingly reprints Volumes 1-3 in one edition. Its probably a bit of sensory overload for the shoe aficionado, but who's going to complain about a Japanese shoe magazine that is easily over an inch thick? I actually already own a copy of Volume 3, but this seemed like a great (and only) way to own the first two volumes.

I could go on but, really, if you've never owned a volume, this is a great place to start. Of course, I don't speak or read Japanese, but there is much to be learned from the images alone. Volumes 1 and 3 are worth the price of admission alone, and feature priceless information on Edward Green shoes, including excellent images of rare models, non-EG branded models, and defunct lasts.

Highly recommended. Available for special order from Kinokuniya in New York City ($49.95).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Best Dressed Coach In The NBA (brought to you by Isaia)

Jason Kidd shows you how to wear Isaia.
But will Craig Sager listen?

As a life-long Celtics fan, I seriously considered switching allegiances, albeit temporarily, from Boston to Brooklyn this summer. Since Danny Ainge, the Celtics General Manager, had just completed a trade that sent the heart of the 2008 championship team to Brooklyn (Coach Doc Rivers having already been allowed to leave to coach the Los Angeles Clippers), the Nets seemed like more like my Celtics than the Celtics. And since I live in the tri-state area, there was the added benefit of finally rooting for a basketball team that I could actually see on television every night.

With that in mind, I tentatively tuned in to a few games at the start of the season. Finding the poor play of the Nets somewhat uninspiring, I kept finding myself distracted by Nets' Coach Jason Kidd's lapel pin. It was a bright red floral piece, which looked suspiciously like the Isaia logo. After freezing the video, it became clear that Kidd was in fact shilling for Isaia.

Assuming that the suits are in fact also made by the venerable Italian clothier, this would seem to vault Kidd into the pantheon of better-dressed NBA coaches (Craig Sager, a long-time Isaia loyalist, could be the best-dressed announcer; unfortunately, in addition to apparently being color-blind, he consistently fails to understand the meaning of the term pattern-matching).

However, based on repeat viewing, I would offer one suggestion to Coach Kidd: there appears to be quite a gap between the end of the tie and the waist of the pants. Ideally, the tip of the toe should just touch the belt or waist of the suit pants. Although a point guard, Kidd is still probably over 6 feet tall, so it could be that the tie isn't long enough to accommodate Kidd's size. This could be solved by bespoke ties, which could be given additional length. Or Coach Kidd could simply keep the suit jacket buttoned, obscuring the lack of length on his ties

Anyway, kudos to Coach Kidd. While I think he still has a ways to go to supplant Pep Guardiola as the most stylish coach in the world, one can certainly commend the effort to be better dressed.

Pep Guardiola continues to show the way.

Monday, December 9, 2013

More from Marshalls (or the curious case of the high-end luxury goods discounter)

I try to make my way over to my neighborhood Marshalls when I can, although my visits are generally few and far between. The last time I dropped in, I came across the strange Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece suits that had been stripped of tags - but a great deal for a fully canvassed suit made in the USA for only $199.

This time, the suits and sportsjacket section had a healthy sampling of exquisite items from the likes of Etro, Brunello Cucinelli, and Brioni.


Unfortunately, there was nothing in my size, but these events certainly bear watching.

Brunello Cucinelli

I'm not sure these items are going to catch the eye of the average Marshalls shopper - and I can't imagine that same shopper is going to prices like these -  $399 (Etro), $599 (Cucinelli) or Brioni ($999) - to be much of a bargain. But those are good prices for sportsjackets from those brands.


Of course, shopping at Marshalls comes with a serious catch - on the one hand, the longer an item sits on the shelf, the deeper the discount gets. But, at the same time, the longer that item sits on the shelf, the more its condition deteriorates from being tossed around, dropped on the floor, wheeled over, snagged, pulled, etc. The gift and the curse of Marshalls, so to speak.

Brunello Cucinelli

Anyway, happy hunting!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Brunello Cucinelli Sample Sale

If luxurious fabrics are your thing, you'll want to head over to the Brunello Cucinelli sample sale this week. The cashmere and wool fabrics are incredibly soft; the prices, on the other hand, can be quite hefty - even with significant reductions of the retail price. Normally, the first three days of the sale are at 70% off, with the discount increasing to 80% for the final two days. Certainly worth dropping by if you happen to be in the area.

Fyi -the sale seems to always be advertised as "private," but it seems you only need to know the address to get in.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Mob-City Premiere Event at Mickey's Haberdashery

Ed Burns and The Best Dressed Man In The Room

On Monday night, the pop-up clothing shop Mickey's Haberdashery hosted a small event where some of the retailers/artisans/clothiers/etc. whose items were used to stock the haberdashery were able to meet members of the cast of TNT's 1940s LA noire Mob City.

The charming cigarette girl, Ignacio Quiles, and Dan Flores

Ignacio Quiles of QP & Monty and Sartorial Pairings curated the haberdashery and did an absolutely incredible job of creating a unique space and stylish atmosphere.

It was a great event with some wonderful clothing on display - Stetson hats, shoes by Jack Erwin and of course, some excellent books on men's style!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Armoury Tribeca - Coming Soon (and stocking The Best Dressed Man In The Room)

After months of speculation and conjecture, the Armoury officially announced the opening of their new Tribeca location here in New York City on December 10th. More importantly, the Tribeca and Hong Kong locations will be stocking signed first editions (in limited supplies) of The Best Dressed Man In The Room. Many thanks to Jeff Hilliard and Jake Grantham for making it happen. And best of luck here in the Big Apple!

Posted below is the original announcement:

To our dear customers, our friends, and aficionados of classic menswear everywhere:
We are pleased to announce that The Armoury is expanding beyond Hong Kong and opening our first North American location in TriBeCa, New York City.
The store will be soft launching on Tuesday, December 10th, 2013. We will be providing the same shopping experience enjoyed by our Hong Kong customers: stocking products from the same fine makers, taking custom orders for those we represent, and bringing our stable of outstanding craftsmen from around the world to New York for regular trunk shows.
In conjunction with our soft opening, we will be holding our first two trunk shows this December.

During this soft launch period, we will be fully operational, though there may be the occasional hammering as we put the finishing touches on our shop. We request your patience during this exciting period of growth for our company.
For those unaware of who we are or what we do, The Armoury is a Hong Kong-based classic menswear retailer, offering artisanal products from around the world that fit into our “International Classic” style. Every season, we strive to showcase a diverse array of products as well as the people behind them: solitary craftsmen, small family businesses, and privately owned companies with limited annual production. Covering all categories of menswear from tailored clothing to accessories, we aim to be a one-stop shop where a man can be completely outfitted. In addition to our ready-to-wear selection, we offer made-to-measure and bespoke services from a thoughtful selection of vendors, and regularly fly in artisans from their home countries to work directly with customers and conduct fittings. 
For our first shop outside Hong Kong to be in New York City is a dream come true. We sincerely thank our customers for their support, and we’re looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at The Armoury NYC.
The Armoury Team
The Armoury NYC is located at 168 Duane Street between Hudson and Greenwich Streets. Store inquiries and trunk show appointments may be directed to nyc@thearmoury.com

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mickey Cohen's Pop-Up Haberdashery at Chelsea Market (Dec. 2 -4)

In conjunction with the premiere this week of TNT's new 1940s noire Mob City, Ignacio Quiles and Pamela Moore of QP & Monty will be curating/managing Mickey's Haberdashery at the Chelsea Market from December 2-4.

The show features characters based on real 1940s racketeers like Benjamin Siegel and Mickey Cohen who, in addition to his illicit activities, had such a fondness for clothes that he owned a haberdashery on Sunset Boulevard. The pop-up shop is a nod to Cohen's real-life sartorial flair, and will feature vintage period clothing as well as new items from Stetson, Fine & Dandy, and Miller's Oath (among others).

Copies of The Best Dressed Man In The Room will also be available for sale at the haberdashery during the 3-day event.

While I have yet to see the space (I'll get a look at it tomorrow), I understand that it is a sight to see as the teams from Deutsch and Magnetic have really done an amazing job. If you're in Manhattan over the next few days and would like to see the classic men's styles of the 1940s on display, be sure to drop by the Chelsea Market.