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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Oh, How the Stylish Hollywood Gangster Has Fallen

Ben Affleck in Live By Night

Having something of an interest in the assorted denizens of the underworld of the Roaring Twenties and Depression-era Thirties, I'm always in the market for a good Hollywood gangster movie. These days, gangster films of any kind seem to be few and far between, so I'm usually not even that particular when it comes to quality. Public Enemies, Gangster Squad - well, I think it's fair to say that things have taken a turn for the worse since films like Once Upon a Time in America and Miller's Crossing.

That being said, I saw a preview for Ben Affleck's new film, Live By Night, and - not being familiar with the novel- I thought the film looked like a decent 1950s film noir. Then someone mentioned to me that the film was set during Prohibition, at which point I was somewhat confused. I took another look at the preview and there it was again: big shoulders, wide suits,and lots of fabric that reminded me of something Robert Mitchum might have worn in Out Of The Past.

The broad-shouldered look, circa 1950s.

I ran a few searches around the Internet and found a few complimentary articles about the period wardrobe used in the film. Admittedly, I don't know anything about how the suits, jackets, shoes, trousers, and other clothing were sourced for the film - they may very well be genuine period pieces. However, the fit and cut of the clothes seems to have the missed the mark here.


Hollywood portrayals of the stylish racketeer begin and end with George Raft, of course. Jack Warner considered him the prototypical screen tough, and referred to him (somewhat) affectionately as his "magnificent hood." Throughout his life, the public was never quite able to discern where Raft the street tough from Hell's Kitchen and intimate of real-life gangsters like Owney Madden and Ben Siegel ended, and where Raft the actor began. Consequently, one was never quite sure whether Raft was setting the sartorial standard for just Hollywood, or the Underworld as well. 

There is a scene from Raft's Night After Night, which I come back to again and again, which is informative on several levels. In the film, Raft plays a nightclub owner and bootlegger during Prohibition. The stills below are from a scene early in the film where Raft gets dressed before a meeting with rival bootleggers. Raft was known to provide his own wardrobe for his films, so this is how Raft would have dressed off-screen in 1932, as well. What jumps out here is the immaculate fit of his suit - from the high armholes of the suit jacket to the visible cuffs and high spearpoint collar of his dress shirt, 

Raft has clearly paid attention to the details. The trousers are roomy but not disproportionately so. The trouser length is such that there is at most a slight or shivering break to the trouser leg, not the cascading rivulets of fabric that you see at the bottom of the trousers in the image below. Raft also wears the shorter tie, which was popular at that time, but because he's also wearing high-waisted trousers - another favorite of dandies of the era - the tip of the shorter tie still meets the waist of his trousers. Once Raft puts the suit vest on these details are rendered somewhat irrelevant, but Raft the dandy pays attention to them anyway. 

It is these finer points,if you will, which seem to have gone unnoticed by the costume design team behind Live By Night. As the still above clearly shows, the clothing just doesn't appear to be worn in a way that is authentic for the period. The trousers are sitting at the waist, a decidedly late 20th-early 21st century touch borne from years of office casual. The pants appear to be far too baggy anyway, but as a result of the waist of the trousers sitting far too low, the bottom of the shirt is exposed under Affleck's vest and the cuffs appear to be dragging on the ground. As for the other actor in this scene - again, I know nothing about the film or the plot, so perhaps these things have been done with an eye toward character development. If that is the case, maybe the idea was to use subtle cues such as a man wearing a belt and suspenders to suggest that Affleck should be wary of this individual. After all, how can you trust a man who doesn't trust his own pants?


One would have thought well-dressed Prohibition-era gangsters were almost a given after the accolades heaped upon HBO's Boardwalk Empire for its attention to detail with regards to wardrobe. Unless I've missed a whole slew of writing that has been critical of the show's efforts toward authenticity, Live By Night should have done itself a favor and recognized the high bar set by Boardwalk Empire and then set out, if not to surpass, then to at least acknowledge and respect that such a level of attention to the details is necessary when dealing with a subject as sartorially aware as the American racketeer of the Roaring Twenties. 

Boardwalk Empire showed that fit is key when interpreting the 
underworld stylings of the Roaring Twenties.

Aside from the colorful fabrics and patterns employed by Boardwalk's costume designers, they hewed very close to reality - clearly, a well-cut wardrobe was the order of the day for the successful bootlegger. A quick Google search of any number of images of the more notorious figures of the era only confirms this:

Joe Adonis.

Owney Madden.

Machine Gun Jack McGurn


Of course, the assumption here is that the creators of Live By Night were in fact seeking to follow in the tradition referenced above - namely, the romantic juxtaposition which has so captured the American imagination for the last 100 years: the debonair, well-dressed street tough, dressed in the finest silks and flannels from Oviatt or Sulka who is not above a little assault and battery, kidnapping or murder. Ironically, though, as I flipped through the stills of Affleck in his almost comically oversized suits (Is anyone else thinking zoot suit when looking at the images below?), I couldn't help but think of none other than Arthur Flegenheimer, known to the world in his day as Dutch Schultz, who may have been the only racketeer photographed in jackets almost as ill-fitting as Affleck's (I said almost). But all joking aside, even in the picture below (the Dutchman, left, across from his lawyer, the always nattily-attired Dixie Davis) one would be hard-pressed to argue that the fit of his suit is as offensive as Affleck's. 

As I read on, I couldn't help but think of Affleck as I read a description of the poorly dressed Dutchman written by Meyer Berger in 1935. Berger, who covered the gangland beat for the New York Times during the golden age of style and vice, pointed out that despite all of his success, Schultz "still managed to look like an ill-dressed vagrant. He seemed to have a special talent for looking like a perfect example of the unsuccessful man." [It should be noted here that Berger wrote those words two days after Schultz expired in a Newark hospital.] Berger went on to point out that Schultz was "rather proud of that. When friends pointed out that a man in his position could afford tailor-made clothes such as the really big shots wore - suits at $200 with special linings for arm-pit holsters - he contended such display was vulgar. He never paid more than $40 or $50 for a suit and never had one made to fit his rather broad shoulders. His trousers were always baggy  and his topcoats always backed away from his neck."

"His trousers were always baggy . . ."

" . . .and his topcoats always backed away from his neck."

It would seem that the Dutchman's excuse was that he was trying to dress poorly, almost as a point of pride. Ben Affleck, on the other hand, seems to have been trying his best to actually look good. A cinematic swing and a miss, sartorially speaking, if ever there was one.

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Absinthe Tasting @ The Red Room

Shame on me as I have been doing more posting on Instagram lately and neglecting the blog page. So I'll try to catch up over the next few days by re-posting at An Uptown Dandy with what I've already posted to Instagram.

Don Spiro of Zelda Magazine hosted an absinthe tasting at The Red Room on the lower East Side - the bar was once a speakeasy allegedly owned by Charles "Lucky" Luciano and its a great place with a wonderful atmosphere. My sister tagged along, and we ran into the incomparable Rose Callahan, who took this great picture of us! Period appropriate attire was suggested, and while my Purple Label suit isn't really that old, the three-piece peaked lapel look certainly does owe something to the 1920s-1930s. I did sport the vintage Stetson Whippet (which isn't that old - probably 1950s), so I at least had something vintage-y on  . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

More eBay Auctions

Here are a few more auctions for those who may be interested!


Monday, July 4, 2016

eBay Auctions 7.4.2016

I had a few auctions up on eBay but by the time I got around to posting here at An Uptown Dandy, the matching Hermes tie and pocketsquare were gone. Ditto the Brooks Brothers straw boater. But there's still a lovely lilac/white stripe Borrelli for Bergdorf Goodman dress shirt in excellent used condition in a size 17, as well as a nice Polo Ralph Lauren rubberized Fireman's Jacket in a size M:


The Life of a Pitti Peacock (A Mockumentary)

I rarely find much of interest at Esquire these days - although the online archive is pretty amazing (I'm not sure how many times I've read Gay Talese's  "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold") - but this mockumentary from Aaron Christian is pretty terrific. You can find a link to the video here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Return of the Spearpoint Collar

Humphrey Bogart wants you to know about the spearpoint collar, 
but will you listen?

Vintage-clothing enthusiasts will no doubt be reading the title of this post and muttering softly, "I had no idea the spearpoint collar had gone anywhere." Nevertheless, it can truthfully be said that the spearpoint has never quite regained its status as the first choice of the sartorially inclined which it so deservedly enjoyed during the 1920s and 1930s (a period also known as the golden age of men's style for those of you who aren't regulars here at An Uptown Dandy). While Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas probably didn't too much for the spearpoint either, I tend to see the collar when I'm out and about in Manhattan to hear some jazz and while I wouldn't call it an affectation, it definitely requires a bit of confidence to step out on that particular limb. Of course, it helps if you're going all out for a classic 1930s look anyway. In my personal opinion, there's nothing quite like the look of a slim-fitting double-breasted suit worn with the spearpoint collar and the requisite collar bar.

I had purchased a Polo Ralph Lauren creme double-breasted jacket on a whim some time ago. It was typical Ralph - patch pockets and half-belted with an action back. In other words, a classic jacket featuring golden-age styling. The original plastic buttons weren't much to look at so I replaced those with a set of buttons in a sort of burnished horn from Italy that I found at Tender Buttons in Manhattan. When I wore the jacket out though, it still wasn't quite right - the creme didn't quite work with any of my blue shirts, but I also didn't think the spread collars that I was wearing were working either.

With that in mind, I decided to order a spearpoint collar in some shade of white. Vintage spearpoints tended to not be in the greatest shape. For the most part, they were also generally available in some kind of stripe pattern which is probably more authentic to the period but I wanted something that wouldn't necessarily clash with the creme color of the jacket.

There were a few places that specialized in semi-custom shirts and the spearpoint collar but in the end I decided to give Luxire a try. Some of the vintage clothing guys at the Fedora Lounge spoke highly of their experiences with Luxire, and that coupled with positive feedback at Style Forum prompted me to proceed without too much trepidation.

I decided on a heavy Irish linen fabric and a 4-inch collar. Luxire also allows you to choose from other options that give the shirt a more vintage look, including the half-placket and the detachable collar. The shirt basically is cut with the mandarin shirt collar with the detachable spearpoint included in the price. I thought a linen shirt with a mandarin collar might be useful for a day at the beach, so it seemed like a practical decision. For another $20, I added an extra English spread collar so that I could wear the shirt with a regular suit or odd jacket/trouser combination as well.

The shirt eventually arrived and I was very pleased. The Irish linen was definitely heavier than normal, but it looked great. The thick mother-of-pearl buttons were a nice touch, and the workmanship was about what you'd expect at the Luxire price point. The collar fit well out of the box - it will be interesting to see if there's any shrinkage in that area after a few washes. The same concern probably applies to the sleeve length but, in fairness to Luxire, they did comply with the measurements that I provided.

The spearpoint worked out well enough. I believe Luxire is making me enough of these to know what people are looking for. I was pleased with the curve of the lower line of the collar - some vintage aficionados pointed out that the lower line should have some curvature to it. The collar certainly has some shape to it. If I were to order another, I might provide examples of how much curvature I was looking for. There are dozens of images of varying curvature on collars worn by Bogart, Fairbanks, Raft, Cooper, etc. so I'm not sure if this is a question of period authenticity versus individual preference, but its something to keep in mind anyway. I also find that the cut of the collar is somewhat obscured by the pull  of the collar bar on each side.

All in all - I was pleased with my shirt purchase via Luxire. There are a variety of fabric offerings available to match your pricepoint, and if you're looking to experiment with the spearpoint collar it's great to have a semi-custom/custom option available out there. While I'm not sure if the spearpoint will be supplanting the spread collar anytime soon, I'm looking forward to wearing it out in the near future :-)

Pictured: Polo Ralph Lauren double-breasted jacket; 7-fold Borrelli tie; Swank sterling silver collar bar (design patented in 1927); Luxire Irish linen dress shirt with spearpoint collar; 1940s Stetson Medalist straw fedora with pleated ribbon.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Closet Cleaning Continues . . .

More items for sale on eBay. As always, I'm more than happy to discount any items for my loyal readers!

You can find the auctions here.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Edward Green's Banbury for Paul Stuart

I used to be surprised when I came across decades old shoes from Edward Green that appeared to be virtually untouched and were certainly unworn. However, after seeing a few pairs of shoes in my own collection go neglected year after year, I can no longer feign complete and utter shock when a new old stock pair of shoes comes into my possession.

While 25-30 year old new old stock shoes aren't particularly hard to come by, one rarely finds shoes in this condition still in the box, with the original dust cloth and quality control card signed by one of Edward Green's staff. The total package, in this case, is what separates this vintage new old stock example from rest. 

In this case, the shoes in question are a pair of 3-eyelet ankle boots made by Edward Green for Paul Stuart on the not-quite-in-circulation 404 last. The calf leather is in the chestnut color and is from an era when the patina was much more even across the length of the upper, although there is slight burnishing evident in the toe box and at the rear quarters. More recent models in the ready-to-wear line also feature more of a beveled waist along the sole than this pair of shoes - from what I understand, that's an entirely cosmetic detail.

Note the D width. I've seen this before with Edward Green shoes sold at Saks and Ralph Lauren. I'm not quite sure if this was an ordering faux pas, but in my experience these are not US D or medium widths - these are actually UK D width shoes made for the US market, so it's really a US C width. I don't think Edward Green would have provided the UK and US size but then just the US width, as they've never done with any of their models as far as I know. But in the past, when I've asked the salesman what the width was, they responded that it was a D width as listed on the shoe box or inside the shoe. Of course, it was a UK D width, not a US D width - so that is actually a US C width, a fact that I had to find out a few times the hard way :-)

The boots really are in pristine condition. If I was forced to point out anything out of the ordinary, it would be the slight discoloration just above the welt, along the upper edge of the sole. I've certainly seen this before on some of my other pairs of first quality Edward Green shoes, so I don't believe this would even quality as an imperfection. But there it is!

I plan on posting these to eBay either tonight or tomorrow, but interested readers with a UK 11 or US 11.5 foot that can handle a slightly narrower width should feel free to reach out. I have no experience with the 404 last, but if that's a wider last (similar to the 202), then a slightly narrower width would probably work out quite well for a slightly narrower US 11 foot. I'd be happy to end the auction early for a loyal reader :-)

Here's a link to the auction!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Summer Styles from Crossett Shoes, Apparel Arts Spring 1934

In the Spring of 1934, the Crossett Shoe Company (made in Augusta, Maine!) teamed with the Palm Beach company to offer summer models "distinctively styled to blend with the summer suit." The shoes were "made of genuine Palm Beach by exclusive arrangement with the manufacturers of these famous fabrics." Proof positive that even brand collaborations are old school :-)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Best Dressed Man In The Room - Available on iTunes for $14.99!

If print books aren't your thing, download a copy of The Best Dressed Man In The Room at iTunes today! You can find the link here - only $14.99! 

Yes, a shameless plug but it's been a while so cut me some slack :-)


Some Sunday Sartorial Splendor from The Best Dressed Man In The Room archive. 

They don't make 'em like they used to: A Vintage Royal Stetson Playboy

I've been having fun working on my vintage hat collection over the last few months and while it might be too early to generalize, I think I'm partial to the wider brim and higher crowns that were all the rage in the 1940s. Recently, I purchased a beautiful Royal Stetson Playboy which seemed to have all the characteristics of a 1940s hat. As I understand it, Stetson didn't begin to use the "Royal" designation until the early to mid 1940s, so the hat was at least that old.

Another tip was the Stetson logo stamped onto the sweatband - the crest with the stars in the left corner of the shield was apparently discontinued around 1950 or thereabouts, so the 1940s time-frame seemed about right (real hat experts are much more adept than I at pinpointing the age based on the size and re-order tags behind the sweat band; I have no such talent although those in the know thought the 1940s sounded good).

What threw me off (but didn't stop me from completing the transaction) was the short brim. Measuring in at under 2 inches, this didn't seem to confirm with what I know and have seen of 1940s era headwear. I took the Playboy into J&J so Adam Coren and the gang over there could get a good look. After looking the hat over, they were fairly confident that someone cut the brim down to size. Sacrilege, I'm sure some of you are muttering to yourselves as you read this. However, I like to think that some fellow purchased or came across this hat in the 1940s and, still enamored of the shorter brims of the 1930s, cut the Playboy down to size*.

I have to say, while I prefer wider brims, there's something I like about the short brim paired the narrower ribbon and the very high crown. It looks very much like the hat pictured in this Fellows illustration from 1933 that I posted recently on the blog. Of course, the hat is about what you'd expect from a vintage Stetson - even with what was a lower-tier offering at that time from the company, the felt is really amazing. It's surprisingly soft to the touch (especially when compared to a contemporary Playboy model) and the color was just as interesting - it appears to be a mid-grey but when paired with earth tones, a hint of green comes to the fore. All in all, a great example of the type of craftsmanship that Stetson built its reputation on!

*Of course, it's just as likely that someone found the hat in the 1960s and tried to recreate a stingy brim, but allow me this touch of romanticism, if you please.