Januar 06, 2017

Als Nachtrag zum Artikel "Stilvorbild: William Frank Buckley Jr." möchte ich auf ein Fundstück hinweisen. Es handelt sich um das Interview, welches der Journalist Maury Z. Levy in den 80er Jahren unter dem Title "The William F. Buckley Interview: Style Meets Substance" für eine Playboy-Publikation mit Buckley führte. Darin geht es zu einem großen Teil um Stil, seinen persönlichen Stil und seine Sicht auf Stil. Hochinteressant.

Hier die themenrelevanten Passagen:

 How would you define personal style?

I think it depends a lot on the individual’s interests. For instance, you have the very flamboyant dresser. In my experience, you don’t mind him at all. On the other 
hand, you have someone else who dresses 
flamboyantly—and you mind him terribly. 
Now, that really has to do with your understanding of people. If you are dealing with someone who is naturally poetic, a 
little bizarre, and he goes around with crazy clothes, you tend to find it charming. If you find, on the other hand, someone seeking to be exhibitionistic, then you are inclined to say, I don’t want to play.

Is Tom Wolfe in there somewhere?

Oh, absolutely. Tom Wolfe is totally charming. Now, he recognizes that there is an outrageous aspect about his dress; that he is perforce viewed as an exhibitionist. But it isn’t exhibitionism, in my judgment, that causes him to dress the way he does, but, rather, bizarre sartorial impulses.

How would you describe your personal style?

Well, I’m an unimaginative dresser. I never change. In fact, I finally had to have 
my ties custom-made. I never thought I’d 
have a tie made in my life; but I did—about 
seven or eight years ago—when I couldn’t get ties that were as narrow as I would consent to wear. And at that point I found myself wondering why it was that I cared so much about clothes that I’d actually go and have them made. I felt I was being dragooned by public fashion into either a kind of Haight-Ashbury style or a sort of flashy Carnaby Street style. I don’t like to be conscripted by fashion. I think that’s for women. Women are conscripted by fashion. All of us, at one time, were married to a woman who wore a hoop skirt, if she only did it once; and that’s a temptation I think one associates with femininity, not really with masculinity.

There are people who have referred to you as the original preppy. Do you identify with that at all?

Well, I think probably I inherited an Ivy League traditional dress and I sort of obstinately stuck by it. I’m not aware that my own fashions have changed since college. On the other hand, there are certain 
things that are associated with preppy styles that I don’t like at all. Specifically, not wearing socks with moccasins. I just 
don’t understand it. It’s one of the stigmata of preppiness that I simply don’t happen to go in for.

How important are one’s clothes?

Well, as a matter of fact, I found out—
I’m surprised that you’re getting this out of 
me—I found out as recently as three years ago that a well-made suit makes you feel better. I was really astonished. I always thought that my suits were well enough made. They’re mostly from the rack, and modified by tailors. But a charming fellow who ran the syndicate I write for once said to me, “I want you to try this tailor.” So I did. And I really felt better. I was disappointed that the tailor in question is 
nowadays too expensive for me to patronize. He—ridiculously—wants $1000 a suit. Now, that’s high, isn’t it?

And that’s your fanciest suit?

I have one suit that I call my Frank Costello suit, which is reserved for very formal occasions—funerals, mostly, or weddings. I call it my Frank Costello suit 
because Frank Costello years ago was being tried in Baltimore for conspiracy, or whatever, and he walked into his lawyer’s hotel suite at ten in the morning, a couple of hours before the trial was due to start. His lawyer was Edward Bennett Williams. Costello was wearing one of those million-
dollar Italian silk things, and Ed said, 
”Frank, get your ass out of here and go down and buy a $40 suit and come back.” So, meekly, Costello went out. About 15 
minutes later there was a light knock on the door. Williams said, “Come in,” and it was Costello, dressed in his same billion-dollar suit, and he said,” Ed, I’d rather fry.”

Do Democrats dress any differently from the way Republicans do?

I think, at least in the circles I move in, they tend to be a little tweedier.

Republicans or Democrats?

Democrats. For instance, if you’re looking at a parking lot and you find lots of 
Volvos and lots of Volkswagens, it’s more likely to be a Democratic function. I think that generality is probably true. And since 
most academics are Democrats, then one tends to think of them in terms of the tweedy set.

A little bit more about presidential style. Where did Nixon fall in terms of personal style? He was very rarely seen in anything but a suit.

I think Nixon was never comfortable in slouchy dress. I was with him once, in very 
private circumstances, with him and his 
Cuban friend.

Do you mean Rebozo?

Yes, Bebe Rebozo—a very nice man—and we were in that little hideaway place he 
had in Walker Cay. We had dinner, and Nixon cooked the steaks himself, and 
served drinks, and he was wearing the kind of informal clothes that you might come up with if you said to yourself, “My project tomorrow will be to decide what informal 
clothes should look like.” There was no sense in him of having grown up with those clothes. There is with Reagan. With Nixon I always felt that it was one more challenge. One more assignment.

When you travel, do you notice any difference 
between European and American men? Are Europeans more stylish?

No. I would say on the whole the average European is less well dressed, less imaginatively dressed than the average American.

Now maybe I say that because I spend so 
much time in Switzerland. But I think it’s true. That may be because America is the country that, by universal acknowledgment, has developed a certain kind of sartorial finesse in off-the-rack clothing. Probably most Italians, most Frenchmen would not be able to go into a store and find 500 different styles and sizes.

Do you buy your own clothes?

No, my wife buys my clothes. I haven’t
had a session with that tailor since I received the shock of what he is now charging, so I haven’t actually ordered a suit for three years.

Does she buy them because you don’t want to be bothered with it, or because you like her taste better?

No, she knows what I like.

Is there one item of clothing that you will not give up for anything?

I discovered 20 years ago the joys of, what do you call it, cutting a shirt so it doesn’t flop way out?


Tapering. Yes. So, I absolutely have to 
have tapered shirts, and Saks used to make them for me for an extra dollar. I feel very strongly about that.

What else?

I feel strongly about buttondown shirts for some reason. I feel strongly about socks that run all the way up the calf.

Who do you consider well dressed?

Somebody once said to me—a woman, a very glamorous, beautiful woman—that Jack Kennedy “must have the most marvelous tailor in the whole world.” I found 
myself noticing his dress for the first time in my life, saying, “My God, he is well dressed.” I had been told that Cary Grant is marvelously dressed; so when I last saw 
him, I took notice that he was.

Some people have pointed out that, in the current administration, Alexander Haig stands out sartorially.

That’s, in part, bearing—you could have a very well-dressed person who is very slouchy in his posture, as I am, for instance, and that kind of ruins the general appearance, but there is something about Al 
Haig’s bearing that sort of stresses the neatness of his costume.

Is there anyone you’ve ever thought you’d like to look like for just one night?

No, no, no. I don’t notice that except in 
women—for instance, in my wife. As a 
matter of fact, she’s one of those fashion Hall of Fame people. So, she dresses very imaginatively, very strikingly, and I enjoy looking at her dresses. But I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much attention to the way men dress.

Are there certain trends around now that bother you? Do you get upset when you see men walking down Madison Avenue wearing 
cowboy boots?

Mildly, but—I say mildly, not because it distresses me that people are wearing 
them, but because the only time I tried them I was very uncomfortable. I’m told that they are very comfortable. I happen to have discovered the world’s most comfortable shoe, by the way.

Are you going to share it with us?

I got some Timberland moccasins from Lands’End. And I sent out a dozen pairs to 
people because I just couldn’t bear to keep the news of the existence of this shoe to 
myself. They’re just so comfortable, they’re almost not there. They’re absolutely marvelous. You must get some. They’re up to $65, I noticed recently.

Well, you do pay a price for fashion. But don’t you think there’s a difference between being a fashion plate and being fashionable?

Most definitely. I remember an occasion when I gave a speech at a University of California campus during the Vietnam war. I was advocating a not terribly popular position at the time. Yet I wasn’t booed. In fact, they listened to me very, very 
dutifully, with great concentration.

You mean they didn’t agree with what you were saying, yet they were mesmerized by 
your personal style.

Yes. I suppose, in that sense, I have always been fashionable.

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A Guy Called Classic