With New York Fashion Week having just wrapped up, the Italian version set to kick off this week and the Oscars to be handed out one week from today, now is the time to turn our collective gaze momentarily away from the catwalk and set our sights on the men who will dress Hollywood on its biggest night. Rather than examine the designers' outfits, however, I want to look at the men behind the labels and ask: based on how these men dress themselves, who deserves to dress the modern man?
There are five men who have been successful for decades and deserve attention: Oscar de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford. This is a nice mix of European and American giants who accurately reflect a cross-section of the ethnicity of the men behind the brands.
Starting with the oldest means beginning with the best. For any man who is not quite as young as he feels but still believes he has much to give, Mr de la Renta (even his name sounds well put together) is the star among the ageing designer set. Elegant and stylish, he epitomises all that is grand about a gentleman. A one-time designer for Jacqueline Kennedy, the Dominican-born 79-year-old may be balding and physically past his prime, but he dresses as though he is still young enough to care.
Lagerfeld represents the dark side of man. There is a certain shock value in the German's personal tastes: black leather gloves, which replaced the ever-present fan in the early 1990s after he lost so much weight; the high shirt collars; the tight, skinny jeans; and even the sunglasses. Unless your attendance is requested at a Triumph of the Will masquerade ball in the heart of Berlin, it would be best if the 78-year-old Lagerfeld did not select your outfits. Others might indulge in Schadenfreude should your outfit be judged too extreme or too similar to how the man himself dresses.
Armani's personal tastes lean a little too much to circa 1984's Sonny Crocket from Miami Vice. Perhaps the 77-year-old Italian legend should be allowed to wear what he likes because of the countless works of art he has created, but that doesn't excuse his out-of-step personal choices.
Brooks Brothers, where Ralph Lauren worked after his stint in the US Army, continues to inspire the 72-year-old American designer. The 194-year-old New York clothier was where he got his first job in the fashion business and still represents the foundation upon which his brand is built. His individual choices (aside from those occasions when he wears his Purple Label brand), run closer to what one of his buff and hairless twentysomething male models might sport. Also, the comb-over has got to go.
At 50 and the youngest of the five is Ford. The American designer worked magic when he turned around the Italian fashion house Gucci in the 1990s. Black and sleek were Ford's trademarks and continue to be a large part of his personal repertoire today. His style goes well with the modern man.
Although the 2009 film that Ford directed, A Single Man, did receive an Oscar nomination, today's Oscar for best personal style goes, naturally, to Mr de la Renta.
Michael Jabri-Pickett is the news editor at The National.
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Michael Jabri-Pickett is the news editor at The National