An elderly acquaintance of mine once patted me on the shoulder, and drawing in breath, calmly stated; ‘You’re young, you make mistakes; but you’ll get older.’ How true. Mistakes are best made when a man is young; mistakes in old age can be rather costly. Youth is the asbestos that guards us from the lasting damage caused by our various misdeeds; we learn early, we change. If we learn too late, we are already lost.
Even in the light-hearted arena of fashion it is possible to recognise the importance of evolution and learning. The phrase ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ has often been used for women who are disinclined to let go of the fashions for youth and there is a curious belief that men are not subjected to similar ridicule or scrutiny. This is untrue, and particularly untrue of men who spend their lives being scrutinised, not merely by those within their small sphere of existence but by the entire world, however remote and detached it may be.
Brad Pitt is an excellent example of a man who finds himself in such a position. As an actor, whose external image has been so important in assembling his phenomenal career, Pitt has attracted more scrutiny than most would be able to bear. He is fortunate in that most of the scrutiny has been to his credit; he is at the right end of the Victorian freak show of Hollywood. Despite the fact that Pitt never wants for admiration and never needs to market himself in a compromising manner, it is clear that the ‘Pitt package’ has gone through a recent change. And it is certainly a welcome change.
While never badly dressed, Pitt was never one of the Hollywood heavyweights who wowed sartorially. He was fortunate in his youth that he possessed excellent body and facial structure; that he could wear something plain and uneventful and no one would ever notice that it was so. Everything else was secondary to the physical appeal. Now that he has visibly aged a little, it seems that Pitt is determined to continue the process with grace and dignity.
His ‘partnership’ with Tom Ford, while it certainly benefits Pitt in terms of wardrobe, also benefits Ford in terms of marketing and credibility. I use the word ‘credibility’ with hesitation merely because Ford needs to garner no credibility from the fashion set – the magic he worked at Gucci earned him round after round of hearty applause. The ‘credibility’ sought is that of Joe Public; the chap who might purchase an Italian or Savile Row inspired suit from Ford’s new collection having seen Pitt look ‘mighty snappy’ in the wife’s glossy magazine.
Mercifully, Ford is a designer that adores classicism above all. Despite the variety of influences evident in his men’s collection; large lapels from the 1970s, loud checks from the 1930s and Tony Montana style satin, Ford is in love with tailoring. For the Row, he might appear a little fashion forward, but as far as the avant garde fashionistas are concerned, he is quite the opposite. He sits, very comfortably as far as I can see, between two worlds. And remarkably, there is considerable space to accommodate him. Celebrated designers have great influence in the contemporary world; a world where demand is great and supply expected to be instantaneous. Traditional tailoring is something the modern generation understand less and less. Their currency is a designer label, a brand they know and can feel secure in. Ford has the capability to sell the fundamentals of a good suit back to them, and uniting himself with Pitt is surely only the beginning.
And Pitt doesn’t do badly out of the arrangement either. Since he started sipping coffee with Ford, Pitt has really come into his own, sartorially speaking. Elegance was not a word you previously attached to the man but it is hard to deny that his recent upgrade, an acceptance of age and an agreeable willingness to polish, have given him a convincing façade of grace and style.