The Enigma of Flusser

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Alan Flusser knows a lot about style. Anyone who has read his books knows that, and knows that he has a gift for communicating his knowledge (though I would say that he had a better editor on Dressing the Man, which has a lot less flowery prose than Style and the Man).

The enigma of Alan Flusser is that, although he knows a lot about men’s clothes, he doesn’t necessarily follow his own advice. In a recent comment on this site, one reader pointed me to a video interview with Alan on men.style.com, the GQ men’s style website. The video can be seen here.

In the interview he is wearing a charcoal-grey pinstriped suit, white shirt, black tie and a pink handkerchief. It’s a combination of strong tones that some might find hard to pull off – that black tie and white shirt could easily make you look like you are at a funeral, and a strong colour like pink can easily look cheap against black.

But it seems to suit Alan well, and he has obviously decided (pace his tonal recommendations in Dressing the Man) that his is a high-contrast complexion, complemented by high-contrast clothes.

Half way through the video, though, the camera pans down to reveal Alan wearing a pair of pale, ripped, rather baggy jeans. It’s hard to think of a starker failure of marrying formal and casual – indeed, as in our previous discussion, in wearing jeans and a jacket – well.

The textures of material are at completely different extremes (worsted, denim) as are the colours (white and high-contrast, blue and subtle) and the patterns (pinstripe could not be more formal, ripped jeans hardly more casual). It is an archetypal Newsreader Look.

So I am afraid I have to disagree with the reader on this point – Alan here is doing the exact opposite of everything I have professed and argued. Try wearing that combination yourself and then wear it to work.

But, and it is a big but (no sniggering in the cheap seats please), I have complete confidence in Alan Flusser. His books are too good, and have been too fundamental to my passion for clothes, for me to think that he does not know what he is doing. He knows the rules and he knows he is flaunting them.

Alan also has a rather personal take on style generally, as can be seen in the other photos shown here. I can only presume that when you know all the history and traditions of men’s cloth-combination, you want to do something a little different. You can only break the rules well when you know why they are there, after all.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    I’m curious why most of these style “gurus” fail to mention or follow the first rule in my style book: get your body in decent SHAPE!!!

    I can’t keep my eyes off of his turkey neck. It throws off everything for me.

  2. Derrick says:

    being a person in a possession of a less than ideal “fashion body”, i must take issue with your statement. i’m a 6′ 250 lb broad-shouldered person(think retired nfl linebacker) and i’m in good shape, but my genes won’t let me get under 230. fashion requires certain a certain body type; style doesn’t. the youth worship culture of western countries i’m sure is what makes designers design their clothing around the bodies of late teens or early twentyish waifs with slight shoulders. style will change with you as your body changes. being my size, i’m still extremely stylish- a fashionista i’m not.

    as far as alan flusser’s outfit goes, i really dig it. as far as rules go, i equate it to paul mccartney: mccartney knew all the rules of music and when he broke them or did something against the conventional wisdom, he made people think.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Derrick, I think you misunderstood Sam’s comment. Being in decent shape has nothing to do with possesing a androgynous woman-like fashion body.
    I don’t care how well or stylish somebody is dressed, a body without a silhouette is as worthless as a suit without one.
    I saw flusser (whose style I really like) on some talkshow and I could not for the life of me get over his FAT neck. The fact that he looked like some toad sitting there nullified any positive image his clothes might have projected

  4. Nicola Linza says:

    I have to say there are many men’s designers that have not lowered themselves to present their selections, edgy or classic, on fruitcakes who have “the bodies of late teens or early twentyish waifs with slight shoulders.” The best men’s designers know their clientele are men, who want to look like men, therefore they have stood above that ridiculous trend or stereotype in the industry of the past 15 years.

  5. Nicola Linza says:

    Simon, this is a perfect example of the position you were originally working to get across in your article. This look, this poor mix as shown, to me is nothing but a solid train wreck. It does not work at any level for me because it is such a hideous visual earthquake lacking in a quality mix of material and physical health. There is nothing fashionable about presenting oneself in such a manner, more so when the person happens to be such a knowledgeable and historical force in the industry.

  6. Nicola Linza says:

    Three for three, if I may, a prime example of everything this is not to me, fresh and handsome, (which by the way ironically is to me everything Alan Flusser has always been a leading authority on in the past,) the best of which is in my opinion perfectly presented in “The Style Issue” of the magazine Departures, issue September 2008 article “Variations on a Theme.” Nicolas Malleville is on cover and the model booked for the entire article, photographed by Francois Dischinger, groomed by Mark Anthony, and styled by Christopher Campbell. The clothes are fantastic, and Malleville is a model example to me of pure contemporary male style, especially as seen in these images, classic hair styling, very clean, lean and polished, it is a series of great selections that are truly inspiring, as they should be. I highly am recommending finding a copy to see what I mean.

  7. Derrick says:

    please point me to designers other than varvatos, ralph lauren, zegna and very few others who do not design their clothes for people with ideal(read:skinny) figures because i’ve spent half my life trying to find them. i’m a 48r suit with a 38-40 waist and 17.5″ neck. i can tell you there are very few “in” designers who make anything fitting my proportions. most stop their suits at 44r and pants at 36.

    when i speak of less than ideal designer bodies, i’m not really talking about people who are just slovenly overweight. i’m talking about people more like myself- athletically built but supersized just a bit in the shoulder and chest area.

    nichola, i agree with you that the best men’s designers are keenly aware of the their clientele. not to seem too sore at modern designers but very few seem to think about the aesthetic longevity of their clothing or the varying shapes of the men who’d like to wear them.

  8. Martin says:

    I am sure that knowing about the rules helps you break them. But if this is the result, why would you want to?

  9. Turling says:

    Derrick,

    There are tailors where you can get made to measure suits for the same price as many of these designer labels off the rack. It will definitely fit better and your options as to material, pockets, lining, lapel widths, etc will be exponentially higher.

  10. Nicola Linza says:

    Derrick,
    Well, to be honest I would suggest that you follow Turling’s advice regarding custom tailoring, due to your particular sizing, your options otherwise would tend to be very limited. They are limited in your sizing from the designer’s stance due to retail sales within those numbers. In clothing, I find that I myself have to be careful that arm and shirttail lengths, as well as inseam measurements, happen to be long enough. I am a 42 L, 32 W /34 inseam. However, my options in clothing are generally great, whereas in shoes, forget it, that is another story entirely. I do therefore understand your frustration, personally it stems for me from the point of footwear. As a man’s site I think we have all heard the locker room remarks about size, foot size, leg length, finger length, hand size, …. As Simon says, (there is no getting away from puns today is there?) “no sniggering in the cheap seats please.” I mentioned previously that I wear a size 12 shoe and embarrassingly in rare situations, I sometimes have to go to a size 13 for a better fit (no remarks from the peanut gallery.) What that means to one in my position is that fit is critical and moreover selection is a problem. Shoes are always limited, and even if stocked in sizes 12/13 they are often sold out quickly. So size can be frustrating indeed, more so I am sure when it pertains to clothing, that is why for you Derrick I would also suggest that custom tailoring may prove to be the best option. I myself have found that to be the case in my situation with footwear.

  11. Derrick says:

    thanks for the help, guys. turling, could you please let me know a couple of the tailors that you recommend? i live in dc, but i’m in nyc twice a month.

    nicola, i’m right there with you on shoes, my friend. i’m a 12e and sometimes 13. i have several laceups that i have come across that are perfect but it takes time and patience. you’re definitely right, though. our size tends to go first.

  12. Derrick says:

    by the way, i should mention that i really love this blog:)

  13. Nicola Linza says:

    Derrick,
    That is incredible; it amazes me that we have the same size shoe. Are you tall also? It usually goes hand in hand. I am 6′-3″. It may be boring to some but I am glad to see someone else understand this sort of dilemma finding shoes. Moreover, that you are in the exact same boat as I am, where sometimes a selection must go to a size 13. One could not truly understand this frustration until they have lived it.
    But, that stated I would rather wear a size 12 at my height and leg length rather than a size 9 which would be entirely out of proportion.

  14. Derrick says:

    i’m “only” 6′ but a 12 looks normal on me. i guess until i can afford for john lobb or the like to make me some shoes, i’m throwing elbows trying to get one of the precious few size 12 that stores carry.

  15. sam says:

    Let me clear up my statement. Flusser is overweight, plain and simple. It’s not flattering and takes away from his personal style in my opinion. That is not a “natural” build issue. He can easily correct it by going to the gym 3 times a week. Yeah, I love his books, but looking at him in the video just made me take everything he said with a grain of salt.

    I’m 6’3′, athletic build of 195 lbs. and wear a size 14 shoe. That is a build issue. The clothes are not that big of an issue since I have to get most things adjusted by the tailor anyway. Finding suitable shoes on the other hand is a constant battle.

  16. Alan B. says:

    I don’t mind seeing someone break the rules of style. I do object to someone who claims to be above the rules.

  17. Turling says:

    I have used Joe Hemrajani (www.mytailor.com) and W.W. Chan & Sons (www.wwchan.com). Joe is in Southern California, so I don’t need to wait for his tours as that is where I am located and Chan is from Hong Kong, but does visit New York, I believe. I have a friend in the office that has used Astor & Black (www.astorandblack.com), but I have not used them personally. Good luck.