I arrived home the other day and there waiting in the vestibule was the copy you see here of Alan Flusser’s new biography of Ralph Lauren. I was surprised earlier this past week to see that the book was being released right now because I had believed it was coming out in spring 2020. There were reminders over the past twelve years that Flusser was working on a Lauren biography, little hints in interviews and whatnot that the thing was indeed coming along. Alan Flusser is where I went this summer to have my first ever made-to-measure suit made. He and the team he has gathered around him are extraordinary. Having now gone through the experience of having a custom suit made, I understand more than ever what we have lost in the over-casualization of our society. It is sobering to sit at a table and explain to other men how you want to be perceived by the world and then explore how the group of you might achieve that.
I understand that we have gained a great deal over the past half century with the cultural changes of the 1960s, and that jeans and casualwear were part of that movement. There are many things I would not want to return to, but I would submit that a return to greater public formality is something from which would all profit. This was driven home to me a few years ago when, one July, I had jury duty and in the waiting pool area of the courthouse were at least a few people–grown men in their 20s and even 30s–wearing shorts.
What makes both Flusser and Lauren unique is their understanding of tradition. The title of the book, as I take it, is a knowing play on words; the two men have never been about fashion, but style and respect for provenance. There is a huge difference. So far I have read the introduction and perused some of the sumptuous photographs of men like Fred Astaire and Duke of Windsor, two of the most photographed men of the twentieth century. This however is no mere coffee table book. In an interview I watched the other day Flusser notes that the text itself comes to 175,000 words. The text is indeed voluminous and I’m looking forward to digging in.