Ask Alan - Fall 2007

I see jackets with single vents, side vents and no vents. Which is most flattering?

Non-vented jackets hug the hip, giving it a trim contour. But they function poorly: The back of the jacket bunches up when the wearer sits down or reaches into his pockets. The center-vented back, originally designed for horseback and long associated with American ready-to-wear clothing, lacks any inherent élan when no in the saddle. The slightest tug of a hand in search of a front or rear trouser pocket will pull open the vent to expose what it should be covering.

Side-vented jackets, currently in renaissance, are the choice of custom clothing cognoscenti. The classiest union of form and function, side slits allow the back flap to move away when the wearer sits down, minimizing creasing and providing smooth entry to all trouser pockets while concealing the buttocks. Side vents also lead the viewer’s eye up either side of the coat’s back, creating an illusion of greater height.

Who is your favorite style icon from the past?

Gary Cooper always inspires me to greater heights of nonchalance in putting clothes together, and Fred Astaire reinforces my sensitivity to the grace in clothes cut for movement. But if I’m forced to pick one all-time style icon, there’s really no other choice: The Duke of Windsor was the Phi Beta Kappa in sartorial sciences.

As Chuck Berry laid the law down for playing rock & roll, the Prince of WAles ( later the Duke of Windsor) set these tankards fort he rare art of male habiliment as we know it today. If you think Armani softened things up, look again: This guy was a sartorial libertine who ushered in an era of comfort and casual formality that–to the dismay of his father, the King, and the delight of men around the world–democratized male fashion.

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of what he taught me: patterning-on-pattern dressing, irregular-angled linen pocket squares, the Windsor-shape bow tie, white picque dinner vests for black tie, necktie fronts worn above the belt line, color versus complexion, suede shoes, the perfect cut-half sleeve, alligator D-ring belts and more. Most important, he mentored the masses in a manner of dress the French would ascribe to him alone: “chic fatigue, a term that denoted easy, casual stylishness.


–Taken from Menswear Magazine Fall 2007