By Andrew Yamato
“Style, not fashion.”
This is the fundamental creed and cliché of menswear: the notion that discerning male dressers pay little heed to the mercurial dictates of fashion designers and magazine editors, preferring to build and refine wardrobes embodying timeless/permanent/enduring style. It’s easy enough to invoke this mantra — it’s hard to think of a single menswear label or retailer which hasn’t — but it’s another thing altogether to embody it over four decades in the fashion business. Alan Flusser Custom has always aimed to do just that. One need only peruse this 1979 GQ photo spread about Alan and his wardrobe to see how consistent his sartorial vision has been from the start.
The Anderson & Sheppard double-breasted suit of Harrison’s brown cheviot tweed Alan wears on the first page still hangs in the back of the Custom Shop, outgrown but hardly outmoded. At a time when men’s neckties were reaching bib-like proportions, Alan’s Household Guards tie (The Prince of Wales’ regiment, of course) retains a classic 3” width, and his pinned collar reflect exactly the proportion and precision we still offer our clients today. The Roy Rogers Western ensemble Alan wears in the inset was probably no easier to pull off in 1979 than it would be now, but it conjures a spirit of Boomer childhood fantasy much the same way a millennial’s vintage Star Wars iron-on T-shirt might today. The tweed overcoat, tattersall vest, knit gloves, and Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella are all classics that still be pulled off with the right spirit.
Opera pumps have always outclassed oxfords for formalwear, and polished black calf has always been more elegant than the plasticky stuff that passes for patent leather these days. While gut-end braces and clocked silk hose have more or less gone the way of the dodo, the Custom Shop continues to offer a fine assortment of formal cotton hose and an exclusive selection of Thurston braces. At a recent black-tie event, I noticed Alan wearing the very same thrifted Johnny Walker watch chain fob featured here.
Single-breasted with peaked grosgrain lapels remains the classic tuxedo model, and we still make it the old-fashioned way — with a wide, hand-sewn boutonniere big enough to actually accommodate a flower, and a hand-sewn loop under the lapel to keep the stem in place.
It's clear from these pages that Alan’s rudiments on pattern matching and balanced proportions are already fully formed and fundamental to his sartorial philosophy. Anachronistic details like collar pins, double-extended tab trouser waistbands, and Scottish ghillie shoes reflect his unabashed love of style for its own sake.
The playful eveningwear Alan wears on the final page is admittedly the least traditional look to be featured in the spread. The slightly flared trousers and wide lapels are a young man’s nod to the voluptuous proportions popular at the time, while the red argyle socks and red flannel waistcoat reflect the whimsy so central to Alan’s personal style. Nevertheless, his single-stud marcella dress shirt and detachable wing collar maintain a satrorial stiff upper lip that was already anachronistic in 1979. Alan’s pink silk robe and cream silk pajamas are pure silver screen fantasy; frothy Noel Coward wit as opposed to boozy Hugh Hefner seediness.
Shortly after these pages were published, Alan sent copies to Fred Astaire, introducing himself to his sartorial hero as an aspiring conduit of classic style to a new generation. With its emphasis on tradition, proportion, wit, and whimsy (not to mention its very 1930s art direction) this piece was indeed something of an early manifesto for Alan, who would establish his own menswear design company within months, and publish his first book, Making the Man, in 1981.