The Cult of The Customized McCoys

Image via NY Times

Image via NY Times

By Alan Flusser

Among those caught in Robert Mueller’s dragnet is the recently indicted Roger Stone, one of Trump’s long-time political advisors. Well known for his attention-seeking public persona, Stone’s eccentric taste in clothes has likewise become an ongoing subject of interest for the nation’s media. As he has attributed to me a significant role in mentoring him towards his own sartorial way, much of the press’s curiosity in his dressing style has landed at my shop’s doorstep.

I was first introduced to Mr. Stone in 1979 at the legendary Washington menswear retailer Britches of Georgetown. The folks at Britches were helping me launch my first tailored clothing collection, and Stone became an immediate devotee, going on to become an important client upon the opening of my first NYC Custom Shop in 1985. A good deal of what Stone sports in custom-made clothes today is an outgrowth of that collaboration.

Roger does not come by his passion for clothes casually. He has long been a serious student and ardent collector of the fashion arts, amassing a trove of vintage menswear posters and artwork. Having crowned himself a style arbiter, he has for some time published his own Best and Worst-Dressed list.

It’s probably been ten years or more since we last made Roger any clothes. While I share with Master Stone a life-long passion for matters sartorial, that is pretty much where our shared values end. Having no sympathy for his politics or take-no-prisoners style, my attention to him is limited to his public habiliment. In recent years, as he’s cultivated a fashion notoriety to complement his outsider politico image, his attire frequently lands on the too-conspicuous side of the tracks for my taste. However, dressing for outsize visibility fits in well with Stone’s persona as a card-carrying member of the Republican far right and outspoken critic of democratic politics. With a thirty-year-old tattoo of Nixon on his back, and as a fire-breathing defender of all things Trumpian, Stone dresses to the nines, the limelight being his holy grail.

What particularly interests me is the seeming legs of the Roger Stone as fashion doyen story, and more specifically, why it continues to curry more attention than one might anticipate. By now, one would have assumed that the sheer number of breaking investigations inundating the White House would have overrun the public’s attention-deficit news cycle. And yet, the press’s attention to Stone’s wardrobe has not abated and I can only imagine how his appearances in court will continue to ramp up interest.

Image by Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The last time I speculated about the underlying forces at work relative to a public display of custom-tailored stylishness was back in the eighties when I designed Michael Douglas’s wardrobe for the movie Wall Street. Basically a custom-tailored rendering of traditional male business garb (okay, with a soupcon of personal style thrown in) the interest was so widespread that menswear industries from Australia to America heralded the actor’s duds as the defining look in haute stylishness. Even today, thirty-plus years later, the Gordon Gekko wardrobe still evokes praise and commentary.

I think there’s a common thread between Gekko mania and the fascination with Stone’s wardrobe, and I’m going to title my theory The Cult of the Customized McCoy. (This is sounding more like a Sherlock Holmes episode every minute.) Members share patronage with high-establishment English tailors and their haberdashery brethren as well as a dressing mindset adhering to certain Savile Row-inspired markings. I speak of clothes cut to perfection and tailored to the highest quality. They appear neither rigid nor overt in any way, the impression one of discrete yet discernible distinction.

Now, I am not stating that this particular avatar should be everyone’s fashion ideal.  However, the mystique of these so-called Customized McCoys continues to fascinate and inspire today’s blogosphere and its many style pundits. The younger generation of aspiring menswear arbiters has seen their fashion intellects informed by exposure to the McCoy’s immediate progenitors —  the Astaires, Windsors, Agnellis, et al. who in their day formed a new sartorial species based on a shared experience from cutting their sartorial teeth in and around Bond Street, Rue Royale, and Madison Avenue.

Occasionally you’ll catch a glimpse of a Customized McCoy scurrying down a West End street in London, the Faubourg St. Honore in Paris, or New York’s Park Avenue to disappear behind some lacquered, gilt-handle doorway. This is not just about the clothes, but rather the underlying attitude defining their stylishness. It’s Brooks Brothers’ original secret sauce, Astaire and Agnelli’s dressing styles, the famous Duke of Windsor’s dégagé fashions, Ralph Lauren’s eclectic mixologies. Today you can find moments of it captured in the Rake Magazine, or in photo snippets from brands like Drakes, Rubinacci, or The Armoury. It’s a look born out of one’s own taste, based on both the recognition and the rejection of high fashion. You have to pay attention to notice it — subtle and opinionated, distinct yet inconspicuous, elitist but lacking in pretension.

Since Wall Street in 1986, menswear has glorified numerous questionable fashions and beau ideals: designer costumes monopolize the runway, shrink-wrapped James Bonds populate the silver screen, androgynous youths cover the world’s billboards. When you think about it, how frequently does the public get to witness even a fleeting glimpse of a Customized McCoy, or a compelling facsimile? Not too often.

While Stone’s dressing style doesn’t rank among the aforementioned pantheon of Customized McCoys, on certain days he can project the kind of stylish know-how that justifies the approving eyebrow. And while the public may not understand just what about his attire is distinguishable, they realize that there is something that distinguishes him, especially in the style-challenged landscape of the political realm. To the initiated, there are the giveaways – the locking in of the suit trouser’s height with that of the jacket waist, the expert pattern matching of suit and shirt and tie, the casually folded pocket square’s aplomb. When he executes it well, I would submit it’s the Cult of the Customized McCoy raising its head once again to take the temperature.

Despite the possibility of prison time, with his personage now slathered across high-brow covers from the New Yorker to the New York Times, Stone seems more than prepared to trade any pre-trial ignominy for his long-fantasized coming out party, his fifteen minutes of fame. For the Roger Stone brand, these would appear to be the boulevardier’s salad days.

Image via Eyevine/The Economist