Every season, Tom Ford sends models down a runway or photographs them for a lookbook showcasing a collection of stunning clothes. Yet the man himself – the architect of a shamelessly louche and luxurious look and lifestyle – has been basically wearing the same thing for ten years.
And it works. Beautifully.
If one is a fashionista with the desire and the money, by all means, go nuts every season with the latest and the nowest. But, as someone on a budget, I find it particularly fascinating that some of the most successful people who are in the business of pushing more clothes, accessories and other gear into our lives seem to live and work in essentially one outfit in their own lives.
Tom Ford stands out to me as an obvious example. Despite the entire wardrobe he designs every season, we only see him looking like the chicest chauffeur alive in his black suit, white shirt and black tie. The lapels and button stance may vary here and there, and he’s been working that tie pin these days, but the look is basically the same.
Giorgio Armani is another, usually seen in his form-fitting navy tee (short or long sleeve) and navy pants. Sometimes he works a sneaker to keep up with the athleisure kids, but his regular day-to-day uniform is a casual column of dark blue.
The other T in menswear, Thom Browne, has cornered the market on the shrunken remix of his father’s business attire: gray suit, white shirt, black or gray tie, black shoes – as if Agent Smith from The Matrix left his suit in the dryer too long (and lost his socks). Other than the shortened fit, another uniquely Thom Browne affectation is the unironed oxford cloth button-down shirt with the collar buttons left unfastened. That’s his uniform.
Steve Jobs did some experimenting before he found his look. Older fans and users of Apple computers will remember his suit and bow-tie dandy phase, which was my personal favorite. But, as we all know, he settled into the black mock turtleneck and dad jeans with sneakers. Not glamorous, but it was an iconic uniform that was all his.
Though not a man, Anna Wintour navigates a man’s world fiercely. To get a sense of the breadth of her power and influence, one just needs to do a Google her name or watch the very entertaining documentary The September Issue. Her hair has been the same since the Declaration of Independence, and her dress, although in different patterns and colors, is essentially the same. She found a look, locked into it and made it the uniform in which she runs the entire fashion world.
As I get older and busier, I find myself slipping into the same model of dress. When I’m at home, it’s a simple t-shirt and jeans or chinos. Whenever I step out for work related business or when I’m representing “me,” I’m in a simple suit and tie much like Tom Ford’s mode, though I move in blue and gray circles, never black (except for shoes). What my uniform lacks in flamboyance it makes up for in stealth, with interesting details and nuance only noticeable up close, not from across the street. And it’s all about the tailoring, of course. Clean, simple and effective.
Long live the uniform.