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JACK SMITH

Closet Drama : To What Lengths Must a Man Go to Earn a Place on the Best-Dressed List?

January 17, 1988|JACK SMITH

ONCE AGAIN I have been overlooked in the Tailors Council of America's annual list of America's 10 best-dressed men.

I don't know what I have to do to please those people.

One of the problems, I suspect, is that the Tailors Council is composed entirely of men, and that they do not see the best-dressed men with a woman's eye for style.

Most men I know dress for women and couldn't care less what the Tailors Council thinks.

Also, I suspect, the tailors tend to be swayed by the price tag on a man's clothes and vote accordingly. What is especially perceptive, for example, in naming Lee Iacocca the best-dressed man in industry? Iacocca always looks neat, I admit, but if I had his money to spend on clothes, I could look neat, too.

Why is Sen. Bob Dole the best-dressed man in government? If they wanted to be creative, they could have named Lt. Col. Oliver North. He really looked sharp in his Marine Corps greens.

I have always suspected that in the past the council has avoided naming me by leaving out the media as a category. But this time the media were included, and Ted Koppel was named best-dressed man.

I have no quarrel with the way Koppel dresses, but we never see him except when he's dressed for TV. Did they ever catch him on a weekend at home? How does he look when he's feeding the dog or driving down to the store for a six-pack?

This year the tailors named Cary Grant as the best-dressed man in motion pictures. That seems spooky to me. They excused themselves by noting that "the selection of Cary Grant was necessitated due to the lack of any current actor who sartorially represents the motion picture industry."

They point out that Grant's collars, which were always "just right," and "the length of the sleeve, too, just correctly showing the cuff of the shirt . . . ."

I admit that Grant was a classy dresser, but if they're going to let the departed in, where does it stop? Will Teddy Roosevelt be next?

Maybe my problem is that this year I changed from a 15 collar, which I have worn most of my adult life, to a 15 1/2. I just got tired of being choked. The result is a space between my neck and my collar, but I'm sure the tailors will agree that comfort is half of style.

Also, although I have always resented them, I bought a dozen of those so-called European-size shirts that don't have sleeve lengths in full and half sizes. Instead, they come 32-33 or 34-35. I bought half a dozen of each. Since I'm a perfect 33 1/2, my sleeves are now either one inch too long or one inch too short. If Iacocca bought a dozen shirts that didn't fit, he'd give them away.

I thought this might be my year, if only because of the two jackets my wife bought me by mail order.

One is a loose-hanging gray cotton jacket with big pockets. She bought me two T-shirts to go with it--one blue and one cerise. When I wore the jacket to the office with the cerise T-shirt, it provoked a lot of comment.

"Hey, you look like Don Johnson," one woman said.

I do believe I looked at least as good as Koppel.

The other jacket she bought me is pink silk. It has a rough weave and has the virtue of looking pink in the sunlight and beige under artificial light. When I go to indoor-outdoor parties in the afternoon, I'm a chameleon.

How many men did the tailors see this year with jackets that can do that?

The tailors say they favor the "two-styled look--one for dress and business, and the other for the relaxed activities and weekends . . . ."

They probably checked me out on a weekend when I was wearing my old red plaid shirt, a pair of blue jeans, one of my sailing caps and my boat shoes.

The tailors may not know it, but old plaid shirts and blue jeans are the weekend outfit favored by most stylish American males.

As far as I'm concerned, the tailors can consider me out of the running.

I recognize prejudice when I see it, and I'm not going back to Size 15 collars just to be picked as one of America's 10 best-dressed men. Maybe, like Cary Grant, I'll get my recognition when I'm gone.

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