Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Literature for Fashionistas -- The Sartorialist

The PTB at Penguin must have known it was my birthday soon, because I got a review copy of "The Sartorialist" last week. I've talked about Scott Schuman's blog here before, and if you have even a passing interest in fashion you probably read it at least periodically, if not daily. Schuman has become extremely influential in the fashion world, at least that's what conventional wisdom tells us. Time magazine named him one of the top 100 design influences. People reference his photos constantly, he's become quite the "get" in editorial fashion photography, and the blog itself has spawned an entire online genre. The number of "street style" blogs that have burst into life like microwave popcorn in the last couple of years is truly astonishing -- every city in the world (including mine) apparently has one.

Schuman himself freely acknowledges his debt to the Grandmaster of "street style" photography, Bill Cunningham, who has been photographing brilliantly-dressed men & women on the streets of New York for the Times since... I dunno, since cameras were invented or something. These two men share a real delight in the visual presentation of people and their clothes, and that makes their photographs fun to look at. Neither of them is trying to promote a specific look or style or designer -- they just like looking at people, and showing them to us.

Of course, the thing that a street style blog tells us the most about isn't what's in style or what's all the rage -- it's what catches the eye of the photographer publishing it. At bottom it's less about "street style" than "Scott's style." I don't think this is a bad thing -- and it's true of any style blog -- probably any kind of blog at all. This whole bloggy business is subjective in the extreme. So when you think of it that way, yes, he is extremely influential. According to the press materials, The Sartorialist gets 125,000 hits a day (I don't believe I've had that many total in the life of my blog -- spread the word, you people!), and a lot of those folks are using Schuman's photos for inspiration. including, more than once, me.

I think the thing I like most about Schuman's blog is that he is a slavish devotee of good tailoring, and his is probably the only blog out there -- at least the only big one -- that shows as many photos of men as it does of women. Schuman is a dead sucker for a good suit, especially one with echoes of vintage tailoring or fabric.

The man can wax positively lyrical about a pocket square. And he has a tremendous soft spot for Italian tailoring, preferably when sported by silver lions with possibly a family crest on their cufflinks.

He's not a snob -- he can be just as enamored of a suit that some guy ganked from his grandpa's closet as the newest Raf Simons, and he's also a big fan of women's tailoring, as well.

He admires anyone, especially a man, who can aggressively work color.

(As do I. I tell ya, I LOVE this.)

He's also terribly fond of wrinkled and beaming old dudes who work in professions like barbering and housepainting.

Which is cute.

One of his favorite subject is this young woman, named Eva.

He takes her photo a lot, and I really can't blame him because she always looks marvelous. I love her high-fashion gamine thing, and I really want the curly version of that haircut (Not to mention the feathery blue skirt. ::swoon!::). I don't know who she is or what she does, but there is a nice fat bank account behind Miss Eva -- not for her the clever re-working of a thrift-store bargain, it's all high-end-recently-off-the-rack from Barney's or whatnot. Still, she does a great job with it -- she's never a fashion clone.

Schuman also loves a good eccentric

and he isn't condescending about them.

And, being a red-blooded American male fashionista, he doesn't skimp on the leggy French chicks.

Lots of leggy French chicks, including, every so often, Garance Doré, a fellow blogger and his significant other.

(And who could blame him?)

There's not a lot of text in the book, very few explanatory notes or captions, no names for most of the subjects. And the index in the back that theoretically tells one where on the blog the photo might be found is egregiously un-useful. (What I'm guessing is that the notations in the book tell when the photo was taken, not necessarily when the photo was posted. This is not important, of course, unless you're writing a review of the book and trying to find photos from it online in order to include them in your own post.) It's also a much smaller book than I would have anticipated -- it's really only trade paperback-sized, which means it's quite thick and difficult to hold open. I'm assuming there's a hardbound version available, but they're not tossing those around like cookies to podunk bloggers & reviewers comme moi. It's certainly a nice book, and I'm glad to have it. It'll be great on the guest room bedside table. It would make a lovely gift. I'm not sure I'd call it indispensable for the Fashionista Bookshelf, but it's charming.

Images: The Sartorialist

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1 comment:

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

Interesting commentary. WIll have to check out his book now.