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Michael Drake, written by Bruce Boyer

15 November 2010

Bruce Boyer is one of the great style writers. I am mid-way through reading his 1985 book Elegance, now sadly out of print. Still, there are some second-hand copies available on Amazon in apparently good condition.

It consistently surprises me how much a good writer can add to a subject you believe you already know very well. Of course, Boyer’s advice on buying a suit isn’t really aimed at me, but his insights on points of style are both eloquent and original. “Sartorial distinction requires an understanding and approach to accoutrement, to those furnishings that proclaim the style of the man, just as the basics of dress proclaim his sense of propriety,” he tells us.

Erudition, equally. The potted history of the scarf, from neckcloth to necktie and everything in between, is illuminating. And Boyer later tracks how the top hat went from sportswear to white tie within 40 years, suggesting a similarly slippery slope for the bowler hat, homburg and fedora, in that order. If only men still wore hats, we might have got the chance to recycle those three styles for evening wear.

But this post was not meant to be about Elegance. It was, rather, a suggestion that you spend some time perusing the ‘Details’ section of the Drake’s website. With good books out of print, and Boyer sadly lacking a blog of his own (bizarrely today, he actually gets paid for his writing), this is the best place to find his insights online.

‘Details’ could do with more prominence on the site, in my opinion. It is easy to miss, buried in the top left corner, and one can easily not realise on the product sections how much information there is to be hand by clicking to ‘Read more’.

Take, for example, the text on gloves. First there’s a nice little quote: “‘Very tall, a good figure, and such a good sort…He was extremely smartly dressed with a brown hat to match his suit and gloves, very elaborate with green spots in the lining.” That’s the way famed photographer Cecil Beaton described his first meeting with Gary Cooper.’ Then a product description that is more eloquent than you’d find on any normal shopping site: “For town wear, we recommend the perfect peccary pair, unlined of course, in either maple or chocolate brown. Or our slightly more dandyesque chocolate brown suede with a sumptuous purple cashmere lining. For a less dressy feel, we suggest a cinnamon coloured Carpincho.”

I won’t list too many here, for fear of ruining the fun. But I recommend the lines on braces and cufflinks in particular, as well as ‘Tie Etiquette’ and ‘The English Handmade Tie’. Regular readers will of course be familiar with ‘The Philosophy of Michael Drake’, which was first published on Permanent Style.

These words are nearly all the thoughts of Michael, written by Bruce, and both are a constant inspiration to me. Check it out.