We here at the StoneZone have adopted a tradition in which Hollywood designer and arbiter of style Mr. Blackwell would publish a list of those he thought were the best – and worst clad people in the World.
Mr. Blackwell’s list was eagerly awaited each New Year, via his syndicated newspaper column. His reviews could be snarky and cutting for those he considered ill-clad. Thousands of newspapers picked up Blackwell’s list through the wire services of the day. Blackwell’s celebrated list could make one in society or the movies or break one. His list was the gold standard of style and who was stylish and who was not.
While Blackwell is long gone, his tradition continues for the SIXTH year. The publication of our 2012 list coincides with the launch of STONESSTYLE.com, a new website in which I will write on matters strictly sartorial.
We are proud to continue this august tradition yet it is will increasing difficulty that we compile this list for the state of dress for the public at large continues to slide. We have vigilantly watched the world of media, entertainment, sports, politics, academia, art and fashion to determine who has style… and who truly doesn’t… Like Mr. Blackwell, we single out a few who are truly tasteless and inappropriate.
Although the StoneZone covers politics from a conservative point of view, you will notice that our TEN BEST AND WORST dressed list contains liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. The StoneZone may lean right, and I personally dress right, but our style choices are completely non-ideological. Great style knows no ideology. We don’t take politics into consideration and in 2009 gave a posthumous listing to Ted Kennedy who continued the all-American “trad” based style of his brothers.
President Bill Clinton made our 2011 list once he shed his bulky Presidential period Donna Karan suits and went for a more sophisticated “bespoke” look. In 2012 he surfaced in a white cutaway collar on a pink shirt and so makes the list again this year. President Obama and his spare simple style made our list in 2011. With the death of Texas US Senator John Tower and the retirement of Senator John Warner, who cut a dashing figure in English cut double-breasted suits, it’s hard to find any well turn-out figure on the Right other than the few on this years list.
From the 1900s to 1960s the world of politics and diplomacy gave us men like JFK and Dean Acheson, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, Sir Anthony Eden, Henry Cabot Lodge, Playboy Porifio Rubisosa and diplomat Anthony J. Drexel Biddle (considered by LIFE magazine the best dressed man in the world in 1938). Hollywood gave us Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Jack Buchanan, William Powell, Adolph Menjue and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The media of the day produced Mark Twain (who got the “white suit” thing before Tom Wolfe did) as well as Lucius Beebe. Sports contributed Herman “Babe” Ruth, known for his stylish camel hair polo coats and Joe Frazier who, when not Heavyweight Champion of the World, fronted a band called the Knockouts in a sleek sharkskin suit. Katherine Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Nancy Reagan, Dina Merrill, CZ Guest and The Duchess of Windsor were easy style leaders. Try putting together such a list of men and women today. We get to choose from Snookie, Jesse Ventura, the Kardashian sisters or JWOW.
Compiling our 2012 ‘A’ list is a far greater challenge than one might think. The advent of “casual Fridays” is symptomatic of an overall decline in our standards regarding what is right and wrong about the way Americans dress. Sadly, fashion today is more motivated by economics than aesthetics. Men are seen in both business and social settings in running shoes, tracksuits, sweats, T-shirts, and caps, which advertise either a sports teams or a brand of farm tractor. Women are seen outside the gym in spandex workout ensembles and hoodies. It’s so wrong. It makes you wonder how many of our fellow Americans can possibly look in the mirror and say “Wow, I look great today” while wearing the crap that passes for “fashion.”
Americans cared deeply about proper dressing in the 1930′s, 40′s and even the 50′s. The 60′s with it’s Mad Men look also began a trend of informality that devolved over time from slovenliness in the 90′s to dishevelment in the 2000′s. The sheer number of men who will go out in public in a “wife-beater” is staggering. Very few can look like a young Marlon Brando but men still crowd casinos, bars, malls and sports events in this “outfit.”
Good taste is additionally offended by the ubiquitous Ashton Kutcher “trucker hat” craze, which truly moved American men to the bottom of the fashion rung. To wear a hat indoors, especially a baseball-type hat with plastic size adjustment band, is a veritable fashion felony. It advertises not only bad manners but also poor taste. Wearing it backwards should require the death penalty.
We at the StoneZone have waxed since 2007 about the importance of what Italians (possessors of great style) call sprezzatura, the look of nonchalance that assume you put not thought or effort into one superb appearance lest one look too studied. Your attire must look like you “threw” it together – and look great. Beau Brummel, a man about town who was considered the best-dressed rake of the 1780s, added “Ones clothes should not be too tight or draw attention to themselves nor should they look too ‘new’”. Indeed Fred Astaire would throw his suits against the wall to “knock the newness out of them.”
Finding dressers with this insouciance, this sprezzatura is even more frustrating when few actually follow the basic rules of dressing to begin with. The fit and style of one’s clothes and the colors one favors in their dress should be appropriate be to their body type. The Rules of good dress require a canvas on which a great dresser can add flair. It is not in the basics of dress the truly stylish stand out. A well-cut navy blue suit, fresh white shirt, solid silk or grenadine navy blue tie, navy socks and highly polished black cap-toe oxfords will always look good. Gray flannel suits and navy blazers are always “right” It’s the way it’s worn and the whimsy or accent of the right accessories that matter. It’s, say, the right pocket square, red lisle socks or brown suede monk-strap shoes or slouch hat that mark the look with individuality.
The problem seems to be a total unawareness of the “rules.” G. Bruce Boyer, perhaps America’s foremost writer on matters of men’s style, put it best when he said “The trick is to first to understand that there are rules. Like social discourse, dress has its proprieties – because of course, dress is social discourse; it speaks for us and about us. It is necessary to understand the rules before breaking them. A gentleman who understands best the rules of proper dress can then bend them to suit his own personality and requirements… He is accustomed to playing within the rules but is not blind to the creativity, exuberance and freedom within the rules, either.” Alexander Pope said, “Those move easiest who have learned to dance.”
Now a word about the Ladies.
While a true expression of the gold standard in men’s personal style, sprezzatura, informs the success of the best-dressed woman as well, if to a lesser degree. That’s because men dress, but women dress up. And we like it that way. So for the ladies, wearing an air of effortlessness is just as important as for the men. But a little affectation — even daring — is not only forgivable in woman’s dress, it is often roundly encouraged. Everything else matters in just the same way it does for men — fabric, cut, shape and style. The woman who understands how to wear great clothes naturally is always the best-dressed person in the room – and much easier to find.
Our goal is to sort out those who are merely fashionable from those who possess real style indeed sprezzatura, for fashion is fleeting and style endures. We also try to eschew “costume.” That’s why you won’t find Lady Gaga or Tom Wolfe on our list. While both are distinctive in their dress, both are affecting a costume more appropriate for the stage. While fashion is about fads and what is “in” now, style is a personal factor that cannot be learned or taught – either you have it or you don’t.
Style is, in fact, the direct opposite of fashion. Fashion is a look that is temporarily “in”. Fashion is people imitating each other. It’s about fitting in and looking like everyone else. Style. Style on the other hand, is about individuality; what sets one apart from the crowd. Yet that style must be bound by rules of good taste and the uses of colors, styles and cuts that accentuate your attributes and hide your flaws (white pants make a woman ass look huge, black pants minimize it’s size – how many women don’t know this?)
Real style comes from within; it is the sign of your character and personality that you display to those who see you. It’s a personal statement. It tells people who you are. Style never indulges fads or gimmicks. Style is solid, basic, quiet. Yet style is also quirky, individual and daring. Style is timeless. Style looked good thirty years ago and will be in good taste thirty years from now.
The StoneZone presents it’s official list of the BEST and WORST dressed men and women of 2012
Shannon Sharpe – This former tight-end for the Denver Broncos, Hall of Famer and Super Bowl Champion has a bold but conservative style that always hits the mark. Sharpe, a large and muscular man, shows how good tailoring can convey athleticism without bulk. His shirt and tie choses are bold but solid and in a black turtleneck he looks like a suave secret agent. Sharpe, who talks sports for CBS on NFL Today, is a new entry on our list – and a man to watch even if you can’t understand his vocabulary.
Larry Kudlow – In his forth year on the StoneZone best dressed list, Kudlow, the supply side apostle and pro-growth advocate who chews up the business news and lays down the Reaganite creed at CNBC has an uncanny sense of the “right” shirt and tie combinations for TV. The good taste of Trumbull and Asser, where Sean Connery got his shirts to be 007 is Kudlow’s haberdasher of choice. Master Tailor Leonard Logsdail makes his suits, somber, impeccable and quiet-a canvas for his bold shirt and neckwear combinations.
Don Lemon – The CNN on-air star joins the list for the first time. Lemon’s look is edgy but he bends the rules to his personal style without breaking them. A black velvet jacket and bright red tie worked in a recent broadcast. He choice of repp stripe ties in unconventional colors is a bold statement. His casual look is that of a Italian gentlemen surveying his grape arbor; quilted jackets, sports-coats and well-cut jeans. Welcome to the Club Don Lemon.
Charlie Watts – As the Rolling Stones hit their 50th anniversary as a band Charlie Watts continues to wear the finest understated English tailoring of any man alive. Quiet and conservative, Watts was consulting Henry Poole and Dege, both of Savile Row for his suits which he virtually always wears without a tie. Charlie Watts get’s this year’s Lifetime award awarded to former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown last year.
Jeff Horwitz – You can’t get more “white shoe” for this low-key New York lawyer who titans of industry and business interests flock to at blue chip Proskauer Rose (founded by Gov. Al Smith’s top political operative and fixer) for highly regarded and most discreet legal advice. Horwitz, while dressing as a prosperous lawyer adds personal quirks like bold patterned socks or a bright hued pocket square and always seems to have the “right” shoes, which should give his clients quiet confidence which indeed it does.
Josh Mankiewicz – I have personally seen the NBC Dateline correspondent part a busy and fashionable Beverly Hills boite wearing a perfectly tailored plaid tweed sports jacket that had every eye in the room on him. “Mank” makes solid choices in his attire. He always looks smart on-air and off. Brokaw and Lauer could learn from him.
Bill Clinton – Not the Bubba of his White House Days but New York Bill Clinton who threw off the blocky Donna Karan (why would any man wear clothes for a man designed for him by a woman?) and began dressing with the aplomb of a former-President. Clinton was seen this year in a severe white cutaway collar on a pink shirt body, a great look he pulled off with his post-presidential weight loss, the flattering size and style of your collar determined by the size and shape of your head and neck.
John Taylor of Duran Duran doesn’t look like a guy who went to the edge through drugs and groupies but came out alive. At 54, the Duran Duran co-founder and bassist has been a style icon for nearly 30 years. The epitome of the old line “Women want to be with him and Men want to be him.” Dressed up or dressed down, the man always pulls it off. He always looks dashing in a carefully knotted scarf, a solid black knit tie and short white collar and dark and serious suits. You cannot over-state the under-statement here. His other half, Juicy Couture and Skaist-Taylor co-founder Gela Nash-Taylor narrowly missed making the list this year and definitely deserves a mention here as well. What a pair.
Joseph Gordon Levitt – The hot young actor has his second year on the Best Dressed list. He’s developing a personal style that evokes a cool updated 50′s Rat Pack look. White short point collared shirts, skinny black ties, narrow lapels with dark fitted suits teamed with a pork-pie hat mark Gordon Levitt as a hipster but a perfectly turned out hipster at that. He pulls of the monochromed shirt-tie-suit look without looking like Joe Pesci in the movie “Las Vegas”.
Jay-Z – When he rocked the new Barclay Center in a white dinner jacket and slightly over-sized butterfly black grosgrain bow-tie he proved once again that, when-dressed up he observes the rules but adds his personal touch. Neither Humphrey Bogart nor Sean Connery looked as good in the formal White dinner jacket-and they looked great.
Honorable Mention – Not every great dresser can make the 10 Best dressed list. Past honorees like politico Gordon Woodrow, Dave Beckham, Ambassador Rick Burt, DC Lawyer Jacob Stein, Jazzman Wynton Marsalis, Jude Law and FOX’s Judge Andrew Napolitano all continue to represent the finest sartorial traditions in the world.
Jesse Ventura – I had occasion to spend time with the former pro- wrestler and Minnesota Governor this year. His sartorial choices lean towards Jimi Hendrix T-shirts, baggy work jeans and a John Deere tractor hat. He literally looks homeless. Ventura has many unconventional political views and while he is most articulate in expressing them, he would be taken so much more seriously with a shave, a hair cut, a well tailored suit and conservative tie. He looks like a homeless Hulk Hogan.
Michael Moore – slob.
Roland Martin – This fool could try to defend his wardrobe choices because he’s from the South but CNN political commentator Martin insists on pairing lavender shirts, brown ties and orange plaid sports coats, none of which appear to include any manmade fabrics. No one looks more ridiculous in an ascot. He dresses like a pimp.
Larry King – Thank God this man is done in primetime. What is with the black shirt, black ties, black suspenders look? Who does Larry think he is – Johnny Cash? Even worse, the black shirt and white tie — even Lucky Luciano wouldn’t wear that. Larry actually wears metal clip-on suspenders. Wise up Larry.
Michelle Obama – The First Lady has bloomed like a peacock since the beginning of the First term when she was a chic mom always in good taste. Brightly colored sheaths by Michael Kors and Barbara Trank, bold prints by Moshino, Preen and Tracy Reese, sleeveless gowns by Tom Ford, Jason Wu and Ralph Lauren all mark the First Lady’s youthful and exuberant style. The First Lady is the First Dresser without the price tag, inaccessibility or elitism of a Nancy Reagan or Jackie Kennedy.
Pippa Middleton – Philippa Charlotte “Pippa” Middleton, the English socialite and younger sister of Catherine “Kate” Middleton embodies the best in English style but has not elbowed her sister off our list this year. Since she was the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding to Prince William some say she’s surpassed her sister as a style-setter. Others say she has a perfect derriere and in jeans, a mini-skirt or a party dress it seems so. Take that Kim Kardashian!
Kate Middleton – Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is the wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Middleton will join the ranks of Princess Grace of Monaco and today Queen Rania of Jordan and Spain’s Letizia, Princess of Asturias as one of the best dressed royals. Simplicity is her watchword. Her millinery choices are always on target. While a tad more conservative than her saucy sister Pippa, she exudes the best of English style.
Sofia Vergara – The Latin spitfire literally stopped traffic with a bikini shoot in Miami Beach and again in a long leopard print dress while shopping in Delray Beach Florida over the Hoildays. Ms. Vergara knows what decolletage is for and always accentuates her curves managing to look sexy without looking vulgar.
Carla Bruni – Her husband’s electoral loss has not diminished the star power of former supermodel Carla Bruni. Bruni sticks to somber colors like charcoal gray, navy blue and slate and always chooses simple seemingly basic styles by the best French and Italian designers. She is the picture of understatement and chic.
Miranda Kerr – What’s not to like about this Victoria Secret super model who has legs that go on forever. Kerr makes careful, tasteful choices and always looks just so. It appears that husband Orlando Bloom gained a few pounds during new mom cares pregnancy. Miranda has lost it and looks smashing.
Victoria Beckham – Lady Spice has her own line of women’s clothes, which are extraordinary and are worn by actresses, models and celebrities including Beyonce. In fact, it is only when Beyonce is wearing Ms. Beckham’s line she looks good. It is a natural then that the life ex-spice girl would always look smashing. Her husband, David Beckham, the perfect male specimen, was on last year’s StoneZONE’s Best Dressed List for his nattily tied scarves, well-cut three-piece suits, tweeds and newsboy caps and earns an honorable mention this year.
Christina Hendricks – Given her ample assets it would be easy for Hendricks, this Mad Men actress to dress like a latter day Jayne Mansfield but Hendricks goes in the opposite direction. Her outfits are always appropriate, well tailored and extenuate her figure in a tasteful way. She looks particularly great in business wear but is no less stunning on the red carpet.
Blake Lively – The Gossip Girl star is another actress that has legs that go on forever. If she’s sporting a short skirt she hides the cleavage. If showing the décolletage she hides the legs in a long skirt or dress – in other words, Lively knows when too much is too much.
Jessica Biel – This lady actually pulled-off a bold pink wedding dress for her nuptials with Justin Timberlake. It looked magnificent. Her wearing a navy cape to battle New York City’s winter cold could bring the style back. Dressy or casual she shines. This is Biel’s first year on the list marking her as someone to watch.
Taylor Momsen – Is this actress-musician trying to do grunge and Goth at the same time? Why does Taylor insist on wearing lingerie as outerwear? Her makeup looks like she has been made up for a zombie movie. The girl is only 17 years old. Hopefully, someone can straighten her out.
Katy Perry – A fashion car crash. No sense of taste or appropriateness. No sense of what colors go well with other colors. No sense of proportion. No idea what looks good on her. No understanding of anything.
Christina Aguilera – When one gains weight one must adjust the size and color of one’s clothes to accommodate. This singer doesn’t seem to understand that. Tight fitting clothing accentuates fat, doesn’t minimize it. Choosing light colors only accentuates the size of one’s derriere even more. You could see this girl’s ass from outer space.
Julianne Moore – Sadly this actress has no sense of coordination and can’t piece together an outfit to save her life. An embarrassment. God-awful.
Cross-posted from Stone's Style.