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GQ is BS – You Paid What?

by James Joyner on 23 July 2009

Despite this post’s title, I like GQ.  Gentleman’s Quarterly and Esquire are the archetypes of the general interest men’s magazine and MANzine is in some ways an homage to their tradition. Indeed, GQ and Esquire are among a small handful of magazines I still subscribe to in their dead tree form.

But let’s face it, GQ can be kind of silly.

Take, for example, their Fall Preview for 2009.

In our annual salute to the clothes that will help you weather the brisk months ahead, actor Ed Westwick reaches for the pieces that embrace timeless style and construction. Because the best gear shouldn’t last just one season but a lifetime.

Now, I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.  One of the hardest lessons to heed, especially when you’re young and don’t have a lot of money, is to buy quality items that will last rather than a whole lot of junk.  One of my maxims of style is “It’s more important to look good every day than different every day.”  I learned that one the hard way.

But let’s click through the link (I’ve already seen this in the magazine itself but it’s hard to point to the pages online).

Rain-Free Trench

westwick-trenchNot your typical detective-minded khaki raincoat. This darker, relaxed-fitting trench is the kind of jacket you don’t need to expend any effort breaking in. Think of it as your coat for fall, or spring, or (given currently insane climate patterns) even a cool day in summer—it doesn’t require a cloud in the sky. Look for similar versions by Rogues Gallery, H&M, Uniqlo, and Marc Jacobs.

Trench, $735; shirt, $245; tie, $125; pants, $350; and boots, $650: all by Rag & Bone.

First off, while photographer Nathaniel Goldberg captured Westwick in a very stylish pose, it’s not a very useful shot of the trench.  I can’t tell anything about it except that it seems to be gray and have a belt.

Second, why in the hell would anyone pay $735 for a trenchcoat?  And, seriously, $245 for an off-the-rack dress shirt and $125 for a necktie?  Why?

Let’s continue.

Fair Isle Sweater

westwick-fair-isle-sweater There is, in fact, a real Fair Isle (population seventy), off the coast of Scotland. And in addition to herding sheep and catching fish, the locals make beautiful, intricately patterned sweaters. Like tweed jackets, they’re made to withstand the cold, damp Scottish climate. And now plenty of other folks (like those at Burberry) make them, in subtler, more muted—some might even say modern—styles.

Sweater, $750, by Burberry Prorsum.

Now, in fairness to Goldberg, he did an excellent job photographing this sweater.  I can swiftly determine that it’s one of the ugliest damned sweaters I’ve ever seen and would promptly donate it to Goodwill were I to somehow find it in one of my drawers.  “Prorsum” must be Burberry’s name for their line of clothes for the blind.  And, really, this is “subtler” and “more muted”? I’d hate to see their garishly ugly ones.

And, again, $750?  For a sweater?  Is there perhaps chain mail hidden in all that ugly stitching?  Does it repel bullets?  If not, much more than $100 is overdoing it for a wool sweater.  For $750, you can actually buy a Burberry suit.

The Double-Breasted Suit

westwick-double-breastedForget John Gotti’s sprawling lapels and linebacker-size shoulder pads. The current incarnation of the double-breasted suit leans toward a fitted—not boxy—cut, meaning you don’t have to pretend you’re a mobster or a tycoon to wear one. A smart choice for the dapper professional looking to step out from the single-breasted masses.

Suit, $1,395, by Emporio Armani. Shirt, $275, by Tim Hamilton. Tie, $75, by Fred Perry. Shoes, $1,550, by Tom Ford. Pocket square by Neil Barrett.

Now, this is a beautiful suit.  And it’s worth knowing that modern double-breasteds are more streamlined than their 1980s forebears.  At $1395, it’s pricier than I could justify but this provides a good model for shopping for a more reasonably priced version.  And while $75 for a tie strikes me as a bit much, it’s not outlandishly nutty.

Ah, but then we come to the shoes.  $1550?!  For what appear to be some ordinary black oxfords?  (Again, it’s hard to tell from the shot.)  Great dress shoes from the likes of Ferragamo or Church or Allen Edmonds can be had for a mere fraction of that price.

The Henley

westwick-henleyBefore Michael Jordan told us which kicks to buy, rowers in the English city of Henley-on-Thames told Brits which shirts to wear. This long-sleeve tee was popularized in the mid–nineteenth century as the traditional uniform of Henley’s rowers. It’s since become a go-to layer for fall, but we like it worn on its own with a pair of jeans, as an alternative to a V-neck sweater.

Henley, $445, and jeans, $350, by Dolce & Gabbana. Belt by Bill Adler. Necklace by Rogues Gallery.

Now, I’m not a Henley fan.  Well, Don Henley is pretty awesome.  But long john shirts that button at the top?  Not so much.  Still, it’s undeniable that Henleys are a timeless classic and they’re pretty confortable.

But, again, $445?!  If they took $400 off that and threw in a second shirt free, I’d still think I was being overcharged.  Crimeney, that’s $125 more than the absurdly overpriced jeans he’s wearing!  At least you can wear the jeans over and over.

There are another four items on the list but it’s more of the same thing.  Mostly, very nice stuff.   Almost invariably, though, overpriced.

About James Joyner

James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway and the managing editor of a DC think tank. He's a former Army officer, Desert Storm vet, and college professor. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama.

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