In Part 2 of my interview with Roy Haynes yesterday, the drummer referred to a September 1960 Esquire article on best-dressed men in which he and Miles Davis were included. So I did a little research.
The Esquire article was called The Art of Wearing Clothes and was written by George Frazier, a debonair magazine writer and jazz critic who died in 1974. This was Esquire's first shot at a list of best-dressed men, which the magazine introduced apprehensively with a publisher's letter. Conservative tailoring was still cool—provided you brought a big personality to your look.
To put the article in perspective, it was published less than four years before the Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and subsequent rise of London's Carnaby Street as the world's fashion epicenter. And it ran two months before the election of John F. Kennedy, which ushered in the hatless, youth-obsessed bushy-headed style that remains with us today.
Frazier, a jazz man and society swell, was
assigned to get a handle on the movers and shakers who set the standard for Ivy League grace and aplomb. Each of the 40 men on the list, according to the magazine, had a passion for clothes and wore them with a highly individualistic style. [Pictured: Frazier with then wife Mimsi Harbach]
And as a sign of the times, the list was dominated by aging actors, businessmen and publishing types. But to Frazier's credit, he included (or lobbied editors to include) four music-business personalities—three of whom were jazz heavies (Fred Astaire rounded out the quartet).
Here are the small blurbs that accompanied the three jazz entries:
MILES DAVIS—The thirty-four-year-old genius of "progressive jazz" trumpet is an individualist who favors skin-tight trousers, Italian-cut jackets. His seersucker coats, which have side vents, are custom made. His tailor: Emsley (New York), which charges $185 a suit.
AHMET M. ERTEGUN—A jazz authority and president of prospering Atlantic Records, Ertegun was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1923 and was educated abroad and at St. John's College in Annapolis. Dedicated to chic living, he has a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce. He buys ready-made suits at J. Press (around $100 each and has them recut for around $50) by Martin Kalaydjian, the legendary valet of the Algonquin Hotel in New York.
ROY HAYNES—The thirty-five-year-old jazz percussionist belongs on any best-dressed list if only because of his taste in selecting clothes that flatter his short stature (five feet, three and a half inches). His suits are custom made (around $125 each) by the Andover Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Forty-eight years later, only the Andover Shop and J. Press are still kicking. To read the entire Esquire article, go here.