This is just to say that if you have not yet picked up a copy of Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist, you just simply must, and as soon as possible.
We know—we’re late on this, but bear with us. (Many books are even better long past their debut date! Especially when they have covers hand-silkscreened by the author!) We once worked at an honest-to-goodness fashion magazine, the kind with Ukrainian models and English photographers and weird, mime-style poses in unwearable clothing selected for the stylists by the advertisers. We love magazines, just love them, but we’ve found that there are lots we just can’t read anymore—a few mainstream fashion magazines in particular. We just cannot believe in any of it anymore: the underfed models, the insider-only columns, and the inevitable profiles of utterly undeserving and uninteresting socialites and heiresses. We’re not making any news here, but if they are what “fashion” is, we truly and absolutely want no part of it.
There are other examples of a counter-argument but our current favorite is The Sartorialist book. (Just like the second edition of the Nylon street-style book, hurrah, which we’re working on!) We like the website just fine, but it’s better to be able to rip out the photos and put them on your wall—as a reminder that it’s not just models and socialites who are eligible players in the art of looking stylish. (Or, for that matter, the white and the under-25, which is an equally reprehensible limitation.) It’s not the world we live in. It’s not a world we’d ever want to visit. The one we’d prefer is the one we see in Schuman’s book: multi-cultural not for the outmoded purposes of political correctness but just because it is true—because this is the world we inhabit. Multi-generational because people should not be forced into obsolescence after whatever age the obsolescence-cut-off seems to be— 25, 35, 50. We don’t even like to use the “multi-” words—the words of an unpleasant past being used to describe a document that exists, and is documenting, a newer and better world.
That’s part of what we love about this book: It’s democratic. Certainly, it’s democratic within a certain milieu—many of those pictured will know how to properly pronounce “Hussein Chalayan,” and Schuman himself has said he had trouble convincing certain, often underrepresented women to let him photograph them: “When I am shooting on the street older women and larger size women often say “no” to my request to shoot them. Actually, much more than any other category of people I shoot.” (That’s, obviously, not Schuman’s fault, but a natural—and pathetic, and regrettable—result of the condition described at top.) There are few pictures here from outside the world’s fashion capitals, none from Africa—which we have been covering more than any other place in the world lately, because we love it, or at least the parts of it we have been to. It’d be great to see this world through Schuman’s literal lens. Until he works on that project, though, we are well satisfied with this book. It gives us hope: that what makes us (read, in this case: “women”) interesting, even and especially in this style/fashion context, is not limited to our genetics and our age—that it is about our eye, our creativity, our time, our talent, our hard work. (This reminds us of that Ugly Betty scene where Betty’s is laboring over putting a look together for her prototype magazine, and Marc just swans in and does it for his own in a flash. Schuman, we’re sure, would be open to both approaches.) It’s not (necessarily) about class or clout. It’s the American dream, goddamn it, or one of the best examples the fashion world has had the good fortune to muster, and we, from the bottom of our hearts, salute it.