30 August 2012

Tretorn as Memento Mori

I rather like and admire the Ovadia Brothers (Ariel and Shimon), whom GQ magazine anointed Best New Menswear Designers in America, earlier this year. With their eponymous label, Ovadia & Sons, for which they serve as creative directors, these Yeshiva-educated twins have tweaked the full-line gentleman's wardrobe for a younger generation, with classic tailoring for town and country. They appear to be warm, articulate and unpretentious in the interviews I've read with them, despite a deluge of press I'm certain they are forced to court by necessity. They are, after all, in business: the business of merchandising their collections of men's tailoring; and as such, they have become--to invoke that loathsome word--a brand. As an actor who toils in low-budget independent film--which is to say, oblivion--I am not without cognizance of this essential drum-beating in the rabid age of Web 2.0's ubiquitous grandchildren, the social media. But I don't see the Ovadias in the social pages (as yet), and that leaves me heartened, and possibly assured that they care more about their craft than they do their celebrity. News today that they have teamed with J. Press seems a likely collaboration, at least overdue if not summarily inevitable; and one hopes that this teeming step in their continued success won't go to their collective head. 

Now I don't wear "designer" clothes, per se; but if I did, or more precisely, if I subscribed to--and to that I mean, simply, that if I were of the mind and purse to be able to acquire one's entire collection, head to toe--it would be, unquestionably, theirs. They have--plainly put and without any credible assailant to which I'm apt to grant the most astute dissent--the most impeccable taste; which, tossing all modesty aside, is, relatively speaking, not at all dissimilar to mine: gentlemanly and urbane, and--as much as it crushes me to see this continuing as some proliferated trend--preppy. Yes, preppy right down to the signifiers which, once upon a time, most non-preppies would have never, ever, spotted, even as they mimicked the so-called "look."

I shan't digress and launch a tirade against this "heritage" fashion movement--inflamed by the most plebeian bloggers, who've pilfered the wardrobe articles I've so long cherished for their insouciance and bestowed them, as if by some ingenious discovery, to the Toms, Dicks and Harrys, who wouldn't know a Harkness table from an old-school tie. No, I shall not digress; not here, not now. We'll save that for another occasion. One can only hope that the zenith repercussion of this sartorial fever, culminating, it appears, in "Ivy Style," a full-on exhibition and symposium, to be staged at the FIT Museum this fall, is also its denouement.

But one sees evinced in the Ovadias' sensibilities some of these small gestures of sprezzatura that only the genuine-article preppy once sported, whether the sterling-silver engine-turned monogrammed belt buckle (best if it comes from Tiffany's), Boast polo shirts (now revived), Weejuns (ditto), Ray-Ban aviators, the ever-present pocket square, the trouser sans break and two-inch cuffs, the necktie with a four-in-hand knot producing tips of equal length, or a certain tennis shoe from Sweden that bowed in 1967; a shoe so disarmingly understated in its design that the few who wore them probably knew one another: the Tretorn Nylite, or just plain Tretorns, as they were known, before Puma bought them--a fact deliberately hidden for fear of brand contamination--and decided to leverage Tretorn's noted luxury with a zillion other styles. Yes, German Puma owns Tretorn, but Tretorn is still Swedish. Right. Like Dunlop is still British (wink).

The Ovadias first collection for Press features Tretorn Nylites aplenty; and that seems a suitable accessory, I suppose. But given the hallowed place of coveted items with which I'm loath to part--or see commercialized to the most pedestrian degree--these sumptuous tennis shoes are just about the last vestige of preppydom I care to see flee from the precincts unto which they belong. I detest the fact that my tried-and-true tennies, my absolutely favourite shoes, which I've worn since my foot grew into men's sizes, at age 11 or so, have suddenly become so damn trendy. To see this graceful sneakers shod on the most ghastly people is a dagger to the heart. And I say this at the risk of sounding terribly snobbish, and I'm not, I swear.

It's just that I take these tennis shoes very serious--and despite the years Bj√∂rn Borg wore them on the professional courts, these are not my tennis shoes of choice on any surface other than clay. In fact, tennis shoe is a misnomer, because their comfort is more akin to a slipper: its interior the softest, silkiest nylon and its rubber sole that dances off the macadam belies the succor beneath its simplicity of design. Over the years, it's been tampered with--as the following photograph depicts: the older shoe, above the current model resting below it, and some six years old, was "updated" with a thicker terrycloth interior and a wider signature on the side of the shoe; both of which have since been banished in favour of the current, more original model--but I've never waned in my devotion to this sneaker. And, despite its commercialization and patronage among people for whom this is nothing more than a passing fancy, I will endure the heartbreak of its sudden popularity, resting assured that both of us can expect better days ahead.