Words by Ms Molly Isabella Smith
27 August 2020
Few designers are as quotable as Mr Tom Ford. True, it’s often because he’s saying something wild or headline-grabbing, like the time he told Harper’s Bazaar he takes four baths a day, or when he claimed to do everything naked. His statements on style, though markedly less controversial, are just as pithy. And though they may be dressed in the designer’s trademark wit, beneath the veneer there is real meaning to his words: here is a man who knows not only how to talk, but what he’s talking about. To celebrate the powerhouse designer’s birthday – which is today, in case you’d forgotten to pop a card in the post – we’ve decoded five of his best sartorial musings.
01. “Menswear is a detail-driven business”
Comments on his bathing habits aside, this is perhaps the most Mr Tom Ford-esque of Mr Ford’s statements. It’s not lofty, philosophical or idealistic; in fact, by referring to menswear as a business it recognises that this thing we call style is, at least in part, a commercial endeavour. And details? Well, those are the things that keep said business running. Menswear, after all, has long been ruled by strict conventions, and there are only so many ways you can reinvent a button-down Oxford shirt or khaki chinos. Instead, it’s those tiny tweaks and improvements – a mother-of-pearl button here, a well-placed pleat there – that sort the bog-standard from the superior.
02. “Dressing well is a form of good manners”
There are two ways to read this one. The first is self-explanatory: basic human decency dictates that you should not turn up to a black-tie wedding in a beige linen suit, crinkled from the taxi ride over; it would be politer to simply decline the invitation. The second interpretation digs a little deeper: Mr Ford has always maintained that clothes are a reflection of our inner selves; so why wouldn’t we, in his opinion, present the best version we have to offer?
03. “I thrive on failure. I thrive on things that are not perfect. It sends me right back into the ring to get it right”
Mr Ford’s dogged commitment to perfectionism is renowned. This is, after all, a man who once admitted to British Vogue that he takes his Fruit of the Loom T-shirts to be tailored so they fit just so. Is that a little extreme? Perhaps. But the general ethos is sound: there’s no point splurging on a tuxedo if the lapels are cut slightly wide for your frame or your trousers are a fraction too long. Putting a little bit more time and effort into getting things right will pay off in the end, sartorially or otherwise.
04. “Shoes are always the most important thing for me because they are who you are. They change the way you walk, the way you move”
It’s long been held that your choice of shoes says as much about you as your handshake. But rather than simply regurgitate that rather stuffy and old-fashioned menswear maxim that shoes make the man, Mr Ford expands on the concept here to make a case for comfortable footwear. Spending your days trudging through your commute wearing ill-fitting shoes is no way to live and, as the designer implies, it won’t do wonders for your posture or gait. The lesson? Stand tall and stride confidently forwards in a pair of shoes that don’t pinch.
05. “Real fashion change comes from real changes in real life. Everything else is just decoration”
There is, it seems, a Mr Ford quote for everything. Even 2020. History rarely feels like it’s being lived, which is partly why this year feels so disorienting. But while the designer might be on the money with this pearl of wisdom, contemplating what our sartorial futures hold is a futile endeavour; no one can predict the long-term impact the coronavirus pandemic or the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement will ultimately have on our wardrobes – and, big picture, it’s not our top priority right now – but one thing is certain: change is coming. And when it does, it will be reflected in the clothes we wear. Until then, wear your WFH sweatpants with pride.