Thursday, September 21, 2006

What I Like About Dracula

By DAVID COLMAN

IT’S easy — too easy — for a working man to look good today, thanks to a sea of slim-cut suits, snappy dress shirts and an Equinox in every upscale Zip code. How’s a guy to keep his edge?

Well, if having smarter ideas, logging longer hours or being a bigger mensch than the next guy does not do the trick, there is the Wall Street mohawk. This latest bit of stockbroker savagery is a modified take on the already modified original: a crew cut around the sides and back with a mop of hair at the crown.

“I noticed it a few years ago in London,” said the New York hairstylist John Barrett. “The stockbroker types down in the City were getting their hair cut this way. It took a while to cross the Atlantic, but there are definitely guys now with conservative jobs who want an edgier look, and they come in every three or four weeks to get it.”

The do may not yet have a zingy name — the CEO-hawk? — and may seem a rather tepid version of the shellacked spikes of yore or even the “faux-hawk” that has been a hipster fave of late. But its low-key style is part of a mystique that some corporate raiders love.

“That’s the thing, “ Mr. Barrett said. “It can look very Brooks Brothers by day. They say, ‘I don’t quite want a mohawk, but I want to be able to make it look like that at night.’ ”

The same can be said for a subtly aggressive trend in men’s clothes, one that lets a man express his latent Goth-rocker self while still playing by at least some of the company rules. The NoLIta men’s wear company Barker Black made its name with corp-Goth accessories like wingtips with uppers faintly perforated with a skull pattern; this season, with skulls everywhere, it introduced rep ties with a more understated design: diagonal stripes of crossbones.

Around the corner, the men’s shop Duncan Quinn sells suits and shirts with red linings and cuffs — for just a hint of blood — as well as silk ties bearing dragons, crowns and Maltese crosses. The look is meant to suggest both the gentility and ferocity of the business world.

“Whether it’s a tie with a dragon or a cross, it relates to the old idea of putting on 50 pounds of armor and hacking away at each other,” Mr. Quinn said. “In the business world, everything is a competition, so I like having an underlying connection. It’s not just a piece of eye candy.”

Jewelry designers, too, are offering dryly barbed pieces for men — silver talon rings, bleeding-heart cuff links, carnelian signet rings — with just a hint of menace.

No one owns the look this season as does Alexander McQueen. His vampire-fantasy runway show might not have screamed suit and tie, but it concealed an array of beautifully tailored suits and shirts that are now in stores. Finally, those Damons, Damiens, Gideons and Gabriels born in the late 1970’s (“The Omen” came out in 1976) have something to wear to day jobs on the Street. Why style yourself as a Master of the Universe when the Dark Prince has the better wardrobe?

Mr. McQueen said he wanted to tap into a decadent 1920’s British-peer lifestyle, one with accouterments like velvet evening jackets, a valet (one named, say, Renfield) and a little packet of Sen-Sen to get the whiff of blood off your breath. “It’s more about the richness and aristocracy of Dracula,” he said. “And about a sense of history, like finding an old jacket in the attic and being able to carry it off.”

And in a way, it is about restoring dignity to the word “Goth,” which he all but sneered at. “Goth to me means Camden Market and teenagers in L.A. buying stuff on the Internet,” he said. “I prefer the word ‘dark.’ There’s a richness, a romanticism there.”

Whether they indulge in the haircut or the clothes, men are quick to downplay the idea that they flaunt any kind of edge at work.

“Eyeliner’s not my thing,” said Chris Sharp, who works on the trading floor for a Wall Street firm and was seduced away from Dunhill suits to McQueen, he said, because of the tailoring, not the skull-print ties. “I have one of the ties — my wife gave it to me. It’s fun for an evening out, but not for a client meeting.”

“For me, edgy is a single-breasted suit with a peak lapel,” he added. “I’m getting fitted for one on Saturday.”

Be warned, mortals. That’s how it all started with Count Dracula. With a peak lapel.

4 comments:

  1. I think that "crew cut on the sides" with a mop of hair on top was the sort of thing popular in the early 1900's. You see a similar haircut in in photos of the WWI and WWII pilots. I could go for that and the signet ring.

    Ken

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  2. Yeah, there is SOOO nothing new about this look. to lump it in with 'goth' or vampire for the purpose of giving it an aggressive/punky look is merely a matter of appealing to generation.

    the generation of businessmen who referred to the 'dark side' of anything seemingly unappealing (slacker/liberal) ushered in the notion that popular sci-fi culture can help to define class, style and politics.

    so 'vampire' or pseudo-punk, complete with optional skull-and-crossbow accoutrements, can pass for wall street.

    i mean, this style's earliest known manifestation was 'military' and 'unfortunate bout of head-lice.'

    not so catchy as 21st century cred??

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  3. You're right. There's nothing really new about this look; it's just the first time it's gone corporate.

    American marketers can take any subculture, rob it of its essence and sell it in boutiques. It's good money, occasionally cool clothes and a signal to the kids to move on to the next shock :-)

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