But mostly, the reader will be bowled over by the lush images of Schiaparelli's 1930s goddess gowns, suit jackets with linebacker shoulders (later adopted by Hollywood costume designer Adrian), lamb chop- and shoe-shaped hats, as well as Prada's chiffon dresses emblazoned with illustrations of whimsical fairies and school-girl skirts in lip prints or bearing nostalgic "tourist" designs of Rome and Venice.
Portrait of a gentleman
"The Gentry Man: A Guide for the Civilized Male" (Harper Design, $19.99) is a selection of articles Hal Rubenstein culled from Gentry magazine, which published just 22 quarterly issues from 1951 to 1957. Rubenstein, fashion director of InStyle and founder-editor of Malcolm Forbes' Egg magazine (to name just two publications) is more than qualified to pluck out and dust off the best gems from the U.S. men's title.
Organized by subject (what every man should know; style; home, cars and travel; food and drink; sports; and art and culture), it's a book crammed with all manner of helpful hints. Some are delightfully antiquated, such as the travel suggestion that has one pointing the Nash Rambler Cross Country Station Wagon toward Cooperstown, N.Y. (where double rooms with a bath at the Otesaga could be had for $2 to $30 daily), or pointers on what suitcase can help you stay within an 88-pound allowance for round-the-the-world flights.
But there are also a goodly number of timeless tips, such as "How You Can Checkmate in Seven Moves," how to add a jaunty touch to your formal footwear (style your shoes with removable bows — "the white ones to be worn with a white dinner jacket, change to red when midnight-blue or black tuxedo is worn."), rules for slalom ski racing and pointers on building your own golf course.
The question, of course, is why would any modern-day man want to browse half-century-old style and etiquette advice in the first place? Precisely because it's been sitting on the shelf for five decades, and no one (besides, perhaps Rubenstein) has any skin in the game. Whether it's style ("Serge Obolensky supports his deep rust linen slacks with [a] colorful necktie belt"), how to mix a Buckingham cocktail (recommended by one Salvatore Bertocci, the head barman at the Savoy Plaza, it consists of 2 ounces gin and a dash of Scotch) or fire up a New Year's supper of broiled veal kidney with béarnaise sauce, it's a lifestyle perfectly preserved not in amber but in the pages of a defunct magazine that would have been right at home on the coffee tables of "Mad Men's" Cooper Sterling Draper Pryce crowd.
No matter that much of the information (or versions of it) could probably be found by a quick prowl of the vast savannah of the Internet. That the book's contents have already been double-distilled — once by Gentry's staff and its founder, editor and publisher William Segal, and a second time by Rubenstein — make for a cultural cocktail that today's man will find a refreshing change from the status quo.