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Alan Flusser, the Scholar of Menswear, Publishes Again

Alan Flusser is the fashion world’s man of letters.

The New York-based menswear designer has a scholar’s knowledge of haberdashery, from buttonholes to suit linings, dating back to the days when linings matched a suit fabric and stripes were used strictly in the sleeves.

A voracious reader and collector of obscure books on men’s fashion, as well as Esquire magazines of the ‘30s--which is the height of elegance for men, he believes--Flusser is a man obsessed with the fine points of clothes.

This is a man who has his tennis shorts custom-made because “you can’t find simple pleated shorts without 14 names on them.” A man who considers Douglas Fairbanks Jr. the world’s most stylish living person. A man who travels with his dirty suits so that he can take them to the world’s best cleaners, which, he believes, are located in hotels, including Claridge’s in London, the Okura in Tokyo and the Peninsula in Hong Kong, “absolutely one of the great laundries,” he says.

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This is also a man who likes to figure out why things are the way they are, like why a suit has four buttons on the cuff as opposed to one, two or three. (The answer, based on his digging, Flusser says, is simply that “four buttons balance properly on the sleeve.”)

Now the Coty Award winner has compiled those answers in his second book of men’s fashion entitled “Clothes and the Man” (Villard Books: $29.95), a complete guideline to the principles of proper dress, including color photographs of more than 60 men’s shirtings to help a man distinguish pencil-stripe broadcloth from candy-stripe cotton twill. (Flusser’s first book, “Making the Man,” covered the hows and wheres of shopping.)

Aside from his literary efforts, Flusser is his own best walking fount of arcane fashion information. During a promotional visit to Los Angeles, he is dressed in a “very English kind of custom-tailored suit” with details that speak for themselves: peak lapels; fullness in the chest; turned-back cuffs on the sleeves and working buttonholes; button-front fly; suspenders with a tennis-player pattern; striped shirt with white cutaway collar; proper, two-sided gold cuff links with an enamel design of a horsey theme.

Even though most of his clothes are custom-made in England--his way, he says, of experimenting with different tailoring possibilities--Flusser’s personal wardrobe displays the same details a man will find on clothes bearing the Flusser label. Granted, they’re not the sort of clothes that will appeal to everyone. Flusser’s just-opened haberdashery located in a 16th-floor penthouse at 16 East 52nd Street in New York purposefully doesn’t attract street traffic, and the prices alone ($775 for made-to-measure suits; $100 for custom-made shirts) will discourage even more shoppers. Not surprisingly, Flusser says his shop is “like a club.”

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Yet, concurrent with the opening of his New York shop is the introduction of the Alan Flusser sportswear collection for J.C. Penney, through which the designer is hoping to attract more members to his club. Sweaters sell for $40; trousers, $38; shirts, $27.

“Now I say I make shirts for $27 to $227,” Flusser says with a laugh, adding: “The principles of dressing well are not exclusive to those who spend a lot of money. The principles of fit transcend expensive fabric.”


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