Fashion 88 : Retailers Bracing to Take Stockbroker Look to the Bank

. . . and buy a decent suit. You can't come in here looking like this. Go to my tailor and tell him I sent you.

--Gordon Gekko to Bud Fox in the movie "Wall Street"

Once again, the worlds of fashion and cinema converge.

Has Oliver Stone's hit movie "Wall Street" prompted a run on custom-tailored suits? No, not exactly. But there is no disputing that the double-breasted power suits, flamboyant shirts and colorful "braces" (the preferred term for suspenders among go-getters) worn in the movie by actors Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen have found a pulse among retailers.

"I was in shock when I saw the clothes," says Bijan Pakzad, owner of the luxurious Bijan men's stores in Beverly Hills and New York, where the average price for an off-the-rack suit is $2,500.

"Almost every one of my customers dresses like that: the classic European look of the suits, the striped shirts with white collars and white cuffs, the suspenders.

"And believe me," Pakzad adds, "I have plenty of customers in the financial world, especially in New York. The funny part is that on Black Monday my business went up. A couple of days after it happened, Mr. (Malcolm) Forbes, the flamboyant publisher, signed my guest book with something cute: 'For Wall Street people in New York, relief is spelled B-I-J-A-N.' "

Sartorial Message

Like any other movie with a sartorial message, "Wall Street" has had a "subliminal effect on customers," maintains Jack Lucky, associate men's fashion director of Neiman-Marcus in Dallas.

"It definitely affects the way people think and broadens their horizons. They subconsciously or even consciously will wear a paisley tie with a striped shirt and a glen-plaid suit because Michael Douglas as a CEO type looked great in the film. They're thinking: 'This man is together as a package. He knows the recipe for success.' "

Whether or not viewing on the big screen the ingredients of the recipe--the ones that separate the corporate winners from the losers--has had direct reverberations at the cash register in clothing departments, men across town are indeed dressing "Wall Street" style, retailers say.

Harold Bosworth, merchandise manager of the Bullocks Wilshire men's stores, says: "We haven't been able to keep double-breasted suits in stock," and among the season's best-selling shirts are $52 to $85 fancy dress shirts with colored or striped bodies and contrasting white collars and French cuffs.

"Our braces business has been exceptionally strong for well over 12 months," he adds. However, braces sales slowed down in the last 90 days and then suddenly were rejuvenated, "so I do believe Michael Douglas in 'Wall Street' affected us."

At Saks, fashion director Patty Fox reports that "our business in braces has gone up over the last two months," adding that upscale types knowingly seek out suspenders that are affixed to the trousers with buttons, rather than the more plebeian clip-on models.

"We're finding very dark, dressy, elegant-looking suits are selling very well, not dumb navy solids or banker's stripes," reports Dan McCampbell, suit buyer for Bullock's department stores.

"Bud, in the movie, wore a Valentino suit--which we carried--when he was in the limo with Gekko. Men are stepping out a little more," he says.

Tailored, peak-lapel Valentino suits are hardly the look traditionally associated with Wall Streeters. Slope-shouldered, boxy Brooks Brothers suits are more like it. But even Brooks Brothers, once the bastion of safe dressing for the corporate man, seems to be stepping out a little. In August, the company introduced off-the-rack double-breasted suits.

Still, Douglas' film wardrobe of custom-made, English-flavor suits and snazzy accessories has gradually been finding favor in recent years.

"Let me put it this way," says Tommy Perse, owner of Maxfield on Melrose Avenue. "I think my customers appreciate Michael Douglas dressing up this way because he looks spiffy, but we've been selling that look for many years to doctors, dentists, lawyers, people who want to be a little flamboyant but within that acceptable system. All the good designers are using classics with a twist. Armani does that and there are quite a few others."

Michael Anderson, owner of Clacton & Frinton, the La Cienega Boulevard men's store, says: "The movie helps to keep fashion moving along. Our look is quite different, more Anglo-American 1940s, and Michael Douglas' is more English.

Conservative Men

"But the impact (of the movie) is, 'yes, it's all right to wear a broad striped shirt with a white collar.' They're not just for English dandies. Very, very conservative men in England have worn them for a long time. And the tiniest things do make a difference: the amount of cuff you show, the depth of the vent in the jacket."

As Jerry Magnin, owner of the Ralph Lauren boutique on Rodeo Drive, points out: The "Wall Street" look is merely a throwback to the "J. P. Morgan-Rockefeller mentality of dandies as opposed to just conservative dressers," and it was adopted by nonfictional fast trackers starting five years back.

"All my friends who are investment bankers on Wall Street, all the Young Turks, have dressed like that for the last three to five years, walking around with their coats off so people can see their suspenders," Magnin says.

"The suspenders business has been so strong for the last three years you can't believe it, and there's no practical reason to wear them. They're just another piece of male plumage, if you ask me."

Same with French cuffs, he says. "Men wear them so they can show off their cuff links. Another piece of plumage."

But Magnin suspects that all the plumage may become a thing of the past again.

"There's probably a lot less showing off your colors since Oct. 19," he remarks.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World