Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Don Cornelius-Fred Astaire Love Child

I paraphrase loosely B.B. King’s reaction to the lyrics of When Love Comes to Town, the 1987 U2 song written for him by Bono. King said something like…“You mighty young to write such heavy lyrics.” I can’t remember what I had for dinner three nights ago but I’ve always remembered that line.

I feel the same way about Barima. When I drink Barima’s visual treats and read his commentary I have a B.B. King moment. This kid hasn’t lived enough life yet to have that much aplomb. I guess that blows my already flawed theory that time and tenure are influencers of style. Is it nature or nurture? Hell I don’t know. What I do know is that this kid has the stuff. And Barima, trust me young sport, there will be a time when you’ll consider it a compliment to be called a kid.
I look at his contrivances and think…”damn, this kid ain’t old enough to posses his legitimate swagger.” When I did the Merkin tribute story I included Alan Flusser’s observation of Merkin’s sartorial mélange…“Coming upon Merkin in the street is like walking into a bazaar in Marrakesh-you don’t know what to look at first.” In my inelegant Southern way let me just say that Barima delivers the same damn thang. And Barima’s Savile Row-esque aplomb is washed cleverly in his ethnicity…ever present without looking like a revisionist devotee of 1970’s blaxploitation films.
Here’s an example above. Barima manifests a theatrical production with tweedy, fair isled motivations while finishing this rig with colour and accessories that knock it clean out of the ballpark. If I tried to replicate this verbatim, I’d end up looking like the victim of a Tommy Hilfiger-Old Navy-Rugby fraternity hazing event.
So what about his style? Theatrical? Yes, of course. An inextricably ethnic thread therein? Well it would worry the shit out of me if there wasn’t. Ghana is rich in colour, movement, texture and sounds. A Ghanaian antecedent surely does nothing but buoy his style deliverables but country of origin isn’t enough. Barima is a thinking man’s dandy. He’s the je ne sais quoi poster child. Literally…“I don’t know that” or as we would say in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina…“I be damn if I know.”…in this case, where Barima’s stuff comes from. I now and forever Knight Sir Barima as…the Chocolate Merkin. And most of you know how I revere Merkin so this is nothing but 100% praise for Barima.
And another thing about Barima’s or anyone else’s style. It’s his. Don’t attempt it. Find your own. His colour-style-amalgamation makes my middle age-Belgian shoe-fuzzy diceyness appear cowardly. Dramatic he is. A poseur he is not. I’m reminded of that scene in the movie K2 where the two guys are braving winds and snow in a small tent on the side of a mountain. One guy asks the other if he has his strategy yet. ...his strategy for making the K2 summit. The other guy says something like “I don’t know…what’s your strategy.” To which his buddy replied… “Mine is mine, it won’t work for you.” Same with climbing Mount Style.
I missed Barima by about a week when I was last in London. I think he was home in Ghana for holidays but I do remember trading a few emails to see if we could meet up for a drink. I think he’s old enough to drink cocktails. London is a tough city for young people to survive financially…unless you are propped up by family or living in a house with fifteen other people in Peckham. Peckham hell; probably two hours farther out of London. I believe I’m correct in saying that for now, Barima has decamped back to Ghana to regroup.
Tintin…you know…the guy who has a blog that I ghostwrite, was talking about who has a voice in the blogosphere and who doesn’t. He made solid arguments regarding who has something to say versus those who simply paste pictures and captions into a blog and purports it as commentary. I like Barima’s voice. It’s tinted with British Colonial aftertastes and it’s crisp. So when he’s writing at length, you get all the evidence necessary to realize that this young man not only has opinions but has the gifts to voice them well. Here are some examples for you.
As noted in the opening photograph of Roger, Neo-Edwardianism in dress, as well as deportment, was a nostalgic exhumation and customisation of an old style. It was the ideal postwar reaction; emerging from half a decade of atrocity, loss and devastation and seeking reinvigoration in the aftermath, Row tailors advocated this fashion to entice customers back to suiting."
And from Barima's Relaxed Suiting post..."It's been well documented that I achieve a more informal look the same way other like minds do; my shirt and tie combinations could only really be seen at parties or in a creative office. Anyone who really thinks bold ensembles are de rigueur in a conservative professional environment is an idiot or has befriended one too many wide boys. But going the other way and playing the colour field down doesn't harm a suit's out-of-the-office cachet.”
And on Astaire in Easter Parade...
 “Just look at his exit - total and intuitive awareness of his environment in full display, he performs a variety of cane tricks, finishing with his trademark spinning catch and exits with a wave and a smile in bounding, mercurial twirls. Cheating a child out of an Easter Bunny never looked so admirable…”

And this, about a suit he borrowed to attend a wedding…“Ghanaian weddings favour a conservative mode in principle, but they are nevertheless as rife with egregious errors such as evening dress in the daytime as anywhere else on the planet. Still, the simplicity is the thing and bow ties are always welcome. The suit was kindly lent to me as I had none of my own when I initially relocated. I've more than made up for that now.”
Ok, so he borrows the suit above. Does a couple of Barimanastics and BAM…he’s rigged better than ninety percent of the world.'
The sartorial master, Ahmet Ertegun received this Barimanal observation…
“…..one cannot dismiss the twinkle in Ertegun's eyes that implies a capacity to be as indelicate as his companions, at least once upon a time. Nutini was a great admirer of Ertegun's sartorial sense, liking it to that of his own grandfather, but also reminisced that when it came to retaining a finger on the pulse, he was more like a 25-year old. Indeed, one would expect nothing less than precise attunement to the zeitgeist from Ertegun, the man who wrote 'Mess Around' for Ray Charles, signed Led Zeppelin and fell asleep in a nightclub whilst finalizing negotiations with The Rolling Stones…”
So he’s a visualist and a darn good writer. If there’s a flaw somewhere it’s one that I posses as well. One post will be well written with catchy commentary and then the next three may be comparatively lean on all fronts. I’ll defend both of us. I write this drivel in my spare time and it by no means is it my job. And Barima…well let me just say that more of his stuff is fun to read than not. I’d like to see more comments on his posts. Maybe you’ll become a follower.

This link will take you straight-away to Barima posts that almost exclusively depict him and his sartorial contrivances. It would be a cool way to orient yourself to why I deem him visually worthy of this tribute post.

Onward. With about one tenth the stuff that our Barima has.

Ps...Barima read every word of this post and approved one hundred percent of its tone and content before I published it. So spare me any interpretation that you might have about ethnic edginess and political correctness. This man rocks every bit of what God gave him.


Main Line Sportsman said...

A few thoughts...Don Cornelius and Fred Astaire mating?? There are many facets of wrong and weird about that. Spent many hours watching Don C on Soul Train as a kid.
Now, your subject here has a flair that is captivating. That patterned Dinner jacket is to die for. In another shot he looks oddly like the Villian played by Yaphet Koto in the weak Bond offering: "Live and Let Die."
And those are some Don damn Cornelius sunglasses he is sporting...either that or he over-dresses when doing a bit of spot-welding.
As always ADG...an interesting post...evocative and gets my Comment juices flowing.

Young Fogey said...

Style out the wazoo!

I like what you said: kids, don't copy this at home. We should look to our peacock friends (I'm thinking of Giuseppe and Mistah Wong, too, and not just ADG and Barima) for inspiration, which we then incorporate into our own styles. We can also say "eww!" and decide how not to look like that--which is also a kind of inspiration.

Boutonniere, pocket square, pen: the Barima trifecta. It's how you say "fuzzy dice" in Ghanaian!

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely wowed by this tribute to a commenter whom I have been intrigued with since I first visited this blog. Barima. A mysterious man of vogue and you have brought him to life for me a bit. Wonderful of you to honor an articulate and amusing follower of your blogness......madness?.......(did I say that?)

Please don't stop commenting, Barima, you are one of the few who really have something relevant to say about the 'realm' in which ADG dwells.

(Delicious post ADG...thank you)

SFBay Area

Anonymous said...

I wish I knew how to email you directly. I would have a thing or two to say about the need for your P.S. Your readership is in question if you feel the need to add disclaimers....excuses? (Diminished the content of a brilliant post, IMHO)

Some of the young and old fogies scare me with their pol tudes.......ya know?

SouthernProletariat said...

Will be happy to add to Barima to my reader and encourage him upon occasion. I've clicked over to him before, he's definitely got "it."

Although, encouragement from a married mom of two children with a lack of personal style of her own maaayy not be the reader you had in mind when you posted this. Hopefully your male readers will step up for you, but I always fall on the "encourager" profile on those blasted personality tests so I.cannot.step.away.from.encouraging.

Hope all is well on the patrol. Stay safe out there.

Pigtown-Design said...

Wonderful post. Sorry to hear that he's gone back to Ghana! I am more likely to get to London than Ghana and I'd love to meet him!

Peter Wilborn said...


Having spent time in West Africa, I love this gent.

Of you haven't already, run buy http://www.amazon.com/Gentlemen-Bacongo-Daniele-Tamagni/dp/190456383X.

It is a deep universal calling, that of being a dandy, flaneur, sapeur, wherever you are and from wherever you sprung.

Certainly is in Charleston, SC!

Anonymous English Female said...

ADG - He reminds me of a young Andre Leon Talley. Anyone who puts so much effort into expressing his joie de vivre and love of beauty is to be admired and applauded.

NCJack said...

Bookmarked him some time back via another blog. Like Bro. Will at ASW, I wouldn't copy the whole look, but lots of interesting ideas: can shift your paradigm right out of the box

Mal said...

So many people never understand the concept of style versus fashion..fashion is some designer telling you what you should look like, style is your own expression of individuality..like fingerprints, or handwriting. Merkin understood that from an early age and so does this young man Barima.

Thanks for the Ahmet Ertegun mention too...a true character, visionary, and man of the world.

ADG said...

Mal...indeed. I keep waiting for an Ahmet Ertegun biography to appear.

NCJack...I agree. Inspiration can manifest from various sources.

AnonEngFem...Andre Leon...makes sense to me.

Peter Wilborn...thanks. Yep, but I see Charleston flaneur-ism shrouded strictly in bow-ties and seersucker.

MegTown...Ghana is a straight shot accross the Atlantic.

SouthernProl....apologize not. We need encouragers.

AnonDisclaimer....it's easy to email me. You just click on my profile and do so. I agree re the dilution manifest by adding the disclaimer but I didn't want to deal.


MainLiner..."overdressing for spot welding"...brilliant. And don't knock the Cornelius-Astaire union until you've seen the forbidden videos.

tintin said...

As a white boy who can't dance - I would stand in front of the TV in 1986 and watch Soul Train with my mouth hanging open. I was in awe. And Don had it over that Dick Clark in every way. Compared to Don, Clark sounded like Minny Mouse on helium.

This cat took me back to those days when awe wasn't something people who work for BP talk about on TV commercials. "We know there's still awe out there and we ain't leaving until we mopped it all up."

He's banging 12 on the style meter. I bet he can dance too.

Anonymous said...

Are you from the "Pee Dee" area? I was surprised to see my roots mentioned here...

ADG said...

AnonymousPeeDee...I might be. According to whether I owe you money or not.

TinTang...yep. You nailed the Don Cornelius/Dick Clark dichotomy and you also spoke for me re the dancing thing.

Young Fogey said...

C'mon, gents! Man up and dance!

The ladies L-O-O-O-O-O-V-E a good dancer, and there are a zillionty different styles. Try ballroom; try salsa; try tap; try various flavors of folk dance--just "get up offa that thing/And dance till you feel better"!

I'm good enough at a certain kind of folk dance to teach it; when I put time into it, I'm above-average at ballroom (and rock at mambo); I can dance salsa acceptably but will never be good at it. YMMV.

Barima said...

I'd like to thank everyone for their kind words, trenchant insights and stalwart following of ADG. He really does know how to entice the right kind of internet people

For the record, Southern Prole and Pigtown have previously commented on my column, and I'd like to thank you two again, as I would anyone with something to say

Main Line Sportsman - whose blog I may have to visit more often - I overdress for events as piquant as tax returns, indoor plumbing and the changing of lightbulbs. By the way, I dressed as Yaphet Kotto's Mr. Big/Dr. Kananga for a 007-themed Halloween 2008. There's a photograph somewhere

Tintin, I, as far as others are concerned, am a decent dancer. I'd like my frenetic freestyling to give way to something more learned, eventually

All best and thanks again,


tintin said...

Barima- You have loads of time to take dancing lessons. In the mean time, you and ADG shoot a mini 007 for the blog. You do Y. Kotto and ADG is Roger Moore. I get .02% of gross.