A reader who shares the same hometown as Tom Wolfe left a great comment the other day in response to my ADG In Book-Land: What are you reading? post. oldominion crossed paths with Jennet Conant one day and Tom Wolfe the night before. A writer and writing teacher in Baltimore, oldominion has recently resurrected his own blog.
Here you go…directly from his email…
“Was happily making my way through The Irregulars recently on vacation when, looking up, I saw the author herself walking towards me in her tennis whites. The book is wonderful when focusing on Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Ivar Bryce and Henry Marsh, slows a bit otherwise. Recommended. (Thanks oldominion...I've read it)
The night before seeing her I was browsing in a bookstore in Southampton when a dapper elderly man walked in: tailored very light linen with what appeared to be a half-lining of seersucker with working sleeve buttons, white trou, white Keds and, incongruously, a cummerbund. Of course you know who it was: My fellow Richmonder Tom Wolfe, God bless him.”
God bless him indeed. I’ve long since lost objectivity about Tom Wolfe. His clothes, his writing, his counter bohemianism in-your-face-in-white…intrigues me. I won’t bore you with the stories about how he began wearing white suits. Most people already know that. I won’t rehash the albeit great but over-told tale about how he coined the term “good ole boy” when doing a piece on Junior Johnson many years ago.
What I will do, after tossing in your face for the zillionth time, the letter Wolfe wrote me, is ramble on a bit about Wolfe-whateverishness.
oldominion‘s sighting of Tom Wolfe in his Hamptons play-clothes reminds me of this little story from a 1980 Wolfe interview. Wolfe talks about the issue of hostility towards sartorial outliers….
“…the hostility for minor changes in style was just marvelous. In fact this summer I was in East Hampton visiting some people who took me to a party. I was wearing a four button seersucker jacket that buttons up really high—I think it’s actually Edwardian—with a little tiny collar and white tie with small, far-apart black stripes, and I had on a collar pin and cuff links, white serge pants and white cap-toes shoes, which are real English banker shoes, only I had them made in white doeskin…pretty soon I noticed that I was the only man in the room who had on both a jacket and a tie.
Finally a man came over to me; he was a little drunk, but he was also angry. He asked, “What’s the idea of the rig?” I asked “What do you mean?” He said, “The tie, the pin, all this stuff.” So I looked at him and he had on a polo shirt and some kind of go-to-hell pants, and he had this big stain down the front of his polo shirt—right down the middle, right down to his belt line. I asked… “How do you do that bright stripe down your polo shirt?” He looked down in sort of surprise and said, “That’s sweat goddamn it, that’s sweat!” He suddenly was very proud of it.”
Somewhere I had a photo of Wolfe in that little Edwardian Vincent Nicolosi contraption but I can’t seem to find it now. But the shots I've posted here pretty much represent the gist of the rig that seemed to piss off the sweat-striped-polo-GTH pants party guy. I love his ever so elegant in your face dandyism…and he really, really isn’t concerned with what you think of his contrivances.
So here’s to you…man in full with the sartorial right stuff. Keds and cummerbunds…sign me up.
Onward…closing out summer…ADG