Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gary Cooper—Enduring Style

I always knew that Gary Cooper was an all ‘round good guy. And for us clothes nuts, Cooper, usually courtesy of Alan Flusser, has always made the pages of sartorial testimony. As an exhibit of course, of one who knew how to wear clothes. And he did.
I’m sure I’ve construed and contrived…contorted and embellished for my own clothes loving amusement…Alan Flusser’s little story about Cooper buying fabrics and taking them to Malibu for aging-fading-patinating in the sun…before taking them to the tailor for some kind of assembly. After reading Enduring Style, I have more circumstantial evidence to believe the story. For Gary Cooper too; loved clothes.
It’s no secret that lots of Gary Cooper’s clothes originated on Savile Row. And of course you’ll get a good dose of that evidence in Enduring Style.
But what you’ll really get—courtesy of the fact that these are Cooper family photos, is overwhelming evidence that like Astaire, Cooper also had the necessary duende to be equally elegant when kitted out in accessories that might have been picked up at Woolworth's.
I’ve settled on what I’ll call Cooper’s “England-Montana” antecedents as the basis for his personal strategy.
 Born to British parents and raised in what had to have been back then and probably remains, a neck of the woods that bred self reliance. Self reliance and subsequently, a measure of gravitas balanced with not taking oneself too seriously. Montana was an adolescent twelve year old State when Gary Cooper joined it. 
His aura and essence of down to earth American gravitas riding shotgun  with a reserved elegance that could only be helped by being  six feet-three inches tall—five feet of which seemed to be legs. Like me. Shut up.
In some ways it’s rather sad to be impressed with people who accomplish some rather standard things. The bar these days is so low for certain performances that when you see an above average example, it seems like an unassisted triple play.
You know…like getting married only once and evolving that initial connection into a symbiotic partnership that stands…that withstands…especially when Hollywood and the movie business are environmental swathings that shroud the effort.
And to have years later, an adult daughter who isn’t in need of writing Crawford-esque Mommy Dearest exposés to cleanse her Hollywood childhood demons. Coop lived an honorable life in-full and its right here for your viewing, in Enduring Style.
Bruce Boyer and Cooper’s daughter Maria have done a stellar job of assembling Cooper family pictures and annotating it all with worthy insights. And as luck would have it, I’ve missed every one of their book signing parties. Some because I was scheduled elsewhere and a few because I was paid handsomely not to show up. And plenty has already been blogged about this great little book but I wanted my humble three-point-seven cents worth to be on the record as well.
I also enjoyed reacquainting myself with Bruce Boyer’s words and his writing style. God and everyone knows, photo courtesy of the blogosphere, that the man has unparalleled personal and sartorial style. But his ability to string a phrase exceeds even his sartorial gifts. There are some writers whose words I so enjoy reading that I’ll blow through whatever they scribe. Boyer has that gift and of course, I’m always keen on a sartorial back story.
Reading Enduring Style prompted me to pull Boyer’s 1985 book, Elegance, off my shelf. And I enjoyed reorienting myself to the man who’s lead many a sartorial treatise at Town and Country, GQ, Esquire, The Rake and scores of other publications through the years. I urge you to get a copy of Enduring Style but I’d also have you consider adding Boyer’s Elegance to your sartorial library as well.
The Cooper book is one of those that I’ll use like a select half-dozen others in my home. I’ve now read it cover to cover and will grab it from time to time…just to get a transient bolus dose of visual comfort. A glimpse at a man and an era when style and gravitas were things that occurred in a man or woman as a by-product of whom and what they were…of what they believed, felt and lived by. Style and gravitas as a result, not intent.
Onward. At five feet-three inches tall—one foot of which seems to be my damn legs. With broken molars and root canals and porcelain implants gobbling up all of my 2012 fun money. It hurts. And it ain’t funny. Shut up.


*I borrowed, as usual, photos from all over the Internet to contrive this little yarn. If I’ve stepped on the toes of any of you sensitive types… Do please, let me know.


Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Thanks for this, it looks rather good. I want to pick it up.

Good point about the England-Montana background. Cooper had a genuine identity (i.e., knew how he was and where he came from) and celebrated it. Unlike modern rootless Americans, who are encouraged to lose theirs and 're-make' themselves.

Working on calibrating the London-New York-Connecticut-California nexus.

Scott said...

That's Gary Cooper? I thought that was the guy from Wasp 101.


JKG said...

Still here and reading, less commenting. "Maxmaximus?" I'm waiting -- glad you like the thought.

ADG said...

JKG...I'm gonna do it. I've just been underfoot lately. nice.

Laguna..."London-New York-Connecticut-California nexus" ...that nexus is gonna cause eczema.

ADG said...

JKG...ok boss. I just rebranded my damn self.

oldog/oldtrix said...

I agree with everything you say about this book. There is another volume by Coop's daughter, however, that I think contains more detailed reminiscences and more and better quality photos (also from the family's personal collection). Indeed, most of the pictures in the new book appear in the earlier volume in larger format and richer reproduction. The older book, "Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers", is out of print, but it is still readily available both new and used from various sources. I am thrilled to have both books, and I think anyone who feels as you do about Gary Cooper and the new book would also prize the older one. By the way, I have no ulterior motive here; I have only one copy of the earlier book, and it is not for sale.


JKG said...

Awesome. I'm unreasonably flattered.

Anonymous said...

AD "Not THAT Florence" G

There is your Nexus, Mister.

I circled the Pee Dee today. Columbia to Chesterfield to Pageland to Wingsboro. Didn't see a single primary candidate, Thanks Be To God.

Willie from the country

Young Fogey said...

I like how you referenced his sense of style and of himself. Although your style is very different, you, too, have a sense of place that permeates your style.

Having said that, you know you're not an inch shorter than 5'4".

In heels, anyway.

I'll shut up now.

ADG said...

FogeyYoung...thanks man. That's sublime....even the the part about my height.

WillieBoy....whatcha doing ridin' circuit through there? Where does one stop to eat lunch in those parts nowadays?

JKG...ANY time I'm flattered it's unreasonable.

OldDogTrix...thanks for the book suggestion. I went strait to and ordered it.

Anonymous said...

Willie says:
No place much in Chesterfield or Pageland that I am aware of. The Barn Express is a secret all you can eat ( pork chops, fried chicken, turkey and dressing, yesterday) in Winnsboro. The chicken is abso perfect. The chops tend to be oddly shaped, but frequently tasty. I have never gotten around to the turkey. Two kinds of beans and Mac and cheese. The really good kind. Even my foot is tired today from all of that driving. Peter Huber Alligator/Croc oxfords are really not good long haul shoes for those of us with support issues.

Stay warm and try to avoid the candidates.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

ADG, a fine essay and very good insight into what made the man stylish. Authenticity and a love of good tailoring will take a man far. Not as far as 6' 3" of legs and a 34" waist of course.

I loved the book and will head to ABE to buy t'other at once.

custom shirts said...

ladies and gentlemen stylish and amazing Gary Cooper..loved the post:)

Mrs. Blandings said...

That second image? It makes me feel so much better about aging, you have no idea. I'm off to the "aesthetician" but maybe I'll take a pass and buy new shoes instead.