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.