“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”1 In other words, fashion is a fleeting trend, while style is engrained in your every action; fashion is embracing the classics and giving them a slight twist to make them your own. There are several classic pieces that every man should own (and frequently replace and upgrade throughout each station in life) and incorporate into his own timeless style.
The first is a gray t-shirt that fits. Whether it is a v-neck or crew neck doesn’t matter. A solid gray, fitted t is forever cool (think Steve McQueen or early Marlon Brando). Wear it untucked with jeans, throw it on under a blazer, or wear it as an undershirt that is exposed when you are changing out of your shirt and tie. The solid gray t is a classic on any man.
So is a pair of jeans. Here, color and fit are key. No baby blue, acid washed, or faded jeans; and definitely no rips or holes. As Ryan Gosling advised Steve Carell, “be better than the Gap.” Upgrade your pair to a dark hue made from a soft denim (Japanese if you can afford it). Avoid overly embroidered pockets (think the opposite of True Religion) and stick with a classic, straight leg (boot cut is for Billy Ray Cyrus and skinny jeans are just wrong). The right pair of jeans can be worn anytime, whether with a t-shirt or coat and tie. So it worth spending a little more to get a durable pair.
A stainless steel watch is also a must. The ultimate in this classic timepiece is a Rolex Submariner, a watch well worth the investment (I still wear my grandfather’s from 1973, which was previously worn by my father — so the durability of the Rolex speaks for itself). Use the Submariner style as a guideline and adjust up or down from there depending on your means.
Other “must have” staples are a v-neck cashmere black sweater, a pea coat, brown slip-on loafers (no tassels or “penny” style), and aviator-style sunglasses. These classic pieces ensure timeless style.
When it comes to the cocktail there is only one, timeless, classic, stylish drink that fits the bill — the Old Fashioned. As the Financier has complained to me throuhgout his business travels, sadly, these days you are likely to be served a bastardized version of the drink that includes over-muddled oranges and neon-red cherries in a too-generous serving of simple syrup that makes this classic drink taste more like Kool-Aid. Every time I see one of these versions being made, I watch my back to make sure the large pitcher with the smiley face is not busting through the wall behind me and screaming “Oh yea!” These fruit garnishes arise from the Prohibition period and were originally added to hide the taste of the poorly made whiskey. But now that Prohibition is long over and the quality of bourbon and rye is better than over, ditch the fruit and enjoy this classic the proper way.
2 oz. Bourbon or Rye
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 dash of orange bitters
Splash of club soda (optional)
*** As Don Draper demonstrated to Conrad Hilton, the Old Fashioned is a built drink, meaning it’s assembled and stirred directly in the glass. Place the sugar cube in an Old-Fashioned glass. Soak the cube in the bitters until the cube has fully changed color (i.e., absorbed the bitters). Splash a little club soda (or water) over the cube and muddle the cube. Rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters coat the entire bottom layer. Add a single large ice cube (the 2” x2” version work perfectly as do the spherical versions, which you can buy here. Pour in the rye (or bourbon). Briefly stir. Garnish with a lemon rind (if using rye) or an orange peel (if using bourbon).
I prefer my rye versions made with Rittenhouse (or Templeton if available) and my bourbon versions made with Maker’s 46 (for a smokier flavor) or Woodford Reserve (for a smooth and balanced flavor). I also experiment with the bitters and have found that Fee Brother’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged and Amargo Chuncho bitters from Peru are excellent additions.
You can also substitute the alcohol base and play around. Try this rum-based version:
2 oz. Zacapa 23 year or Zaya 12 year rum
1 raw or demerara sugar cube (or demerara simple syrup)
3 dashes Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
Garnish with orange slice
***make as above
Or this tequila-based version:
2 oz. reposado tequila
1 tbsp. agave nectar
2 dashes Angostura or Habanero Bitters
***make as above - garnish with nectarine or cherry
The chairman of Hermes said, “luxury can be very simple, for example, staying 15 minutes longer in bed.” Don’t underestimate the simplicity of the Old Fashioned. It is a truly luxurious and classic drink.
1. Sayeth Yvest Saint Laurent.