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Yesterday I happened to read an interview to the fashion designer Tom Ford published in Esquire Magazine in, what is called, ‘The Big Black Book’ which is, according to the cover, ‘The Style Manual for Successful Men’. The magazine is comprised by a series of articles where ‘successful men’ such as Sandy Naime (director of the National Portrait Gallery), Evgeny Lebedev (owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard), Nick English (co-founder of Bremont Watches), among other uber-succesful-chic-weird characters model bespoke clothes and accessories. In a nutshell, this magazine is a self-aid handbook to encourage the ‘commoners’ with money to overcome their social fears and go to Seville Row to spend their money in stupid vintage cufflinks that no one really sees. Most of the articles are unreadable and I truly believe that their readers do no read but browse so I guess not reading is actually what is Esquire all about. I am saying this  because, in the same way of magazines like Monocle, they go into the specifics of the trade to the point of seeing the actual sheep from which the cashmere for the suits is extracted or the actual percentages of Vicuña in Lebedev’s jacket are counted. I guess one must have to be a ‘single man’ to have the time and interest to delve into those specifics. So in that context Tom Ford’s interview stands out. So what does he have to say?

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Well…referring to his son ‘Alexander’, he says that ‘I started off thinking Alexandre (his son) was only going to have wooden toys and everything was going to be grey. But I had to give up on that. Now his room is filled with frightening-coloured plastic toys. He needs those colours and I’m going to have to deal with it. I also swore that I would never have the pram sitting in the entry hall. But it’s easier than bringing it up the stairs. So there it sits. With some frightening toys clipped to it’. Frightening colours and frightening toys. What is Tom Ford scared of? When asked about ‘the most important thing’, he answers: ‘the most important thing a man can do is exercise and maintain his weight. Because that’s the key to looking YOUTHFUL’. When asked about ‘the secret of a long term relationship?’, he says: ‘Choose someone great then stick it out’. Choose someone great. I guess, life is shopping after all, according to Mr.Ford.

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I remember how surprised I was when I saw his film ‘A Single Man’ (2009) after reading the book on which it is based.  Colin Firth saves the movie injecting an introspection that fights against Tom Ford’s rather literal superficiality.  I am saying this because the book reduces everything to its surface. The movie has two main aspects: a delight in surfaces as an end in itself (the texture of the fabrics, the cufflinks, the light, the black on black on black, the martini, the dress) and a naturalisation of solipsism as the way human beings, at least according to Ford, behave. While the book is about disconnectedness, the film is about the naturalisation of that disconnection.

However, when one thinks about Tom Ford, one thinks about clothes. I have never been able to wear his clothes because they are uniforms that…oh surprise…disconnect. It is not that just the body is concealed but there is something psychological in those black and dark blue velvety fabrics that say: ‘Keep your distance. Don’t even look at me. It is not appropriate’. The clothes blend into the stores to the point that is very difficult to see them and the bags are black leather boxes. So I turned to his perfumes which are very Italian (Neroli Portofino, etc) and nice (although not even remotely as nice as they cost) but the bottles caught my attention because they look like samurai armours without any ornament. These are clothes, perfumes and children toys for those who take themselves far too seriously to even consider looking into themselves to connect. These are clothes for the gentleman that forgot the original purpose of humanism (which by the way fuels a true gentleman such as, to give an example, Lord Burlington or the Earl of Shaftesbury) and emptied it, transforming it into a self disciplining of sorts that keeps everything safe even life which I guess it is not what life is all about, after all. His clothes, perfume, film and stance represent the type of man that is always making statements because he cannot comment on anything. I think Tom Ford represents the opposite of the gentleman. Just a thought.

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