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Following Suit

City slackers get slicker -- for no good reason at all!

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Could it be the release of Rushmore, whose adolescent hero transmutes his prep-school-uniform blazer into an improbable symbol of quirky individuality? Or perhaps an ancillary result of ska's resurgence -- a mod, narrow-lapelled revolution? Or is the subtle uptick in the fashion sense of the city's bohemian-male population just one of those unexplainable twitches in popular taste?

"It does seem that in the last couple of years you've seen more people wearing suits who don't need to," says Adam Sachs, a staff writer at GQ. "But I want to stress that this is different from the Jared Paul Stern approach of living your life as a costume drama," he adds, referring to the notoriously foppish "Page Six" reporter. "Dressing like a literary figure doesn't automatically make you one." (Stern responds by quoting his role model, journalist-dandy Lucius Beebe -- "The disfavor of envious inferiority is a boutonniere that a gentleman can wear all day without fading" -- noting that he frequently wears an actual boutonniere himself.)

In less philosophically charged circles, Mike Stevens, a 25-year-old art mover, began his sartorial shift with a Pearl Harbor Day party at his Williamsburg loft. "My roommates and I decided to wear jackets and ties, to stand out
a little," he recalls. "Now I dress up to go out fairly often. I have a standard tie -- a solid-blue one."

Paul Beddoe-Stephens, a 26-year-old copy editor and Web designer, recently helped launch "dress-up Fridays" at his office. "Screw this Dockers culture," he says emphatically. Beddoe-Stephens notes that there is an informal grammar to the language of optional dressing up: "If you do it any day but Friday, you look like you're sucking up to the Man. And you don't want your clothes to look like they're from J. Crew. It's much better to do it sixties-prep-school style."

There are complications, though. "I want to start wearing a suit," says Nick Poppy, a 26-year-old documentary filmmaker. "But I haven't been able to find one that I like. It's hard if you want something that looks cool but doesn't cost $1,000. If you try to low-end it, you might end up looking like somebody's grandfather from Indiana."


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