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Retrostyle: A Day in the Forties

As World War II raged then waned, there was solace in lipstick, the World’s Fair, and desegregated baseball.


Cabin Fever: Michael Savoia in his Catskills bungalow.  

In a story published
last year, we provided
itineraries for how
to make contemporary
New York feel like the
sixties, seventies, eighties,
and nineties. Here, we set
the time machine for
further back.

The Cat's Meow

Michael Savoia has been wearing the same look since the early seventies; he took home all his high school’s best-dressed awards in his father’s 1949 black Cadillac. Like his grandfather, Savoia (who never uses his first name) is a custom tailor, although his customers are a bit more well known: the wedding party of Dominic “Uncle Junior” Chianese, the cast of Swing. “When I was young, I was infatuated with gangsters and George Raft—they had such pizzazz,” says Savoia, who arrives at fittings in a 1949 Olds Rocket 88 driven by a chauffeur named Charles. “Now I appreciate the completeness of forties design, from interiors to furniture, cars, and clothing.” Even his extensive tattoos are modeled after those of the famed tattoo artist Sailor Jerry, whose scrolling designs defined forties flash.

Savoia’s business drives his lifestyle. He makes the most of his clothes and often barters services for goods. Tailoring also funds acquisitions like his aviator suits at What Comes Around Goes Around, or the red Victor pool table, which appeared in The Hustler, from Blatt Billiards.

Last year, Savoia bought a 1949 log estate in the Catskills, which he renovated, creating a décor that might be described as macho Art Deco. A boar’s-head gun rack from Billy’s Antiques ($250) holds vintage Red Rider BB guns bought for $15 to $20 each from an antiques shop in Roscoe, New York.

There’s no such thing as “out of character” for Savoia. He entertains in a handmade smoking jacket, while sipping Sinatra’s favorite—Jack, straight up, with a champagne chaser—at the fully stocked, black-laminate cocktail bar from Las Venus ($400). When he goes out, it’s for Chinese at Wo Hop or cocktails at the speakeasy-esque lounge Milk & Honey. He takes a lot of ribbing from people who, he says, have no imagination. “It’s hard when I’m on a date, and some jerk is like, ‘Why do you wear your pants so high?’ ”

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