Bill Cunningham’s first love was fashion, but the Big Apple came a close second. He left Boston for New York aged nineteen, losing his family’s support, but enjoying the infinite luxury of freedom. Living on a scoop of Ovaltine a day, he would run down to Fifth Avenue to feed on the spectacular sights of the window displays – then run back to his tiny studio to work all night.
Working as ‘William J’ - to spare his parents’ blushes - Bill became one of the most celebrated hat designers of the 1950s, his hats were featured in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy. Bill’s mission was to bring happiness by making beautiful things – even if it meant pawning his bike to fund fancy-dress outfits for all his friends.
When women stopped wearing hats and his business was forced to close, Bill worked as a fashion journalist, touring the couture houses of Europe. But New York remained his home, and it was as a street photographer of the fashions of the city that he became well known, in a job that would last almost forty years.
Fashion Climbing is the enchanting memoir he left behind. Found after passing away in June 2016 aged 87, it captures the madcap times of his early career and the fashion scene of the mid-century. Written with the spark and wit of Holly Golightly, and brimming over with Bill’s infectious joy for life, it is a gift to all who seek beauty, whatever our style or status.
Left - Fashion Climbing - Bill Cunningham - £16.99
TheChicGeek says, “We don’t have the same affection for Bill on this side of the pond as the Americans, but we know him from the 2010 documentary ‘Bill Cunningham New York’, charting his life as a street style photographer for The New York Times. (I probably need to watch this again soon).
One thing to point out about this autobiography is, it doesn’t touch on his later life as a photographer. It focuses only on his early years, moving from a hat designer to fashion journalist and ends in the late 1960s.
Bill leaves his conservative Irish catholic family in Boston, who tried to curtail his creativity, via a job at department store Bonwit’s and on to New York. Bill finds himself making hats and using his imagination during the heyday of Dior’s ‘New Look’ and America’s obsession with following Paris’ lead.
Bill takes us back to a time when people applauded at fashion shows and not the one handed clap while social media-ing you get today. As delicate a bird as one of his favourite feathered creations, Cunningham projects himself as an outsider purely driven by the love of fashion. He’s exasperated by the social climbing and the following of fashion of women during this part of the 20th century.
This is America at the height of its power. Post war and the golden age of the American dream, this autobiography works through the decades when America peaked and was a powerhouse of fashion consumption and was its biggest patron. Bill must surely be the only man to combine time in the American army while sitting frow at Parisian couture houses.
This is a fun read, and, while it feels exaggerated, it is endearing and is an amusing look at America trying to find its fashion feet. Bill isn’t particularly modest though and wants to continually remind you how individual and original he is. At one point he proclaims he’s ten years ahead of fashion and how nobody gets him. Nobody wants to be ten years ahead of fashion, plus you’d think somebody would have moved into something other than hats faster if you were so ahead of your time.
The hat business dries up and he starts to use his expertise documenting the latest fashion shows and writing fashion articles for WWD. He certainly doesn't have many positive things to say about the fashion press and notes how badly dressed they mostly are.
The book charts his struggle, particularly financially, but you get a feeling his family have more money than he lets on and his uncle sounds very wealthy.
What’s interesting in the book is how things are so different, yet the same. His talk of fashion shows isn’t far off of the circus today. But, fashion has changed and that breathless wait for the next creation from a chosen designer doesn’t ring true anymore. We look, yes, but they no longer have the power with people following sheep-like.
For many, at this time, fashion is a vehicle for social standing, climbing and showing their wealth and his eyerolling at those who just use clothes for these purposes isn’t disguised. He wants them to just enjoy it for what it is, but, you can only do this if you understand fashion, and very few people truly do.
This is the Mad Men New York of parties in hotel ballrooms, social gatherings and peacocking. This is America at its most formal, yet still shows how conservative they are and yet with all the money. They would never buy anything that original or daring and that still rings true today.
This is a lite and inspiring read for anybody who gets excited about vintage fashion, women with cinched in waists and full skirts, Parisian fashion salons of the 1950s and bouji New York beach resorts."
Read more ChicGeek Fashion Book Reviews here
I’m always fascinated with those World Cups during the 1960s and 1970s where the players sat around drinking and smoking like they were spending two weeks on the Costa Brava. Sunning themselves and taking the missus with them, this was World Cup as lad’s holiday. Today, it’s much more serious, and if all the bungs, corruption and violence hasn’t put you off, it’s still a spectacle bringing the world together.
Left - Bobby Moore with locals on the beach 1971 NPG
As well as a sporting contest it’s also a cultural and style moment, celebrated every four years. Recently, photographs of the footballer Bobby Moore were acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and have gone on display to mark this year’s World Cup and the 25th anniversary of his death. The photographs were acquired from the collection of Roberta Moore, his daughter, and show Bobby, the golden boy of British football, throughout his career both on and off the pitch.
Right - Nike Football - England Home Vapor Match Shirt In White - £90 from ASOS
Umbro has released the 'Unforgotten' collection. Back in 1966, Umbro did a deal with all 16 competing teams in the World Cup finals to wear Umbro kit. Everyone agreed, but, when the tournament started, one team didn't wear the kit: the Russians. The Unforgotten collection is inspired by what that missing kit could've looked like and the colours and iconography of the Soviet era. Part of the collection is inspired by Lev Yashin, Russia's goalkeeper in 1966 and arguably the greatest goalkeeper ever - still the only goalkeeper to ever win the Ballon d'Or. He was also famed for always wearing head-to-toe black when playing, hence the Lev pieces in the collection are predominately black.
Left - Umbro 'Unforgotten' Collection - Prices range from £35-80
Left - 'Saturday Night Fever Pitch' by Simon Doonan, read TheChicGeek's review here
Below - Bobby Moore & Family 1975 NPG
Louis Vuitton has released a FIFA World Cup official licensed product collection - they also make the travel case for the World Cup trophy. Available in 3 colour combinations - red, black and blue, and made with the Maison’s textured Epi leather, the pattern is inspired by the official ball of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. There will also be a range of 35 country name tags - 32 qualified teams of the FIFA World Cup competition + Italy, USA, and China. It is available from the Louis Vuitton boutiques in Harrods and Manchester.
Far Left - Louis Vuitton - Keepall 50 – Epi leather - £2970
Left - Wallet - Slender Epi Leather Wallet - £460
Vilebrequin’s signature turtle shares the spotlight, this time, with an especially clever cephalopod: the octopus. With eight tentacles to dribble, he represents the famous ‘Paul’ who captivated the football fans crowds with his predictions in the 2010 World Cup.
Left - Vilebrequin - Soccer Turtles - £175
The design is based around the footballs that made, well some of us, into Ronaldo or Messi in the playground. All for the price of £19.66 to celebrate the last time England did anything!
Left - OIBOY - Super Stars Made in Playgrounds White T-Shirt - £19.66
Below - New Balance + Paul Smith Signature Stripe Leather Football - £195
See what to wear while watching - TheChicGeek's OOTD World Cup Casual
Being British, there is no escaping football, and in turn, footballers. On the back pages, the front pages and every page in-between, these spoilt young men are entertainment, both on and off the field.
The new book ‘Saturday Night Fever Pitch’ by Simon Doonan - The Magic and Madness of Football Style - is a celebration of the beautiful game through the lens of fashion.
Left - Cover of Saturday Night Fever Pitch. More disco balls than 'Golden Balls'!
‘I love nothing more than to contemplate Andy Carroll’s man bun. Where others see reasons for mockery – a swishy sarong, a bleached mohawk, a camo-painted Bentley – I see mysterious self-disclosure, creativity, swagger and style. This is the lens through which I view the world of footie. I am, therefore, less ‘Fever Pitch’ and more ‘Saturday Night Fever Pitch’.
Who knew that Simon Doonan, Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York, would be such a football fan? But, then I suppose it’s all part our new understanding and inclusive society!
Footballers combined with fashion is like watching a car crash: you can’t take your eyes off a bad one. But, they have the income to make even the most expensive things disposable - unfortunately, the terrible tattoos are relatively permanent.
What they do influences, for better or worse. Just look at the recent furore regarding the gun tattoo England player Raheem Sterling had on his leg. These guys are young, the world is at their feet, quite literally, and they have hundreds of thousands of pounds in their pockets. They won’t get it right every time. Would you?
Right - Still the king of 20th century footballer style - George Best
This book looks back at footballers and their shopping habits from before the maximum wage cap was lifted and through the decades up until the present day. A couple of things are missing from the book - Freddie Ljungberg in his Calvin Kleins and that terrible cross-eyed sculpture of Ronaldo’s head!
There are plenty of LOLS at the Wags, managers, cars and hair styles. It would have been good to see a best and worst dressed list, but I suppose it’s all subjective and changes through time.
David Beckham and George Best are the pillars in the book, but it’s worth picking up just to see Victoria Beckham in her 2006 Baden Baden Wag phase of perma-tan and pneumatic tits. Though she’s changed, many women will be taking this look to the grave.
It’s interesting to read that Paul Smith helped George Best with his fashion boutiques in the 1970s and even helped decorate that modern house he had built. The bath was so big George never used it because it took so long to fill.
This is a fun romp through the silliness of footballers and how they spend their money. Some of the headings are a bit cheesy and tabloidy, but that’s, I guess, part of the fun. I don’t think the title is as humorous as Doonan thinks because football and fashion doesn’t need any help in upping the campery.
Left - Mike Summerbee of Man City with the precursor of the car CD player, 1967
This would be a good gift for any guy interested in contemporary culture, not just football or fashion. Now, where would Dolce & Gabbana and ripped jeans be without all those footballers?!
Saturday Night Fever Pitch: The Magic and Madness of Football Style, by Simon Doonan, published by Laurence King - £19.99
Like men's style books? Read TheChicGeek review of House of Nutter by Lance Richardson
The man who defined the tailored look of the 1970s, Tommy Nutter, is a little bit like Beau Brummell in so far as he always seems like an enigma, as a person, yet his name runs throughout the history of menswear and is continually name checked. Anything bold with large lapels is always a reminder of Nutter’s style. The classic Tom Ford suit is basically a rip-off of Tommy Nutter.
This biography doesn’t just look at one Nutter’s life, but two. Tommy’s brother, David, a photographer and also gay, is the main source of first-hand information and the book follows both lives, intertwining throughout. The comical jobs they both do and the situations they seem to find themselves in makes for a really fun biography.
While Tommy is the centre, it’s great to hear about both their lives at the whims of the rich and famous of that era. From Bianca Jagger to John Lennon to Elton John, they were all wearing Tommy’s clothes while being photographed by David.
Left - Tommy Nutter modelling his own design
Tommy feels like a true creative which means he lacked the business skills and ruthlessness often needed in the fashion business to get anywhere. You get a sense that while a pioneer of the suit, Tommy was also constrained by it. He was constrained to bespoke suiting, particularly, which, due to the quality and labour intensiveness, would only ever be on a small scale and his dreams of creating a bigger ‘brand’ was restricted by centring around this one garment.
Whenever he tried anything else, outside of this area, he didn’t seem to grasp it or be able to make it work. The strong shoulder, huge lapels and contrasting fabrics became not only his signature, but his style straight jacket.
This book is great, you’ll speed through it. The best bits feature Elton John. I knew Tommy had created Elton’s 1980’s straw-boater, 'I’m Still Standing' era clothes, but I hadn’t realised he was there from the start. David became one of his inner circle and follows him around the world with manic energy. Everybody is in here: Beatles, Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Diana Ross.
Unfortunately, having died from that big disease with a little name, Tommy’s voice isn’t here and it would have been nice to hear from Cilla Black as she seemed to have a lot of love for him. But, the main voices are: Edward Sexton, his main cutter and Peter Brown, his boyfriend and the Beatles' manager, even when conflicting, but, that’s, ultimately, history and people’s differing viewpoints.
I remember sitting next to Jeremy Hackett at a dinner once, he started his company selling vintage clothes, and I asked him if he ever came across any Tommy Nutter, as you never see it anywhere. He said he once had some from Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it wasn’t particularly interesting. It feels like all the best pieces were commissioned by the rock stars and celebrities of that era and are probably still languishing in their storage warehouses somewhere.
There was an exhibition at The Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey, a few year’s ago, which brought together some of Tommy’s best clothes. Cilla Black’s were there and I remember how small Ringo Star’s and Mick Jagger’s mannequins were.
This feels comprehensive and very well researched by Lance Richardson. The majority of the book takes place in some of the most exciting times and places of the 20th century: London in the 1960s and New York in the 1970s and this energy is what makes the book flow.
I’d love to hear what Elton John remembers. His shopping addiction seems to keep Tommy in pinstripe trousers for a while and his partying and 1970s wardrobe are all off the chart.
David Nutter is still alive and living in New York, and while Tommy died in 1992, this end segment of the book is very emotional, the glamour and era makes this a must-read for anybody interested in not only men’s clothes, but photography, music and the fashion business.
House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row by Lance Richardson - Chatto & Windus - £25
While we like our homegrown style icons in Britain, it would be hard not to appreciate and acknowledge the legacy Elvis Presley has ingrained on our male style psyche. Albeit in a karaoke, stage-costume type of way, like all great musicians he could carry off even the most OTT of outfits due to his talent and stage presence.
Left - Book cover. That famous quiff
Zoey Goto’s new book on Elvis, Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits celebrates the style-world of Elvis Presley - ‘the man who singlehandedly changed the way that America, and much of the world beyond, dressed’.
Elvis Style includes over 175 photos, many of which show rarely seen before Elvis-worn garments, interiors and cars from the King’s extensive private collection.
Zoey says “I first became interested in Presley around 15 years ago, when I was flicking though a magazine and came across a photo of Elvis - who was, and still is, the most visually stunning person I had ever seen. From that point onwards I was hooked. I speedily booked a ticket to Memphis to visit Elvis' hometown and shortly after wrote an academic paper on Graceland's interiors, which later gave rise to the idea of my Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits book.
Right - Elvis melting in his black leather jumpsuit
“I was really surprised to see how little had been written about Elvis from a fashion & design perspective, as he has had such a huge cultural influence. I think there are very few icons who have had, and continue to have, such a direct influence on our aesthetic world. When I'm walking down the street in London, I am always clocking Elvis' influence on the way men style themselves - from quiffs and rockabilly revival, to the way we use cultural appropriation in our dress,” she says.
Left - Elvis' gold suit, once owned by Elton John
Right - Elvis influence? The western neck tie Gucci pre-fall 2016
TheChicGeek says, “‘Elvis would rather shop than eat’. Who knew! Elvis encapsulates the pinnacle of American culture, the 1950s, and then later the showy, kitsch and glamour of old Vegas. This book covers not just his clothes, but hair, food, cars, houses and even planes. Elvis is basically America of the 20th century manifested into a strikingly beautiful man. The time when bigger was best in American culture and over indulgence was encouraged, which, ultimately, lead to his tragic and early downfall. People of a certain age remember Elvis, for us younger ones this book gives an entertaining and informative refresh into what made him so special. With a simple flick of the collar one can instantly recognise the influence he had on menswear.”
Right - Elvis' tiger suit (1970s)
Below - Elvis influence? Gucci spring 2016
www.elvisstylebook.com / #ElvisStyleBook
Cecil Beaton was a true original. From the moment he arrived at Cambridge University in 1922 wearing an evening jacket, red shoes, black-and-white trousers and a large cravat, to his appearance nearly forty years later at Truman Capote’s 1970 Black and White Ball, Beaton expressed unmatched sartorial flamboyance and nonchalance. He held accounts with many Savile Row tailors, bought his hats from Herbert Johnson and Lock & Co and his shirts from Excello in New York. A testament to his stylistic significance, many elements of his wardrobe are today held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the V&A, London.
Below - Cecil Beaton & David Hockney in the conservatory at Reddish House, 1970
TheChicGeek says, "This book came at a perfect time as I was already Pinning images of Beaton and his conservatory on my ChicGeek Pinterest page - here - and wanted to know/see more. A confirmed snob, photographer Cecil Beaton is better known for his subjects then for the man himself. Benjamin Wild's does his best with, in what I can only imagine to be, a limited supply amount of information, physical items and photographs. These things just weren't documented as much in those days. You almost want to bring Beaton into the 21st century and gorge yourself on images. I'm sure he'd be one for the selfie, if only to double check himself.
Left - 'Rabbit' coat made by Beaton, 1937
One of the best segments of the book is his reaction to his portraits. Showing his level of vanity, he didn't even like David Hockney's drawings. I'm pretty sure that Francis Bacon would have been a wise investment, if he'd liked it!
The image of Beaton in his conservatory with David Hockney - above - is one of my all time favourite menswear images. It sums up the eccentric side of the English gentleman.
The book is a quick glimpse of one the 20th century's greatest social climbers and the taste level that allowed him to progress. Starting as one of the early 20th century's 'Bright Young Things' and living and working through a very exciting time in Britain, he seems the type of opinionated character worthy of reading their diary".
Thames & Hudson - £29.95
Right - Beaton, James Fox & Mick Jagger on set of film Performance, 1968
The Vintage Fashion Bible is written by the vintage fashion experts and Red or Dead founders, Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway. It is the only complete chronological look at 20th century fashion for men and women, as well as a practical guide to buying, styling and restoring vintage clothing.
Left - The Vintage Fashion Bible - £25
The book looks at the development of fashion from the 1920s to the 1990s, using clothing catalogues, film posters, magazine articles and other contemporary advertising to create a fully authentic feel for each decade and to show through original visuals how fashion evolved.
TheChicGeek says, “You can’t really be passionate about fashion without having a love of vintage. It’s all part of the education of knowing your references and styles and discovering when particular things were new or a reinterpretation of something older.
One of the best vintage events I ever attended was Vintage at Goodwood in 2010. Not be confused with the Revival, it was the Hemingway’s first foray and the establishment of their vintage events brand which has appeared all over the country since then. It was the attention to detail that really made it standout, especially with the very hard to impress vintage crowd.
The same branding and feel has been used in this book as it takes a realistic, if slightly simplistic, look at the 20th century and it’s numerous styles for both men and women. It’s a fun look at the main styles and looks of the differing eras with tips and information from experts.
The Hemingways certainly know their kipper ties from their fishtail skirts as Red or Dead was a very vintage inspired fashion label, pioneering that 70s retro look which was popular throughout the 1990s. There is plenty here to stimulate, but probably not enough depth for a vintage aficionado. I always like to see what people predict to be future vintage, I did the same in my book. Only time will tell”.