STRATEGIES FOR STYLE／Fran Lebowitz
text: W. David Marx
text: W. David Marx
translation: Rei Murakami (Alt Japan)
illustration: Dick Carroll
In the February 2022 issue of Popeye, W. David Marx wrote an article entitled “STRATEGIES FOR STYLE “ which introduced seven style icons and their particular strategies for achieving “good” taste. In this special bilingual version of the article, we introduce three of the style icons.
Compared to other professions like cooks or office workers, writers enjoy great freedom in their dress: They can write in pajamas, they can write in a white three piece-suit. Some writers become style icons, some rebel against the entire concept of dressing up. New York-based writer Fran Lebowitz has become as well-known for her wardrobe as her essays and quips. Specifically she is legendary for always wearing traditional men’s clothing: pinstripe suit jackets, crisp dress shirts with french cuffs, structured cashmere polo coats, Levi’s 501s jeans with the cuffs up, big tortoise shell glasses, and brown boots.
Lebowitz rose to fame in the 1970s for her humorous essays and articles about New York life for Mademoiselle. Despite experiencing a decade-long writer’s block, her status as an icon of New York life only grew in those years. As her recent Netflix series, Pretend It’s a City, reveals, she may be a kvetch but massive audiences seek the deep wisdom underlying her incisive complaints.
Lebowitz’s style has matured along with her career. In the 1970s, she often wore soft Shetland sweaters with a white dress shirt underneath. Today she grounds her style in British tailoring. Anderson & Sheppard is her favorite, although the relationship only began after she convinced them to take a woman on as a client.
What has helped Lebowitz become such a giant in our cultural memory is not her occasional wearing of traditional menswear but the fact she always wears the same type of garment. That being said, her uniform is not a literal uniform of always wearing the same thing all the time: It’s an intentional reduction in all the possibilities of dress to land upon a reliable formula. Her tailored clothes don’t just match her body size — they have come to represent her existence. She is her style. There is no way now to separate Lebowitz from her outfits.
Lebowitz is far from the only famous person to wear a uniform. Our memory of Steve Jobs is tied to his black Issey Miyake turtlenecks, dad jeans, and New Balance sneakers. But his uniform was meant to be anti-style: an attempt to never think about what to wear. Lebowitz perhaps provides the better model: the pro-style uniform. She loves clothes, and she simply keeps going back to the classics that work best for her.
For many, a true uniform can be stifling. We feel different every day, and we need flexibility to dress according to the time, place, and occasion. But there is a clear path to being stylish by finding a unique look that works for you and sticking to it — really sticking to it.
Born in New Jersey, U.S.A. in 1950, she began writing for Andy Warhol’s magazine, “Interview”, in 1969. She is known for her witty criticism. Her books include “Metropolitan Life” and “Social Studies”.
W. David Marx
W. David Marx is a Tokyo-based writer. Born in Oklahoma, USA, and raised in Florida, he studied Japanese culture and society in college and later received his Master’s in consumer behavior from Keio University. His book on the history of Japanese menswear, “AMETORA: How Japan Saved American Style”, was published in the U.S. in 2015, and has sold over 50,000 copies worldwide. His new book, Status and Culture, will arrive from Viking Books in Late Summer 2022.