Friday, August 12, 2011

Sharp Stylings #3: Miles Davis

Relax a moment and take in everything this photo has to offer:

Taken from Miles Davis Online.
There is absolutely nothing about this photo that doesn't make me giddy like a schoolboy. Let's go through this one slowly and clockwise, shall we?

  1. Even Kenny G. would look cool standing here and y'know why? Because he'd be standing in front of the Prestige Records office/storefront! Just look at those sleeves up on the wall! 
  2. Speaking of sleeves, dig the juxtaposition of Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet as he does just that outside.
  3. My favorite style of collar on a shirt... the rounded collar. Hard to find these days, but if you can, then go out and flaunt it!
  4. Not only a great pattern on that jacket, but what I love most is the tiny, downward lapel notch... it's the little things that count, sometimes.
  5. A fine piece of jewelry right there, the ID bracelet [ACTUALLY, A WATCH AS NOTED BY NICK IN THE COMMENTS]... a very slick look on men. I remember the one I used to wear fondly, right out of college. Unfortunately, I have the wrist size of a skinny, 5-year-old girl. If you're like me, I highly recommend NOT swaying your arms too much while struttin' down the road, otherwise, by the time you get home, that wrist'll be bracelet-free. Sigh... I really miss that thing.
  6. Remember everyone SMOKING KILLS. SMOKING CAUSES CANCER. But damn, Miles looks cool with that cigarette.
Hopefully, this photo is making you yearn for some nice jazz posts from a modernist perspective. Well, here you go:

Now, can anyone tell me what year this photo is from? Not a quiz... I just need to know!


  1. First of all thanks for the plug. Second of all, nice post. I love this shot. There are a lot of interesting things about this photo, aren't there? The fact that the club collar (3) is neither button-down nor held in with a tie bar is unique for this era. Miles was definitely moving into a heavy Continental-influence style-wise around this time. The notched-lapel jacket (4) is similar to a couple of others I have seen him wear in photos and looks fairly unconstructed. Almost no shoulder padding, probably un-darted. One final note: I am pretty sure that bracelet is actually a watch. Look again. Closely. See it? That said, I can't recall ever seeing a watch with an ID bracelet kind of band. An excellent choice Carlos.

  2. GREAT attention to detail, Nick! I didn't even notice that was a watch!

    I was hoping to find other photos of him in a jacket like this but didn't spend as much time searching. I'm trying to figure out if there are any in some of the recent jazz photo books that have been release. Definitely didn't look like a suit jacket to me... just a nice casual jacket that I'd totally sport if I had one.

  3. "Style Guy" Glenn O'Brien did a great little piece in GQ back in '07 about Miles which featured not one but two shots of Miles wearing this cut of sport coat from the GQ/Esquire archives. Or rather one shot is of the very same sport coat, the second photo shows an identical cut coat but it is part of a suit. The article claims both are from 1961 but could be as early as 1958 or 1959. Why? Look up "Workin' With The Miles Davis Quintet" LP. Check out the cover. Doesn't Miles outfit look similar to the photo you posted above? I think it's from the same session. That LP was released in 1959. Although Miles was on Columbia by that time, I suspect he popped 'round the Prestige offices to have his photo shot for the LP jacket cover (the music was recorded in 1956). If you are interested, I can get you some scans of the GQ article.

  4. Hey Nick, if you can get those scans that'd be most appreciated! Recently, I decided to pick up issues of GQ, Details, and British GQ just to keep on top of current trends as related to this blog.

    I was really disappointed in the American GQ... it's the 'comedy' issue and seemed to be written by guys attempting to be 'edgy'. I couldn't deal!

    But if articles like the one you mentioned are still being done (even occasionally), maybe it's worth another look.

  5. I will get them scanned and over to you soon.

    I've seen quite a few examples of this sort of jacket in the last few years. It's typically called an unconstructed jacket and marketed as a casual piece. Band of Outsiders did a fairly good looking Italian-made one. Of course, Miles shows us that it not necessarily need to be a casual item. I am nearly sure his was tailored at the time. In interviews he talks about how during this period he was moving away from the Brooks Brothers look and into something else. Again, I will dig up the actual quote. It's definitely a Continental influence and again well ahead of the curve.

    I was an avid reader of GQ for a number of years, but after a change of editorship, I stopped my subscription. It had a real nice groove goin' on for a few years fairly recently. The last few issues I have read were lackluster at best. I still enjoy Glenn O'Brien and Alan Richman but you can still up to date with each of them online. Still these things change, so you never know when it will get good again.

  6. This coat is unique indeed. The coat front is cut in one with the front of the sleeve. Can you see there is no armhole seam in front? This is kimono style. Also, the coat front is cut on the bias. The lapel is semi-peaked and the collar angle almost follows the same angle of the semi-peak. Good luck finding one! Of course, a tailor like myself can make it from scratch.

  7. Todd, if you are really curious, I would be happy to send you the same article I scanned for Carlos. There are 2 other photos of the jacket. It's clear from all of these and from comments by Miles around the time period that is was a custom tailor number. As I mentioned above every off-the-rack relation I have seen in recent years is a only a relative - a poor one at that.