INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Esquire JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 - by Simon Mills
IN THEIR OWN STYLE: BRYAN FERRY
You should never meet your heroes - mainly because their clothes are so awful. Off-duty, deprived of stylists, image consultants and complimentary designer clobber, rock stars, in particular, tend to be disappointing slouches. Not Bryan Ferry.
Ferry's enthusiasm for sartorial style is the result of a lifelong obsession with clothing as pop culture costume. Ferry in person, wherever one encounters him, is a bespoke event, a louche ensemble of elegant affectations; he aims to appear filmic, aristocratic, aloof. His style spans five decades, from the Bill Haley-does-The-Jetsons prog-glam of early Roxy Music, through the iconic, Antony Price-designed GI uniform of Roxy's Viva! period and the white tux of the Another Time, Another Place solo album cover, right up to his recent thing for Hedi Slimane.
Not that Ferry is always immaculate. Achieving dry-cleaned perfection would be considered shop-window-dummy naff in his eyes. Often there will be something raffish, romantic and slightly foxed about his ensemble. And that's just his shirt collars. At black tie occasions, his dinner jacket will be perfectly cut but perhaps with a slightly worn lapel and in an intentionally unfashionable style. It wouldn't do to look "new". At a cocktail party, his Comme des Garçons blazer will be set off with Berluti shoes and a neck tie knotted to primary schoolboy shortness; Ferry has them custom made to his own curtailed specifications by Charvet in Paris.
Growing up in the North East, Ferry was fascinated by the Yankee dandyism of zoot suits and the velvet-trimmed, Edwardian garb of Teddy Boys. Half a century on, his own magnificent hair still has the vaguely unsavoury thrill of a fairground greaser. Smoothly remodelling himself as an art school modernist, Ferry became fascinated by Tour de France cyclists; the hetero-camp and fetishistic erotica of the Weimar Republic; the cut, buttons and epaulettes of military get-ups. Ferry, as Michael Bracewell points out in his excellent book Re-make/Re-model, would "always be interested in the potential of uniforms as stylistic statements."
Bracewell also correctly points out that for someone whose look is so steeped in the nebulous idea of "good taste", Ferry adores vulgarity and kitsch, such anti-style aesthetics "serving to frame and sharpen the decorum and poise of his other aesthetic enthusiasms, adding the vital grit to what otherwise might have been merely a rather precious assimilation of good taste."
Now seventy, he's toned down the kitsch and vulgarity but can still rock a fashion-forward Gucci dinner jacket on stage. Photographs show that for his Turks and Caicos wedding to Amanda Sheppard in 2012, Ferry gave it the full Marcello Mastroianni in a dark blue suit by Anderson & Sheppard and Tom Ford sunglasses. A year previously, when he went to Buckingham Palace to pick up his CBE, he matched his tailcoat with almost outrageous black and grey striped trews. And that shot above of Ferry in tennis whites? As someone who has actually played a few sets with him at his West Sussex country pile, I can confirm that the Roxy Music frontman has a mean backhand slice and wears unbranded shorts that are cut with the precision of Savile Row breeches.