Kindness, sexiness, materialism: Gauthier Borsarello
Gauthier Borsarello is one of the most refreshing people in menswear today. I hope that came across in our recent piece on his shops and projects in Paris - including Holiday, Le Vif and L’Etiquette magazine.
What we didn’t get a chance to go into there, however, was his opinions on the industry and how to dress.
His view that the ‘macho’ image of menswear centring around cigars, whisky and cars is finally dying a death. That consumers are waking up to the lack of authenticity at designer brands. And perhaps most important of all, his aim to write for - and create clothes for - real people.
Of course, these are things we’ve been banging on about for a long time. The idiocy of the ‘gentleman’ image; the lack of authenticity; the importance of materialism, not consumerism. All historic pieces - the latter actually ranted about in 2010, 2015, and now today.
But Gauthier often puts many of things much better than me.
In particular the last point - about clothing for real people.
In interview this week with Aleks Cvetkovic on Handcut Radio (embedded below), Gauthier talks about creating L’Etiquette magazine for the French guy in the small town, who wants to just dress simply but well.
That guy isn’t obsessed by clothes - but he wants someone that is, to give him some simple advice.
I feel the same way about many things. I don't know anything about food, or furniture, but I love having friends I can phone that do know something, and can give me good advice.
I can help in return on art, on literature, and certainly on clothes. And I always try to strike a balance on PS between advice for the experienced dresser (which will be too technical or idiosyncratic for some) and advice for the beginner (which the long-time reader will deride saying 'nothing new here’).
Hence last week, one post measuring every aspect of a €6000 suit; one giving basic style advice on everything from holidays to building sites; and one video on the very practical, unglamorous world of repairing clothes.
Gauthier presents all these views in the HandCut Radio podcast. I urge you to listen to it, and have embedded it here to make that easier.
Below, I then take the liberty of picking up some of Gauthier’s points and giving my views. He’s a friend - I know he won’t mind.
1. Don’t try too hard
A point I enthusiastically agree with, but have never written about specifically. Clothing is contextual, and looking like you’re trying too hard is a killer. As Gauthier says, don’t be the guy in the three-piece check suit at the water cooler.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things. It will take years to circle around to what you really like. But don’t stress about it too much. It should be expressive and fun.
2. Showing off is not sexy
Perhaps sartorial man’s biggest concern. Do women (or one’s preferred sex) find any of this attractive? Would they just prefer me in a T-shirt and jeans?
This is a red herring. The sexiest thing is not being fussy (see above) and being kind and confident. Don’t show off. A big watch, a gym-built body, shouty clothing - as Gauthier says none of these things are attractive to educated, intelligent women. Be polite, be considerate, be yourself. It makes much more of a difference.
3. There are no menswear rules
I love this one, because it’s one I (at least partly) disagree with.
Gauthier and I agree on most aspects. One, they’re not rules: just habits, the useful experiences of others. Two, there’s a huge danger in focusing on them and not just playing around: many in sartorial menswear do this particularly. And three, visual inspiration, just seeing and trying, is more important.
But personally, I think knowing them can still be a useful shortcut. Men often only get into good clothes late in life; others have spent decades seeing, learning and consuming. Understanding habits and conventions can be useful in speeding things up - particularly in the narrower world of tailoring.
4. Steven McQueen is not a style icon
Again, a nice controversial one. Gauthier hates Steve McQueen because he was a drunk and abusive. It’s a regular topic in art - can you separate the art from the artist? Should the reputation of Picasso’s painting be affected by the fact he was a misogynist?
Personally, I think it’s about how you frame it. Don’t applaud Picasso, applaud the art. Don’t write books saying how great Steve McQueen was, talking about his films but not his relationships. But nothing wrong with saying you like the way a cardigan looks.
5. Help ordinary people dress well
I want to restate this again. Most readers I meet - at the pop-up, on the street, in consultancy sessions - are middle-aged, successful men who just want to dress well.
They have other things in their lives - family, work, other very intensive hobbies - and don’t have time to follow dozens of Instagram accounts. They want shops they can trust, quality clothing, and pieces that can do a number of jobs. A good oxford shirt, a good pair of jeans, a good jacket.
One of the advantages of running PS is the number of people I meet like that and the value I know they get out of it. It sounds like thousands of French men are responding in a similar way to L’Etiquette. It’s great to see.
Now listen to the interview.
L'Etiquette magazine is available in London in specialist newsagents, though issue 2 is now a little old and not available everywhere. We're now waiting for issue 3.
- Yellow corduroy shirt: Sascha Heintze
- Bucket hat and suit: Robert Spangle
- Polaroid: Ezra Petronio