The Wardrobe of Sherman McCoy

"Looking at Sherman McCoy, hunched over like that and dressed the way he was, in his checked shirt, khaki pants, and leather boating moccasins, you would have never guessed what an imposing figure he usually cut. Still young...thirty-eight  years old...tall...almost six-one...terrific posture...terrific to the point of imperious as his daddy, the Lion of Dunning Sponget...a full head of sandy-brown hair...a long nose...a prominent chin...He was proud of his chin. The McCoy chin; the Lion had it, too. It was a manly chin, a big round chin such as Yale men used to have in those drawings by Gibson and Leyendecker, an aristocratic chin, if you want to know what Sherman thought. He was a Yale man himself. (11)

A very dramatic illustration by J.C. Leyendecker.
Felt like it somehow captured Sherman McCoy. From here.

The Master of the Universe stood up and managed to hold on to the leash and struggle into his raincoat. It was a worn but formidable rubberized British riding mac, full of flaps, straps, and buckles. He had bought it at Knoud on Madison Avenue. Once, he had considered its aged looked as just the thing, after the fashion of the Boston Cracked Shoe look. Now he wondered. (13)


The morning-shift doorman was an old Irishman named Tony. After opening the door for them, he stepped outside under the awning and watched them depart. That was fine...fine! Sherman liked to have his fatherhood observed. This morning he was a serious individual, representing Park Avenue and Wall Street. He wore a blue-gray nailhead worsted suit, custom-tailored in England for $1800, two-button, single-breasted, with ordinary notched lapels. On Wall Street double-breasted suits and peaked lapels were considered a bit sharp, a bit too Garment District. His thick brown hair was combed straight back. He squared his shoulders and carried his long nose and wonderful chin up high. (49)

What does the double-breasted, peaked lapel mean on not-Wall Street?
In 2012, 25 years after this book? From perennial favorite CarnivaloftheMagic on Etsy.

His heart was beating violently now. His pajamas were wet with perspiration. He had to stop thinking. He had to close his eyes. He had to sleep. He tried to focus on an imaginary point between his eyes. Behind his eyelids...little movies...curling forms...a pair of puffy sleeves...They turned into a shirt, his own white shirt. Nothing too good, Killian said, because the holding pens might be filthy. But a suit and tie, of course, nonetheless, because this was not an ordinary arrest, not an ordinary arrest...The old blue-gray tweed suit, the one made in England...a white shirt, a solid navy tie or maybe the medium-blue tie with the pin dots...No, the navy tie, which would be dignified but not at all showing--for going to jail in! (444)

H Huntsman Tweed, a favorite of Sherman McCoy. From H Huntsman website.

A tall, patrician figure, son of the eminent Wall Street lawyer John Campbell McCoy and a product of St. Paul's School and Yale, Mr. McCoy, 39, was dressed in an open-necked sport shirt, khaki pants, and hiking shoes. This was in sharp contrast to the $2000 custom-tailored English suits he was famous for as the legendary $1,000,000-a-year 'king of the bond market' for Pierce & Pierce. As he was ushered through a basement door of the courthouse into the Bronx Central Booking facility, Mr. McCoy said in response to a reporter's query, 'I told you, I'm a career defendant. I now dress for jail, even though I haven't been convicted of any crime.'" (658)

Wolfe, Tom. Bonfire of the Vanities. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987.

Little needs to be said here. Do you think Tom Wolfe is a gifted observer? He certainly has been remembered that way. I sometimes wonder if, although I hadn't read him until now, he crystallized ideas or generalizations about time periods that have come down to younger generations as pure truth? Of course, that is always the way with fiction; I think Wolfe tends to be on the side of observation/truth (that serves his story), what do you think? The 1980s are extremely well documented visually and in writing; where does Wolfe fit into our understanding of the not-so-far-off past?