Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hedge Fund Gigolo (HFG)

(Swiss hedge fund manager Arpad Busson, a founding member of the HFG Team, shown here with partner Uma Thurman.  Busson also has children from his previous relationship with Elle MacPherson, and dated Farrah Fawcett at one point)

I believe that one of the most versatile looks for the modern man-about-town is the "Hedge Fund Gigolo", or HFG, matrix.  HFG involves four basic elements:  1) jacket or blazer, normally a two-button, single-breasted affair with somewhat dramatic lapels and flattering taper;  2) dress shirt, worn without tie, unbuttoned at the neck; 3) expensive jeans; 4) crowd-pleasing shoes.

The versatility of HFG comes from its ability to successfully navigate a broad range of social events and formality levels.  It has a sartorial chameleon quality.  The bespoke cut of the jacket and the elegant collar framing of the fine shirt suggests a cosmopolitan, glamorous man who takes his meals at a cordon bleu high table while the cargo shorts-and-hoodies and golf shirts-and-khakis crowds swill cafeteria slop.  Yet, in more serious dress-up settings, the HFG transforms as the jeans and almost disgracefully plunging "male prostitute" neckline create a swashbuckling, devil-may-care attitude that prevents the man from crossing into self-conscious, try-hard qualification (this clearly must be backed up with appropriate preparation, CV capabilities, body language, etc., as in more competitive situations it risks being tested by social challengers seeking to impose a dominance hierarchy on the HFG maverick).  

This is a core issue when suits are used outside of formal presentations, meeting hours, or in business settings that do not enforce traditional banker-business dress:  wearing the suit when others are comparatively casual risks marking you as a salesman or solicitor who is trying to impress the audience, rather than as a man who is almost reckless with his great sense of style, who just can't help himself but to dress well (i.e., a gentleman with sprezzatura---"studied nonchalance", as my hero Baldassare Castiglione put it in his famous Renaissance handbook for warrior polymaths).

(portrait of Castiglione by Raphael)

If the jacket proves inappropriate or unwieldy, the HFG ensemble assault package allows for it to promptly be removed.  Because jeans are used, the shirt can be untucked to go club-casual (once again, a clean, military taper to the shirt will make this effective and prevent a pregnant, bloused look once the jacket is off).   The party-bounce swagger can be continued almost seamlessly as the jacket is employed to best tactical advantage (i.e., draped over the scandalously-hot woman's shoulders as you head outside together, perhaps to protect her from cleavage-ogling prole droolers, vicious paparazzi, etc.).

Leave the jacket on if you are packing heat, or keep the shirt untucked the whole time (there are some style pundits who actually recommend the untucked shirt with the jacket on---I don't find that as compelling, but try it for yourself and see). 

(James Middleton---brother of Princess Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge---makes his dazzling professional debut as an HFG Operator.  Note how James has correctly unbuttoned his shirt to the point where he truly doesn't seem to give a damn, but the elegant jacket prevents it from looking slack.  Far be it from me to offer a mild critique, but studies in neuromarketing and body language have revealed that viewers rate exposed thumbs more favorably; James could probably enhance the inherent confidence of his look even further by keeping his thumbs outside of his pockets when he places his hands in them)

It has been my personal experience---and I realize that this is subjective---that the British tailors of Savile Row and traditional dress shirtmakers such as Turnbull & Asser and the venerable Charvet of Paris provide the best "top-half" components of HFG.  For Christ's sake don't wear any gold jewelry with this look; heavy ornamentation is to be avoided.   

Savile Row is clearly known for the almost martial silhouette of its jackets.  In layman's terms, this means that the arm holes are made higher and tighter so that there is a more severe, tailored look from the underarms down to the waist, promoting the shoulders and creating something of a mesomorphic V-shape to the owner's torso.  The strong lines and the appearance of structure seem (to me) to be important for HFG because the open shirt is meant to be rakish and insouciant.  I don't think that a more casual, rumpled style to the jacket---some Italian makers deliberately go for an unstructured, well-traveled pseudo-journalist look---works as well here because it lacks the distinct contrast.

The open neck of HFG also lends itself well to combat athlete physiques, as the fighting disciplines and supplemental workouts involved frequently lead to men developing powerful, relatively thick necks.  Watch ESPN SportsCenter for a few minutes and you can see how NFL players often look constricted and uncomfortable in ties and high-buttoned collars, moving with a compromised, Ed Sullivan-like, turreted body language, despite the best efforts of bespoke tailors to deal with this well-known issue.  I think that there is just little that can be done about this if the height/width ratio of the neck lowers as the result of contact sports-specific or combat-specific training.    

 Regarding the jeans, there are many makes of quality denim that will work for you; the best bet seems to be an antique/indigo coloring, mid-rise and straight cut (skinny jeans may be out of proportion with the jacket), with conservative stitching and relative absence of high-profile logos.  Just get something flattering.  I find that Imogene + Willie of Nashville do some particularly good work here, but I am not a truly hardcore denim slut and have not tried some of the more celebrated brands out there.   

In the same vein, you should probably go with pretty simple and subtle colors and patterns when putting together an HFG package.  Here is an example I found of three stylish men who apparently work for the same bespoke men's tailoring house; one of them is going with HFG and a structured Savile Row cut while the other two are deliberating going "Milanese" with ties, softer cuts on the jackets, and more whimsical and complex combinations of colors:

I personally  find that this example articulates the power of HFG---executed properly, with good, tapered structure to the jacket---to command a room.  Despite the open neck, the HFG team member on the right looks sharper, more elegant, and more alpha than do his more traditionally-formal companions.

On the footwear side, I have seen legit hedge fund managers make cowboy boots work with this look.  Whatever you do should have some "pop!" factor; the faint, beautiful tiger stripe patinas of Berluti or old-world leathers of Scarpe di Bianco can set the jeans off perfectly.  You obviously cannot go wrong with John Lobb.  Be willing to spend some money here.  There are a very wide range of shoe types and effects that are potentially HFG compatible, since you are working with relatively plain jeans you have more options than you otherwise would.

The only additional comment I would make regarding footwear is that because you have gone from, starting with the top/outside and going towards the ground, A) formal (jacket, dress shirt collar) to B) informal (open neckline) to C) informal (jeans), you probably want the shoes to be deliberately on the formal side of the continuum.  Casual shoes will reinforce the informality of the jeans at the end of the head-to-toe presentation; you probably do not want this, as it is the alternating contrast between casual and fancy that gives this template its mystique.  HFG with sneakers or Converse or whatever just starts to look like gimmickry.

(Good men talking shop:  The Kingslayer and Khal Drogo discuss HFG nuances over a civilized beer.  Drogo is going very low-risk with his shirt button situation; he could easily push it much further, and if I were in his shoes I certainly would, perhaps to the international-wildman limits of good taste, as he has the physicality and superb, corsair-quality facial hair to back it up.  Jaime Lannister of course just does whatever he wants)

All in all, I think that HFG is a pretty cost-effective, adaptable way for a relatively dapper man to enhance his social influence and presentation.  It holds up well under a surprisingly wide range of field conditions and has long been standard garb for an elite group of aristocratic European playboys who frolic in places like Monaco, the Turquoise Coast, and Dubrovnik.  More recently it became popular with piratical sects within the boutique financial services community.   Put together an outfit or two and see how it works for you, and please let me know if you have comments, suggested modifications, or critiques. 

(No Comment Necessary, other than perhaps asking the Commander to expose his thumb when putting the hand in the pocket)