The Laws of Style Hosted by Douglas Hand Episode 23- Alec Baldwin
“The clothes are, like every other component of the project for the actor, hopefully, are, and perhaps more so than others – they might be toward the top three- are what we call the kind of authentication for the role, meaning what do those men REALLY wear.”
On this episode of #TheLawsofStyle, Host Douglas Hand welcomes actor, author, activist-about-town Alec Baldwin. Alec discusses his early aspirations to become a lawyer and his decision to pivot and pursue a career as an actor. Alec also gives behind-the-scenes insights into costume design and wardrobing on set, and how apparel choices inform and contextualize the characters he plays on screen. Also discussed are the relocation of the New York garment district, PETA, the role of influencers and fashion staples in Alec’s everyday wardrobe.
Blazer: Ralph Lauren
Shirt: Brooks Brothers
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Intro: Welcome to The Laws of Style, featuring conversations on creativity, fashion and the law from the leading edge of our economy and culture, hosted by noted fashion lawyer, Douglas Hand.
Douglas HAND: Welcome to the Laws of Style, podcasting to you from the offices of HBA, high above Bryant Park in the Garment District of New York City. I’m your host Douglas Hand, fashion lawyer, and fashion law professor. And I’m joined today by actor, author, and activist about town, Alec Baldwin. Alec, thanks for joining us.
Alec BALDWIN: I’m going to put that on my business card, “Activist about town.”
HAND: It might require two lines. Well, so perhaps little-known fact, but back in your George Washington days in college, as a political science major, as a guy who was active in student politics, you had aspirations of becoming a lawyer. What happened?
BALDWIN: Well, it’s interesting you say that because it’s a long time ago, and back in that time I was at GW, and I’ll put this as succinctly as I can. I’m working as an intern in the office of this guy, Jerry Ambro, who was the congressman from my home district, okay. And this is often the case when you arrived at one of those schools, AU Catholic, Howard, for that matter or GW. You wound up doing internships in some aspect of the government.
And an internship on the Hill was very common. I got one, and I was there, because I was from his district. And someone said to me, “You know, there’s a glut of lawyers now. You know, you’re going to graduate college undergrad in 1980. And the kind of, not novelty but the kind of value of a law degree had gone down, and he had guys that were legislative aides working on salaries of like 60 grand. They were on his staff and handling legal related matters for him for very, you know, humble salaries, because there was a glut of people with law degrees.
Right at that moment, that intersected with someone saying to me, “You should audition for the acting program at NYU.” And I thought that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life, but I did it. And they gave me a full need-based scholarship. I needed the money to go to school. They gave me the scholarship, and invited me to come to the program because I was the only straight guy that was in the whole class. And that was the beginning of that.
HAND: Well, you’ve obviously interacted with lawyers, probably more lawyers than you care to have interacted with. But eventually, you got to play one in an early role. And, you know, you were a brash district attorney, prosecuting the murder of Medgar Evers.
BALDWIN: Ghost of Mississippi.
HAND: In that role, you were obviously dressed as a southern attorney. I guess, walk me through the process as an actor of wardrobe, and who makes the choices? Do you have any ability to sway those choices? And then how you feel, and in particular playing a DA in that kind of a setting in the clothes, and how it informed that?
BALDWIN: Well, I think that’s a very good question because I think that, obviously, things in all matters in terms of my approvals were different when I started. And then once you become more well known, and you’re someone that they want to attract you to come and do the project, they assume you want to have some input. And then finally, you get to the stage where you actually know something, you know, you actually worn a lot of these different designers. We can have the lengthiest conversation about the arc of designers that I’ve collaborated with from the beginning and costume designers.
HAND: And by designers, do you mean commercial designers?
BALDWIN: I mean, one time in the 80s, you were wearing nothing but Armani. Then after that I’m wearing nothing but Shuruti. Then after that I’m wearing nothing but Zanya.
HAND: And that was in collaboration with the actual brand? From the brand reaching out to you saying, “We want you in Shuruti.”
BALDWIN: Well, you know, once I could afford to buy the clothes I wanted to buy, and I went on that journey, you know, I bought what advertising sold to me when I was marketed like anybody else. Armani was the Colossus that destroyed the globe there in the 80s. That was the beginning of, in American Gigolo and Richard Gere, and then product placement thing, Armani, a woman named Wanda McDaniel, who was the wife of a famous producer, Albert Ruddy, who produced The Godfather. Wanda McDaniel opened up the Armani office in Beverly Hills to do the product placement for Armani in the film and television business back in the 80s, maybe even the late 70s. And that was the beginning of that and…
HAND: Yes, very prescient. I mean, you know, it’s gone to probably absurd lengths where you have a film like The Great Gatsby, where Brooks Brothers did an outright collaboration with the film where you could buy everything from the film and they used the Baz Luhrmann sort of background and everything in connection with selling it at Brooks Brothers locations.
BALDWIN: Well, there’s a distinction which you’re obviously aware of, but for the people listening, there’s a distinction between a celebrity endorsement of a line of some famous actor wearing the clothing of a designer promotionally, and then the participation of the designer in the production of the film. So now, for example, where the industry is attempting to cut costs at every corner, you have far less of that.
You have far less of them walking in and saying, we’re going to dress all of the male leads in Ocean’s 11. Maybe they have some of that with those guys because they are very, very famous actors. And they’ll say, “We’ll give you some percentage of discount.” I did a television show for seven years, and we wore almost exclusively 80% Zanya and the other 20% was divided between Brooks Brothers and Brioni. And I’m talking about shoes, ties, pocket squares, everything, you name it, because my character was a serious businessman. And I had by the time the show was over after seven years, I had a room the size of a gymnasium almost filled with suits.
HAND: What show was this?
BALDWIN: If I remember, we did 30 Rock, and what was my favorite part of that, you know, you dress well from a professional standpoint every day. For me, I went to work. I put on a suit and tie, a beautiful suit and tie every day. And when the show was over, I kept the clothes on and went out to dinner with my friends.
BALDWIN: I would just wipe my makeup off and get in my car and go to a dinner on the Upper East Side right over the bridge from Silver Cup in Long Island City. And I wore the clothes at the door, and I’d bring them back in a shopping bag the next day. We had a bunch of shopping bags in the trunk of the car.
HAND: Did you bring all of them back?
BALDWIN: I always. I didn’t shoplift ever from show.
HAND: And so those brands all they really got… Did they get any you know, in the credit roll, where they mentioned?
BALDWIN: That’s another thing where you know, sometimes there were productions that I’ve worked with, where you do give them a screen credit. Other times, you know, they have a policy now, some of the networks especially in television, because they have so many… There’s so much square footage in TV. There are so many shows. And there are so many, particularly actresses. I mean, actresses are far more insistent, and far more demanding about what they wear and who. I mean, that’s really the business.
And the men are like…If you walked into a room that was the product placement room, it’s a metaphor for film and television, especially television, it might be a, you know, 150 tables of women’s clothing and one table of men’s clothing. The money to be made is in influencing the buying decisions of women in film and television, not so much men. But for me, I found that they’re very stingy with all of it now, with what they want to spend. They are quite sure it’s worth it. Because years ago…And I wish I knew this name. I forgot the name. But, you know, years ago, all of the networks and the studios warehoused their wardrobe. And then it became, it wasn’t cost-effective anymore. So they wound up taking the clothes, and some guy, this is the guy I’m forgetting, walked in and said… He walked in, assessed the wardrobe, make you an offer
HAND: What’s the square footage and the wage and…
BALDWIN: He’d walk in and make you an offer make you an offer, dresses, gowns, bad shoes, belts, you name it. He’d walk in and say, “I’ll give 10 grand for the whole thing.” And they’d say, “Take it.”
HAND: With legacy to it as well.
BALDWIN: And they say, “Take it.” And they’d sell him the clothes that he’d sell it in an aftermarket in a shop, and did quite well, actually,
HAND: I don’t doubt it. Well, on the sponsorship of film or TV, I mean, how do you feel about that? How would you feel being involved in a film where part of what was there was a walking advertisement? How would you feel as the bond character looking at your Omega, and recognizing that not only you but the producers and the world knows that Omega has underwritten the film, and this part of your interaction with your audience is completely underwritten in an ad?
BALDWIN: I think that… I don’t know all of the ins and outs when you use that as an example, which is a very good example. If Daniel Craig is wearing an Omega watch, I’m assuming that Omega has paid Daniel Craig something obviously but I think what it also is is it is that the film producer viewed it as promotion for the film. There’s some value to them. The biggest movie stars of today, Craig, Leo and people like that, Cruz, they don’t wear anything that they don’t want to wear. No one’s walking up to them and saying, “You know, we really have a great deal with Herman Sherman here who’s going to make your clothes.” This is out of the question.
BALDWIN: And where the case of Cruz, I think Cruz probably has all of his clothes custom made.
HAND: I wouldn’t doubt that. I think…You bring up Daniel Craig. He is associated at least in my mind, and I think many consumers’ minds as a suited guy because he’s Bond.
BALDWIN: He’s 007.
HAND: 007. I think maybe with the exception of Jon Hamm, who through Madman became very associated with being the suited guy, I think the mind goes to you. I think the consumer’s mind goes to you. Your film roles, as I went through them. I was like, “Suit, suit, suit.” From Married to the Mob to Blue Jasmine. You know, you’re the suited guy and then obviously, Jack Donahue, I mean, you know, he is the avatar of the suited management elite.
BALDWIN: He was.
HAND: Did those roles seek you? How did you become the suited guy?
BALDWIN: Well, it’s funny you say that. Well, I think for me, the interesting thing is that the… You mentioned before we were talking about those approvals and those consultations and so forth. It isn’t the consultations then they move over to approvals outright. But you learn like some of, when I did films early on, and I was being introduced to clothing by someone like Colly Natwood, one of the great Academy Award-winning, probably one of the greatest costume designers of all, you know, up there in the top five ever.
And I would do some of her earlier films. She worked with Jonathan Demi and I did Married to the Mob with them. And, you know, the things you get into is what goes with what compared to men that I do in my life that passed on to me their code. You know, I’d say I mean, I literally did it. My first TV show was a soap opera with a man who played my father, who was a very old guard, a New Yorker was said to me, “No pattern tie with a striped shirt.” He said, “No brown or saddle colored shoes with a gray suit.” He said, “Go get yourself some cordovan some oxblood shoes with the gray suit.” He had these rules that he imparted.
HAND: Early laws of style.
BALDWIN: He had… No seriously, he had the laws of style, and they just stayed with me forever. Now, I would go work with other people and they talked to me about designers in terms of weight of fabrics. Armani made clothes in the 80 and they were beautiful clothes, but the fabric was very weighty, and so you couldn’t wear those suits in the warmer weather. And Zanya is renowned for these, as I said, multi safe zone suits. They wear their, like the perfect weight that can kind of transfer either way. Brioni, I like the weight, although if you get like a really Satinny with them. It’s a little paper. It’s like the jackets kind of find…
HAND: And a little shiny, can be a little shiny after the first dry cleaning.
BALDWIN: And that’s what you say, and I’d be interested to get your input into this. Every part I play I say how much this guy want to draw attention to himself? How much does the character, is he a peacock? Do I want to wear Italian suits that are a little brighter, that pop a little more, and the colors and so forth? Do I want to wear any jewelry, or what have you, rings and things like that? Do I want to play a guy who is more muted and then then you pick different palettes.
HAND: And wardrobe gives you that leeway? How does it work with wardrobe? Do you go in and they say, “Alec here’s what you’re wearing”?
BALDWIN: To show that they have money, they have a budget for clothing of any kind, the designer starts by months prior because the shopping is a journey for them. The classic thing was called the lookbook. They send you a lookbook, a file and then they email you. And all they send you are lifts from other ads. They send you pictures from advertisements and catalogs and things and say now this Burberry, we thought about this and the classic Burberry trench coat. We thought about this and a herringbone. We thought about these boots with whatever it is they’re sending you photographs, like lots and lots of photographs
HAND: But eliciting your… I mean they want you comfortable in the clothes.
BALDWIN: The clothes are like every other component of the project for the actor or hopefully, are. And perhaps more so than others. I mean, they might be toward the top three of what you call the kind of authentication of the role meaning what do those men really where? You go to court and you watch what men wear. And you go to court and watch what men wear who don’t have a lot of money for clothes? Are you playing a rich guy? Are you Richard Gere and pretty woman and it’s the guy’s got… They’ve got to make him look perfect all the time. Are you the guy where he’s, I’m not going to say thread there, but he’s a little more normal, you know.
So you begin this process by examining who the guy is. You have that conversation with a designer. You have the lookbook shows up, then you walk into a room and the final phase I find usually not always is you put on some clothes and they take pictures of that then they send that to the director. They don’t bother the director with it until they have narrowed it down to a to some ideas
HAND: Well, so I would love to go through some of these roles and get your take on not only how your apparel choices and wardrobe’s apparel choices informed how you acted the role, but also how the clothes after those choices were made, perhaps informed it You may not think of this as much as you know, sort of a suit but Hunt for Red October, you were dressed phenomenally in that film.
And maybe that’s just my pension for the navy blue, you know, the ability to have the upper lats right? But there are even shots of you in a white role neck sweat. I mean, you look magnificent in that film. How did you feel in those clothes and you were acting opposite you know, the first Bond.
BALDWIN: Indeed 007. Yes.
HAND: Yeah, and how did that interaction and the way he presented himself, which is always tight, right?
BALDWIN: That’s the first big film I ever appeared in. I did other films in supporting roles. But that was the first lead role I had in a big-budget film, and the film was you know, pretty successful for them. I remember the overwhelming majority of people are in uniform there. It’s a military film. We go outside there, and Richard Jordan is in a… You’re going with James Earl Jones and Richard Jordan and the other civilian characters. They’re in suits and ties, muted everything very, the palette is very gray and blue. And which is why to this day, I love Brooks Brothers. Love. I mean to this day, the shirt I’m wearing right now. I’m wearing a blazer from Ralph, I’m wearing a tie from Zanys and a shirt from Brooks Brothers. And so I mean I just I tried to touch every base here. And I haven’t Brioni and Zanya, those are my palette, but mostly because of the weight of the fabric. I like it if it’s not too heavy, but I love Brooks Brothers. I love Brooks Brothers and things are a little more quiet when I’m in that mood. I rarely wear clothes now that are too… If I have, you know, 150 ties… I used to have 400 ties. And then when I moved with my wife downtown, we decided I had to get rid of half my shirts and half my ties. I lived alone. I was divorced, and I had 400 shirts and I had 400 ties in two closets
HAND: Yes, it’s hard to make use of 400 shirts.
BALDWIN: There was also that was given to me from films and so forth. So I went through it all and at the Century Association, the century club that I belong to, they had until recently a requirement to wear a tie. You still have to wear a jacket, but he now they relax the tie. So I donated 200 of my ties, half my ties to the century club. We called the Alec Baldwin Tie Museum, and you can avail yourself of a tie there.
But I think that for me, the people that I met, the men that I knew, designers or otherwise who were influencing me what When I had enough money to go buy some clothes discretionary that way, it was all about being quiet. Paul Stewart, Brooks. And in Hunt for Red October. That was a movie where I came in and literally just saluted and said I to whatever they told me. They dyed my hair, they cut my hair. I sat in a chair, and it was like I was a car.
HAND: Your hair is sort of undeniably black.
BALDWIN: My hair, I had dark hair, and they dyed my hair, you know, two or three times to get it the way they want the director, and they talked about me like I wasn’t even, like I was a horse. You know, I was sitting there and they were like, “I think maybe, blah, blah, blah.”
HAND: I think that’s the assumption for many of us, that actors like models are treated in that way unless they’ve achieved a certain degree of… I’m going to put in my contract that I’ve done something.
BALDWIN: You’ll get there. For me, this was early on and then Connery walked in and I remember you know, he wore a hairpiece. He wore the perfect hairpiece.
HAND: Well, and he had the perfect beard too.
BALDWIN: The guy walked in, and I always make a joke about it.
HAND: Full on silverback.
BALDWIN: I mean, he walked in and I always make this joke, but I mean it sincerely. I remember the first day we shot he walked in, because he’d been ill, and he wasn’t going to do the film. And then he was recovering. He had some kind of throat condition. And he’d be covered and he shows up. So we didn’t have a lot of time and he kind of parachuted in to get going.
And he shows up and he’s in wardrobe, and I thought, I gulped. I said, “No one’s ever going to see me in this movie.” I’m going to become invisible. Look at how perfect, the guy is perfect. And he had his clothes cut perfect.” One time at the end of the film, there’s a scene at the end of the film. It is the final scene of the film, and we shot it earlier on and we’re on the con or on the deck of the submarine going toward America. And the moonlight is bathing us as this very kind of romantic lighting.
And when we’re shooting the scene, he said to me, I said, “This jacket you are wearing is just stunning.” He said, “Yes.” He said “Leather, blue song jacket,” that they had custom made for the film. I said, “My God. It’s stunning.” I said, “This is one of the most beautiful jackets.” He said, “I’ll have the make you one. I’ll tell the wardrobe department to make you one right away. And everyone must have a leather blue song jacket in their wardrobe.”
And I thought to myself, “Here’s another man, teaching me the laws of stuff.” Sean Connery himself is saying, “You must have a leather blue song jacket in your wardrobe.” And indeed, I got one. He got them to make me. He was a great guy. He is a great guy. He’s lovely.
HAND: Well, were there…? Given our vantage, given the films that we’ve watched in our youth, often we were greeted with the suited man. You know, Cary Grant, and were there any style icons for you as you were a young actor or today that you still think of as, God I want to channel that, that look?
BALDWIN: You know, it’s interesting because you press a lot of buttons there you think about people say that people said that. They said that Adolf Monzu had a shoe closet that would be the envy of, you know, Imelda Marcos. Monzu apparently have a shoe closet there in Beverly Hills, it was like you know, enviable. I think of people who wear clothing and who dress well on camera and off camera. people tend to want to be a little bit more here they want to be a little less flashy and not be too precious about their clothes in public when they’re off-camera. When a movie star is dress down and they’re wearing a hoodie and they’re wearing a T-shirt and they are wearing some kind clothing. You know, who’s a very good dresser and I’ve seen photographs of him and he’s very… His visual acumen is something that is so amazing. He’s so smart and of course, he’s the son of a painter, is De Niro was a very well dressed man. When De Niro dresses up, he always looks really, really perfect. He had beautiful clothes. And from the old days,I would have to guess a guy who I always thought was just so handsome, and the clothes… He was a guy that embraced his handsomeness was Tyrone Power. I always thought Tyrone Power just looked immaculate in every movie he was in.
HAND: Yes. Well, yeah. Probably wasn’t hard for him but still…
BALDWIN: He did have an advantage.
HAND: Yes. Well, so back to some of the films. You know, and there are so many where you are the suited man. You know, the cooler amazing performance, but you know, you’re a fucking casino boss.
BALDWIN: Monster there. I’m a pit boss.
HAND: How did how did it feel having to sort of put on clothes that you wouldn’t have worn? Or The Departed where you know, you’ve played a lot of cops? Right? You played a lot of government man, Mission Impossible, where perhaps the style quotient is at zero. Does that help you inhabit the role or is that an impediment? Because you feel like, “Hey, I just look bad right now.”
BALDWIN: I mean, I’ve worked with Bob Ringwood on The Shadow, and I worked with Colleen Atwood on some films. I’ve worked with some of the greatest costume designers in the world. And I’ll never forget Bob Ring when I did the movie The Shadow when he made an overcoat for me, which was literally you felt like it was like from the drapery of the Plaza Hotel. It was the heaviest fabric I’ve ever worn. It was like this almost Russian. I thought we were going to be shooting the film on location outdoors in Moscow. It was such a heavy, bulky coat and I still have it to this day. I will never part with this coat. It’s the most beautiful.
HAND: Why don’t you wear it now?
BALDWIN: In cold weather. Well, it’s got to be very cold out
HAND: Yes, but still I mean, you know, red carpet season.
BALDWIN: I may take up your advice on that.
HAND: If you come to the FIT benefit again, that’s what you should wear.
BALDWIN: Anna Johnson on mission when I did the first one that I did Rogue Nation, number five, I guess it was I went to meet with her, and she was the loveliest woman I’ve ever worked with in my life. And she would just sit there, and she and I… I would have married her if I was single. She would just sit there with the clothes and just the jacket and go, “I think that’s rather nice, don’t you? And I go, “Yes, I love this one we’re going to make that…” “I’m going to have all your shirts made.” And this and that. It was just the most love was luxuriating in the feelings with this woman. And then we were done, I always say to them, “What can I pay you?” They’ll sell you at the clothes like half the cost. I said, “I’ll take it all. I mean, she made me such beautiful suit, and she went and got a suitcase for me. She went up to the wardrobe department, you know, inexpensive like a real ballistic type of suitcase, it was tough. And she had all the clothes. We waited to the movie rapped. You had to wait until the movie was, till the producers approved the sale in case you had to go back and reshoot. And then the suitcase arrived with all my clothes that I had bought from them for Mission Impossible Part Five, Rogue Nation. They’re some of my favorite suits I’ve ever owned in my life.
Another one I did was when Zanya had their anniversary. Gieldo Zanya, the son of the founder, or the grandson said, “We’re going to make… I want to make the suit from the fabric of the first year of the company. We want to recreate, we’re going to remanufacture the….” He shows me the suit. And this is, “I’m going to make one for you and one for me and we wear to the party, the grand celebration.” And they made this suit for me. That was like the first round of Zanya. I mean, I’ve had so many thrilling moments like that.
HAND: No, that’s an amazing one. Well I mean, you, obviously, global traveler, both work and pleasure. What city do you feel has the most stylish men?
BALDWIN: That’s a great question, because there’s two answers, I think. I went to Madrid, and you could tell in the European tradition that a man will go out and buy himself a nice blazer, a couple of them and couple of nice pairs of shoes and platform everything off of that, as you know better than I do. Where people there’s a to build on.
HAND: The foundation to build on and those are two extremely important pieces.
BALDWIN: You see men walking around Madrid in a beautiful camel hair or a beautiful tweed, or a herringbone or whatever, and they don’t have a lot of money. So they just wear a white shirt and a necktie all of it very simple. I would say there and I would say a place where people with the most… Well the place where the women were the most well dressed, I have to shift to that, was Paris. When I was in Paris, I went into a confectionery shop once and I thought, which one of these women do I asked to go to dinner with me? The mother, the daughter or the grandmother? All three of them right? 70, 35.
HAND: And with independent charms.
BALDWIN: Actually, it was actually like 18, 50 and 75. I would have dated any one of them. They all were just dressed impeccably, their clothes.
HAND: Frenchman as well, and in Paris.
BALDWIN: What do you think is? What’s your answer?
HAND: It’s Milan.
BALDWIN: You do Milan.
HAND: But I will say Madrid, having been there fairly recently. One of the things I love about those Spanish towns is how everybody goes out and just gets out of their home and strolls. And I think because of that, there is that sense of occasion that comes with wanting to appear not just respectable, but have a little bit of style to it. So whether it’s that gentleman who has a little pocket square and you know, has a pipe that maybe is a little affected, along with those basics that he wears. You see that more in Europe and particularly, where the climate affords you more opportunity to get outside more regularly, like the Mediterranean countries.
BALDWIN: I think that with two things come to mind. One is that the place that I visited years ago, I haven’t been there in eons, but the place that I visited years ago where you could tell that a nice dark suit, every man was basically dressed the same and a nice you know, subtle tie, white shirts only. No colored shirts. And this didn’t pertain to people who were delivering packages and serving you your food, but in restaurants and bars.
Tokyo was the place where the uniform of the Tokyo businessman was, I mean, everybody wore the same thing. I mean, these guys, they were like, this is it. If you come to play in the field of business in Tokyo, they all wore dark suits, beautiful suits.
HAND: Absolutely right.
BALDWIN: And then the other thing that comes to mind is just this… I’d love to hear your take on this, I really mean this and that that is the relaxation of the dress code here in the US. Not that people are wearing the gap or what have you. But it’s the idea that we’ve come to a point now, it may be changing and maybe reversing itself. But there was a period of about maybe 10 years ago where I thought it’s like the uniform of the Chinese Communist Party.
Every guy’s wearing an untucked shirt and a pair of khaki pants and a blue blazer and they don’t look very good, and men who are dressed the way you’re dressed now, but when I lived up on Central Park West and most men were walking out the door every morning to go to work dressed like you are now. Where I live now downtown and where you used to live. You don’t see a lot of suit and tie guys down there at all.
HAND: Well, you are ensconced in, you know a creative class corridor. And you guys can dress however you want and in a lot of ways I think there is a signaling in that casualization that I’m the one with the power. The guy in the suit, maybe my agent in your case, maybe my lawyer, maybe my accountant or my banker, but he has to wear the suit and I can wear the hoodie.
BALDWIN: That’s interesting.
HAND: And so I think there’s… Well, I mean the hoodie is the uniform of you know, what I’ll say is sort of that you know, internet creative class, right? You know who the internet venture capital-backed guy is, right? He strolls in the hoodie and some performance pants, or whatever. I think the casualization of the workplace is a challenge for men. It was very easy to put the suit on with a wider blue shirt and a tie. I mean, it’s friggin Garanimals. 80% of your frontal presentation is covered already at matches, right?
So it’s a lot easier if you’re starting to pair separates, and even with a drive to not wear an odd jacket or blazer, but actually go with, “Hey, I’m going to try and wear a knit, but still look really professional.” That’s hard. That’s hard. A lot of guys need coaching on that. A lot of guys need to read The Laws of Style on that. So I think it’s an opportunity for brands because a lot of guys would get those four Brooks Brothers suits and be done for five days of the week. And then you know, what they were casually was what they were casually.
Today, that guy is looking at five days of the week where he may not wear a suit any of those days. Because it’s like, what do you have a client coming in? Are you going to court today? Most workplaces, including, you know, some of the big investment banks are casual all week. And the law is one of those few areas where, for instance, to go to court, you got to be suited up, you got to have a tie. But those places are really eroding.
I mean, I wonder if our grandchildren will look back at this time and say, “You know, dad or grandfather or great grandfather, you know, were you really that lazy?” You know? So I bemoan it a little bit with reference to, you know, those older gentlemen in European capitals that have that sense of occasion even if it’s just going out on a Thursday night to stroll or walk the dog.
BALDWIN: You’re right about Milan. I didn’t mean to omit Milan because when I went to Italy for the first time, when I was a bit older, I hadn’t been there. I was 30 in 1988. And I landed in Milan because I had to do business there. And then I went to the Borga Nova, where the mesial for Armani was there. And I had an introduction to somebody there and it was beautiful because I ordered my suits, got fitted for my suits, then went over to Venice, then went to Florence, and then came back to pick up my suits when they were ready and take them home with me.
But I have two questions for you. One is that, what was the… I’ll get to my pet peeve in a second. But I have one fashion pet peeve. I have only one of that is…First of all, I don’t own any jeans. I don’t have any jeans at all. I view jeans as a component—for myself. Other men can wear jeans to the end of time. But for me jeans are men lunging to look younger. When I see older men wearing jeans. And another thing is older men wearing baseball caps. Now, if you don’t have an enviable head of hair, if you’re missing your hair, and there’s a bit of that insecurity, I get that. But when I see men in their 40s and 50s wearing baseball caps, I want to scream. I can’t stand the baseball-capped man.
HAND: Yeah, well, in particular backwards or anywhere but the cap actually…
BALDWIN: Backwards, I want to leave town.
HAND: Yeah, you got to be behind the plate with a breast protector on if you’re going to wear your cap.
BALDWIN: Maybe and pay a lot of money.
BALDWIN: But the other thing was, what I wanted to ask you was what was the clothing regimen in your childhood? Did you grow up with dad everyone your life well dressed, suit and ties professional people?
HAND: Well, I grew up in Laguna Beach, California.
BALDWIN: Right. Nice town.
HAND: So, extremely casual.
BALDWIN: But not suit and tie up.
HAND: Not suit and tie.
BALDWIN: What did your dad do?
HAND: My dad was in the insurance industry.
BALDWIN: Suit and tie?
HAND: You played, got Along Came Polly, good stuff.
BALDWIN: Yeah, Shelly. That was great.
HAND: But my dad was a suited guy every day. And so I saw that.
BALDWIN: Like when went to work, he had to go down.
HAND: He went to work. So he was up in LA. He was in Santa Ana. And he was an entrepreneur. He developed something within the insurance industry that was a service, providing sort of Doctor evaluations. It’s terribly boring, but it was very lucrative and he was, you know, way ahead of his time in that. And I think part of why he was taken seriously as a relatively modest and uneducated—I mean, my dad graduated high school, we think. It was the way he presented himself. He always wore suits, and he often got them from secondhand places. His brother was an actor. He got a lot of cast at Brett Halsy. You’d have to go way back but Godfather 3, he was Diane Keaton’s husband in Godfather 3. I don’t have a speaking line, but because I know you were maybe going to be in Godfather 3.
BALDWIN: I’m begged and grovel but they gave the part to Andy Garcia.
HAND: Well, that was a much bigger part.
BALDWIN: I can’t argue with that because Garcia is a great actor.
HAND: But I think you know, he was significantly older than my father and kind of informed the way that he should dress. And so, yes…
BALDWIN: When did you go to the next level? What happened? College? Where did it happen for you that you become?
HAND: You know, college was college. But I think, for me, part of moving from Southern California where we really you had one season which was a very sort of nice and an 82 degrees and moving to the northeast, was…
BALDWIN: Where did you go to college?
HAND: I went to Vassar College Upstate. That was chilly and four seasons. And one of the reasons I kind of wanted this four-season existence was to wear a little bit more, to wear sweaters, to where… I didn’t have any outerwear. When I got there, I had, you know, leather flip flops and surf t-shirts. And I think that informed a lot of how I approached things and then of course, going to law school knowing one’s going to be a lawyer.
BALDWIN: What town was that in?
HAND: That was in this great city of New York?
BALDWIN: Where’d you go?
HAND: I went to NYU for the law school. And I have always felt that people expect to see the lawyer in a suit, and first impressions are formed within 30 seconds. So while in 30 seconds, there’s no way I’m going to convince you or regale you with my understanding of the 34 Act, or the latest Supreme Court decision, you are going to make a judgment about my efficiency about my intelligence based on what you’re seeing and hearing initially. So why tie a hand behind your back by not looking like a lawyer? But enough about me?
BALDWIN: Remember, when you decide you want to go shopping, one of the interesting things is when you’re in New York, it’s presumed—And I think this was true for healthy period of time, you can have anything. We’re in New York. Like when you’re over in Europe, why buy suits and things over unless you’re going to get them custom made, unless you’re on, you know, a German Street, or you’re a Turnbull and Asser or you’re in Milan on the Borganawabo.
Whatever, in Paris, why buy these clothes because in New York, you basically getting everything which is not true anymore. Barney’s is going out of business. I mean, the market for you know, really outstanding men’s clothes. It seems to be collapsing. But you know, I still have this hangover. I went to Belfast to shoot a film.
And when I was there, I had a chunk of a day off. I shot a couple days and I was off one day and I go shopping in the downtown Belfast district. I thought, what’s downtown Belfast, I’ve never been here before and I was staying at a really pretty hotel. And I get to this place and they have this jacket I like, like a men’s, you know, blazer, whatever. And the label says Douglas Hayward and I then do all the research and I really liked the clothes. So we don’t have very much anymore and the Douglas Hayward label and I start to get… I mean, I do what I always do, which is if I if there’s a disk I want to have just today, this is what a maniac I am. Just today I spent an hour researching in the car driving around.
I spent an hour researching how I could get a copy of Frank Sinatra live in Australia in 1959, with red norvos trio with a red norva quartet where they say, Sinatra, this is one of the greatest live and obscure performances of Sinatra. So when I find something, and I’m jonesing for that, I did. So I find out a guy who is a fashion editor in London, I talked to him on the phone.
He said, “Well, I believe that the Douglas Hayward label has been passed from here and there on Mount Street.” And he said, “They’re out of business. They’ve gone completely, they’ve been shattered completely, and they’re gone.” And I get the guy on the phone who bought the rights with his and they want to resurrect, and I’m flying to London in March or April to meet with them, to work with them to resurrect. Because Hayward had a shop on Mount Street and he dressed, Michael Caine. He had all these iconic photographs of him with Michael Caine, him with Roger Moore, him with Steve McQueen. He was the guy that made suits for the British stars.
HAND: Those are three absolute icons.
BALDWIN: Beautiful clothes and I’m going to go meet with them to talk about getting into some kind of a business with them to resurrect the old Douglas Hayward brand.
HAND: I love it.
BALDWIN: Yeah, me too.
HAND: Well, so let’s talk a little bit about business. I didn’t know that you were doing this and…
BALDWIN: Maybe we’ll talk.
HAND: You know who your fashion lawyer will be if you do it.
BALDWIN: It’s true. I never thought that. You’ve just helped me.
HAND: I just helped you. Ilaria. Lovely woman, but influencer in her own right, as are you and you guys have been very open with your family life and sharing. She is a significant figure in terms of personal health and yoga and too many. That is the very basis. Your lives. The very basis for the beginnings of a lifestyle brand. So I wonder both of you having agents, both of you being intelligent people and believing in your lifestyle as a healthy one. You ever discussed that? Have you ever talked about that? Is that a dream that you have or an aspiration that you guys have as a family?
BALDWIN: I think that,and this is just my guess now, we talked about a lot, but there’s a level of work that she could do. I think she would undoubtedly have a significant maybe even a phenomenal amount of success at that will require her to spend less time with our kids. She tends to be working now on another ad hoc way. If she’s out the door and shooting a project, two days in a row, that’s a lot.
She tends to work a couple days a week and then she’s home. She’s home, bathing the kids because we have very little children and she offers to be a featured guest talking about health and wellness and maternity-related things because we have a lot of kids and wish she’d been offered that many, many times. But she’s kind of fielding some offers about that now because I think she’d like to go. The kids are at school all day.
They’re old enough that where they’re at school, she may deep and all that. We talked about doing something together. But I wonder with our age difference if the demographic gets lost, meaning let her appeal to mothers who are young. I am a bit older than my wife, unfortunately. And we weren’t quite sure the two of us together but she’s also found herself in that world where people, you know, being married to me to some extent, but also her own presence online. And this online thing, as you know, is just remarkable.
People send boxes of things to our house every day and say here’s a handbag, here’s some cream. Here’s some hair products. They send her stuff shoes, things for the kids in the hope that she will then if she likes them, explain them online.
HAND: And post the picture. Right.
HAND: Well, you know, as the words escaped my lips, I struggle to think of a married couple or even partners who have done this successfully. The only ones I can think of who have even done it, of note are now divorced, I think. Jennifer Lopez. Yeah, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony did a large lifestyle collaboration for Kohls. And that wouldn’t be my vision for you guys. But it’s interesting to think through.
BALDWIN: It’s a great idea.
BALDWIN: I mentioned that to her because I when I look at…You see people online couples who I mean, there’s one thing in terms of the monetization or coming with some kind of a business model for that. The other thing is that just the essence of the couple, you know. You see that John Legend is someone who I admire endlessly. And his wife is this gorgeous woman who just happens to be very, very funny and the two of them work social media, particularly her, with a huge following and they’re kind of a battery.
But the essence of it is that Legend has to go off and do the things that make legend famous and what he does. And for me, there were people the online beachhead is the only assault they have. For me, that’s not the case. I have to go and really hunker down and do some worthwhile project which I’m about to start one in March.
I have to do something that harkens back to who I am and what I do for that stuff to be valuable. You know, and I whenever I see Chrissy Teigen and legend together. It’s mostly her and these kind of a featured player in her online stuff on social media. That’s because he’s got to go sing and make records and stick to that one
HAND: One of the compelling things I think about their feed as well as it’s not so much of a sales vehicle. I mean, you can look at other larger influencers like the Kardashians or the Jenners and their feeds really look like a catalog, which is what they are. They’re very well shot and, and that’s okay.
BALDWIN: Maybe the amount of money they have. I mean, my daughter Ireland, went to school in Northridge. She went to school in Northridge for 10 years with Kendall and Kylie Jenner and Kylie Jenner was this freckle-faced little kid. She was like something that was like an extra out of Annie the musical. She was like a little urchin. And now she’s worth $500 million. I mean, the world is a very strange place.
HAND: A massive, massive deal, but it really proves that that is a marketplace and a valid one. But I think consumers respond or are learning to respond as well to more genuine feeds and your feeds are nothing but genuine. I mean, it comes very, very comes through that that your favorite job is being a dad. And her favorite job is being a mom. And the rest is to support the family and support endeavors that you love. But where you want to be is home with those kids.
BALDWIN: Well, I, you know, for me, the work thing has been so the last two years. I mean, I’ve been busy, I’ve done things. But I’ve only done things where typically not always every day, but typically, I’m back in the house by five o’clock, and I do try to do a talk show. I’m about to start a project, which is much more work than I’m used to, where you’re gone for 13 or 14 hours and you work a long day and so forth. I want to ask you something before we run out of time because it’s almost one o’clock. I got to go pick up my kids in school.
The thing I want to ask you is, you know, I’m a good deal older than you and you’re still gleaming and handsome and young and perfect looking. But I’m wondering as you getting older yourself, do you sit there and go like there’s a year or two goodbye to they’re not gonna wear that anymore.
HAND: Indeed, yes. And you mentioned jeans. I still wear jeans but I find it very curious the fascination amongst men with always pairing things with jeans, you know, jeans I associate with where they originated. I mean, you know, building railroads and mining in San Fran. I mean that’s where Levi’s came from. That’s how denim became a fabric. It’s not comfortable to sit in practice line. And, you know, that blue while its iconic doesn’t even necessarily go well with a lot of other things. But you’re somewhat prescient, I mean, I’m a couple of weeks away from turning 50 which is, I’m sure was a big moment for.
BALDWIN: You don’t look a day over.
HAND: You know, I shaved the beard which… I did want to ask you, I mean, you know you you’ve had stubble but never really the full beard.
BALDWIN: I did for a little while when I was younger.
HAND: Did you?
BALDWIN: I was very young. I used to have the, what I call the Smirnoff vodka man beard and it had a black beard. It was really fantastic.
HAND: Sort of the precursor to the world’s most interesting man.
BALDWIN: I had a fantastic beard, a very thick dark beard. But as it got gray hair, and my hair is multicolored, my hair is undyed now and these vents here are white and on camera, it’s bad. Literally your face looks like there’s like a little halo. They don’t let you properly…So when I do a film, we knock this down a little bit with a stick what’s called a roof stick and they take like a mascara pen and they kind of like try to horrible color and knock this down this fender here. But the rest of my hair is 20 different colors.
HAND: That’s interesting because you know obviously on camera, we all look quite a bit different than live.
BALDWIN: As they say you know in the age of HD now, it’s you need all the help you can get and high def.
HAND: So I don’t want to let you leave without you know, we sit here in the garment district, a regulated area to building owners that requires that a certain amount of square footage in each building is dedicated to apparel production. Now, while apparel production, widely considered like, pumping out hundreds of thousands of garments left the city decades ago, this is still a viable area for brands for New York City-based brands to engage in sample production, which is when they prepare the actual bespoke garment which would then go to a factory typically overseas but sometimes here in the US for full scale production.
And the reason the garment district is an important area for the design community is it is really a one stop shop for everything from zippers to fabric to leathers to it’s all here. You don’t need to make a trip to New Jersey to check out, trim that is maybe leather-based and then come back and go to Brooklyn for buttons. It’s all here. There has been a movement amongst the building owners, which you can imagine why, to ease those regulations to allow buildings to be used for residential purposes and other commercial exhibitions.
So this is, in a way encapsulates the question of gentrification. Where do you come down as a lifelong New Yorker, really? You know, you’ve always been in or around here and I know the city is very dear to your heart. Where do you come down on issues like that? Maybe not this one specifically. But you know, do you think it’s important for New York to hold on to that legacy of some apparel production or do you feel free market dictates what it will, and you know, people should be moving in here?
BALDWIN: Well, I think that first of all, that’s a great question. And thank you for that background. You know, I remember when I first moved to New York, in the late 70s, and it was the beginning of the end for Soho. And as everybody who lived here knew the city had been holding on to and their regulations had been protecting manufacturing and the cast iron district of Soho.
And down there, people were making types of appliances and sewing machines and nuts and bolts factories, and all this stuff they made down there. And some of it was saying that as this manufacturing was abandoning the city, some people were exhorting everyone say, well, maybe it’ll come back. And then eventually they realize it’s not coming back and they allow the… And you’d see just acres of advertisement and so forth. It would say fixture fee fixture fee fixture.
You are going into an industrial space with no plumbing of residential plumbing and they’d sell you that the unit and you had to pay for the fixture fee separate, right? They weren’t going to put all the plumbing in for you, which was an exorbitant cost for a home. But Thus began the transformation of Soho into what it’s become now, which to me is just unspeakable, which is a lower Madison Avenue, boutique area. I never imagined that, but apropos of where we are now. I think that city planning an accent on the word city is such where we can’t have all of the housing built for people who their life is an Uber ride away from where they’re going to go. Some of this housing can be built uptown. There are other areas that can be reclaimed and developed uptown. The issue of how what percentage of that should be affordable housing is another issue as well.
Although I think that the city is going to start to really suffer if we don’t have more affordable housing, but what’s here should remain the way it is, I think because in this case, I think design-related, whether it’s clothing or not, but design tech, whatever, could come back to this space and occupy these spaces in terms of office space and an industrial space, light industrial space, easily.
I think it would be a huge mistake to broom everybody out of the West 30s at what is classically known as the garment district and send them all somewhere else and turn this into lofts and turn beautiful spaces, beautiful buildings that were they flipped residential. I get it, I get that they’re beautiful. The most stunning homes in Manhattan I’ve ever been into, are not on Fifth Avenue, they’re on Mercer Street and they’re downtown in these, you know, 20-foot ceilings and so forth. But I do think it would be a huge mistake, because what’s down there isn’t going to change, that’s done. What’s here. If you lose this, I think we could be in trouble. Yeah, big mistake for the economy.
HAND: Well, Alec, that’s a wrap. Time is up. But thanks so much for coming in. And, you know any, we didn’t get to talk about your involvement with PETA or any other programs that you work with. You’ve got any shout outs for…
BALDWIN: The most important thing that they hear is when I have my next conversation with these guys because I’m having, you know, it’s casual. We’re kind of tiptoeing towards this Douglas Hayward thing. When I have something more concrete, you’re my next phone call to hang up with these guys. I don’t know. I mean, that little your…
HAND: They’ll say, Douglas Hayward.
BALDWIN: No, no, no. The two Douglasses.
HAND: The two Douglasses. Thanks so much.
OUTRO: You’ve been listening to The Laws of Style with Douglas Hand. For more information, go to our website at www.hballp.com, and you can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @handofthelaw. Thank you for tuning in, and stay stylish.