WHAT IS JAMES WEARING? Rotating Header Image

ON THE ART OF SELF INVENTION

James Andrew - photo Scott McBee

James Andrew – photo Scott McBee

I recently came across these words by Joseph Kennedy: “It’s not what you are, but what people think you are that is important.” My thoughts turned to the concept of self-invention; something akin to Fitzgerald’s iconic “great” Jay Gatsby and the idea of becoming one’s own masterpiece. Of course, we’ll set aside the fact that Fitzgerald’s Gatsby and possibly the Camelot Kennedys (though it is unconfirmed) owed their ascension to the proceeds of rum-running, and concentrate on the fantasy they created for the public!

In an article by our friend the brilliant Robert O’Byrne entitled “The Art of Self-Invention” O’Byrne compares the “Bogus Baron”( Michael Lees) and the “hostess with the mostest” (Elsa Maxwell) with yours truly.

Here’s an excerpt:

Like the faint aroma from an old scent bottle, one can now only pick up a suggestion of what made both Brian de Breffny and Elsa Maxwell note worthy. They belong to another age and when it passed so did their kind. But circumstances have changed of late thanks to technology. To some extent the art of self-creation is harder then was previously the case. Internet anonymity allows users to change age, gender and race- but only for so long as they retain anonymity. In the age of Facebook, Brian Lees could not transform himself into the Baron de Breffny without being unmasked by a so-called friend. Someone on twitter would spitefully remember Elsa Maxwell as a schoolgirl. If you want to devise an alternative persona today, you face the risk of being publicly exposed.

Yet the same internet also allows greater opportunities than were to hand hitherto for treating oneself as a work of art. James Andrew is a New York interior designer. Always something of a dandy, in July 2008 he started a blog called whatisjameswearing.com. As the title implies this is devoted to displaying the author in a constantly changing array of clothes. Since its debut, whatisjameswearing.com has acquired a steadfast following around the world that dandies of previous centuries would envy. What makes the blog distinctive from so many others is precisely the way in which James Andrew uses it as a creative device through which to present a meticulously crafted image of himself. “I like this idea of approaching life almost as a cinematographer,” he told the New York Social Diary in January 2011 before describing his attitude to clothing as a form of celebration: “like when you go to the opera you have these magnificent performers giving you their heart and soul and you’re in this extraordinary place and I think to dress up is to pay everyone respect, to honour the experience of being there.”

Andrew’s display of himself on the internet requires a certain recklessness, not least because he is left with nowhere to hide. He makes no secret of his origins and upbringing; any attempt to do so would quickly become uncovered. But even this degree of honesty offers scant protection from the antagonism of those who argue that no alteration of the character we present to the world is permissible. Ultimately the debate comes down to this: should we treat our identity as a work in progress or something inviolable?

The majority of users employ the internet in a functional fashion, simply as a means of accessing and disseminating information or opinion. But a hand full of people like Andrew have recognized its potential as a tool for self-creation and exploited the opportunities offered.

Self-creation is not the same as self-invention:the second of these involves a measure of dishonesty no longer feasible. But the example of James Andrew proves that today more than ever it is possible for each of us to become our own finest creations, to find an audience for what we have created and unlike Brian de Breffny or Elsa Maxwell, to achieve a degree of immortality.

So very touched by O’Byrne’s exquisite words—I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing pretty much the entirety of them with you!

Celebrating “The Art of Self-Invention” I am sporting a Tom Ford camel silk/cashmere jacket and brown and lavender silk polka dot pocket square, Gucci purple cashmere turtleneck sweater and wool check pants in brown,camel and purple, Tom Ford “Cyrille” sunglasses and saddle leather loafers, vintage Rolex and my fragrance is Tom Ford Oud.

16 Comments

  1. Ta da! Ta la! -here I am, in the world and this is what I love, this is what makes me happy. This is what I personally take from WIJW? -for me it is about affirmation and loving the unique person you are. It is about being engaged and celebrating other people’s unique gifts and personal artistry. I enjoyed O’Byrne’s musings and loved discovering his fascinating and intelligent blog -he is certainly doing what he loves -and enriching us all in the process. I celebrate you, JA -thank you for the inspiration and joy.

  2. CD says:

    James = Architect of Color + Scent + Self

    James, you look great in that deep purple turtleneck contrasted so fluently with the camel sportscoat… the two shades cleverly synthesized within the domain of the check pants. Or, rather, the upstrairs purple and camel have emerged from the check zone, only to become bracketed by leather cognacs from lapel to the ground. An optical and tactile feast.

    CD has so much catching up to do with WIJW.

  3. La Contessa says:

    Well, you and I share the same quote!I say the same thing about the OPERA!!!One must dress out of respect to the performers!Very sad in San Francisco,they only DRESS on opening night.So, I do make a point of going on that night.Went two weeks ago which was not opening night and could hardly believe what people wore!!!T-shirts and jeans……….bottom line.I wouldn’t be seen at the grocery store dressed like that!There are so many gorgeous outfits out there in stores but one seldom see’s them in my neck of the woods.A REAL PITY!

  4. Two of my inspirational friends! Singing the same song!!

    I totally agree! We are living in “Slobbovia” remember Al Capp ???

    It was a prediction!!!

    You and La Contessa are divine!!!

  5. Brilliant!

    People such as Nate Berkus would not be known if not for Oprah- and Ralph Lauren and Michael Taylor both changed their names in the pursuit of self-invention- leading to fabulous glory!

    Ditto Estee’ Lauder !

    Dean

  6. James Andrew says:

    My Darling Philip Bewley,

    Comments and Feedback like yours provide me with the motivation to want to continue sharing my musings here on WIJW?

    I knew that you would become an instant fan of The Irish Aesthete!

    Love,Light and Lots of Blessings

    JA

  7. James Andrew says:

    My Dear CD,

    As you know – I do indeed believe that we are the architects of our lives/reality – so why not make it something rather tremendous!

    Cheers and Many Thanks

    JA

  8. James Andrew says:

    My Dear La Contessa,

    Luckily there are a few loyal disciples of elegance and sophistication out there- we will spread our gospel of grace and manners and in the process create a few fabulous converts.

    You certainly are providing lots of inspiration!

    Love and Light

    JA

  9. James Andrew says:

    My Dearest Penelope Bianchi,

    As I said to La Contessa- luckily there are a few of us out there sharing our musings on style and taste and perhaps by our own fabulous examples we can help to elevate the standard.

    Le Grenouille never changed their dress code- men are required to wear jacket and tie – they are packed every night- has not hurt their business one bit – if anything people no doubt love that it has remained a bastian of old world manners and charm.

    Unlike a few other places that have lowered their dress code -thinking they would attract more clients and their business is in the toilet.

    So their is hope!

    Love

    JA

  10. James Andrew says:

    Dear Dean,

    “If you were the Mona Lisa
    You’d be hanging in the Louvre
    Everyone would come to see you
    You’d be impossible to move
    It seems to me is what you are
    A rare and priceless work of art
    Stay behind your velvet rope
    But I will not renounce all hope
    And I’m right by your side
    Like a thief in the night
    I stand in front of a masterpiece
    And I can’t tell you why
    It hurts so much
    To be in love with the masterpiece
    ‘Cause after all
    Nothing’s indestructible
    From the moment I first saw you
    All the darkness turned to light
    An impressionistic painting
    Tiny particles of light
    It seem to me is what you’re like
    The “look but please don’t touch me” type
    And honestly it can’t be fun
    To always be the chosen one
    And I’m right by your side
    Like a thief in the night
    I stand in front of a masterpiece”

    Thank You Madonna

  11. James!

    Thank you darling!

    Be all that you can be !

    XXOO

    Dean

  12. Wow! One of my very favorite people in front of (I think) my very favorite building in all of New York City!

    the River House? I adore it! We have lovely friends who belong to the River Club…….oh dear Lord…….I can’t even say what may happen.

    If there is any justice in the world…….and any elegance left to flourish…..the River club will be saved!!

    You are looking quite dashing! (no surprise!!)

    XXOO

    Penelope

  13. I forgot to say…..we stay there (thanks to our dear friends who are members) every time we come to NYC!

    My favorite story is when we were there and I took our granddaughter…..who was 7..and my daughter to the “Lion King”; and we took a “pedicab” back to the “River Club”!! I cannot describe the thrill of going across NYC in a pedicab on a beautiful night…….THRILLING! MY granddaughter will never forget it……nor will I!

    Well….that was a “new one” for the doorman! He was kind of in shock!

    Truly; that ride across NYC was a peak experience of a lifetime!!

    I decided if he could drive this in Istanbul; NYC was a walk in the park!

    what a thrill!!

    Penelope

  14. James Andrew says:

    My Darling Penelope,

    What a marvelous story!!!

    I thought of you when I had this photo taken and remember you telling me that when ever you come to NYC you stay at the River House.

    When are you back in town? – we must dine there before it is sold and turned into a 65,000 square foot apartment.

    Love

    JA

  15. I will be coming soon! As in maybe very soon! I will let you know immediately!

  16. James Andrew says:

    Darling Penelope Bianchi,

    Can’t wait to dine at River House with you!

    Cheers

    JA

Leave a Reply