Monday, March 23, 2009

Men will never look better

Guys, look at the clothes you have on.

The owner of the company that made them, the person that designed them, the textile company that made the fabric, and the retailer that sold them to you all have one thing in common.

They all knew Stan Gellers.

Stan passed away on Saturday at 83.

Stan was a journalist whose beat was men’s clothing. He covered the industry literally from head to toe for over 50 years. His last column was November 24, 2008.

This means he saw lapels get wide, then narrow, then wide, then narrow. Same with ties. He knew Ralph Lauren when Ralph’s last name was Lipshitz. He reported the leisure suit, Carnaby Street, dungarees to fashion denim, casual Friday, and the introduction of a new retailer called Walmart.

Stan knew his craft of reporting. He knew his beat. He knew everybody who was anybody in men’s clothing. He was a new designer’s best friend. He was more instrumental in matchmaking alliances in the men’s clothing business than Studio 54.

Stan could not be bullshitted, because he had seen everything. He knew the difference in shit and shinola. He knew good fabric from crap. He knew good tailoring from hack. He knew a big idea when he heard it. He loved his work.

He was the sand in the oyster that produced pearls. He chastised stupid. He smirked at boring. He lambasted poor taste. He encouraged the industry to do new, better, more. And he did it all as a professional and a gentleman.

Stan first reported for the Daily News Record, when there was enough news and advertising for a daily report on menswear. The Daily News Record eventually came to be known as DNR, especially when it went to three days a week, then one. And now, it is gone.

The end of DNR, his eventual “forced retirement”, and his death all came within a few months. There has to be a connection.

One is cautioned about using the word never. But there will never be another Stan. There is no platform for one. This means that the industry he loved has lost its biggest cheerleader, critic and provocateur for improvement. The men’s clothing industry has lost a giant, and he never designed or sold a piece.

I entered the men’s clothing industry from the advertising industry. Which means I didn’t grow up with “wool in my nose”.

My first encounter with Stan didn’t last long. He called me to learn what I had in mind for new suits at Haggar. I talked for 15 seconds, he told me I was an idiot and hung up on me.

But I was fortunate. Stan gave me another chance. As harsh as he could be, he was open to new ways of thinking. We began a great business relationship in 1993.

Stan liked lunch. At nice restaurants in New York. And I, like many in the industry, bought him many. I always came away with new information. New people to contact. New ideas to think about. And I was supposed to be supplying the reporter with news.

Stan became a dear friend because he became mine first. He allowed me into the menswear club with his endorsement. We would come to have long chats about life, family, friends, food, you name it.

He called me when Pete was killed. He cried with me.

Today, Stan, I cry for you. I miss you, my friend.

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