How to Dress a Billionaire: Three Ways to Save Daddy Warbucks’ Wardrobe

Sartorial ineptitude is rife among wealthy older men in the Hamptons– and nobody seems to care ! They are the

Sartorial ineptitude is rife among wealthy older men in the Hamptons– and nobody seems to care !

They are the hideously rich dinosaurs whom time and style forgot; they missed out on the liberating stylefest of the 1960’s (they were at the office), and now they are too busy to know or care about the Gap or Banana. They are primordial dweebs, lost in a mediocre miasma of pressed and perfectly creased jeans ( bonjour , Mort Zuckerman), nasty duty-free dress belts with gold buckles, bad golf blousons, low vamp loafers and white tube socks–and they’re all over the bloody place.

Selecting a smelly cheese at the Barefoot Contessa, contesting a parking ticket in the Nick and Toni’s lot, fellating a vanilla ice cream cone outside the East Hampton Movie Theater, these tragically attired captains of industry are having a blast, oblivious to the pain that they are inflicting on the rest of us.

Look! There’s the corporate general counsel who dons a spread-collar dress shirt even for a beach promenade; there’s the Wall Street alter kocker flipping burgers and looking like a flight attendant in his “dressy casual” navy blazer with the gold buttons; there’s the network executive picking up Labrador poo outside Boobie Van’s in his $350 linen pleated pants and bunion-grinding dress shoes; there’s the top C.F.O. multi-tasking (driving, finger-combing the vestiges of his Yale-class-of-’58 side-parted hairstyle backward over his bald spot, nose-picking and cell-phoning) through Water Mill in his Range Rover.

It’s a whole billionaire boys’ club, walking around on weekends sans any coherent personal style, while their vain, fashion-obsessed wives and girlfriends devote every waking hour, and liquid asset, to their own adornment.

I have a message for those women: For God’s sake, tart him up a bit!

But before you run out and buy him a rack of ridiculously trendy resort clothes, consider this: There are only three ways for a rich old codger to dress at the country-beach house. Select one of the following for your man and stick with it. Make your choice based on personality and–more importantly–body type.

1) The Paul Bowles Look . Ideal for skinny older men. This is a khaki, army-surplus look.

You can pretty much buy everything at Canal Jeans Co. (504 Broadway, 226-1130). Ask for Cynthia in “antiques”: olive army pants ($29.99), military shirts ($9.99 to $15.99), army T’s ($9.99 to $14.99). Send everything to the most brutal Chinese laundry in your neighborhood so that it comes back incredibly starched and over-pressed. Finish the look off with an authentic, bush-safari jacket ($170) from Upland Trading Company (236 East 13th Street, 673-4994).

Footwear: a crepe-soled suede chukka boot by Heschung at Barneys ($325). No sandals ! His feet just aren’t that pretty anymore.

If the Paul Bowles thing gives you pause (you’re worried that your check writer might move to Tangiers and start dating Arab boys), focus on some other archetypes–think rumpled photojournalist, zoologist or even anthropologist. You don’t have to wear a camera, but you could get away with it. Peter Beard, T.E. Lawrence, David Attenborough … Christiane Amanpour?

2) The Boho Bon Viveur Look . It’s Picasso meets Gilligan’s Island with a bit of Gérard Depardieu thrown in. It’s where Chris Farley meets Julian Schnabel.

Is your man a heavy-set funster? Does he chuckle with Falstaffian glee while pinching girls’ bums and quaffing beaujolais nouveau? Is he having a ball even though he’s probably about to have a heart attack? Bohemian bon viveur is a great look for him.

Start off with giant beige-denim painters’ pants from Old Navy ($29.50). Buy tons of them because the average boho bon viveur is a really messy eater. Any persistent stains will, however, look much better on his new arty wardrobe than they did on his previous moderate sportswear outfits.

Load up on French Navy pullover shirts in navy and ecru–spend an extra $10 and get the one with the three buttons on the left shoulder, so he can get his fat head out of it without abrading his ears and nose–$89 from Frenchware (98 Thompson Street, 625-3131). To order a catalogue call 800-340-PIAF.

Accessorize with jaunty kerchiefs and beaten-up straw hats. No berets (too cliché). And absolutely no ponytails or Chinese jackets. (Come back to the five and dime, Steven Seagal, Steven Seagal.)

3) The Disheveled Old-Money Look . Good for all body types. From Jimmy Stewart to George Plimpton to Réne Lacoste to “Black Jack” Bouvier to the Duke of Windsor. Very Newport.

If you and your fella were old money then you would already be doing this look–but you’re not, so listen up. WASP-y wardrobing is not as simple as popping into Ralph Lauren: Bona fide old-money folk would never cough up that kind of cash, and the Polo clothes are all too new looking. You might as well have “arriviste” tattooed across his backside. You need that worn-out, frayed gentility and there are only two ways to get it:

a) Identity theft. Haunt the estate sales of deceased WASP magnates who are the same size as your man or intercept the widows on their way to the charity shops with dead hubbie’s duds. Give your man somebody else’s sartorial identity. Don’t have any qualms about it; think of it as recycling.

b) Go to J. Press (7 East 44th Street, 687-7642) and, like a hard-core, tightwad preppie wife take advantage of the summer sale. He’ll look like a bit of an old pervert in the patchwork madras plaid shorts (reduced to $44.63), but the seersucker jackets (reduced to $206.25), button-down shirts ($60), ribbon belts ($17.50) and matching watch bands ($7.25) are all giving major Philly Main Line realness. Then distress the clothes: Drag them behind your car in the rain and then tumble-dry them with strips of sandpaper.

Beware the David Niven pitfalls. And don’t come off like a wine connoisseur or too dandyish–do not go Tom Wolfe. Nothing sauve. No accessories–no mustaches, pipes, canes, ascots and no fancy accents–or you’ll be exposed as the fraud that you are.

You’re guesting in the Hamptons with some really groovy art-world, Brice-and-Helen-Mardenish couple and you are terrified that your hostess gift just won’t be fabulous enough. Solution: bring two gifts.

The first is the gift you give if it turns out that you had a really fab time and they weren’t as constipated and egomaniacal as rich groovers can sometimes be: a skein-dyed, hand-tufted, mini Robert Indiana Love rug ($125) from Lost City Arts (275 Lafayette Street, 941-8025). Ask proprietor Lloyd Goldsmith about this hiply droll hostess gift which will guarantee a return invite.

The second is the gift you give if you had a nerve-racking time and they were too arty and self-involved and couldn’t relax. Offend your hosts with a horrendously whimsical wind-sock–the classic Koi can be purchased from ($12.95). Big Wind Kite Factory ( has a really naff Happy Hour windsock ($50), highly recommended if your hosts are recovering alcoholics. Get up early and install it while your hosts are still slumbering on their Pratesi sheets. It’s so totally ungroovy, and such an affront to their hip-arty sensibilities, that you will never be invited back– and you get to keep the Love rug.

“Urine, vomit, feces, blood, dirt, grass and more,” Simple Solution will, according to it’s cheeky packaging, remove any of these stains. Joe Dolce and Jonathan Burnham keep vats of it in their Manhasset beach rental since their mutt recently blossomed into womanhood.

The dynamic couple introduced me to this miracle product after my dog defiantly pissed all over their Brunschweig et Fils-covered couch, a la Linda Blair. Joe grabbed a bottle of Simple Solution and chugged it onto the stained area; 24 hours later, no stain and no odor! Simple Solution is available at Petco, Pet Supplies Plus and most major pet stores. A couple of 20 ounce bottles (about $6 each) should get you through the summer. If you are the custodian of a bohemian bon viveur I recommend that you buy it by the gallon.

How to Dress a Billionaire: Three Ways to Save Daddy Warbucks’ Wardrobe