What lesson are we to take from this evidence of profiteering from human servitude in the foundational years of Brooks Brothers? This is a question that other American institutions are being asked recently. Perhaps due to their nature as loci of inquiry and self-reflection, many universities have been on the forefront of exploring their connections to slavery and atoning for the ways in which they profited from the labour and sale of enslaved peoples. Brooks Brothers, and other for-profit entities, have not.
Dressmaker Lizzie Morrin made waistcoats and jackets with hidden pockets so guns and weapons could be smuggled unobtrusively. Catherine Byrne was praised for her ingenuity when she rolled a note into her bun to avoid being caught. To the men involved, these women blended in because of these everyday roles and outfits, so much so, that they became quite literally invisible. Which explains why Marie Perolz, having dressed her little niece up in a velvet coat and bonnet, was able to fulfil her secret tasks unnoticed, despite the fact that she was also carrying a basket full of revolvers.
Prison literature and theory often focuses on the oppressiveness of the system, the callous discipline enforced on the prisoner, the strict rules which often seem arbitrary in their focus and the often patronising attitude of the authorities. We often assume that prison is an environment so infused with control and discipline that the inmates have no choice but to bow to the authorities. This is of course not the case. Prison life is full of upturned collars and resentful squints, as well as a myriad of other ways to subvert the rules, however slightly.
I began injecting testosterone at thirty. When I slipped on the jacket in front of the mall mirror at thirty-two, I beamed. Tattooed, with a little hard-won stubble, I could see my contrasts cleanly, my aesthetics an armour telegraphing a history beyond words. A prison for some men was, for me, a church: the rare and precise glory of an integrated self.
Where women are concerned, then, minimalist clothing advice is aimed at tamping down on overabundant desire. Rather than taking your inspiration from that awesome scarf on the woman at the coffee shop this morning, you’re to restrict yourself to sensible basics. Are you A Woman? You require The Navy Blazer, The Pencil Skirt, and so forth, and be sure to pay full price for each.
I love fashion generally – I’ve always loved it. On my Sabbath, I read InStyle sometimes. I mean, I read the Bible as well, but I do love a good InStyle. I follow ‘Project Runway’ and I love ‘What Not to Wear’ and all those sorts of things. I already had this teenage interest in fashion. Then I realised I would be given my work uniform, and my work uniform has a lot behind it – it carries a lot of weight when you walk into a room. That can either be a really good thing or it can be a really challenging thing.
Fashion houses are more like banks or law firms, their uniforms less a fashion statement than an ethos expressed by dark-hued synthetics. If you leave Louis Vuitton having remembered everything other than what the sales associate who helped you was wearing, the uniform will have done its job.
Few directors have been as prolific in their lifetime as Kenneth Anger. Blending surrealism and the occult with homoeroticism, psychodrama and unashamed spectacle you could perhaps say that Anger’s whole vocation has been an ode to the art of magic. An early follower of Aleister Crowley’s teachings, Anger at various stages in his life mixed with occult practitioners and artists as diverse as Jean Cocteau, Anaïs Nin, Anton LaVey, Mick Jagger and Jack Parsons, and his life is as shrouded in myth and legend as his work is.