I had an American Psycho moment last week. I was enjoying a perfectly civilized breakfast with Jason Basmajian, the creative director of Gieves & Hawkes, when he handed me his new business card. I took it in my hand and stared at it enviously. It was a beautiful shade of grey (Farrow & Ball would call it Manor House Grey) with raised gold letters printed on lustrously thick card. As Patrick Bateman, the protagonist in Bret Easton Ellis’s novel, notes when handed a contemporary’s new card, “I’m still tranced out on Montgomery’s card – the classy colouring, the thickness, the lettering, the print…” I felt the same looking at Jason’s. Fortunately, unlike Bateman, I didn’t then scream across the table, “No one wants the fucking red snapper pizza…!” This would, of course, have been inappropriate – not only because we had already ordered scrambled eggs, but because it would also have been a tad unprofessional.
An obsession with business cards, sushi (try getting a last-minute booking at Zuma, Umu or Nobu – even though together they sound like Japanese Teletubbies), Eighties music (Daft Punk’s album features Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder) and the found-again fashionability of Ermenegildo Zegna (now with Stefano Pilati at the helm) are all straight out of American Psycho.
Although it was published in 1991, the novel is set in the Wall Street heyday of the Eighties and a lot of what it painstakingly details still has resonance today. In fact, so much so that this December you will be able to see American Psycho the musical when it opens at the Almeida Theatre in north London (tickets are already selling fast). Music was as important to Patrick Bateman as food and labels, so this new incarnation of the story makes perfect sense – especially when you sample some of the show’s new lyrics, such as: “After all, if we’re having sake, it’s best to wear Issey Miyake.” Nice.
There are other Eighties throwbacks doing the rounds too, and not all of them have associations with psychotic serial killers. The pinstriped suit is one (although admittedly that does have echoes of the equally unappetizing Gordon Gekko), but I feel you should give it a try. The pinstripe got a bad press because of Thatcher’s wide boys – whether unscrupulous City traders or greedy estate agents. Today, however, these suits have been restyled in softer fabrics, subtler stripes and slimmer cuts (Richard James has some fine examples). A good pinstripe can add a point of interest to a navy or charcoal suit, streamline your silhouette with the stripes seeming to add length to your body and sit nicely with a pale blue contrast collar shirt (very Mohamed Al Fayed) and a paisley or striped tie (very Ralph Lauren). Just avoid teaming them with braces, or choosing jackets with wide lapels, so as not to appear too Tim Nice But Dim.
Other Eighties mainstays making an appearance this autumn include double-breasted blazers, Oxford shoes and windowpane checks (Zara has a wide selection of the latter), Paul Smith has started reintroducing coloured business suits (he first did this in the Eighties), black is also popular once more (it was in 1980 that the Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo introduced “eight shades of black”), the Versace label has returned to its flamboyantly patterned silk shirts and tailored trousers with sporty cuffs for hems (see those by Neil Barrett) are a nod to the shell suit trend from the same decade.
Our renewed interest in the Royals also has a faint smack of Eighties-dom. After all, not since we first fell in love with Diana in the early Eighties has it been faintly OK to express some interest in all things Windsor: the birth of boy George (named after another Eighties icon), or that Prince Harry looks as if he might be a bit of a laugh. I have to admit that numerous pictures of the Prince of Wales and his progeny at a number of society weddings over the summer finally persuaded me to invest in my own morning suit. Since I have three weddings to attend this autumn, I went to Favourbrook and bought the fully monty: black Bedford cord morning coat, grey Westminster striped wool trousers and shawl-collar, wool-gabardine double-breasted camel waistcoat. Basically, I went in and asked for a Prince Charles (better than asking for a Prince Albert, I suppose). Even sadder is when I got home and checked the wedding invitations the dress codes were, respectively: lounge suit, black tie, lounge suit. Clearly I need to hang out more with Isabella Amaryllis Charlotte Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe and family to get invited to more morning suit-appropriate weddings. Hating to see it go to waste, I now wear mine to potter around the garden at the weekends. It’s sometimes nice to add a touch of formality to a mundane pastime.
Well that trip down memory lane has been exhausting. I’m now going to retire to bed with Patrick Bateman’s favourite track pouring out from my Sony MDP-700 multi-disc CD player. Cue Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”. Who says the Eighties was all bad?
Jeremy Langmead is the editor-in-chief of mrporter.com