This post could be summed up with one simple sentence – go buy Michael Hainey’s new book “After Visiting Friends.” There’s your Cliff Notes, I just saved you reading my next couple hundred words by giving you a few hundred pages to read. But in all sincerity, read this post (I’m not crazy enough to drive away my audience just yet), then go buy the book, it’s an incredible story, and the prose is exactly what you’d expect from someone as talented as Michael. For now though, at risk of giving too much away, I’m going to leave the book for you all to discover on your own and shift focus towards Hainey and his houndstooth jacket.
Michael to me (much like his counterpart, Nick Sullivan over at Esquire) has always been a paragon of “real style.” The sort of man who wears the same exact thing to the office as he does in street style photos or even in his recent publicity shots for his book. This past Tuesday night, I ventured uptown to hear Michael discuss “After Visiting Friends.” It was the only hometown stop on a press tour that includes many events in Illinois, a clear nod to Hainey’s roots, as well as the book’s Chicago setting. In between listening to Michael read passages from the book, I found myself studying his suit, a gorgeous pinstriped three roll two number, with matching straight legged trousers anchored by a sizable cuff. A friend of mine facetiously once said he’s only ever seen Hainey wearing that pinstripe suit or a houndstooth jacket. Quite frankly, if I had a suit like that, I’d probably find myself reaching for it most days as well.
As for the latter piece that my friend mentioned, Michael’s houndstooth jacket is somewhat of a holy grail when it comes to odd jackets. Personally, I’ve been considering my next jacket purchase for months now. Between a steel grey two button, a graphite toned double breasted, a camel hair for winter, and more navy blazers than I care to mention, my jacket’s feeling a bit too well fed these days. There’s only one problem with this current odd jacket array though – all but one are solid. I’ve been trying to inject some much needed pattern into the rotation, but I just can’t commit. Everyone seems to be enamored with the rectangles recently, be it Prince of Wales, Glenplaid, Guncheck, or Windowpane, but everyone else’s infatuation just drives me further from these patterns. Of course I could always go towards the extremes and pull out some never before seen motif, but I’m not really trying to look like Matthew Lesko at the moment. Then I remembered Michael’s houndstooth jacket, the one that he wore for his Selby photo shoot (not to mention many times before and since) and I was reminded of how underutilized houndstooth is.
There’s nothing remarkably “new” about houndstooth, but I do personally find it interesting that for a pattern that is so commonplace in our daily lives, it’s rarely seen in the form of a jacket anymore. It was over a year ago that I (mistakenly) foretold that houndstooth would rise to prominence once again, but that never really took off like my hazy crystal ball had predicted. I think most men tend to shy away from houndstooth because it is such a tight-knit and repetitive design that they fear they’ll end up simply looking like a walking optical illusion, but Michael has mastered the art of playing down the pattern. By pairing houndstooth with solids, both up top with his shirt and tie, and below with his washed down jeans, Michael brings focus towards his jacket in a manner that is complimentary, but not visually assaulting. Houndstooth is the sort of pattern that professors and writers used to wear till they blew through the elbows, and even then they simply threw a patch over the hole and kept on working. I like to think that Michael pays homage to this style with his houndstooth jacket, wearing it often and wearing it well. As for me, well I’m going to go finish this book, and I recommend you do the same.