What Are You Wearing?

Dapper Gatsby's Sharp-Dressed Casual Elegance

The legendary rockers of ZZ Top once declared that "every girl's crazy about a sharp dressed man." And that's probably the best way we can describe the style philosophy and fashion sense of Dappper Gatsby.

As his moniker portends, the 41-year-old photographer and scenester socialite rocks a stylish vibe whenever he out on the town, usually in the company of his glamorous girlfriend P.K. Peck.

Bombing around in his dark green 1969 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, Gatsby typically adorns himself in such threads as Guayabera short sleeves, Ben Davis slacks, black Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, and a Stetson Panama straw hat that Frank Sinatra used to wear. He's also known to sport custom-tailored silk shirts from Hong Kong, retro-looking three-piece suits from France, and even the occasional vintage bowling shirt.

Gatsby's a well-connected cat and a bit of a bon vivant, which is why you can find him snapping photos and sipping cocktails at his friend's club gigs and after-hours events around downtown Phoenix four nights a week.

He's also got the gift of gab and is armed with plenty of fashion and style tips, a few of which he shared while telling us his favorite outfits to wear and places to shop.

What are you wearing?
Navy blue Dickies work shirt, because I'll be going over to the Hidden House later and there's always a certain attitude there during a hip-hop night. And I'll have a little bit of street cred. My Everlast workout pants from my boxing days. They're like my kung fu pants. Black socks and some primo leather boots I got from Last Chance. They're shoes I know I can dance in, kick some ass in, or if I have push to my Cadillac down the highway.

What's your favorite outfit to wear?
Anything stylish and comfortable, but also black slacks, a nice dress shirt, and -- if I need it -- a good sport coat. 

What's the last item of clothing that you bought?
A nice new pair of dance floor Ferragamos. For some it's the only shoe to get. I love to dance, so I need good slippery soles. Wherever my favorite DJs are throwing down, and there are a lot of them performing around town. And Salvatore Ferragamo shoes are always sharp-looking.

Where do you usually shop?
Well Suited, the male version of My Sister's Closet. Last Chance you still hit. And I always try to support local designers as well.

What do you like to accessorize with?
I never wear rings because Frank Sinatra never wore rings (because if you hit someone, you'll leave an imprint). Perhaps a fine lady, because that's your in wherever you go. You look better with a good-looking woman next to you. That's the best accessory.

Your car is almost an accessory itself.
I love dressing up when I drive my Cadillac. I have to look cool enough for the car.

What item of clothing do you most covet at the moment?
A good seersucker suit, because it works in the summer, you can crumble it up, throw it in a corner, and wear it. In about five minutes, it's all straight.

What item of clothing will always look good on a guy, no matter who it is?
A well-starched white dress shirt, as long as it has the right collar and is proportional.

Where would you love to have a shopping spree?
Locally, Hollywood Vintage. Anywhere in the world? I'd probably hit Japan, because back in the '80s and '90s when they owned everything, went and bought everything. All the good James Brown records, all the good suits, all the good vintage clothing, everything. They took it all back to Japan because

Who are your style icons?
Marcello Mastroianni and Federico Fellini.

What are some of your personal style philosophies?
Keep it comfortable. Dress to impress. Women dress to impress other women, and men dress to impress women in general. Know what you look good in. Invest in some dry cleaning. And always have a flask or something. If you have a tie, it has to have a Windsor knot.

Any other tips you can offer?
I was a swinging bachelor for years, and I've always let the women choose what they think looks good. If you've got a wife or girlfriend, listen to what she thinks looks good on you. Because she's gonna have to be looking at you and showing you off. Oh, and always have good hygiene and wear clothes that fit you.

I was raised a gentlemen by my stepfather in Tennessee. If a woman's freezing her ass off and you're wearing a sport coat, give her a sport coat. Another great thing to have is to go to Walgreens and buy some black knit caps and gloves when they go on sale for like a dollar. Buy $20 of both, keep them in your car, and give them to women if they need em. If her hands are freezing, give her some gloves. They'll appreciate it and you're not out anything but a dollar.

Give us a childhood memory of you and clothes:
I got my first pinstripe suit for my eighth-grade graduation from Catholic school. My mom dressed me up really fancy. I'd never worn a suit before my confirmation suit, and she got me a pinstripe one with good dark and fat pinstripes. I was totally freaked until I went to the graduation and all the girls and their mothers completely swooned. And that was just what got me. It wasn't so much the little girls, because some of them giggled, but the mothers looked at me and were like, "Oh my God, look at you." Seeing all those mothers swooning over me in eighth grade clued me in.

And you've dressed stylishly ever since then?
Yeah. Ever since that pinstripe suit, I started noticing that if you put a suit on and maybe a tie, you set yourself apart. And then, it felt good and felt like I had it together. I used to be a hardcore punk rock guy growing up. I had blue hair, but I never wore the leather jacket. I wore ties, so I was sort of New Wave. It never was for appearance sake, I just felt good in that. Plus, I'm a big film buff. And all my idols - Cary Grant, Marcello Mastroianni, Fred Astaire - they all wore what they called "casual elegance." Everything looked good on them. So for me, I just feel like myself. Of course, I think my life is like a Fellini movie.

Name five items every man should have in his closet:
1. Smart black dress slacks
2. A good sport coat
3. Well-soled black shoes
4. Clean underwear
5. A bunch of silk ties with designs that are noticeable, but aren't glaringly gauche

What's one kind of clothing you should never buy at a thrift store?

Name an item of clothing that's best when it's vintage:
A good three-piece suit.

What is your one piece of fashion advice for Phoenix:
Be prepared and plan ahead. Dress in layers, dress seasonally appropriate, and prepare for what you're planning to do that night. In my trunk, I always have a getaway bag. Since I started running around, I've always had clothes that I might have to change into the morning for the "walk of shame." My glove box is filled with sunglasses, in case a lady needs to borrow some. If you know there's a possibility you'll end up at a pool party, bring some [swim trunks].

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.

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