Jason Diamond: The Book Club


Diamond muses on why old books are so fashionable today @ The Parisian Review. "I recently found myself in need of an inexpensive suit that didn’t look like I picked it up at a Salvation Army. Like countless other men in the same position, I headed to J.Crew. As I walked over the wide-planked wood floors of the store, I admired the chain’s decor: framed copies of jazz albums issued in the 1950s by Columbia and Blue Note, movie posters from the French New Wave, Japanese fashion magazines, and a case full of leather bracelets, flasks, and knives. While one man took my measurements, I cheerily pointed to a copy of Leonard Cohen’s book Beautiful Losers, which was nestled atop a display of shirts and quoted the author’s best advice: Cohen “never discusses his mistresses or his tailor.” The man laughed uncomfortably, then, looking at the book, admitted he wasn’t actually a tailor (“I just work here on the weekends”) and revealed that the copy of Beautiful Losers, along with the other books scattered around the store, were really just for show.

Long before Abercrombie & Fitch became a fixture in shopping malls across America, it was one of the first places Ernest Hemingway would visit when he came to New York. Fitzgerald and Plimpton favored Brooks Brothers, and Tom Wolfe crafted his trademark around New York tailor Vincent Nicolosi’s white suits. Well-dressed writers are far from an anomaly, but recently there’s been a twist in this trend: books are becoming the dressings for brands. Companies like Caulfield Preparatory and Gilded Age are lifting their names (and inspiration) from books. Kate Spade’s “Understated Is Overrated” fall campaign takes cues from Nicole Krauss’s latest cover. Rakish boutique Opening Ceremony carries issues of literary magazines like The Believer (as well as the magazine publishing this very piece). Marc Jacobs even commandeered a storefront in the West Village to make room for Bookmarc, a couture bookstore where, besides books, you’ll find the usual checkout impulse buys—Sharpies, notebooks, book lights—branded with Jacobs’s conspicuous logo.

Many would argue that this pattern began with Partners & Spade, headed by Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduti, which early on accessorized their silk and cashmere with a Viking Portable Library. The firm’s literary styling is an important facet of its brand identity: the pair has a six-book deal with HarperCollins. Then, in 2008, when they were contracted to design J.Crew’s first menswear boutique, the Liquor Store, they also partnered with the Strand, a New York literary institution, in a deal that officially established the bookstore as J.Crew’s source for rare art and music books and hard-to-find vintage hardcovers by Updike and Roth."