Men's Fashion

The waist to hip ratio

A belt can be the measure of more than a man’s waist. Nick Foulkes weighs up five middle management styles.

September 19 2009
Nick Foulkes

The creative director: Tom Ford

The creative director is a member of French fashion nobility. From his studio he can see the entrance to Le Relais at the Plaza Athénée. A well-rehearsed moment in the interviews he gives sees him glance longingly across the street and launch into a monologue about how the last time he saw Yves (Saint Laurent) alive it was in the Relais.

But mostly what journalists ask him about is his love of the colour black – it is claimed that he has not worn any other colour since 1987. “My favourite colour is black… because it matches my mood,” is one of his favourite soundbites. “Black is the most expressive colour. I have personally counted 267 different shades,” is another. He has become quite a tyrant on the subject: he only eats black food (which means his nutritional needs are met largely by liquorice-flavoured macaroons from Ladurée), he insists that his studio is furnished entirely in black and visits the hair colourist twice a week to ensure that his raven-like hair maintains its lustrous shade (although it is not clear which one of the 267 it is).

However, look closely at the creative director’s middle – but be discreet, as he’s in between diets at the moment – and you will see the tiniest twinkle of textured brass; it is the buckle of his woven-leather belt from Tom Ford. He has a love-hate relationship with the quondam Gucci designer, about whom he has been known to make the occasional bitchy remark. But when he was recently described as “the Tom Ford of the Avenue Montaigne”, he decided to take it as a compliment. You see, his guilty secret is a wardrobe stuffed full of Mr Ford’s most joyously checked shirts and brightly coloured trousers.

The poker player: Chrome Hearts

As a schoolboy, the poker player was a geek. He still is, but a very rich geek – and that makes all the difference. He was a prodigy who made the national newspapers for getting a maths A-level aged 11, and his parents “hothoused” him mercilessly. At 14, he matriculated at Oxford. By this time his father had left his job to “manage” his son and they were often seen riding around on a tandem, dressed almost identically in Terylene trousers, drip-dry shirts, nasty tweed jackets and thick specs; the older man with a beard, the younger with acne.

However, he was not judged by his dress sense and skincare but, rather, by his academic progress, which was astounding. Life as a maths don opened up before him, but it was while working on a DPhil on probability theory that his life took a strange turn, leading him to his current occupation. One evening, just for research, he joined a poker game and found, in the turn of a card, the drama and excitement that had up until that point been absent from his life. He was also good, very good. And when he won his entire annual research grant in a night, he left Oxford, to the horror of his father, and followed the lure of the green baize to the US.

Las Vegas was a hard school but it taught him lessons in life that he never would have learnt at Oxford. Having lost all his money he put his amazing brain into developing software for an online poker platform that has made him a multimillionaire.

He still plays poker and competes in the World Series, but these days it is to promote his website. And when he sits down to play, his opponents do not see a spotty teenager in nasty clothes, but a long-haired rocker in jeans and cowboy boots who clanks when he walks – such is the weight of the Chrome Hearts ironmongery around his waist, neck and wrists.

The Euro-Royal: Patrick Mavros

It is about time the Euro-Royal settled down. Being so far the wrong side of 30 that he is nearly 40, he is no longer a young man. But then there are few incentives for him to stop having a good time – after all, he has a talent for it. What’s more, he gives a lot of people a great deal of pleasure; mostly pretty TV presenters, aspiring actresses or scantily clad pop starlets. And without his continued patronage and support, numerous restaurateurs and nightclub proprietors in the fleshpots of Mediterranean and Alpine Europe would be unable to support their families.

The thing is that the country of which he is a distant heir to the throne – some romantic Ruritanian statelet – more or less ceased to exist after the second world war, when it was swallowed up by the Soviet Bloc. And although his family entertained vague hopes of a return there after the fall of communism, they are still wrangling over the ownership of various palaces and artworks his family had to leave behind in a hurry in 1945.

It doesn’t bother the Euro-Royal much. After all, he was born in Madrid and grew up in Geneva, but there are times he wishes he led a more fulfilling life. At these moments of personal crisis he usually boards a flight for Africa to get close to nature… or shoot at something.

A few years ago he was introduced to the Zimbabwe-based silversmith Patrick Mavros and was struck by the man’s charisma and wisdom; he has since bought crocodile belts galore from him. But, as well as some impressive accessories, he has come away with a love of Africa and the beginnings of an understanding of man’s place in the cosmos that might, just might, give his life some purpose one day.

The former Guards Officer: Regimental

Since he left the Guards 10 years or so ago, life has not quite turned out as he had planned. After public school, Sandhurst and 20 years in uniform shouting orders, and occasionally getting shouted at himself, he has been at a bit of a loss in a world where people tend to address him as “mate” rather than “sir”.

First he spent what little money he had saved buying a dairy farm where he intended to make gourmet cheese, only to be wiped out by foot-and-mouth. Then he got a job at one of those “security consultancies”, but on his first day in the job he saw his boss on CNN being arrested in some small African country for trying to start a coup. He thought he would try his luck abroad and, since then, he has been trying to sell Tuscan farmhouses to English expats in search of the olive-grove idyll. It wasn’t going too badly – his pleasant, honest features, tanned the same colour as his highly polished conker-brown brogues, inspired confidence among English retirees. But that was before the credit crunch and the collapsing pound. He hasn’t sold so much as a bottle of olive oil, let alone “an impeccably restored centuries-old hilltop olive mill and vineyard”, in 18 months.

In fact, he has become so depressed that he has even stopped polishing his shoes, which are dull, scuffed and in need of resoling. His webbing belt in the navy and maroon of the Brigade of Guards has seen decidedly better days, as have the chinos it keeps aloft. But then the dress code at the village bar, where he has been expanding his knowledge of Tuscan vintages, is not quite as demanding as the Officers’ Mess.

The Entrepreneur: Hermès

The entrepreneur speaks at least six languages and in the good times you would have been the recipient of his magnums of champagne at Billionaire in Sardinia and Les Caves du Roy in St Tropez, or at the GreenGo in “Shtaaad” and the Dracula in “Samritz” during the ski season. He still looks the same prosperous self: neat, slightly bouffed hair, tanned (but not overly so) face and dentistry of a dazzling, confidence-enhancing whiteness that goes well with his brisk, manly, “my word is my bond” handshake.

However, this year you will not have seen him at his usual haunts. There is just the slightest hint of nervous desperation about that bleached smile as he does the rounds of City boardrooms and swanky Mayfair restaurants, trying to assemble suitable investors for a “once in a lifetime” international-bespoke-seven-star-luxury-fractional-ownership-lifestyle-concierge-club investment opportunity.

You can tell that times are tough because the entrepreneur has not taken any shooting this winter, saying, unconvincingly, that he finds fishing much more interesting. And, even though it almost cost him his marriage, he has forsaken NetJets in favour of Aer Lingus (he suddenly discovered he had a carbon footprint).

But he hasn’t economised on the important things in life: he dare not cancel his wife’s Birkin bag order (that really would have ended in the divorce courts). And while he was in Hermès paying for it, he decided to treat himself to a new “H” belt buckle (to go with the half dozen or so that he already owns).

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Belts