Fashion Masochist: The Man Cape

By Jason Schwartz | Boston Magazine |

Apologies to the menswear elite who’ve been flaunting capes in their fall collections—John Varvatos, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen—but we all know the real reason this garment has suddenly gone high fashion: Twilight. With vampires now mainstream and big-name designers pushing their look, how could the style-conscious modern man (or, for the sake of this article, yours truly) resist making like Dracula and donning that most mysterious of layers?


The challenge, I immediately realize, is pulling it off without appearing lost en route to Comic-Con. "You’d have to be really tricked out for it to make sense," says John Stefanelli, menswear manager at Alan Bilzerian. "A smart chapeau and a walking stick would give it some kind of context." Now where, aside from the set of Flavor Flav’s next reality show, could I get away with such a brazen ensemble? "Opening night at the Met," he says. Closer to home, I could try a BSO or MFA affair but, he adds, I might have to accessorize with sneakers—the better to quickly flee in shame.

So, high end is out; if I’m going to pull this style off in Boston, a different tack is required. Recalling that McQueen’s models wore capes elegantly draped over dress shirts and slacks, I pair a knee-length red number with my standard business-casual and head to the office. Let me get this out of the way: Wearing a cape is big fun. Holding on to its edge, I punctuate discussions with dramatic jabs in the air. I make sharp turns, so the cloth sashays behind me. But by far the most thrilling activity is my bike commute. I mean, my God, have you ever had a cape billowing in your wake? It’s just like flying, albeit with stoplights.

Alas, my officemates are less impressed. One asks why I agreed to do this (clearly, he doesn’t own a bike). Another simply laughs.

Next I try a floor-length black cloak over dark jeans and a black tee. Add a pair of shades, and I can almost taste the blood. I strut down Boylston Street filled with confidence—until a panhandler pipes up, "Hey, Superman, can I get some change?" I decline, noting that this is a recession, and creating money is a superpower not included with purchase of cape. Mainly, I’m peeved: My look is vampire-inspired, not superhero-inspired. Isn’t it obvious?

Still, I have one play left. I make for the Boston Common theater to see the new Harry Potter flick. Surely that crowd would understand—they’re all supernaturals at heart, right? Instead: eye-rolling. The ticket-taker tells me I’m two weeks late for the premiere.

At the end of my experiment, I decide the cape is best left in my closet. It simply doesn’t fly for day-to-day in Boston. But should I ever score tickets to opening night at the Met (or to a reality show), I just may be in the market for a walking stick and chapeau.

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