Monday, February 4, 2013

Berlin called himself a "natural assimilator":
Jason Diamond on Isaiah Berlin's style


Jason Diamond is one of my most favorite literary types online. He is a founding editor of Vol. 1 Brooklyn and editor at Flavorpill New York and, as such, responsible for much of my reading pleasure these days. I am thrilled to feature his contribution to Literary Style, in which he discusses the sartorial particularities of Isaiah Berlin
I like to play this game called, “What Will Jason Look Like When He’s an Old Jewish Man?” I know I’ll never be as brilliant as Isaiah Berlin, but I’d like to think that I’ll be able to wear a suit from Anderson & Sheppard as well as he did in this picture. The combo of the fedora, glasses, watch chain, and pure dissatisfaction is really tough to pull off so well, but Berlin is just smart enough to make it look good. People can dress well and be brilliant, and the phrase “smart dresser” gets thrown around so often, but Berlin epitomizes it in this photo. I sometimes try to channel Berlin, a Latvian-born Jew, who came of age in England. I’m assuming he stuck out a good deal, but it didn’t deter him. Berlin called himself a “natural assimilator,” one who went to Savile Row to buy his suits like any good Englishman with the means to do so, but he worked with his tailor using his Russian-affected accent, wore the suit to lecture young Englishmen whose bloodlines probably stretched centuries back to a time when there were hardly any Jews in England, and walked the halls of Oxford while lost in his own thoughts.
Thank you, Jason!

Previously on Literary Style: Michael Cunningham, Zadie Smith, James Ellroy, Joan Didion (I & II), Simone de Beauvoir, Eudora Welty and Virginia Woolf (in a rented bathing suit).

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