The rubric for Pocket Guide was written with guys like Michael Hainey in mind. Before becoming a Deputy Editor of Air Mail, he was the Deputy Editor of GQ, the Executive Editorial Director of Esquire, and the author of a must-read memoir, After Visiting Friends, that unearthed the truth behind his father’s mysterious and premature death. It was Graydon Carter, Air Mail’s Editor, who gave Michael his big break, at Spy magazine in 1989.
Michael’s style typifies the ‘uniform’ — an ensemble of single-breasted suit, shirt and sweater, but he adds, “I like to think of my style as the best of British, French and Italian combed through the American eye”. When we had our chat over Zoom, he was wearing essentially the same outfit but in a different permutation of jacket, jumper, etc. He is a man supremely comfortable with his presentation and sartorial erudition. During conversation he keeps the pulse relaxed with his smoky saxophone voice, which serves him well on the weekly Air Mail podcast Morning Meeting with the Style Editor, Ashley Baker.
While Michael is not much of a peacock, we nevertheless wanted to dig a little deeper into one of the printed word’s greatest minds to see if the elegance is skin deep... We imagine not..
1. “I am a sentimentalist,” Michael says, kicking things off on a romance-meets-theft note. This ashtray was taken from Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano while he was staying there to commemorate his proposal to his wife, Brooke.
2. If there were a coat of arms for magazine editors, this would be the motto. It is a lapel pin from his Boy Scout days, but the motto remains relevant, for an early bit of advice he learned from Graydon Carter, ‘Success in journalism is about anticipation.’ And then there’s Graydon’s primary motto: ‘Don’t fuck it up.’
3. A Christmas gift from Graydon on arrival at Air Mail, given to all the staff. Michael is not a smoker but always likes to have something in his hand while at his desk, so that is where it remains. “Kids have the fidget spinners, and this is the analogue version of that,” he says. “You can sit there, turn it round in your fingers, and ruminate.”
4. This wallet, by Hermès, represents another nod to Michael’s professional habits. He says: “It represents how I like to be, ‘strip it down’, whether in writing or design or life. You see these guys walking around with wallets as thick as a Reuben sandwich and you think, What is in there?”
5. This Cartier Tank with a tan alligator strap is the first watch he has ever owned. “I love the story behind the Tank, it has a real resonance,” he says. “I like things with stories. I just think it is the most elegant watch ever made.”
6. The Chukka boots from Alden work for Michael because they suit his semi-formal dress code. He believes that buying cheap shoes is one of life’s false economies, quite right too. “It is part of that old maxim, ‘It starts with the shoes’ — if you feel good with how you are moving through the world literally, it will make every outfit better.”
7. This railroad spike, which sits on Michael’s desk as a paperweight, was taken from the railroad yard where his grandfather worked. Because of journo lingo like ‘pegs’ and ‘spiking’, “the metaphor works in a few ways”, he says.