Miles Ahead

Not just a jazz genius, Miles Davis was also a sartorial chameleon, easily carrying off the Ivy League Look and slim-cut European suits with ass-kicking charm.
Miles Davis plays the trumpet as he performs onstage, circa 1959 in West Germany. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Late in his career, Miles Davis stopped playing the stark, haunting ballads that had been one of his trademarks. He loved them too much, he said, to go on playing them when they were no longer in style.

Throughout his four decades in jazz, in which he was at the forefront of every major innovation, Miles Davis always shunned the stale and the hackneyed — what he called “warmed-over turkey.” This artistic integrity, this determination to be unpredictable, to stand for the new and to take risks, is key to understanding Davis’s chameleon-like role as style icon.

Under “The Warlord of the Weejuns,” the headline for the liner notes for a 1965 greatest hits collection, celebrated Esquire writer George Frazier called Davis “a truly well dressed man,” but someone the average man would be foolish to emulate. “I’m not advocating that all men aspire to dress like Davis,” Frazier writes. “That would be unrealistic, for it is this man’s particular charm that he is unique.”


    Christian Chensvold


    May 2020


    Also read