Stories / April 2019

The Rake Personified: Jay McInerney

Jay McInerney’s 1984 novel Bright Lights, Big City illuminated the decade’s hedonistic landscape and made the American author the voice of a generation. Here he talks to The Rake’s founder, Wei Koh, about New York life, the sartorial arts, wine and watches — in other words, everything a man could want in a good life.

Carrie Fisher, Jay McInerney and Lauren Hutton during "Hooray For Hollywood" AIDS Benefit - April 5, 1988 at Bloomingdale's in New York City (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage).

What was your first bespoke experience? 
The first time I visited London as an adult was in 1985, after the publication of my novel Bright Lights, Big City. I’d seen this image of Mick Jagger with his tailors. It was captioned, “Me and Edward Sexton and Tommy Nutter”. I was really captivated by the style. So I went there and I made myself a suit. It was a windowpane fabric: their signature big-format check. That was one of their geniuses, the ability to source or commission fabric to match their larger-than-life style. I remember it was double-breasted, which was the style in the eighties. I remember that Armani was making a lot of these cool double-breasted suits.  

Do you credit Armani with starting you on your sartorial journey? 
Yes. When I finally had a few dollars to spend, back in 1984, I went to Armani, which was the brand of our generation. In fact, I ended up meeting him. And when I did my book tour of Italy he reached out to my publisher to see if we could spend time together. I remember he lent me all these clothes for the various photoshoots throughout the trip. It was the end of the trip and we were rushing for the airport and I called up his atelier. I asked, “What should I do with all these clothes?” And the response came back that he wanted me to keep them, which was incredibly generous of him.  

It’s amusing, but that deconstructed oversized silhouette of 80s Armani is coming back in a big way…
I loved those clothes at the time. And when I look back at the pictures of myself in them from the 80s, I think to myself it was such a look. It was really innovative how he took all of the structure of the jackets out and enlarged the proportions. And in some ways there was some spiritual alignment with Nutter in the generosity and heroism of the clothes. The idea of a very unique and singular perspective on style. But Nutter was the first time I commissioned a bespoke suit.  

Why Nutter specifically, as opposed to the more established Savile Row firms?
At that time I wasn’t looking for your traditional Savile Row suit. I wanted something beautifully made but that had a little flair and a little rock ’n’ roll to it. As a novelist you don’t want to look like a businessman. I actually put quite a lot of consideration into my wardrobe, but for quite a few years Nutter was my only bespoke experience. Then later, in the mid 1990s, I went back to Savile Row. 

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Wei Koh

The Rake's Founder & Editorial Director.