Nick Hilton Princeton
Good clothes for men and women.

A Memoir

The Present and How It Got That Way

 

What's With The Title?

I have been relentlessly pursued, hounded down the passage of my years by an idea. More than an idea, really. An obsession, you might say. A passion, in any case. The fantastic notion chasing me is all the more alarming for being completely irrational. I have tried to reason it away, tried to replace it with more realistic ideas. Unsuccessfully.

            This obsession is quixotic, in both senses of that wonderful word. In the first place, it’s just weird. I am passionately attached to a mission which no one can quite understand, the urgency of which impossible for others to identify. Then there is the inescapable fact that my quest is, ultimately, doomed. Futile. No way am I likely to complete my mission successfully.. Ever. And I know this from jump street.

            My mission is to help men look nice. Well, that’s not so quixotic, you say? No, the part that’s futile is to make men want to look nice. I – and three generations of previous Hiltons – now, and for the past one hundred and thirty-odd years, have designed and produced clothing for men. It is what I – we – do. Some guys walk on tightropes, some rob banks. We sell suits. Oh, and blazers, slacks, shirts. The whole routine.

It is not the specter of Cervantes’s odd hero that haunts me. It is a phantom of a more recent romantic, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s immortal Jay Gatsby, who overcomes impossible odds to make himself attractive to, and suitable for, the lovely Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s home, servants, car, his possessions and his personal manners and his grooming, and, especially, his clothes were all meticulously chosen to achieve a goal. Born Jimmy Gatz somewhere in the dimly remote Midwest, by the exercise of his own will he fashioned the look of the man he wanted to be, with the speech, manners, and clothing to match.  He created a persona, by his behavior and his appearance: a man of style. This was his tragic flaw, obviously, but also his great triumph. He got the girl.

His ghost haunts me day and night. It is what makes me think that all men should have a bit of Gatsby about them. Men should want to look good. All men. All the time. Men should aspire to behave and to appear as well as they can learn how. Men should be romantic heroes, chivalrous, proud, and brave, and look the part. They should have the things they want, the lovers, the social standing, the applause, the appreciation of admirers. What’s life about, finally? Men should be men, purposeful and dignified, whether straight or gay, young or old, fat or thin, boisterous or shy, happy or sad. We’re the males! Check out this plumage! Dig this mane!

I can hear the theme from “The Man of La Mancha,” played in the grandest Mantovani orchestral style, playing in my head; then the finale “…To dre-e-e-a-a-m… the impossible dree-e-e-a-m!...”  And fade out. 

C'mon, Sancho. Let's go open up the store. We have a trunk show this weekend.