Let’s Talk About Vladimir Putin’s Birthday Photo Op

[Open Thread is a weekly email from Vanessa Friedman. She’ll even answer your toughest fashion questions! To get it by email, sign up here.]

Hello, and happy day after National Handbag Day! Did you know that was a thing? I did not.

Otherwise, it’s been relatively quiet in fashionland, mostly because — well, impeachment. In fact, I think my favorite style moment of the week may have been the photos of Vladimir Putin’s birthday jaunt to the fields and wilderness of Siberia. Rarely have I seen so much army green employed to such a picaresque extent.

President Putin is, of course, known for his exciting photo ops (a.k.a. propaganda for the Instagram age), which often feature him in various roguish, he-man poses. He has posed shirtless on a horse, shirtless while fishing thigh deep in a lake in camo pants, hunting with a big gun, in a wet suit and riding a motorbike in a black leather jacket.

In fact, he has become so associated with leather jackets that one British company, Matchless, named a style after him in 2017.

This time around, however, the look is much more soulful, and also accessorized.

There he is with a fishing hat and dark shades and a shell and cargo pants all in matching shades of olive, hiking through a field of waving grass, walking stick in hand. Here he is reclining on a craggy peek in navy fleece.

There he is later, with the same fleece slightly unzipped to show his muscle tee beneath, clutching some wildflowers in one hand and staring wistfully into the distance. And here he is, with a puffer vest added to the outfit, looking through binoculars into some far-off future.

The visual is of a man who is not to be messed with, as always — the Pantone palette can pretty much be boiled down to base camp soldier chic — but who is nonetheless appreciative of the environment, understanding of the environment, at one with the environment. As opposed to exploiting its natural resources for personal gain.

Can it be a coincidence that Russia, which is the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, just ratified the Paris Climate Accord?

Maybe, but I doubt it. You can’t say Mr. Putin doesn’t know a messaging opportunity when he can make one. Someday this may be a subject of study.

Your Style Questions, Answered

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.

Q: I’m not a flashy guy. I wear decent off-the-rack suits (Hugo Boss, mostly) for workdays when that is required, in a state government job. A while back I started buying skinnier ties, often from consignment shops, because I liked their fabric and designs, and since many of the old ones need a clip to keep the tie in line, I started buying tie clips. I found that they draw just the right amount of attention.

Is there a corresponding accessory for casual, no-tie days? I don’t wear body jewelry, except my wedding ring, and I’m not eager to pick up bracelets. I gave up watches for my smartphone. Can you think of anything casual, small and different that I could try? — Carlos, Sacramento

A: You have discovered the power of the signature style choice — which is another way of saying a very effective kind of personal shorthand that, when worn repeatedly, becomes so linked with your image in other people’s minds that it provokes Pavlovian associations.

This is what Anna Wintour and Andy Warhol achieved with their unchanging hairstyles, which became stand-ins for (in Ms. Wintour’s case) extreme rigor, decisiveness, sharp edges and lack of fuss, and (in the case of Warhol) an embrace of kitsch that elevated it to a different realm.

And it is what Gianni Agnelli achieved with his watch worn on the outside of his shirts cuffs (an appreciation of the best engineering as well as a willingness to break the rules) as did Steve Jobs with his turtleneck (attention to the life of the mind and design).

In all cases, the look served to provide a stand-in for certain defining values. In your case, it sounds like the tie pin symbolizes a certain balance between individuality and professionalism. As for what could replace it, in the absence of jewelry, on no-tie days, Guy Trebay, our men’s critic, has an idea.

He said: “Assuming there is still a jacket in the picture, pocket squares are the obvious answer. There are limitless options (color, pattern, fabric, trim — I buy white ones in Italy whose hems are cross-stitched in thread of contrasting hue) and a thousand ways of folding (mine are squared off) or tucking that give you the opportunity to be playful and signal style awareness without lapsing — no origami shapes, no matchy-match — into self-parody. Plus, they don’t have to cost much, particularly if you mine vintage stores, eBay or buy off-cut fabrics and sew them yourself.”

All classic tailors will also sell a pocket square (like suits, they can get quite pricey), but some more off-the-beaten-path places include Sid Mashburn and Madame Magar. (You’ve heard of farm to able? Madame Magar is seed to square; the shop even grows its own indigo for the dye.)

And, there’s always Alexander Olch and the pocket round, if you really want to mix things up.

Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman

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