The Secret Vice

New York Herald Tribune, 1966.


Real buttonholes. That’s it! A man can take his thumb and forefinger and unbutton his sleeve at the wrist because this kind of suit has real buttonholes there. Tom, boy, it’s terrible. Once you know about it, you start seeing it. All the time! There are just two classes of men in the world, men with suits whose buttons are just sewn onto the sleeve, just some kind of cheapie decoration, or—yes!—men who can unbutton the sleeve at the wrist because they have real buttonholes and the sleeve really buttons up. Fascinating! My friend Ross, a Good Guy, thirty-two years old, a lawyer Downtown with a good head of Scotch-Irish hair, the kind that grows right, unlike lower-class hair, is sitting in his corner on East 81st St., in his Thonet chair, with the Flemish brocade cushion on it, amid his books, sets of Thackeray, Hazlitt, Lamb, Walter Savage Landor, Cardinal Newman, and other studs of the rhetoric game, amid his prints, which are mostly Gavarni, since all the other young lawyers have Daumiers or these cute muvvas by “Spy,” or whatever it is, which everybody keeps laying on thatchy-haired young lawyers at Christmas—Ross is sitting among all these good tawny, smoke-cured props drinking the latest thing somebody put him onto, port, and beginning to talk about coats with real buttonholes at the sleeves. What a taboo smirk on his face!