With a saucy dance and an array of gorgeously made, deconstructed suits in “American Gigolo,” Giorgio Armani became a superstar. Incidentally, so did Richard Gere, the man wearing the suits and doing the dance.
Twenty-five years later, that fashion moment still resonates with the legions of people who understand that a suit — at one time the stuffy, boxy uniform of the business world — can not only be stylish, but drop-dead sexy. “They were adventurous, a bit cheeky and certainly forward-looking,” says Gere now of those famous suits with the soft shoulders and long, louche lines.
In fact, “American Gigolo” made the Armani label, sewn into the right inside breast pocket, the ultimate symbol of success and status. Many a client, once he slipped into one, never even thought of trying any other.
One man who certainly didn’t look back after trying on his first Armani is Pat Riley, NBA coach of the L.A. Lakers and New York Knicks in the Eighties and Nineties, now president of the Miami Heat. “The classic Armani navy blue suit with a single button,” he says. “That was my uniform for 22 years when I was coaching.” To this day, sports and fashion fans alike can easily conjure an image of Riley stalking the sidelines, all lathered up over a referee’s call but looking like a million dashing bucks. Indeed, Riley, who appeared on GQ’s cover in 1988 and 1997, cut such a chic figure on the sidelines that he is widely credited with bringing glamour to the game. And he did it all in Armani.
It’s no surprise, then, that he doesn’t even know how many Armani suits he has. “I mean, I was in a suit 200 nights a year for more than 20 years…,” he calculates.
“To me, it’s a suit of elegance, style, substance, and yes, a manifestation of success,” he adds. “But I wore it because it felt good on me.” Riley can riff on the various luxe fabrics Armani uses as easily as he can rattle off his star players’ on-court stats.
“I’ve always said that, when it comes to men of greatness — or women — one doesn’t measure his life by the number of breaths that he takes, but by the number of times he takes your breath away,” Riley says. “And every year I go back to Armani and look through his fabrics, there’s always a half dozen times I go, ‘Wow, he’s done it again!’”
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