Douglas Hand has one rule when it comes to his wardrobe: always dress better than your client. “If they engage me, I’m going to charge them a lot of money. It’s about respect for them. What we do requires a great amount of detail and meticulousness and I don’t think that’s communicated well in casual clothing.”
So the bar is set pretty high when your clients include Rag & Bone, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Phillip Lim.
Hand, a fashion-industry attorney and cofounder of Hand Baldachin & Amburgey LLP, is always impeccably put together, mostly in a suit. In fact, his sartorial choices are so spot-on that the American Bar Association tapped him to write a book entitled, “The Laws of Style for the Professional Gentleman,” which will be published in November.
WWD: Tell me a little bit about your background.
Douglas Hand: I was born in Los Angeles and raised in Laguna Beach, Calif., but really fell in love with New York during my time at NYU law school and business school. I started at a big multinational law firm called Shearman & Sterling with more than 1,000 lawyers. I practiced in their New York office and for a year in their Paris office doing mergers and acquisitions. It was a very white shoe firm, tailored clothing into the office every day, sometimes even on the weekend if you thought you were going to bump into a partner. I left with the other two name partners on the door, Baldachin and Amburgey, to form this firm almost 15 years ago to focus on more-creative industries, particularly fashion and lifestyle brands.
WWD: Have you always been interested in fashion?
D.H.: It’s such a part of New York that it was a scene I kind of fell into. I dated women who were buyers at major department stores, or photographers or stylists, and it was always a personal interest of mine how I presented myself and what I wore. And so it was incredibly refreshing and fulfilling to have a career centered around a passion.
WWD: You’re wearing a suit from DDugoff, one of the incubator designers from CFDA. Would you have been able to wear something like that at Shearman & Sterling?
D.H.: It wouldn’t have been advisable. For the last decade, I’ve dressed pretty consistently, wearing a lot of our clients, but I’m still in a suit everyday, it’s just a more-relaxed version of the suit. Often, unlined. I like the way a suit drapes without a fused jacket. Back in the earlier days when I was at Big Law, it was much more traditional tailored clothing from Brooks Brothers, Paul Stuart, Huntsman if I could afford it. I have three Huntsman suits that were my dad’s and I just got them tailored.
WWD: Do you find other lawyers are willing to step out in their clothing choices?
D.H.: I think we’re at a very confusing time for lawyers and other service professionals. Men’s wear has grown exponentially and to me, that’s a signal that men are getting into fashion, which can be difficult. What’s refreshing and useful about traditional tailored clothing is that it doesn’t go out of style. One of my laws of style is “Thou Shalt Dress More Formally Than Your Client.” Now, if your client makes skateboards in Long Beach, Calif., and shows up to work in a T-shirt and sweats, that’s a pretty low bar. You can be in a dress shirt, no tie, a pair of chinos and loafers and you’re way more formal than that client. If your client is a bank and shows up to work in gray worsted wool suit, you should be in traditional business attire, what I would call the must-have four of men’s suiting: a blue pinstripe, a charcoal pinstripe, gray flannel or the most daring of the four, a navy blue suit.
WWD: Who or what is your biggest fashion influence?
D.H.: Certainly, my father was an influence in tailored clothing and how to take care of my clothing. He always was assiduous about it. I remember the jacket got hung up the minute he came through the door. But also, there are style icons I can’t ignore. JFK is a style icon in terms of casualizing the office of president. But as a lawyer in the fashion industry, I’m afforded a bit of leeway personally to develop, within the four corners of tailored clothing, my own personal style. So for instance, there are days in which I will — gasp — not wear socks. Kind of a trendy thing to do, but it’s a look I like. In terms of following trends, that’s as far as I go.
WWD: Do you have any favorite designers or brands?
D.H.: A ton. It won’t surprise you that most of them we represent. Rag & Bone has been a long-standing client, and I really love their aesthetic and their tailored clothing. Simon Spurr is a personal friend, and it’s a great shame that he’s not currently designing for a very legal reason, but I’ve always been a fan of his. Michael Bastian, he has a background in tailored clothing. Public School is also a client. Todd Snyder.
WWD: Given a choice, would you like to dress more casually or more formally?
D.H.: I want to appear elegant and capable and I think the suit is almost the perfect vehicle for communicating those aspects. I love to put a tux on — men look great in tuxes. Every guy you see on the red carpet in a tux usually looks great unless he’s trying to do something outside of the tux. But truth be told, another one of my clients, David Hart, who I took to the CFDA awards, put me in an almost madras-style blue, burgundy, black, yellow check jacket with a shawl collar. It was still a tuxedo, but it was stretching my limits. The silhouette was very traditional, but it was a little peacocky for me. But he convinced me that it looked good and I think it did.
WWD: What was your favorite purchase of the last few months?
D.H.: I picked up a pair of velvet slippers to wear with a tuxedo from his David Hart and Johnson & Murphy collaboration, which I love. They’re comfortable — I wear them around the house.
WWD: What do you wear on the weekends?
D.H.: I have a pretty active weekend usually so I’m often in sportswear. I run a lot and play tennis and when I do that, I’m in Nike, Adidas — fairly traditional performance brands. But on the odd Sunday if it’s a holiday or we have a brunch out, I’ll throw on a jacket, but not a tie. It’s kind of nice to relinquish the tie.
WWD: How do you choose what you’re going to wear every day?
D.H.: It’s both out of some recognition of who I’m going to see that day but also what the weather. Seasonality is a real thing and there are fabrics that not only look odd but also don’t wear properly. And if you’re not comfortable, you’re not confident and if you’re not confident, you don’t have style.
WWD: Tell me a little about your book.
D.H.: As the name implies, it’s somewhat tongue in cheek because I’m writing for lawyers, bankers, accountants, consultants — white-collar professionals, but I put in a bunch of laws to be followed and it’s guiding principals around how to present yourself through your sartorial choices to both advance and enhance your career.