Founder of The Sartorialist and prominent street photographer Scott Schuman has spent years studying style from the fashion world's front row. Now, he has a third book to his name and a much-anticipated shoe line on the horizon. Sotheby's spoke to him about the latest trends in men's accessories, the history of Leica cameras and the one type of cufflinks he will never (ever) wear, ahead of our auction Agents of Style.
How have you seen men’s style evolve in the last few years?
I think we’re right at the edge of the new look. We’ve been in shrunken suits and shorter lengths for the last ten years, and now things are starting to elongate. There’s going to be more pattern, more colour. If you look at designers like Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, he’s doing this kind of vintage thing, but updated and cut in a new way. It’s an exciting period. People say guys won’t try this or that, but it’s not true.
How does that translate to accessories?
It really touches every aspect of the way people are dressed. Lately, we’ve seen understated accessories. Now they’re becoming bolder. I think gold is going to be a lot more important, as opposed to silver. It’s all going to become a bit more – I don’t want to say glitzy – but maybe Baroque. Everything is going to be more decorated.
Some of my favourite photos on your blog are of the Italian men from Milan who really know how to accessorize and dress up.
In Italy it’s a more formal culture. They know how to do formality in a relaxed way. That’s what’s so appealing. They can look just as relaxed in a suit as we look in our gym clothes.
What are you wearing right now in terms of accessories?
I have a lot of glasses and I’m designing a shoe collection with an Italian brand called Sutor Mantellassi. It’s going to premier at Pitti Uomo in January and will be in stores in August. I also have two very nice Rolex watches that I wear on special occasions. They would tell the time if I set them, but I think of them more as something that’s beautiful to look at. I wear them like bracelets. The only accessory I carry every day is my camera. It’s a very pretty camera.
Do you use a Leica?
A Canon 5D. I also have a digital Leica. I love the idea of Leica cameras. The original ones were manual focus. Some of the most famous photographers in history have used them.
LEICA MP 0.72 'LHSA 1968-2003' HAMMERTONE, 2003. ESTIMATE: $3,000-5,000.
I’ve read the street photography really started with them.
With Cartier-Bresson, yeah. You just have to look back to see how so many of the old pictures were taken with Leicas. They were kind of the digital cameras of the time – small and fast. I think Cartier-Bresson used a very narrow aperture with his, so that everything was in focus. He could just point and shoot. For him, it was more about the overall composition than any particular element. I think it’s practical for street photographers to use digital cameras now, but there is something romantic about somebody who is willing shoot with film and go through the developing process themselves.
Onto a different accessory – what’s your philosophy on cufflinks?
I like ones that are subtle – usually some kind of geometric shape. My personal style is to be nicely dressed, but I don’t want to be outlandish or for people to notice me right when I walk into the room. As a street photographer it’s better to be a little quiet and blend in. That really informs my choices in everything. I hate themed cufflinks. I will never wear a cufflink that looks like a camera.