“I get up in the morning, put on a suit, kiss my wife goodbye and go to the office,” says the Australian cult hero. The office is a room in his basement, his wife is former Vivienne Westwood model Susie Bick, and…wait, he wears a suit? Yes, he nods. Every day, really? “Well, what am I gonna do,” he retorts, “write a song in Bermuda shorts and a pair of thongs?”
Normally a resident of Brighton, England, Cave is in town promoting, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!," his new album with longtime band the Bad Seeds. It’s his 14th, not counting the shocking stuff he did before his original group, the Birthday Party, disbanded in 1983. The new set is among his best, and it has everything you want in a Nick Cave record: distorted dance beats, raw rock rave-ups and biblical-themed tales of the deranged and desperate. But there’s a refinery to it, a mellow assuredness that says it may have been written by a fellow with a taste for the sartorial.
And so it goes, the same man who slinked shirtless in the 1981 video “Nick the Stripper” with “HELL” scrawled on his chest in lipstick, now happily conforms to the gentleman’s standard. “I’ve worn suits ever since I could afford them,” Cave says. He’s not talking about the off-the-rack variety, either. His slim figure demands bespoke ensembles constructed by his longtime tailor on Berwick Street in London, which isn’t to say his wardrobe is hoity-toity. “I don’t wear suits that cost thousands of pounds,” he says. “My tailor is quite cheap.” Cave owns suits in many colors and fabrics, but he appears often enough in black—whether it’s lightweight pinstripe or solid velvet—to show that’s his preference.
The look cuts a nice shape onstage, but with the right attitude, Cave proves, a sharp, slim-classic suit can be pulled off as street wear. The key is fit. It’s nearly impossible to look cool in a monkey suit from Men’s Wearhouse, but NYC is brimming with tailors who can manipulate the Saville Row standard into something a little more rock 'n' roll. We like Chelsea atelier Craig Robinson, whose online gallery of two- and three-piece bespoke beauties (starting at $3,100) features music-man models like Jon Spencer and members of the Secret Machines.
Duncan Quinn is also a good option for fashion-forward suits. The Nolita store offers thousands of cloth choices and meticulous attention to fit from $3,500. But if you’re like Cave, and don’t think a made-to-measure suit should be too-too pricey, try Michael Andrews Bespoke on Clinton Street. The shop’s Brown Label collection includes suits from $795 and shirts from $145. If you ask Cave, you can forego the tie. Just do like him and leave the collar gaping open to show some chains and a bit of chest. Nobody needs to know you don’t write murder ballads for a living.
Photo: Ryan Muir