In a recent interview, Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s king of the double-breasted, big-shouldered, low-buttoning, gold-buttoned blazer, spoke frankly about his fear of the stealth-wealth look: “I’m just really afraid of quiet luxury, and worried about it,” said the designer, sounding a little like Greta Thunberg on her fear of climate change.

Giuliva Heritage wool Charles blazer, £1,747, linen-knit Alain sweater, €546, and cotton-drill Vito trousers, €589
Giuliva Heritage wool Charles blazer, £1,747, linen-knit Alain sweater, €546, and cotton-drill Vito trousers, €589 © David Gohar

It would appear that Rousteing will soon be sleeping a lot easier as fashion breaks out of its tasteful taupe straitjacket and lurches back towards loud luxury. When covering the recent collections, FT menswear critic Alexander Fury drew parallels with Chanel’s 1932 decision to go long on furs and jewels: “When times get tough, when income dwindles and interest rates spike, fashion often shakes off its blinkers and realises that people who spend money tend to want to look like they do.”

Polo player Laddie Sanford at the Gulfstream Polo Club, Florida, in 1955
Polo player Laddie Sanford at the Gulfstream Polo Club, Florida, in 1955 © Getty Images

Then again, it could just be that the metronome of fashion is moving away from discretion. The “mob wife” look may owe its name to TikTok, but with its emphasis on big hair, big jewels and big-cat prints, there is a shameless exuberance about it that can be traced back to the 1960s and ’70s and an era in which a small group of extremely rich people discovered the liberation of jet travel, dressed to enjoy it and just didn’t care who stared.

It was a world in which leisure was a full-time job, encapsulated by an image by Slim Aarons featuring the booted and jodhpur-ed polo-hall-of-famer Laddie Sanford busy relaxing before a few chukkas at the Gulfstream Polo Club.

Brioni cashmere, silk and linen jacket, £5,800, cotton polo, £790, and formal trousers, £1,210
Brioni cashmere, silk and linen jacket, £5,800, cotton polo, £790, and formal trousers, £1,210

Rather than the sartorial obfuscation of irony, counter-irony and inverse snobbery, there is something disarmingly simple about that look. It is a style that Giuliva Heritage, for one, captures perfectly, proposing single-breasted linen jackets with broad lapels and double-breasted blazers bedizened with glinting buttons. If there is one garment that speaks to one’s inner jet-setter, it is the blazer. Start looking for them and you begin to see them everywhere. Look out especially for those in Technicolor: the apple green one I saw at Brioni is not something I will quickly forget.

Rhude SS24
Rhude SS24 © IK Aldama/Courtesy of Rhude
Officine Générale SS24
Officine Générale SS24 © Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

At Rhude, the blazer is crimson and double-breasted, has top-stitching on wing lapels and is fastened with glorious gilt buttons. Judging by the liberality with which Rhude founder Rhuigi Villaseñor attaches buttons to everything — from an ankle-skimming shawl-collared coat to a teal single-breasted sports jacket — I just hope he has left enough for Dunhill creative director Simon Holloway, who is also on a blazer jag.

Roger Moore at Heathrow Airport, 1973
Roger Moore at Heathrow airport, 1973 © PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

Holloway’s tip for wearing a blazer is simple: just channel the late, great Sir Roger Moore. During the 1970s and 1980s Moore epitomised a very sleek and thoroughly international way of dressing that was never out of place — provided the place was one of the resorts, like, say, Gstaad, where he lived for several years. It is also where Piaget recently went to present Polo 79, a solid-gold bracelet watch that pays careful and detailed homage to the Piaget Polo that appeared at the end of the 1970s.

Tom Ford SS24
Tom Ford SS24
Balmain mini-monogram blazer, £2,450

Balmain mini-monogram blazer, £2,450

Tom Ford grain-leather Buckley holdall, £3,290

Tom Ford grain-leather Buckley holdall, £3,290

Polo is powerfully evocative of the SS24 mood. No other sport is capable of summoning an entire world of sybaritic plutocracy and inspiring creative minds as diverse as Ralph Lauren and Dame Jilly Cooper, chronicler of upper-class sex and scandal in the fictional county of Rutshire; she is set to make a return to TV this year with an adaptation of Rivals, her canonical 1980s work. The polo man is very much the muse this season. For Tom Ford creative director Peter Hawkings, polo conjures visions of Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair. “That’s what I think of when I think of polo, it is such an elegant sport. And I guess I have used all those references building the Tom Ford Man. Our Buckley holdall was inspired by a vintage polo kit bag from the 1930s, and when it comes to overcoats with swagger I am often thinking of polo coats.”

Zegna SS24
Zegna SS24
Emporio Armani SS24
Emporio Armani SS24

Polo was also the muse that stirred Yves Piaget to make a new kind of sports watch. (To avoid confusion, this is the “real Polo”; not the steel bracelet watch, the Polo S, which appeared in 2016.) Back in 1979, Piaget was watchmaker by appointment to the more fun-loving elements of the jet set and only worked in precious metals; as one advertisement of the time purred, “18-karat gold down to the smallest screw”.

As the 1980s dawned, the Polo became the watch that accompanied its wearer from divot to disco, and its reappearance recalls an unabashed era of almost prelapsarian innocence.

Piaget’s 1983 ad campaign for its Polo watch
Piaget’s 1983 ad campaign for its Polo watch
Piaget gold Polo 79 watch, £69,000

Piaget gold Polo 79 watch, £69,000

Bulgari rose-gold 38mm watch, £12,500

Bulgari rose-gold Bulgari 38mm watch, £12,700

This year also witnesses a reboot of the Bulgari Bulgari, which was created under the aegis of Gianni Bulgari. Even if he had not been the man who transformed a dusty Roman silversmith and jewellery store into a globally renowned luxury brand, he would have been remembered as a gentleman racing driver: he drove at Le Mans, and won his class in the Targa Florio at the wheel of a Ferrari GTO. He also underwent one of the less agreeable experiences of the Italian rich when he was kidnapped in 1975 and ransomed for $2mn.

He describes the experience of being held captive for 30 days as boring, but at least it gave him time to think how he could broaden the appeal of Bulgari. One idea was to create a digital watch set in a gold case with the words Bulgari Roma on the bezel, and give it to his top 100 customers. It was the watch that money really could not buy and, naturally, it became the last word in chic. Those customers who did not have the watch urged Mr Gianni to make them a watch too, which became the Bulgari Bulgari. Its fame grew and it became a jet-set watch quite literally when its familiar dial and double-branded bezel appeared on the side of an Alitalia Jumbo jet.

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