Published by Gallery Books
Publication date: March 24th 2015
Genres: fashion, Non-fiction, self-help
To say that I am a huge fan of Tim Gunn is an understatement. In the same way that a Chanel suit is on my bucket list (as revealed last week when I reviewed Mademoiselle Chanel) so is a week spent in New York City with Gunn reworking my style and taking me shopping for a new wardrobe. If we became great friends so much the better. The good news is that while I’m waiting for this to happen (meaning: never going to) I had a chance to read his new book, Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor, in which he shares lessons he’s learned in his career as an administrator at the Parson School of Design. His previous book, Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, was a fun and fascinating combination of the history of clothing and what-not-wear but The Natty Professor goes beyond the world of fashion to explore Gunn’s experiences as an educator.
The Natty Professor is divided into parts that correspond with Gunn’s T.E.A.C.H take on mentoring: Truth Telling, Empathy, Asking, Cheerleading, Hoping for the Best. In each he combines lessons from his career at Parson’s with stories from his personal life. In doing so, he gives the book a conversational feel that makes the teaching aspects as enjoyable as the anecdotes. The book reads like a conversation and flows like one as well. There are the teaching moments:
One can say, “What we wear doesn’t matter.” But I always say, your clothes send a message about you. Without necessarily being conscious of it, you make snap judgments all the time based on appearances—and whether or not you think it’s right, people are judging you, too.
interspersed with the dishy sorts of things only someone in Gunn’s position could know, but which we all want to hear. As in, Anna Wintour raised the ticket price to attend the Met Gala from $15,000 to $25,000 AND dictated that all men must wear white tie (very old-fashioned and difficult to find or have made). Gasp! No!
Given that Gunn’s teaching and mentoring career spans forty years The Natty Professor could come off as a heavy-handed treatise on the problems of the education sector but that doesn’t happen. Instead for every instance where Gunn puts forth his opinion on the state of education in America there are two where he shares how he has learned from his experiences. This is the crux of his message—in order to teach you have to be willing to learn. This openness extends to the situations in his life that made him the person he is now, including the difficulties he faced while a teenager. Gunn’s candor about both his personal and professional life infuses The Natty Professor with personality, making for reading that is humorous and gratifying for fashionistas and non-fashion lovers alike.