In a recent New Yorker feature alleging rampant self-dealing between senior officials at the National Rifle Association and its top advertising vendor, Ackerman McQueen, a former fundraiser for the NRA described a board member telling him, “N.R.A. is not fancy Italian shoes with thousand-dollar suits. N.R.A. is the backbone of this country, wearing bluejeans and boots.”
Except sometimes it’s not.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that over 15 years, NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre billed Ackerman McQueen $200,000 for suits and other clothing. According to the paper’s sources, “Many of the expenses were incurred at a Beverly Hills, Calif., store that sells clothing by the Italian luxury brand Ermenegildo Zegna.” That brand’s ready-to-wear suits regularly top $3,000. Bespoke models can get up to $20,000.
That little detail was buried deep in a story about the NRA’s ongoing lawsuit against Ackerman, which has burst into public view in the past few weeks.
But we have more questions. Where does the face of the American gun lobby get his suits? And why Ermenegildo Zegna?
Perhaps predictably, few people who’d know would talk to us.
“I couldn’t comment… at all,” Walter, the manager of the Ermenegildo Zegna Global Store in Beverly Hills, told TPM when reached by phone Monday.
Five years ago, the Rodeo Drive store hosted A-list celebrities like Joe Jonas, Gerard Butler, and Edward Norton (picture below) at its opening. A video of the event shows, unfortunately, no trace of LaPierre. A spokesperson for the company didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A salesman at the local Saks Fifth Avenue wasn’t very helpful, either. “We are not allowed to reveal any of that information to an-y-one,” he said, stressing the syllables. “At all.”
“So, I’m just gonna hang up the phone, and I wish you the best,” he added.
The salesman who picked up the phone at Neiman Marcus, the last of the three authorized Zegna sellers in Beverly Hills, just scoffed.
“Sir, I wouldn’t know that, and even if I did know that, you know I couldn’t comment on that,” he said.
Spokespeople for Ackerman McQueen, the NRA and its recently-kicked-to-the-curb president, Oliver North, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Others in the fashion world were happy to weigh in on what makes a Zegna man, though.
“A Zegna suit is beautiful fabrics, the price point is higher, it’s definitely a luxury brand,” style expert and television personality George Brescia told TPM in a phone call, after instructing on the brand’s correct pronunciation.
“It’s kind of an old world Italian brand,” he said. “There’s nothing inexpensive about it.”
What does it say about its wearer? TPM asked.
“It’s a well-dressed businessman,” Brescia said. “Could be a CEO of a company, could be the president of a division of a company, could be a finance guy. It has kind of an international look, to me.”
TPM sent pictures of LaPierre to Julie Rath, a corporate and individual image consultant who founded Rath & Co. Men’s Image Consulting.
“His style is very conservative,” she wrote of LaPierre. “You can see this in the cut and fit of his suit, the colors he wears, and his predominantly black dress shoes.”
“He is also going for a sense of power via the way that he dresses,” Rath said. “This is evident from the squared-off, padded shoulders of his suit jackets, his navy suits, solid, dark blue ties, and the high amount of color contrast between his white dress shirt and the dark suit jackets [and] ties he typically wears.”
In other words, LaPierre’s Zegna suits pale in comparison to the flashy wardrobes of other conservative bigwigs like ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose $15,000 House of Bijan ostrich skin jacket became a focal point during his federal criminal trial.
We can only hope to learn more about LaPierre’s fashion sense in court.