Tom Wolfe Portrait Session

The Man in White: Remembering Tom Wolfe

From sentences to suits, Wolfe had a signature style.

Tom Wolfe, whose journalism drew liberally on the techniques of fiction writing, and whose novels often aspired to the condition of the well-reported story, died today, in Manhattan, at the age of 88.

From the 1960s and 1970s, when Wolfe’s essays for Esquire and New York magazine helped to define the New Journalism and the “Me” Decade, down to more recent years, when his novels stretched to take in the bustling scenes of New York, Atlanta, and beyond, he frequently toed the line between stylish and flashy. This was as true of Wolfe the dresser as it was of Wolfe the writer.

Portrait Of Tom Wolfe Jack Robinson/Getty Images

As a writer, he favored ellipses and exclamation points, circuitous sentences and colorful argots. Sometimes virtuosic and sometimes overheated, Wolfe’s prose was unmistakably his. A sample of his most famous titles tells part of the tale: “There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby …” (1963), “The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!” (1965), “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” (1968), “The Right Stuff” (1979), “The Bonfire of the Vanities” (1987), “A Man in Full” (1998).

Novelist Tom Wolfe in his Home Corbis/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

As a dresser, he favored white suits — or cream, or ivory, or even, occasionally, ecru. These, too, were part of Wolfe’s style. Here, a look back at his sartorial flourishes.

Wolfe (R) with writer and activist Gloria Steinem and graphic designer Miton Glaser at a New York magazine party on November 7, 1967. The Estate of David Gahr/Getty Images Wolfe (R) with writer and activist Gloria Steinem and graphic designer Miton Glaser at a New York magazine party on November 7, 1967. Wolfe at his home in New York in January 1988. Ulf Andersen/Getty Images Wolfe at his home in New York in January 1988. Wolfe gives an interview in 1968. Susan Wood/Getty Images/Getty Images Wolfe gives an interview in 1968. Wolfe leans on a streetlight in the Bronx in 1988. GAMBLIN Yann/Paris Match via Getty Images Wolfe leans on a streetlight in the Bronx in 1988. Wolfe wears a seersucker jacket in 2000. Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images Wolfe wears a seersucker jacket in 2000. A Denver Post image from 1979. Denver Post/Denver Post via Getty Images A Denver Post image from 1979. Wolfe, with hat and umbrella, photographed by Horst P. Horst for GQ in 1984. Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images Wolfe, with hat and umbrella, photographed by Horst P. Horst for GQ in 1984. Wolfe at home in October 2004. David Corio/Redferns Wolfe at home in October 2004. Wolfe with hat and cane in 2001. Michael Birt/Contour by Getty Images Wolfe with hat and cane in 2001. The man and his drink in London, 2013. Francois Berthier/Paris Match/Contour by Getty Images The man and his drink in London, 2013. Wolfe photographed at home by Jonathan Becker for Vanity Fair in 2015. Jonathan Becker/Contour by Getty Images Wolfe photographed at home by Jonathan Becker for Vanity Fair in 2015.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Tom Wolfe's age at death. He was 88, not 87.


For more FOTO stories directly in your inbox, sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Sign up for our Newsletter Privacy policy