Raphael Langford has always been known as one of the most elegant figures on Baltimore's social scene. Even getting sidelined by a serious illness last year didn't knock the 64-year-old Mount Vernon resident off his "classic" style track, as evidenced by his air of sleek sophistication at a recent party at Baltimore's Ritz-Carlton. The semiretired chief operating officer of Unibec Inc. says he learned years ago, while working for fashion designer Halston, the importance of always looking good. "Because there's always an opportunity around the corner."
Self-described style: : "Classic"
The look: : Charcoal-brown wool and peach pinstripe suit. White button-down shirt with French cuffs. Orange and sky-blue striped City of London tie. Custom-made brown oxfords. Piccard watch with tan leather band. Gold wedding band, gold-link bracelet. gold rectangle cuff links, five-dollar gold-piece ring.
Where it came from: : The suit is from Brooks Brothers. The shirt is from the Custom Shirt Shop in D.C. He got the watch in Brussels, Belgium, years ago, and his shoes and tie in London. His wedding band, bracelet and cuff links were all gifts from his wife, Julie Mercer. And his five-dollar gold-piece ring? "I won it off Omar Sharif in Monte Carlo."
Style is an old attitude: : "I think it means a lot to me because I've portrayed an image of a professional person. We should all look good. I'm a classic guy. I've always dressed to impress, to influence."
Style is also a new attitude: : "At one point, the way I looked during the time [I was really ill], I didn't feel right about my clothes. I didn't fit right in my clothes. I couldn't go out because I looked deathly ill. My attitude that I had to have was to get out there and get back out on the circuit. And [I had to] accept that I was going to be better. In order to feel better, I had to look better."
He learned his fashion rules years ago: : "I worked with Norton Simon Co., I was a negotiator for Halston Clothes. I learned fashion through Halston and its vendors: the styling of men's clothing, the lapels and how they're cut is very important, where the jacket is tapered. If a man's wearing cuffs on his pants, there should be a 1-inch overlap on the shoe."
His shopping habits: : "I shop about three, four times a year. In Baltimore, I go to Jos. Bank and Brooks Brothers. In Washington, D.C., I get all my shirts from the Custom Shirt Shop. Basically, that's it."
He's comfortable with formality: : "I'm wearing mostly tailored suits because I'm out every night with my wife. I'm out at least four nights a week at charity receptions. There's always an opportunity around the corner. ... And all I wear is shirts with French cuffs with a suit. All my shirts are custom-made and I wear a full spread [an English spread] collar. ... I don't wear casual clothes that often. I don't wear jeans."
How he stands out from the other "suits": : "I do like to wear a lot of white and browns and grays. I [don't go for] navys and blacks. They're standard. I would look too much like every other guy out there on the street. When you wear an orange tie with a charcoal suit, you're standing out."
He's fit to be tied: : "My only fashion weakness is ties. ... What I'm going for now are ties I'm buying from the BMA and Walters museum shops. They're original ties. That's my newest kick - museum ties. Because they're unusual and rare and they have a story to tell."