Pablo Picasso was a genius—at having a great summer.
If you’re in pursuit of a big late-summer reading project, I recommend digging into John Richardson’s masterful biographies of Picasso and Francoise Gilot’s memoir of her life with the artist, which reveal the scope of Picasso’s, shall we say, complicated legacy. (He once cut fellow cubist Georges Braque out of his life because he didn’t offer Picasso and Gilot lunch during a studio visit.)
If you’re in pursuit of a big late-summer dressing project, I recommend digging into Picasso’s closet. History, by which I mean comic strips, has reduced Picasso’s wardrobe achievements to the Petit Bateau striped shirt, but much like the man’s life and work, Picasso’s summer wardrobe takes on new qualities with closer study. And to paraphrase the man himself, great dressers steal.
In fact, during the summer—spent largely in the South of France, shuttling between beach, studio, and villa (with occasional visits to an ex-wife or lover’s house)—Picasso almost exclusively wore no shirt at all, or a camp shirt left unbuttoned, with shorts and house slippers or espadrilles. Stocky and 5’3’’, Picasso didn’t have the body of a gym rat: for one photo, he stripped off his white T-shirt and tucked it into his belt like a mechanic’s rag, one of many times he showed off his modest belly. It only worked to add to the primal mystique of his look. Indeed, although we are now firmly in throes of August, and many of us may not be beachbound or even beach-adjacent, the temperatures remain high and the possibility of looking fresh and keeping cool feels unreachable. Instead, embrace Picassocore: a mix of stuff lying around the floor—or even rejected by someone else in or out of your life—and pieces from, say, your local drugstore’s Seasonal aisle. It is now the time to have a Picassocore summer.
A true modernist, Picasso pared his wardrobe back to its most essential elements: short-shorts, slippers, and the occasional shirt. Extensive research by me, one of the world’s premiere amateur outfit historians, suggests that Picasso rose each day, threw on this simple ensemble, and spent a lot of time doing crafts and relaxing. He let his shirts (and legs) do most of the talking—a gingham-check shirt with a striped collar, say, or a florid paisley print. He signed autographs for a village grandmother and two punks wearing a Matisse-like patterned shirt and leather flats. In another image, he sits with legs crossed at a table in his home near Cannes, wearing short-shorts, Loewe-esque leather slip-ons with rope soles, and a white button-up with a logo on the breast. Upon closer inspection, the logo reads, in Picasso’s own handwriting, “Picasso.” Why get your shirts monogrammed when you could just autograph them instead?