Where to begin in the dumbfounding tale of Paul Manafort and his fashion habit? The gluttony. The indulgence. The bad taste.
His is the story of a man’s inexorable slide into a nauseating spectacle of insatiable consumption. There are so many enticing, beguiling entry points in this story of unbridled decadence: the use of wire transfers from foreign bank accounts to pay his clothing bills, the capacity to spend more than $929,000 on suits in a five-year period, a perplexing fixation on plaid sport jackets. But ultimately, the one thing that most folks will remember from the first week of Manafort’s trial on bank and tax fraud charges is his $15,000 ostrich leather bomber jacket.
The jacket is an atrocity —literal and symbolic. For the prosecution, it was not an opening statement; it was an opening salvo.
As a matter of aesthetics, it’s worth stipulating that most clothes would not look particularly enticing dangling from a wooden hanger hooked over the back of an open door. And the government’s photographer is not exactly Richard Avedon. But hanger appeal is not the problem. The jacket, with its white topstitching and white satin lining, lacks finesse, artistry and sophistication. It’s a celebration of ostrich leather, which is to say that it is a celebration of money and excess.
When the ostrich skin jacket was introduced as evidence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye described it only as “ostrich,” which called to mind some fluffy extravagance covered in colorful plumage and underscored the point of bringing up the jacket at all: Manafort isn’t just a spendthrift. He’s a peacock. A showoff. The devil who wears ostrich.