I have been watching half-heartedly since word got out that it would happen. I received several generous invitations from organizers and individuals to attend some of the preamble concerning the auction. While I appreciate the aesthetic beauty of both the sum and the parts of the clothing items, I can't seem to be anything other than repelled by the estate auction.
I love old clothing, family hand-me-downs and thrift store finds. I also have many great jackets, ties, scarves, pocket-squares etc. from elderly friends who though (correctly) that I would appreciate them. I do.
As for his collection, it is impressive, and is a snapshot of an era that will never again exist, including landmark firms that have gone extinct. Men's style bloggers write about this subject at great length and to sometimes intense debate and the auction is very in-the-moment. It is appropriate to mention it and to take the opportunity to salute a great style heavyweight from a romanticized period.
What is being left out of the discussion is the fact that it is being auctioned off in the first place. Was there not a single relative, friend, God-child, heir, etc. who could lovingly take respectable stewardship of these things, ensuring that they remain in appropriately sentimental hands? Perhaps the seductive power of liquidation was too great to overcome.
As for buying the clothing... then what? Wear the blazer around to parties, letting everyone know that it was from Douglas Fairbanks? It would be a barely tolerable conversation piece if it had been a gift to you from his family ("Doug was very fond of your father, and he would have wanted you to have this"), but to then disclose that you bought it in an auction as a salivating gawker makes the name-dropping unforgivable. Fairbanks was an impressively decorated Naval officer in the century's most epic conflict, famous actor with unbelievable personal stories, and man of the world, achievements that were earned, and not purchased at auction.
In our typically pleasant exchange, another writer of a blog was also a bit off-put, and likened the enthusiasm to "vultures dancing on a carcass", "itching to swan around" in one of the purchased suits from the Fairbanks estate. I agree.
If Doyles produces a glossy catalog, it will be worth sending away for, but for God's sake, imagine that it was your family, and you were now witnessing the looting of beloved items at the hands of unsentimental heirs one generation closer to the deceased than you, gleefully dissolved by overseas collectors and the smug rapping of an auctioneer's gavel.