So-called "extra men" have a storied history in polite society: they're natural-born charmers, called upon to make up numbers at the table, dance with undesirables, and escort other men's wives to functions when the ladies' husbands can't be bothered.
Michael Bastian called his Fall show The Extra Man. He turned up a New York Times article from 1974 listing the top 30 the city had to offer. They ranged from Charles Addams to Bill Blass to, oddly enough, Norman Mailer, the irascible, six-times-married novelist who famously stabbed one of his wives. "Everybody wanted to sit by them," Bastian said of the extra men. "To me, it feels like this great New York phenomenon. I just love walking around the Upper East Side and seeing those guys who didn't just take an extra 10 minutes in the morning to get ready, but an extra 40 minutes. This is a kind of valentine to them."
The extra men were a springboard to glamour for Bastian. The designer is famous for unapologetic luxe, and imagining a cast of ideal party guests gave him license to indulge it to the hilt, in cashmere and camel hair, silk and shantung. "Snazzy" was his watchword of the season. His men were unquestionably that, piled with peacock finery observed to the smallest detail.
But it bears repeating that a less-pleasant word for extra men is walkers—as in, they won't do anything but. (Many extra men were, as they say, confirmed bachelors.) Bastian even threw in a little joke at this expense. When he arrived in New York as a young man, he misunderstood the term. "I would think, wow, these dog walkers get invited to the best parties!" he said, and spun the memory into a series of conversation-piece sweaters knitted with pups. The debonair model Pedro Andrade trotted his dog, Miles, down the runway in a quilted jacket that matched his own.
An extra man is an escort defanged, and there were moments here that were stilted, too. Bastian's charmers were charming but some lacked the hot-blooded virility he's marshaled so expertly in seasons past. Case in point: Most of his extra men wore floral boutonnieres. But they were resin replicas of real blooms.