As Northern Grade arrives at the museum, a homage to dandies, dudes, and sharp-dressed men


Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of John Langston, Esquire of Sarsden. His ruffled blouse and powdered wig were the latest fashions in 1787.

Men are dressing better, they say. And by “they” I mean women, who notice these things. And why not—they have to be seen with us. Which is why both genders should appreciate Northern Grade @ MIA, an American heritage market peddling limited-edition menswear and accoutrement in the museum from November 21 to January 3.


When you’re talented enough to paint your own portrait, as Francesco de Mura did here, you can portray yourself as a well-dressed dandy—and there are no photographs from 1740 to contradict him. Smart guy.

From boots to belts, blazers to bow-ties, including many items offered exclusively at the MIA, it’s a one-stop pop-up shop for the sartorially discriminatory man in your life, which could well be you. It’s the first time that Northern Grade, a Minnesota phenomenon that attracts a cult-like following for its weekend markets around the country, has set up shop for an extended period, much less in a museum. In a gallery. White walls and everything. And it’s not just Red Wing boots and Faribault Woolen Mills blankets. The all-American goods include laptop cases, organic skin products, leather goods, even wooden canoe paddles. Because who wants to be paddled around a presumably organic lake with cheap plastics.


A closeup of Pompeo Girolamo Batoni’s 1750 portrait of John Woodyeare.

So in honor of upping the ante, here’s a few men we found hanging around the museum—like the aquiline fellow atop this post, the estimable Ephraim Niles Byram, a self-taught astronomer and Sag Harbor craftsman of telescopes and the like (which would have made great additions to Northern Grade for the gentleman stargazer). Men from an era when men really did dress well, maybe even better than women. Not that anyone’s keeping score.