Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose trial on tax and bank fraud charges began this week, stands accused of shielding millions of dollars from the IRS. Federal prosecutors are building their case by showing that Manafort purchased stuff with wire transfers from overseas bank accounts. This is at once a sound legal strategy and an extremely entertaining one, because the stuff Manafort bought via those wire transfers is absolutely insane.
On Wednesday, we learned that Manafort sunk a huge amount of cash into a wardrobe that could be best described as conspicuous consumption–meets–petting zoo. The item that made the most headlines was, per prosecutors, a “custom $15,000 jacket made from an ostrich.” Observers wondered: What part of the ostrich was used for the jacket? Was it the feathers, which are famously soft and luxurious? The scaly legs, whose length would provide some nice, uninterrupted strips of jacket material? Might it have been the claws? As the proud owner a $15 fake ostrich-leather miniskirt from Old Navy that lasted me from eighth grade through college, I know fake ostrich skin can make for a sophisticated and durable garment. Real ostrich skin would probably be even better.
Indeed, it was ostrich leather that made up the jacket in question, which Manafort bought from a Manhattan tailor a few years ago. It looks something like a Members Only jacket, but with a hood, and also it’s made out of ostrich skin. And that’s only the beginning. He purchased nearly $1 million worth of clothing from Alan Couture, including an ostrich vest and a jacket made out of python skin. Even in photographs snapped in poor lighting for courtroom purposes, the snake jacket glows with the luminescence of money, a true piece of art only the greatest of schemers can afford.
According to the Washington Post, a former employee of the boutique testified that Manafort bought “an unusually high number of suits” there, all through wire transfers from foreign accounts. Invoices entered into evidence document the purchase of a whole bunch of probably pretty nice clothing, including a seersucker jacket, two 11-fold ties (the ultimate in tie quality, with 11 folds of silk!), two pairs of “jeans” made with cashmere, a pair of linen shorts, and a $7,500 “waterproof silk blouson.” One photo of what looks like a windbreaker shows a lining made from blue fur—no doubt made from a limited-edition mystery animal that’s only visible to the 1 percent.
The judge presiding over Manafort’s trial scolded prosecutors for dwelling on the defendant’s wardrobe when only the parts relevant to the foreign bank accounts mattered. “Let’s move on, enough is enough,” he said. Luckily, Slate writers are not under the same strictures and are thus free to pass judgment on Manafort’s character based on the contents of his walk-in closet(s). It is my belief that there is no conceivable universe in which a man who wears cashmere jeans does not keep at least some of his money in an offshore tax haven. If an ostrich vest could talk, it would almost certainly squawk, “TAX FRAUD!!!!!”
In the courtroom on Tuesday, the judge expressed confusion over the various designer labels prosecutors rattled off. “If it doesn’t say Men’s Wearhouse, I don’t know it,” he said. (He did not go on to say, “You’re gonna like the way prison looks, I guarantee it!”) While the more functionally clothed among us may not recognize the brand names on the labels, it’s hard not to gawk at the aspirational self-attiring of an ethically deficient oligarch. I wish I’d never read that the python coat was meant for Manafort’s wife, because it’s tempting to imagine him purchasing it after a mentor told him to “dress for the job you want” and he decided he wanted to be an Eastern European nightclub magnate, or maybe a snake. Judging by some of the pieces Manafort snagged for himself—notably, two dusty blue-and-tan plaid sport coats—it appears the job he’d rather have belongs to Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.