Wolfe's agent Lynn Nesbit told several media the author died Monday in a Manhattan hospital, where he was being treated for an infection.
During a prolific career, Wolfe turned his scathing pen to pop culture, the hippie movement, the art world, LSD, race relations and the lives of astronauts.
A dapper dresser and New York icon, Wolfe was known for his trademark white suits, homburg hats and white kid gloves.
Wolfe started his career as a newspaper reporter.
His first book, a collection of articles about the flamboyant Sixties, was published in 1965 as "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby."
The book became a bestseller and established Wolfe as a leading figure in the "New Journalism" movement, which also included in its ranks Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer and Truman Capote.
It was made into a Hollywood hit starring Sam Shepard and made the test pilot Chuck Yeager a household name.
Wolfe moved to writing novels in the mid-1980s, penning "The Bonfire of the Vanities."
A snapshot of the moneyed life in New York, it was recognized as an essential American novel of the 1980s and was later made into a film starring Tom Hanks.
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