Archive - May, 2008

The Sweater as Charity Case

Cosby sweater

Just in time for Father’s Day, Bill Cosby is auctioning off some of the hideous vibrant sweaters he wore as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the Cosby Show.  The bidding, which starts at $5,000, commences on eBay on June 2nd, and the proceeds will go to the educational foundation he created in his son’s honor.

This would appear to be the perfect opportunity to support a charity while giving your dad an expensive gift that you can guilt-trip him to wear for many Christmases to come.  If he’s particulary unlucky, he might even be featured on the blog of Bad Sweater Guy.

Slip Sliding Away

Kirk Douglas on slide

Once the heroic face of Spartacus and Colonel Dax, Kirk Douglas, sad to say, looks a bit pathetic in cartoonish primary-colored playclothes.  While he is has been supporting a noble cause, the renovation of playgrounds around Los Angeles, is it too much to ask the living legend to maintain his dignity?

Magnetic North

Roman Polanski in wing collar

Like the directions of a compass rose, Roman Polanski’s hair and open wing collar point in all directions—which, fittingly for a director, makes his face the focal point.

Monsieur de Pompadour

Sean Penn with pompadour

The poet Walt Whitman once rhapsodized:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

But that apologia for inconsistency surely doesn’t excuse Sean Penn’s combining a 1950s rockabilly pompadour with a nineteenth-century-style shirt and tie.  To Izzy’s eyes, chronological contradictions can be the most disagreeable.

Hairy Like a Guerrilla

Steven Soderbergh with neck beard

While visting Cannes for the screening of Che, his bio-pic of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, director Steven Soderbergh sported a beard that extended down beneath his shirt collar.  Given that Soderbergh is usually clean-shaven, can there be any doubt that he disposed of his razor (and good sense) in homage to Che’s neck beard, which made him look like he had a lion’s mane?

Che with lion’s mane

Waxing Environmental

Harrison Ford getting his chest waxed

To raise awareness for the dangers of global warming, Harrison Ford had his chest publicly and painfully deforested in a public service TV ad.   As the aesthetician slashes and burns him, he says, “Every bit of rain forest that gets ripped out over there, really hurts us over here.”  While the ad is an obvious reference to the famous chest-waxing scene in The 4o Year-Old Virgin, it also reminds Izzy of a memorable scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in which a wounded Indiana Jones, lying shirtless on his back with his chest hair standing out prominently, points Marion to the few places he doesn’t hurt, and she kisses each one.

A Button Too Far

Clooney and Pitt at Cannes

It may seem like just a minor thing, but Izzy can’t stand that unusually high top button (or is it a stud?) on George Clooney’s shirt.  By being so close to the bow tie, it ruins the simplicity appropriate to formal wear.  And by the way, given the gap between the lapel and his shirt collar, Brad Pitt’s jacket appears to be too small around the chest.

Blond Beast

Owen Wilson

Speaking of the negative portrayal of slick-haired men in Hollywood movies, even worse is the treatment of blond men. (And worst off of all are slick-haired blonds.) With the exception of the broken-nosed Owen Wilson, called by some the butterscotch stallion, tow-heads are nearly always cast as bad guys, never as romantic leads.  (Admittedly, Luke Skywalker was also an anomaly.) Is it because one part of “tall, dark, and handsome” will always elude them?

Oiled Snakes

Agent Smith with slicked-back hair

Having already discussed the greased hair of movie villains such as Gordon Gekko, Izzy was amused to see a satirical news story in The Onion titled “Nation’s Slicked-Back-Hair Men Rally Against Negative Hollywood Portrayal.” It begins:

Thousands of members of the slicked-back-hair community gathered in Hollywood Monday to protest the film industry’s longtime trend of depicting men with slicked-back hair as untrustworthy, unlikeable antagonists.

“There have been 4,192 films in the past 10 years in which male characters with sleek or slicked-back hairstyles have been portrayed in a negative light,” said Ray Swartz, chairman of the National Organization of Men with Slicked-Back Hair. “Even though men with this hairstyle comprise just 3 percent of the U.S. populace, they make up nearly 80 percent of all film and TV villains, bad guys, and just plain assholes. As a result, thousands of men who enjoy wetting their hair and then combing it straight back face a silent but pervasive form of discrimination every single day.”

Izzy wonders whether Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a card-carrying member of NOMSBH.

Antonin Scalia

Stay Pressed

J Press catalog

A Continuous Lean has kindly scanned in some pages from J. Press catalogs from the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Looking at the images, it’s amazing to see how little has changed at the ultra-preppy store, which still sells narrow ties and Shaggy Dog shetland sweaters.   Among the store’s current offerings, Izzy is keen on these bow ties made of raw silk, a shimmering material that prevents them from appearing stodgy.

J Press raw silk bow tieJ Press raw silk bow tie number 2

Portable Teepee

Banana Republic pants tent suit

In one of Izzy’s favorite episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the neurotic protagonist is highly annoyed by extra trouser fabric bunching up over his crotch. But the “pants tent,” as Larry David calls it, is a phenomenon that occurs only when he sits down, which makes the ill-fitting crotch on these Banana Republic trousers even more inexcusable.

Sweet Scientist

Gene Tunney in shawl-collar cardigan sweater

Graced with Reagan-esque looks, Jeffersonian brains, and the fists of Teddy Roosevelt, Gene Tunney should be every thinking-man’s favorite boxer. It’s a shame that he’s largely been forgotten, even though he’s one of the most intriguing sports figures in American history. In contrast to Moe Berg, the Sorbonne-educated Major League catcher who was a spy during World War II, Tunney was not just an introspective intellectual but an athlete of the highest rank—he defeated Jack Dempsey twice, after all. (Tunney, to his credit, would say he found “no joy in knocking people unconscious.”) As one writer sums up the life of the polymathic pugilist:

If you were told that an Irish immigrant’s son growing up in turn of the century New York would serve in the Marines in World War I, go on to win the world heavyweight title while becoming a self-educated man of culture, live another half century in which he married a Carnegie heiress, befriended men like George Bernard Shaw and Thornton Wilder, lectured on Shakespeare at Yale, served in the Navy in World War II, attained directorship of numerous corporations, and fathered a U.S. senator, you would probably say that has the makings of a pretty good story.

And if that weren’t enough, the man was a snazzy dresser. For those who are inspired by his example, Brooks Brothers is currently offering its own shawl-collared cardigan sweater. Unlike the one worn by Tunney, though, it has epaulets, presumably to assist those who lack the shoulders of giants.

Brooks Brothers shawl-collar cardigan sweater

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