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.
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.
Although Izzy had heard of gangsters getting suits customized to conceal weaponry, he had long wondered whether detectives do the same. According to this fascinating New York Times story, they do. But the most interesting part of the article is the discussion of the psychological benefits of having a clean and neat appearance in what can be a dirty line of work:
“A suit and tie is our uniform,” said Joel E. Potter, 64, a veteran homicide detective who retired in 2000. “A lot of times you’re set up in a car at 3 in the morning, or there are two dead bodies on the sidewalk. And when you step out of the car, you look like a professional. They know the man is there. They know the suits mean business.”
The ability to go from interrogation rooms to living rooms is so essential that some psychologists lecture detectives on both the influence of suit attire on suspects and the need to tip tailors to ensure that alterations hide the appearance of guns and handcuffs.
“I suggest they bring along every piece of equipment when they go buy it,” said Richard E. Ovens, who has given lectures to detectives in New York and other places. “You want the weapon to disappear.”
Dressing in a suit can set a boundary against what Guy O. Seymour, who has worked as a psychologist for the Atlanta police, called “crime-scene corruption.”
“Because they are all well dressed it establishes a barrier between them and the messiness,” Dr. Seymour said.
That was the case in some instances for Vernon J. Geberth, who wore two- or three-piece suits on the job before he retired as a detective commander in 1987.
“I looked like a banker,” said Commander Geberth. “It put me in a different mode. It slowed me down: ‘Look at this guy. He is all dressed up and he is in an abandoned building.’ I am here to put things back together.”
“I was above the fray,” he added. “My psychological armor.”
Thanks to New York magazine, Izzy discovered the existence of padded men’s briefs made by a company called Bottoms Up. Men’s jackets already have shoulder-padding, so why not some, er, rear-guard action? And, hey, why not have a substitute for the codpiece, that much-maligned pouch that disappeared in the 16th century (though it was seen on Alex and his droogs in A Clockwork Orange)? Well, if you get caught pants down with them, you’re liable to end up falling flat on your butt.
If Jay-Z is a mixmaster at combining patterns, Matthew Broderick is totally whack. Not only do the dimensions of the stripes and checks clash, but the colors create a big stew of ugly. Even more shabbily, Broderick’s thinning hair is unkempt, his jacket is too wide at the shoulders (note the pucker), and his saggy taupe corduroys ensure that he looks all washed up. How could Sarah Jessica Parker let him go out in public like this?
As if it wasn’t enough to have a reputation for playing imbalanced, crazy characters, Christopher Walken let his bow tie rest at a disturbing angle. That lack of left-right symmetry is all the worse for someone, like himself, born with heterochromia.
In an interview with the Times of London, The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards offered his profound, mature thoughts on fashion and other aspects of life. He also unwittingly created a Public Service Announcement about the dangers of permanent adolescence.
The Stones weren’t competitive about what they wore. The tailor Andrew Oldham had worked with the Beatles – he gave them those suits with no collars. We got uniforms to begin with. We threw them out in a week.
Bill Wyman is the biggest dandy. But Charlie Watts is the most stylish member. He spends his time on the beauty and the cut of clothing. There he is on Savile Row, and I’m the fashion icon? When I got older I wore my old lady’s clothes. If you notice, all the buttons are the other side.
I wore whatever my mother put me in when I was little. Boring shorts and wee T-shirts. I wore school uniforms. I hated brown shoes. I started dressing up when I had to find what fitted. Fashion thinks more about me than what I think about it. I just wore what I wore and people noticed.
Show me a woman who is faithful, and I won’t believe you.
I don’t do underwear. I never do the washing. How would I know whether my clothes stink? I throw them away.
Skulls remind us that underneath it all, we are all the same. Beauty is only skin-deep.
I can’t say I’m bothered about the fate of the planet. I got a guitar case out of Louis Vuitton. They paid me a lot of money and it’s all going to charity. I’m going to charity.
Sure they’re not in season, but when you come across a pair of golden yellow corduroy ski pants from Prada, you go for them. Assuming you have the guts to wear them on the slopes, that is.
Bill Cunningham, the famed New York Times street-fashion photographer, has created a new audio slideshow, in which he notes that pocket squares seem to be making a comeback, especially on men who aren’t wearing neckties. As a proponent of judiciously chosen ornament, Izzy thinks this is happy news.
Speaking of the joys of people-watching, as the weather is increasingly conducive to walks in the city, it’s worth remembering some lines from Walt Whitman:
Keep your splendid, silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods;
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and orchards;
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields, where the Ninth-month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms incessant and endless along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me comrades and lovers by the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones by the hand every day!
Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!
The Times of London is reporting the sad demise of the cricket sweater:
The woollen V-necked jumper — baggy and bearing mysterious stains — has been a part of cricket at all levels since the early days but when adidas, the new England kit supplier, unveiled its 2008 collection at the home of cricket, cable-knit had been replaced by the figure-hugging ClimaCool, a man-made fibre said to push sweat away from cricketers’ skin.
“England will be cooler, drier and more comfortable than ever before,” Hugh Morris, the managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said. “With this kit, England will be the best-equipped team in the world.” The innovation was warmly greeted by Michael Vaughan, England’s Test captain. “The cricket sweater has been my bugbear for many a year,” he said. “This new fabric will give us a lighter feel. Even if it’s a little cold, I am delighted to see the end of the last woolly sweater.”
However, Bob Willis, the former England captain, said that the old sweater was “a very important piece of kit” for fast bowlers. “In cold weather, when you’d finished bowling ten overs and were dripping with perspiration it would keep you cool,” he said.
Willis is alluding to the fact that wool, unlike many other fabrics, maintains its warmth even when wet.
But perhaps the best argument for retaining the cricket sweater is its potential for off-field use, here demonstrated in Matthew Bourne’s dance piece “Play Without Words.”