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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
Despite being a designer and having all the money in the world, Tommy Hilfiger’s jacket is clearly too tight in the middle (note how the fabric pinches and the tie peeks through below the button). Maybe he’s spent too much time lifting weights at the gym. Indeed, his whole appearance gives the impression that he’s trying too hard: the gangster-bold pinstripes, the flashy tie in a color that’s “off,” the helmet hair, the steroidal neck, chest, and face. Hilfiger simply does not look comfortable in his own skin.
Now here’s a t-shirt message Izzy can subscribe to: a gentleman in a tweed suit, high collar, and spats demonstrating civilization to an attentive boy, dressed with restraint. And the slogan is both perfect and true. The artist is Edward Gorey, who was famed for his vaguely ominous illustrations of Victorian and Edwardian subjects. But there’s nothing discomfiting here, except maybe the boy’s stiff collar.
While reading the obituary for publisher Simon Michael Bessie—who edited writers including Daniel J. Boorstin, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Kenneth Tynan, and Elie Wiesel—Izzy came across this passage about Bessie’s attempt to track down John Cheever, the novelist and chronicler of a vanishing WASP world:
As Susan Cheever recounts it in a memoir of her father, “Home Before Dark” (1984), Mr. Cheever had offered the novel to Random House in 1954, but the publisher turned it down. In despair, he rented a house that summer on Nantucket Island, took his family there and continued working on the novel. One day, as Cheever was staring out the window, a sailing yacht appeared in the harbor and dropped anchor. A man in white flannels and a double-breasted blazer was rowed ashore in a dinghy and announced in the voice of a literate aristocrat to the small crowd that had gathered to greet him, “I’m looking for John Cheever.”
“It was Simon Michael Bessie,” Ms. Cheever writes, “a senior editor at Harper & Row, and he had come to buy ‘The Wapshot Chronicle.’ ”
It’s worth noting that although Bessie was not himself a WASP, he clearly knew how to dress the part.
Testifying in front of Congress about the funding of the National Endowment for the Arts, Robert Redford costumed himself as an old-fashioned school teacher, complete with a tweed jacket with a narrow lapel and throat latch, as well as appropriately mussed hair. Izzy would have believed anything the man said.