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Everyman Is No Man

dorky ObamaObama with Blackberry

If, while recently visiting the troops in Kuwait and Afghanistan, Barack Obama strove to look like the ordinary man, he succeeded all too well.  With his shapeless black polo shirt, ill-fitting pleated khakis (note the bunching in the crotch and the pooling at the ankles), and prominently-displayed Blackberry and wireless microphone, he is dressed for dorky casual Friday (a/k/a golfwear at the office).  The only exception to that sorry look are his brown suede boots, which clash with his black shirt and belt.  Making matters worse, his unbuttoned collar emphasizes the scrawniness of his neck.

Izzy’s biggest objection, however, is the visibility of Obama’s electronic gear.  If it’s true that you should never let them see you sweat, it’s all the more the case that you should never let them see your Blackberry.  Visibly wearing such equipment makes a man look like a slave to the office, a terrible thing for any would-be chief executive.   Obama should either have worn a jacket to conceal such necessities or, better yet, have had his assistants carry them.

Pockets Needing Change

Christopher Bailey in jeans

A shy-looking Christopher Bailey, the creative force behind Burberry Prorsum, demonstrates a major design flaw in all jeans:  They make it impossible to put your hands in your pockets.

Pattern Recognition

Prince Charles in kilt

Izzy gives Prince Charles credit for being, er, ballsy enough to wear kilts in celebration of the union of Scotland and England, but he erred royally in combining a loud tartan with a bold argyle.  Either the kilt or socks ought to have been muted or plain, as the Scottish nationalist Sean Connery demonstrates.

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?

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.

How Not to Succeed Without Really Trying

Matthew Broderick in clashing patternsMatthew Broderick all washed up.

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?

Dauntlessly Downhill

Prada yellow corduroy ski pants

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.

The Streets of Manhattan

Bill Cunningham in NYC

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!

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The Art of Leisure

Real Men Read t-shirt

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.

On Making a Splashy Entrance

Simon Michael Bessie

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.

The White Stipe

Michael Stipe in white

As a general rule, Izzy enjoys white or off-white suits (even those with black buttons), but the tailoring of this one being worn by REM’s Michael Stipe just seems a bit off.  Is the jacket too long?  Certainly the sleeves are.  Izzy does, however, like the tie, with its width continuous all the way up.  And there’s nothing amiss with Stipe’s lack of belt, which creates an especially clean look.  Plus, why attract attention to your waist is there’s no need to?

Drown this Witch

This scene from the 1989 flick Teen Witch contains what is surely the wack-est rap battle of all time, which doesn’t mean it’s not also the most unintentionally hilarious. To make matters even worse, the painfully white “tough guys” are dudded up in 80s trends—acid-wash jeans rolled to the knee, clip-on suspenders (also seen on Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)—that deserve to be exorcised from the collective unconscious.

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