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

The Well-Polished Gumshoe

detectives in suits

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.”

Davy Got Back

Bottoms Up padded briefsBottoms Up pouch pad

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.

Boola Boola

Bill Cosby in Yale sweater

Bill Cosby flaunted his support of elite universities by donning an old-timey Yale sweater (though he himself is a proud graduate of Temple).  It’s harmonious simplicity is a refreshing change from the loud, explosively-colored Coogi sweaters he wore as Cliff Huxtable on the Cosby Show.

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?

Check, Baby, Check, Baby 1-2-3

Jay Z in checks

Like the pro he is, Jay-Z managed to successfully combine checks with checks plus a third pattern on his sweater.  Certainly his monochrome color choice helped prevent the appearance of too much busyness.

Krazee-Eyez Killa

Christopher Walken in askew bow tie

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.

Ramble On

Keith Richards’ skeleton

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.



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