Sports Numbers and Their Symbolism | Sports Numbers in Film | Emblems | Firefighters | Vehicles and Racing | Badge Numbers | Prisoners | Taking a Lickin' | Letters: P, R, I and T | Sports Wear | Athletes | Rock Stars | Double Numbers

Clothes: The Wild One - Influence on Comics and Film | Uniforms and Vehicles | Leather Jackets | Red Leather | Sportscasters | Yellow Sweaters and White Shirts | Purple-and-Yellow Costumes | Trench Coats | Lace-Up Shirts | Stripes | Fashion Magazines | White Tie and Tails | Tuxedos | Costume Parties

Transformation Films: Taking Care of Business | The Boyfriend School / Don't Tell Her It's Me | Fixing Pete | The Makeover

Classic Comic Books Home Page (with many articles on comics)

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Sports Numbers and Their Symbolism

Comic Books Sports Heroes

"Goliath of the Gridiron" (The Brave and the Bold #45, December 1962-January 1963) is most notable for Carmine Infantino's art. The splash panel portrait of the transformed hero in his football uniform is impressive. His uniform is red and white, like that of so many Infantino heroes, and has the number 9 all over it. The number 9 on the helmet even shows up in a later silhouette illustration; it is strongly identified with the hero throughout the story.

Comic book heroes often have such single digit numbers on their uniforms, usually one with a strong, straight vertical line, such as 1, 4, 7 or 9. These numbers serve as phallic symbols, and celebrate the heroes' masculinity.

Other tales in the same series Strange Sports Stories have similar numbers:

Having sports heroes wear such numbers is an ancient tradition in comics: The Silver Age tales of The Flash often featured players who were #7. Art by Carmine Infantino: Jimmy Olsen has stories with such numbers. Writer: Otto Binder, Art: Curt Swan: Dick Cole is usually number 9 in his many sports stories, courtesy of artists Bob Davis before 1942, Jim Wilcox after 1943: Numbers show up in romance comic books, worn by glamorous heroes: Bob Brown also drew Smallville High quarterback "Bash" Bradford with the number 7 on his football uniform, in "The Strange Death of Superboy" (Superboy #161, December 1969). As in Infantino's "Goliath of the Gridiron", these are red uniforms with white numbers. The football players have the extreme muscles of the 1970 era in comics, and virtually look like a group of super-beings. We first see "Bash" (p2), where he is triumphing over a player from the opposing team, who is dressed in a blue uniform, with the number 12 on it. In a second game (p14), we see one of Bash's teammates, who is equally good looking, and who wears the number 4. Once again, #7 and #4 are associated with heroes. In the film Starship Troopers (1997), the hero wears number 7 for his team, and he fights an opposing team member in blue wearing number 12, just as in Brown's story.

Such numbers continue to appear in later "graphic novels":

Non-comics illustrators also use such numbers: Complete Sports liked covers showing a boxer in red trunks knocking out or winning over a boxer in green or blue trunks. (Nothing to do with numbers.)

Prose fiction uses such numbers:

Sports Numbers in Film

Films also use such numbers. In contemporary movies: The main football player in the music video Let's Hear It For the Boy (1984) is #1, while his opponent is #77. The video was directed by Kenny Ortega, who went on to a similar mix of sports and dancing in High School Musical.

Perhaps unexpectedly, such numbers appear in works by international directors:

Older films also used such numbers: Paired Heroes:

Emblems

Numbers show up on other places than athletic uniforms, such as emblems:

Firefighters

Firefighters:

Vehicles and Racing

Racing: Vehicles:

Badge Numbers

Badge Numbers: Collar Insignia: Locales:

Prisoners

Prisoners:

Taking a Lickin'

A number of comic book stories seem influenced by the movie comedy The Freshman (1925). Like that film, they show the hero initially being the worst player on the football team, before eventually going on to win the big game. The heroes of these tales usually get tackled or defeated by much better players in the early stages, and these better football players wear the symbolic numbers. In The Freshman, the captain of the football team wears #1 during practice, while hero Harold Lloyd wears 0.

The hapless college football substitute quarterback hero (Ralph Graves) runs the wrong way down the field, losing the big game, at the start of the movie Flight (Frank Capra, 1929). The entire stadium laughs at him, including his future commander, a Marine in dress uniform. One of the opponents who tackles him is #17. The hero wears the non-macho number 32.

In the origin of the Flash (Flash Comics #1, January 1940), hero Jay Garrick is tackled by a better player wearing #7, while another football player laughs at him. He is also chewed out by his coach and his girlfriend.

The comic screw-up Johnny Thunder is forced to wear the less macho number 5 while playing football for the hopeless team of the Lurnfast Niteschool in "The Story of the Man Who Couldn't Lose" (World's Finest Comics #3, Fall 1941). He is dominated by far more macho opponents from a better school, one of whom is wearing number 1. Johnny really takes a lickin' from this team. It's quite a predicament to be in. The story plays this situation for comedy, like most of the Johnny Thunder tales. This story is scripted by John B. Wentworth, with art by Stan Aschmeier. All of Johnny's teammates also wear less macho numbers, such as 2, 6 and even 0. Exception: when Johnny is knocked out during practice, he is carried away by two teammates wearing 4 and 9.

Similarly, in the movie Johnny Be Good (1988), the hero's comic sidekick (Robert Downey, Jr.) is made to wear the less macho number 3, in contrast to the hero's aggressive #9. This is a common strategy to express subordination.

The football player drawn by Gil Kane in "Raiders of the Waterless World" (Mystery in Space #56, December 1959) wears #77. This guy is shown yelling at the hero, giving him orders. Meanwhile, the hero is the team's water-boy, a role from which he finds it impossible to escape. Permanently. The futuristic football uniforms are fascinatingly curved. They are worn with comic strip style boots, complete with complex cleats along their edges.

However, even being a football hero does not prevent one from tackles in the comics. The quarterback in "Enemies in Love" (Falling in Love #141, June - July 1973) might wear #7, but the other team really piles onto him during a tackle.

Handsome David Boreanaz plays a football player who gets tackled, in a TV commercial for Snickers candy bars, and winds up thinking he's Batman. Boreanaz is player #9 on his bright green and white uniform. The elaborately produced commercial has numerous football players suited up, and a pair of coaches in matching green jackets.

In his origin story (Nova #1, September 1976), before he becomes a superhero, high school student Richard Rider loses the game for his basketball team. Rider is #4, and he's chewed out by team member #7. Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott.

Real-life star baseball pitcher Joe Nathan of the Texas Rangers was forced to wear a Dallas Cowboys uniform after losing a bet to teammate Mike Adams on a Giants-Cowboys game in 2012; Nathan supported the Giants, but his team lost. Nathan had to wear a complete replica uniform of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, from helmet and shoulder pads down to cleated shoes. The uniform had Romo's name and number 9 on it. Joe Nathan was forced to wear the Cowboys uniform for a day of his team's batting practice, followed by signing autographs for a long line of fans. Joe Nathan himself included the autograph episode in the bet. Nathan: "I regret that I added that. It feels just like I thought it would - absolutely terrible." Adams: "I'm extremely pleased. This is probably the best bet I've ever won in my entire life. This is up there". Note: Nathan actually looks great in the Cowboys uniform. It is clearly carefully tailored and fitted to him. Reportedly Cowboys equipment manager Mike McCord helped out with the gear.


Letters

Such phallic symbol letters as P, R and T are also frequently worn by athletes in film and comics.

Films

Comics

Sports Wear

Apparently authentic looking football jerseys have also become popular among men in real life as street wear. A major sports wear manufacturer is now selling shiny navy blue and gold football jerseys, with the number 7 in gold on their chest, sleeves and back. These are cleverly designed to look just like a real football uniform a guy happened to have around. Navy blue is also the traditional color of male authority figures, such as policemen, pilots and business bosses. Navy blue baseball T shirts by another manufacturer bear the number 77, while a shiny white basketball jersey bears a huge red 4. Many college football jerseys sold to fans contain the number 1 on their chest.

Adidas manufactured a Varsity Jacket with a Star Wars tie-in. The "team" they celebrated was the Dark Side Imperials. The sharp black jackets had white trim, with white leather sleeves and slash pockets. Chest letters featured a prominent 77, the year Star Wars (1977) was released.

Adidas also made a sharp blue leather jacket with stars on it. The hero of the film Johnny Be Good (1988) wore one.

Adidas made a spectacular tank suit for work-outs, shiny polyester & lycra in vibrating red and blue. See "Boy Toys", GQ (May 1988) (page 250), photographed by Constance Hansen. There is something uniform-like to this suit, with its bright colors and massive logo. The massively muscular hero is photographed on a bright red "recumbent bicycle" exercise machine, something also worth seeing. The bicycle looks demanding to ride.

The Guess company made its own letterman award jacket. See the fashion magazine M (November 1991) (page 25). The jacket is all-leather, and says "GUESS US" on the back in raised letters. The jacket is in various shades of khaki, and has a definite uniform feel.


Athletes

Well known athletes wear such numbers: Some teams use such numbers systematically:

Rock Stars

Rock musicians, too, have long used such symbolism. Paul McCartney's band used to include a guitarist who wore an athletic top with a huge, sports style "1" on his chest, along with black nylon pants and black leather boots.

When actor Chris Klein appeared on MTV's show TRL for a Super Bowl XXXVI party (2001), he wore a purple football jersey with a huge white 7 on the chest, below the word TRL.

98 Degrees

'N SYNC

Clean cut pop singer JC Chasez had fun wearing a fake decadent outfit, a denim jacket and pants that represent a rebel biker's uniform. The biggest of the sleeve patches contains the word DESTROY, with the central T turned into a huge upward arrow.

Double Numbers

Double numbers also create punch: See also all the men above wearing 11, 44, 77 and 99: the most common form of double numbers.

The Wild One - Influence on Comics and Film

The Show Off. Comic books sometimes use such paired numbers: see "The Show Off" (Heart Throbs #145, September 1972). The cover shows the ultra-macho football player in full team uniform. His number is 33. Later in the tale, we see the football player in his team jacket. This is a black leather jacket. Unlike many athletic jackets, which emphasize glamour, this one looks tough. The black leather jacket looks like something a gang of motorcycle hoodlums would wear. It is covered with white writing, like the jackets of a biker gang. In front is a big letter S, which stands for State, the name of the team's school. The back of the jacket has the word STATE on it. Immediately below, in white letters, is the player's number, 33. Both STATE and 33 are in exactly the same positions and style of lettering as on the player's football uniform. The effect is of a transfer between the hero's uniform and his leather jacket. All the letters are in the block style frequently used for athletic lettering. The jacket with its number is extremely tough looking, almost like something a convict would wear. There is no name on the jacket, just the hero's team number. The effect of being part of a motorcycle gang is overwhelmingly convincing. The whole concept of such jackets is unique. I have never seen anything like them in real life. Like other biker uniforms in the comics, it shows the influence of the biker film The Wild One (1953), which also featured black leather jackets with white lettering.

The heroine must choose between her boyfriend, the college football player, or his handsome young coach. The cover (probably by Art Saaf) encapsulates her dilemma. It shows the heroine and the two men. The bulgingly muscular football player is in full uniform. The coach is a young pretty boy. He looks hardly old enough to vote. Both men are giving the heroine orders. The coach is commanding her to choose between them, while the angry, aggressive football player is pointing at her and commanding that she choose him. All of this is right in the football stadium, with a crowd filling the stands behind them.

Cool As Ice. Rapper Vanilla Ice wore a black leather motorcycle jacket in the film Cool As Ice (1991), courtesy costume designer Ingrid Ferrin. It is covered with white lettering, in numerous different script styles that recall athletic award jackets. It is a cross between the outlaw biker bad boy look, and athletic team uniform jackets. The jacket is full of shiny metal snaps, like an athletic jacket, rather than the zippers common in bike jackets. The words formed by the letters are insinuating, and so are the various styles of letters with which they are composed. Anti-social messages are juxtaposed with "official" looking styles of letters.

He wore a huge matching black cap that combines features of baseball caps, with a shape that strongly evokes fatigue uniform caps. Uniquely, it has metal plate insignia where a policeman's badge might go. And a matching shiny metal plate along the visor. Both plates seem bolted to the cap, attached with conspicuous metal screws or bolts: also a unique feature.

Wheels of Passion. The champion motorcycle racer of writer-artist Ric Estrada's "Wheels of Passion" (Young Romance #162, October - November 1969) goes through a wide variety of costume changes. On the cover, he wears a fancy, very detailed leather jacket, filled with zippers, as well as helmet, gloves and goggles. In the story, first he races for the heroine's father's company. There he wears a black leather jacket, with the number 9 prominently displayed on it. Such single digit numbers are very popular in the comics. He also wears a sharp blue suit in one scene, showing he is also a corporate employee.

When the hero branches out on his own, his team gets a special insignia, a circle with a horizontal line through it. This insignia is everywhere on his uniforms. It shows up on his chest and sleeves. It is displayed everywhere, in the style of a uniformed organization. It helps make his clothes more uniform like, giving them a special team discipline feel.

Passport to Heartbreak. "Passport to Heartbreak" (Falling in Love #114, April 1970) has art by Ric Estrada. The life story of a spoiled girl, from childhood to grown-up. Although she has a star athlete boyfriend, she fools around with leather jacketed cyclist Mike Murdock behind his back.

He's Mine. "He's Mine" (Girls' Love Stories #177, April - May 1973) is a romance comic book tale with art by Don Heck. A woman has two boyfriends: a handsome blond sexually aggressive one with a roving eye, and a steady nice guy who loves her, walks dogs tied to his leash and who wears black leather jackets. The blond wears suits and is dressed to the max.

Forsake My Love. The cover (Girls' Romances #156, April 1971) features the hero in an unusual black leather jacket. The collar and lapels resemble the Perfecto motorcycle jacket seen in The Wild One. But the lower part of the jacket is unexpectedly lacking a zipper. Instead it is elegant, double-breasted and fastened by four huge black buttons. Such button regions look more like a trenchcoat. This lower part looks quite tight. He wears it with a blue tee shirt and snow white pants. Art by Don Heck.

Betrayed. The cover of Young Romance #89 (November 1971) shows a hero in tight leather pants. These bell-bottoms are worn with a big black leather belt: common in romance comics of the era. The hero wears a uniform-style shirt with giant patch pockets. This hero is more a stallion, than any sort of romantic beau. Art by Don Heck. The cover illustrates a reprinted story "Betrayed" (1964).

The hero's legs are thrust apart, like the rock singer on the cover of "Operation Star" (Young Love #103, March-April 1973), a posture that conveys maximum assertiveness and display. See the dressy businessmen standing this way in "The City Suit", GQ (May 1988) (page 254) and "The Power Look", GQ (September 1988) (page 380), both photographed by Walter Chin. See also "Linen Nine to Five", GQ (June 1987) (page 172), photographed by Steven Meisel.

In Love and War. "In Love and War" (Supergirl #6, August 1973) has Supergirl trying to prevent a war between two youth gangs. Bob Oksner's cover shows one of the gang lords, in a leather jacket. The jacket is covered with military style patches, including a fist. The fist and the number 2 patch below combine to be conspicuously phallic. The jacket has an erect collar. It is worn without a shirt, just the gang lord's huge muscles underneath. The gang lord wears gray striped pants. Such stripes are associated with traditional authority figures, like a Western sheriff or an English aristocrat in a formal wear cutaway coat. The striped trousers have metal rivets, a cool touch. The bulky, heavy leather jacket is somewhere between dark gray and black, echoing the gray pants. The jacket is elaborately belted in front.

Flattery - Can Get You Anywhere. "Flattery - Can Get You Anywhere" (Heart Throbs #143, July 1972) has its young heroine flatter a hockey star on their first date. This is a light-hearted little story. Both characters are likable, and both behave decently to each other and have fun. This makes it a pleasant alternative to soap opera. The hero is pre-med. He is quite a guy: a major league hunk, a good student, a nice guy.

The hero is a muscular athlete, a little more macho than we usually see in the romance comics. First he is shown in his purple hockey uniform. Then, on the date, he wears a gray suede jacket with a stand up collar; the collar looks especially cool. The hero's red hair and big muscles make him look like a regular guy.

Cindy the Salesgirl. "Cindy the Salesgirl" (Girls' Romances #133, June 1968) shows the heroine's boyfriend Sandy in what seems to be a leather windbreaker. It has slightly "rough" features, such as epaulettes and a stand-up collar.

The Bad Seed. "The Bad Seed" (Girls' Love Stories #167, March 1972) is a young man the heroine's wealthy parents don't want her to marry. The ruggedly muscular young man wears a black leather jacket on the splash panel. Art: Jay Scott Pike.

The Wall Between Us. "The Wall Between Us" (Young Romance #175, October 1971) has its Hispanic hero in a black leather motorcycle jacket. The jacket is close in its details to the one in The Wild One: something not always found in comic books. It differs by having huge buckles on its cuffs and waist. Art: Art Saaf.

Perfecto. The leather jacket in The Wild One was not invented for the movie. It was a real-life jacket: the Perfecto, made by the Schott Bros. It was available for sale for decades. Men who wanted one could and did buy one and wear it.

In the mystery novel The Voodoo Murders (1957) (Chapters 3-4) by Michael Avallone, the bar gets two patrons who dress in motorcycle jackets like Brando wore in The Wild One. The two guys look menacing, but they turn out to be perfectly harmless. The book refers to them as "the leather-jacketed wild ones" and the "two Brandos".

Mirage. The Perfecto leather jackets in The Wild One influenced other real-life jackets. One of these black leather jackets is "Mirage". The Mirage has features of the Perfecto, but they are transformed into something elegant and upscale, in the 1980's style. The collars are similar, but the leather is thicker in the Mirage. The pockets are a bit more conventional and classier. The zippered pockets in the Mirage open more yawningly and deeper than the stiffer Perfecto, and are completely lined with black leather. There are extra zippers on the forearms, too. The flapped pocket towards the base of the Perfecto is moved to the upper chest. and is bigger and much wider. On the other side of the upper chest, a metal ring is now embedded in the leather. The ring is irregularly shaped, with both straight and circular regions. This attracts the eye and holds the attention, as does the unusual flapped pocket.

The Mirage can be seen in a two-page ad in GQ (September 1988) (pages 98, 99). It is modeled by a muscular young man with a guitar, who resembles actor Rob Estes. The guitar links the upscale jacket to rock music, rather than motorcycles. Photography: Guido Flueck.

Andrew Marc. The same issue GQ (September 1988) (pages 88, 89) contains a full-length black leather coat by Andrew Marc. The shiny coat is aggressively long, a common and spectacular feature of men's dressy coats in that era. The heavy coat is bulky in the shoulders and upper arms. Photos: Chris Gbur.

Calvin Klein. "Three for the Road"GQ (February 1992) (page 112) features a black leather motorcycle jacket from Calvin Klein. The weathered-leather jacket looks like something the wearer has owned for a long time. It's both tough and really glossy. It is clearly inspired by the Perfecto, but it has even more zippers. It also has a big patch pocket on the sleeve, like a pilot's uniform. Photography: Fabrizio Ferri.

Ryan Lochte. Swimmer Ryan Lochte wore a red motorcycle vest when he presented at a music festival in 2012. The vest is shaped much like a Perfecto motorcycle jacket, only sleeveless. It is a bright red. The zipper areas and snaps are black, making them even more conspicuous. The vest has a party-like feel. It looks light-weight, and designed to be worn indoors for long periods without getting too hot.

Class of 1984. The movie poster for the 1982 film Class of 1984 shows its villains decked out in punk fashions. Their leader is in a tight leather shirt and pants. These outfits are quite creative. Little like them appears in the actual movie. An exception: in the film the chief villain (Timothy Van Patten) wears a cloth shirt with a metal ring at the collar. In the poster the chief villain's leather shirt has two similar metal rings at the collar. One suspects that the poster was created after the movie was filmed.

Spikes or spines are sometimes found on punk clothes. They serve as phallic symbols. They are present in the poster:

Another follower sports a brightly colored Mohawk hair style. He also wears studded black leather wristbands and a studded belt. The fasteners on his leather gloves echo this studded gear.

Alexander Skarsgård. Actor Alexander Skarsgård posed for a magazine shoot (2011). He wore a shiny black shirt made out of some unusual glazed material, black jeans, a leather belt and shiny black leather boots. He's kneeling on a bed and carrying a big black baseball bat. The shiny shirt's big patch pockets and epaulettes give it a uniform feel. Interview magazine, May 23, 2011. Photography: Steven Klein. This is the opposite of the clean cut white naval uniforms Skarsgård would soon wear in the movie Battleship (2012). Or is it? The uniforms express a Chain of Command.


Uniforms and Vehicles

Glamorously uniformed riders, drivers or pilots of glamorous vehicles are a comic book tradition.

Play With Fire. The biker uniforms in artist Jay Scott Pike's "Play With Fire" (Girls' Love Stories #178, July - August 1973) also have features that recall The Wild One. The uniforms are a unique cross between biker gear, police style dress uniforms, and athletic uniforms, all in one spiffy package. An athletic style purple muscle shirt is worn with a matching police style, high peaked uniform cap - a most unusual combination. The cap and the shirt both contain the same skull insignia and purple color, making the combination a true uniform. The skull is shown tightly blindfolded, echoing the blind skulls on the caps and jackets in The Wild One. The shirts also bear large and small numbers on the back and front respectively, in a style of lettering traditionally used for athletic uniforms. The hero is #7. This uniform is clean cut, with features that recall the spiffiest of spit and polish dress uniforms. The peaked uniform cap is especially elegant, with a huge curved shiny black visor, and a silver rim connecting it to the cap. The hero is the only biker in the story. It is unclear whether he is part of a motorcycle racing team, or a gang, or some sort of elite club, or whether his uniform is just some sort of fashion statement, and he is the only member of a non-existent "team". The biker hero Danny Fields is the school's top baseball player - he is definitely not a marginalized person. The uniform is totally cool. It is perhaps its combination of many traditions that gives it its edge.

Pike's men tend to be boyish, good natured and sweet looking, as well as being very good looking. But they are uninhibited about wearing any sort of uniform, or clothes that convey social authority. Society goes out its way to certify these young men as appealing, in the way they are dressed, quite a sneaky combination. The hero of this tale is explicitly a star athlete; we see him in his baseball team uniform. Such sports stars have a high social status that is unquestionable, even if unfair. The hero is a member of a male group that is of overwhelming social status.

Like other romance comic heroes, this guy seems to be members of groups that are often thought of as social enemies. First, he is dressed as a star athlete. Then he is glamorous clothes at a dance that suggest he is at the top of his school's social elite, pretty clothes that suggest he is the ultimate heartthrob date. Finally, at the end he shows up in biker uniform. Athletes, dreamboats, bikers - these are different groups in most schools. Our hero can excel at any of these looks.

The phallic handlebar of the hero's motorcycle (on the cover) is precisely positioned for maximum symbolism. The same is true of the gardening spade handle on another Pike cover (Young Romance #173, August 1971). On the gardening cover, the young man's simple but color-coordinated clothes suggests he is in some sort of uniform.

Bride and Broom. Romance Comics included other stories with policemen in high-peaked uniform caps. "Bride and Broom" (Young Love #90, December 1971) has its young cop fully done up in a spit and polish policeman's uniform, complete with badge, epaulettes, collar insignia, and peaked officer's cap. It is drawn by John Rosenberger, and written by Jack Oleck.

One overhead shot in the diner (page 4) shows the cap from above: it is roughly octagonal in outline. As in "Play With Fire", the cap has a highly shiny black vinyl visor, and is full of precisely realized visual detail. In both stories, the cap is the central attribute of the hero, expressing both his authority and his sexuality.

The splash panel shows the hero as one of three identically clad policemen. This establishes his outfit as a true uniform.

Dr. Masters' Desperate Decision. "Dr. Masters' Desperate Decision" (The Adventures of Young Dr. Masters #1, August 1964), from Archie Adventure Comics. Like "Bride and Broom", this medical drama also has art by John Rosenberger. It too features uniformed police, with peaked caps with gleaming black vinyl visors (Part I, pages 1, 2, 3, 5). There is something authoritative about all these curving, precisely shaped and formed visors. Enormous care has been taken with all of them. They want a recognition of their wearers' authority.

As in "Bride and Broom", the cops are in a group, with more than one man in identical uniform.

In all these tales, "Play With Fire", "Bride and Broom" and "Dr. Masters' Desperate Decision", the uniformed men have powerful, glamorized motorized vehicles, while the protagonist is on foot. The uniformed men show up uninvited, invading the protagonist's space, and taking over control of the situation.

Later there is a uniformed ambulance driver (Part I, page 15). He too wears a visored peaked cap, drives a glamorized vehicle, and appears while the protagonist is on foot.

About the vehicles in "Dr. Masters' Desperate Decision":

Both vehicles have square, boxy, rectilinear fronts.

The construction workers wear identical rounded spherical hard hats (Part II). It is like a team uniform. These too have a phallic quality. The construction workers operate vehicles like cranes and elevators on high-rise sites.

Can Love Last Forever?. John Rosenberger sometimes depicted men's powerful cars: "Can Love Last Forever?" (Girls' Love Stories #144, July 1969) (page 2). The car has the big boxy front that Rosenberger prefers.

That car is contrasted with a rival's canoe. The canoe sounds less impressive at first than a car, but the rival is also given a phallic oar that suggests he has plenty of appeal.

The macho man with a powerful car and his rival with a canoe in "Can Love Last Forever?", anticipate the motorcyclist and his rival with a sailboat in "Play With Fire".

Just Another Groupie. See also the uniformed cops doing crowd control at a rock concert in "Just Another Groupie" (Young Romance #202, November-December 1974). This tale, like "That Special Man" (Love Stories #152, October - November 1973), focuses on a rock band and the women who date them. In both stories, we see the rock band performing as a group. As in "Play With Fire" this group has high social status.

The police in "Just Another Groupie" are parallel to the rock group: they are a male group with both special clothes and status as a group of Social Authority figures. The police and the rock group are allied, with the police providing crowd control for the rock group. The policemen's super-sharp uniforms show all sorts of careful grooming and styling. The uniforms are in the military tradition, with a white shirt and tie, and peaked cap.

"Just Another Groupie" is a modified version of an earlier tale "Love Is a Game...for Two" (Girls' Romances #145, December 1969). The cover for "Love Is a Game...for Two" shows the rock group, its singer with his guitar, and well-built uniformed police doing crowd control. The traditional police uniforms are designed to convey Authority. They have shoulder epaulettes and high-peaked caps. Art: Mike Sekowsky.

So This Is Love. "So This Is Love" (Dear Lonely Heart #1, March 1951). Heroine Katy Shine keeps getting in the most awkward situations, from which she needs to be rescued by policeman Patrick Murphy. The splash shows Patrick all dressed up in his sharp uniform, holding his nightstick at a jaunty angle.

Wings on My Heart. "Wings on My Heart" (Our Love Story #16, April 1972) has a definitive look at a sharp pilot's uniform on its splash. Art: Mike Sekowsky. The tale was reprinted (My Love #28, May 1974).

Death Flies East. See also the uniformed pilot shown in the illustration for the prose mystery short story "Death Flies East" (American Magazine, July 1934) by Philip Wylie. Both story and illustration are reprinted in the anthology American Murders (1986) edited by Jon L. Breen and Rita A. Breen. Art: Herbert Paus.

Riot Call. "Riot Call" is a short story by George S. Brooks (Woman's Home Companion Magazine, October 1933). The title illustration shows motorcycle cops in excellent dressy gray uniforms. These include shiny gray leather boots, matching leather gauntlets and Sam Browne harness belts. Their gray uniforms and huge police caps are a shade darker than this leather gear. The well-built cops look extraordinarily classy and authoritative in the sharp uniforms. The cops pilot specially shielded red motorcycles. Art: Herbert Paus. Reprinted at American Art Archives. Oddly, while a police cap is drawn above the story's title, it differs in both shape and color scheme from the uniform caps worn by the officers in the illustrations. Brooks wrote a pacifist play Spread Eagle (1927) and many short stories, but is not well-known today.

Justice Traps the Guilty. Jack Kirby's cover for the first issue of the comic book "Justice Traps the Guilty" (Volume 2, No. 1, October-November 1947) shows three identically uniformed cops. They are handsome men in sharp uniforms.

Pop Singers

JC Chasez. JC Chasez of 'N SYNC has been photographed in spectacular outfits, often associated with riders, drivers or pilots: Justin Bieber. The later pop singer Justin Bieber wore a one-piece black jumpsuit for his 2012 Believe concerts in Las Vegas. It is shaped like a pilot's uniform jumpsuit. The suit is made out of shiny black fabric with a leather look. But the fabric also has the ability to stretch as the singer moves, in a way that leather usually does not. Key features are gold metal: Both Bieber's and Chasez' black pilot uniforms have large patch pockets on the left sleeve. These pockets both have a large gold zipper on the left hand edge of the pocket. Both pockets seem to be modeled on the US Air Force MA-1 and MA-2 jet-pilot jackets.

Cool As Ice. Rapper Vanilla Ice wore an orange jacket in the film Cool As Ice (1991) that also has features of such jet-pilot jackets. It too has a pocket of the left hand sleeve, with a black zipper up its left-hand side. Angled snap pockets are in front, and the front zipper has diagonal quitting: all features of such Air Force jackets. Air Force MA-1 jackets have narrow, tight cloth cuffs and waist. So does the orange jacket. But its cuffs and waist are black-and-white striped, like a school athletic award jacket. It's an unusual mix.

Vanilla Ice wore the jacket while riding his motorcycle, keeping the rider/pilot tradition of such uniform jackets.

Taylor Lautner. Taylor Lautner wore a black leather version of such pilot jackets, on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (#1078, December 4, 2009). It has the zippered pocket on the left sleeve. The jacket's many zippers look both silver in their handles and dark, nearly black in the actual zippers. This makes the handles conspicuous and shiny, while the zippers look ominous and intimidating.

The leather is heavy, tough, black and shiny. It has many folds, looking like a jacket that has been worn on the job. The elbows and forearms look especially heavy. They might be made of a subtly different kind of leather than the rest of the jacket. The jacket keeps to pilot tradition by having tight cloth cuffs: black, in keeping with the all-black look of the jacket. Lautner wears it with a black tee shirt and jeans.

Also uniform-like was a black leather jacket Lautner wore to the Scream Awards. The jacket has four precisely positioned patch pockets, each fastened with a large silver snap. Additional rectangular regions are outlined at the waist, and above the left-hand patch pocket. More silver snaps are on the erect collar and large cuffs. The jacket front is opened by a matching silver zipper.

Josh Lucas. Actor Josh Lucas wore a gleaming black leather jacket, with black zippers and a belted collar (2013). The all-black look is striking. Even the buckle of the collar belt looks like dark metal. So does the metal snap at the waist. All this black metal makes the jacket seem like industrial machinery. So does the smooth, heavy leather. The Calvin Klein jacket looks heavy, dressy, and just a bit intimidating.

Josh Lucas wore white naval uniforms as a pilot in Stealth (2005).


Leather Jackets

Leather jackets became popular in Hollywood films in the 1940's: They are largely worn by tough working class good guys on the edge of the law, like Boston Blackie in One Mysterious Night. There are hints in most of these films that there is something exciting and not quite respectable about men wearing such jackets - which probably made them more popular than ever in real life. Blackie is a reformed crook, the heroes of Railroaded! and 99 River Street are innocent but tough working men falsely accused of crimes, the hero of The Street With No Name is a government agent going undercover as a crook in a gang, etc. They are worn by high-powered criminals in the Raoul Walsh films.

Leather jackets are also sometimes seen as clothes for young men, something they can wear instead of a suit. Suits were more required for fully adult men. In such early films as Young People (1940) and Star Dust (1940) the jackets are young men's wear. Gwen Wakeling designed the costumes for both films.

Both before and during this period, leather jackets worn by cab drivers, pilots, fisherman, etc., as part of their profession. These are not usually listed above, although such crime films as Illegal Entry with pilot Howard Duff and 99 River Street with cab driver John Payne are included. So are Death in Small Doses with truck driver Chuck Connors, and the telephone linemen in The Scarface Mob.

Leather clothes show up in historical dramas in this era: the noble-but-tough doctor in Dragonwyck (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1946) wears a long leather coat and boots. Tyrone Power wears leather coats in The Razor's Edge (Edmund Goulding, 1946), both as a coal miner and as a disciple in an Indian ashram.

The police of various cities wear leather jackets in:

They are followed by the black leather jackets of LAPD cops in: Jeffrey Hunter's firefighter wears a leather jacket over his US Forest Service uniform in Red Skies of Montana (Joseph M. Newman, 1952), and rides a motorcycle.

The motorcyclists in It Always Rains on Sunday (Robert Hamer, 1947) and They Caught the Ferry (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1948) wears leather coats. Villainous-but-glamorous bikers wear leather in Thérèse Raquin (Marcel Carné, 1953) and The Wild One (Laslo Benedek, 1953), a film which cemented a sexy bad boy image for men in leather jackets.

A villainous hot-rodder wears a shiny black leather jacket in Hot Rod Girl (Leslie H. Martinson, 1956). This is from costume designer Tommy Thompson, who also did the young hoodlum in Step Child (Budd Boetticher, 1954), an episode of Public Defender.

Heroes of some early science fiction films wear pilot's dark leather jackets: Hugh O'Brian in Rocketship X-M (Kurt Neumann, 1950), Robert Clarke in The Man from Planet X (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1951).

Early, pre-1935 movies had a number of characters in black leather clothes. See this discussion in my article on Fritz Lang.


Red Leather

Comic Book Adaptations. Red leather costumes have been popular among comic book hero adaptations: Off screen, Ben Affleck has been spotted on weekends wearing a sharp red leather jacket.

Torque. Red leather motorcycle suits were worn by two of the stars Martin Henderson and Will Yun Lee in the biker film Torque (2004). The costumes were designed by Elisabetta Beraldo.

The Romantics. Red leather versions of dressy business suits were worn by the pop group The Romantics on the cover of their debut album (1980). One can imagine an alternate universe where such suits were worn by top business executives. The group wore them with differently colored but similarly shaped shirts and ties. This gives them a precise, uniformed look. The suits, shirts and ties also echo the way 1960's rock groups would appear in matching business suits.

The Romantics wore identical shiny black boots. The boots are smooth, curved and gleam like dress shoes.

The team sported elaborately, precisely coifed hair, like Art Saaf's comic book rock stars.


Sportscasters: The 1990's

CNN. In the 1990's sports uniforms were sharper than ever, and both sportscasters and coaches still wore classy suits. CNN Sports Tonight announcers always wear the best looking suits. Vince Cellini has a well tailored light gray suit. This suit is mixed in with some iridescent silver fabric: the suit glows. Vince Cellini's co-host Van Earl Wright is also very well dressed. Graphics for the show associated the two with sleek, shiny black plastic phones.

Another young announcer, Barry LeBrock, wears what looks like the ultimate executive suit. It is dark gray, pinstriped, peak lapeled, and with a vest. He looks like a top executive in it. But the suit has a special property. It is made out of some smooth, shiny, reflective material I have never seen. The whole suit looks like a dark, shiny mirror. It is very avant-garde. Of course, it is the perfect dark gray of the power-suited business man, and perfectly tailored, as well. It is a unique combination of the high tech and the power look. Most unusual.

Mark Mullen of ABC News has a similar suit. Of course it is dark gray, and perfectly tailored for the ultimate executive look. But it is shiny as well.

ESPN. ESPN has done several things with its sportscasters' clothes to make them blend in. Of course, it always wants its sportscasters to be better dressed than anyone they are interviewing. On sports Up Close, they have a small circular table for interviews, mainly of star athletes. The seat of the sportscaster's chair is around a foot higher than the interviewee's. The interviewee has to look up at the sportscaster, who always looks taller and bigger than the player, and who is always better dressed, in a sharper suit.

The chairs are high and elevated off the floor, giving no one a chance to adjust their position. Sitting in them can look a bit precarious. There is something a bit sexy about this. Throughout his career pop star Justin Timberlake has been photographed sitting on what look like flimsy chairs that are unable to support anyone's weight.

ESPN has several other gimmicks, as well. During the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike, the negotiations were covered by a slightly older reporter. This tall reporter looked like the image of the distinguishedly handsome business executive. He was always dressed in executive style business suits. No matter who he was interviewing, whether a team owner or a lawyer, he was always taller and better dressed. He looked wealthier and more powerful. He looked like a senior executive to whom they were reporting on their work. The way this sportscaster always seemed to be evaluating their work during his commentary completed the illusion. It was a clever visual conceit, and made more convincing by the sportscaster's body language. He did not assume the interrogative stance of the traditional newsman, eager to get a comment from his important interviewee. Instead he stood bolt upright, like an executive getting a business report from a subordinate. He seemed completely calm, as well.

Sharp business suits are not ESPN's only tool, in this era of dressing down. During car races the drivers are in racing suits and the spectators are all casual. A business suit might not fit in. ESPN's solution? Dress its announcer in a sharp racing suit, just like the drivers. His cool looking racing suit is blazoned with ESPN logos. The sportscaster is now dressed in the same sort of uniform as the drivers he is interviewing.

Another ESPN gimmick: dress an on-the-field interviewer during a baseball game in a leather bomber jacket. This bomber jacket is very antique looking, militaristic and WW II in style. The ESPN logo is added as a circular, military style patch on the front of the jacket. It is a real macho fantasy.

ESPN's SportsCenter has the best computer graphics on television, during its opening credits, and its Did You Know segments. They are both dynamic, and visually complex.

SportsFigures. SportsFigures is a TV series on the cable TV channel ESPN2. In each episode, athletes illustrate math and physics concepts by sports examples. These sure are vivid demonstrations! The series is designed for middle and high school students. There is no fiction here - these are straightforward little essays on their topics. It makes a companion piece to the PBS series Mathnet, which worked math concepts into fictional detective stories.

The hosts of SportsFigures often wore team uniform gear, that echoed the uniforms of the professional sports figures they were interviewing.


Yellow Sweaters and White Shirts

A yellow sweater and white dress shirt look classy together. This combination has often symbolized rich, patrician, clean cut young men.

Comic books:

Hollywood stars:

Purple-and-Yellow Costumes

Purple-and-Yellow clothes and costumes are striking. Purple and yellow are complementary colors. However, one suspects that Purple-and-Yellow are much less frequent as a color scheme than other complementary color pairs like Red-Green or Blue-Orange. In real life, Purple-and-Yellow are seen in sports uniforms, and little else. In the arts, Purple-and-Yellow was heavily used by Superman Family comic books in the 1950's and 1960's, for super-hero costumes.

Comic book heroes in Purple-and-Yellow costumes:

Some Superman tales feature vivid purple-and-yellow super-hero costumes. Almost all of these are based on covers by Curt Swan: So do some Superboy tales. All of these are based on covers by Curt Swan: Lois Lane tales: Jimmy Olsen tales. All of these are based on covers by Curt Swan: Some of these purple-and-yellow costumes also involve touches of green: "Superman's New Uniform", "The Ghost of Jor-El", "The Raid from the Phantom Zone", Dev-em in "The War of the Superboys", "Revenge of the Knave from Krypton" and "The Twilight World of No Return". Some have touches of red: "The Battle Between Super-Lois and Super-Lana", "The Mystery of Mighty Boy", "The Outlaw Fort Knox", "The Dragon Delinquent".

In film:

Comic book heroes in Purple costumes, without Yellow: Purple clothes for heroes in DC romance comic books: Stage actors in purple: Boxers and Wrestlers: In the 1970's swimwear maker Jantzen issued men's swimwear that looked like boxing trunks. Some were bright gold, or other colors. They also had purple trunks with contrasting red-orange trim, a vivid combination. They sold a matching jacket which was mainly a shiny, metallic purple, with trim in both red-orange and yellow. The jackets have a definite "uniform" look, and an "official" feel. What newspapers said: These ads are part of a newspaper culture of the era. Compare newspaper ads for the men's clothing store Hughes & Hatcher: Actors posed in magazine shoots dressed as boxers: Purple, yellow and white are the colors of the Minneapolis Vikings football team. Purple with white trim are the official colors of Northwestern University in Illinois, USA.

Trench Coats

Trench coats are sometimes worn by comic book heroes. I've included various fancy raincoats too, which strictly speaking might not actually be trench coats.

Steve Malone, District Attorney

Detective Comics

Aquaman

Adventure

The Black Canary

Flash Comics

DC Special King Faraday

Danger Trail

Showcase Mystery in Space

Mystery in Space

Strange Adventures

Strange Adventures

J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars

Detective Comics

Superboy

Adventure Comics

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Big Town

Big Town

Adam Strange

Mystery in Space

Romance Comics

Young Love Girls' Love Stories Heart Throbs Girls' Romances

Lace-Up Shirts

Lace-up clothes became big in the Mod era. They were regularly featured by artist Art Saaf.

A few comic book heroes wear lace-up shirts or coverings. This started in the Golden Age:

Superman's father Jor-El wears shirts with what might or might not be a lace-up collar in artist Wayne Boring's "Superman's Return to Krypton" (Superman #141, November 1960).

Such costumes earlier appeared in multiple media:

Mod clothes featuring lace-up are some of the most creative designs in romance comics of the early 1970's. These are often linked to rock music. Ancestors of their treatment of rock are Jimmy Olsen tales about Music. Romance comic book heroes wearing lace-up shirts include:

Pop Singers

Real-life pop singer Ricky Martin wears lace-up leather pants, both on-stage, and also off-stage as part of a black leather suit. The eyelets through which the laces thread are heavy and reinforced with metal. The eyelets and the shiny black leather of the pants are designed to remind one of the lacings of a shoe or boot. The heavy grade of leather seems chosen to resemble shoe leather, in fact. The shiny metal eyelets are designed to be the most conspicuous feature of the pants.

Actor-singer David Hasselhoff has been photographed singing in a white shirt, a black leather coat and matching black leather lace-up pants. There are no less than eight pairs of eyelets stacked up on the fly, showing Hasselhoff's usual exuberance. Hasselhoff knows how to mime anger, including clenched fists and spreading his legs. The spread legs merely call more attention to the fly. Even when just singing, Hasselhoff strikes poses with his legs thrust far apart.

The white shirt looks dignified, a plain, conventional men's dress shirt. The thin white shirt becomes transparent when sopping wet. It also starts to look skimpy.

Singer Don Phillips also wore black leather trousers with a lace-up fly.

Actor Matt Schulze wears black leather trousers with a lace-up fly, as a biker in the motorcycle film Torque (Joseph Kahn, 2004).

Rock singer Jeff Timmons wore a tie-dye shirt with a lace-up collar. The threads of the laces were tiny, almost wire-like, and very numerous. The lace-up collar looks like a piece of electrical machinery. The tie-dye shirt itself is full of gray lines and crosses that look like phallic symbols. One suspects a professional artist has carefully painted them by hand. They also have a dynamic quality, like airplanes or birds in flight.

Neurologist-author Oliver Sacks was a biker in his youth. A photo shows him in a heavy black leather motorcycle shirt, with a lace-up collar. The shirt is in many ways more like a motorcycle jacket, with a zippered pocket and metal snaps.

Jesús Vázquez in Interviú magazine, June 28, 2010. Spanish TV presenter and pop-singer Vázquez is dressed as a boxer for the photo shoot, wearing tall black-and-white lace-up shoes. These match his shiny black boxing trunks. Vázquez looks as if he is enjoying dressing up as something he is not. The make-up man has provided Vázquez with a phony-but-macho black eye.

As a pop singer Vázquez appeared in gleaming black leather pants, with either a white or red shirt. As a boxer he uses a similar color scheme: shiny black trunks, with white trim and red boxing gloves. Singer Vázquez also wore metal-and-black-leather belts and wristbands, something that has an analogue in the white writing on the waist of his boxing trunks and red gloves.

'N SYNC appeared in boxing gear for a magazine layout. They too wore tall black-and-white lace-up boxing shoes. These are apparently Adidas, with three white stripes on a black background. Their unusual, highly shiny long trunks have black-and-white panels on the sides, with the three stripes, and color panels on the front and rear. There is then a highly aggressive shiny black panel at the front center. It's designed to call attention to itself, whether the wearer is standing up or sitting down. The various panels and stripes have a rhythmic effect. The group wore huge brightly colored red or yellow over-size boxing gloves. The gloves are wedge shape, and dramatically expand towards the contact edge.

A boxer is on the cover illustration of the 1977 paperback of Edward Hoagland's novel The Circle Home. The blond-haired boxer is in shiny pinkish-red trunks with white trim, and is looking at himself in a mirror. There is much to be pleased about, with his perfect build, handsome face and curly hair. He wears black leather boxing shoes with white laces. The laces are not as elaborate as on some boxing shoes, but are still lace-up.

A Newport ad in GQ (February 1992) (inside back cover) shows a man in elaborately laced ice skates. The skates are red and black, with white laces. He wears one of the colorful sweaters big in that era, in a vibrant red-and-blue, and wears bulky, shiny gloves in the same pair of colors.

Film and Television

Joseph H. Lewis made four Westerns with singing cowboy Bob Baker. Baker wears lace-up cowboy shirts. So does actor John Dall when he dons Western gear in Lewis' thriller Gun Crazy (1950).

Western film star Lash LaRue wore a cowboy shirt with a lace-up collar, as part of his all-black outfit. Photos of him were regularly on the cover of his comic book Lash LaRue Western.

Lace-up clothes were featured on the private eye TV series Honey West. All of these reflect the show's costume chief Robert B. Harris:

Burt Reynolds' football uniform has lace-up shoulder pads and fly in The Longest Yard (1974).

Soap opera star David Fumero wore a white shirt with an elaborate, five-crossings lace-up collar.

Colton Haynes stars as comic book hero Roy Harper on the TV series Arrow. His red leather costume features elaborate lace-up along the sleeves, and in two front panels that rise up to his shoulders. His costume also features elaborate straps and buckles. See also the section of this article on Red Leather.

Related Comic Book Tales

While they don't involve lace-up clothes, some romance comic stories are related to the above rock music tales.

Make Love To Me. An anonymous young man is deep in kissing a woman in Italy, in Art Saaf's "Make Love To Me" (Girls' Love Stories #177, April - May 1973) (page 2). His green, big collared Mod shirt and striped pants make him a dry run for the hero of "That Special Man" (1973). Like the hero of that tale, he is very well built. Saaf's rock star hero in "That Special Man" and his rock singer on the cover of "The Bet" are in aggressively striped pants while performing. Both hold guitars.

Death of a City. "Death of a City" (Supergirl #2, January 1973) Writer: Cary Bates. Art: Art Saaf. We get a close-up of a man's shirt (bottom panels on page 6). The material seems to flow and billow over his body; we see the folds over the musculature. We also see where minute quantities of the material stand out at his waist, before being tucked into the striped trousers. All of these are common features of Saaf's work - see the rock star's billowing shirt in "That Special Man" (1973), and the way the fabric seems to slightly billow out before being tucked into the singer's striped trousers (page 2, first panel). There is always a strong contrast between the billowing, silky shirt material and the tight trousers. The drummer in "That Special Man" (page 2) also wears a billowing shirt.

The illustration (p 10) of the scientist hero holding the bottle of Kandor, smiling, recalls a similar laughing portrait of the hero (p8) in "Hard to Handle". The handsome scientist's all-white clothes also anticipate the hero of "Hard to Handle".

The Flag Uniform. Nick Cardy's cover of Girls' Romances #144 (October 1969) shows a man dancing in a Mod uniform based on the US flag. He wears a short waist-length blue jacket with white stars, and aggressively white-and-red striped bell-bottoms. The jacket is close-fitting and the bell-bottoms are skintight. Both being uniformed and on an elevated platform makes him dominant over a much squarer rival standing below.

He wears a big black leather belt buckled in front and high-heeled black leather boots also with a buckle. Jimmy Olsen had also worn high-heeled pointed-toe boots while dressed as a rock singer in "Bizarro-Jimmy, Rock-'n'-Roll Star" (Jimmy Olsen #87, September 1965), with art by John Forte. Buckled boots are also worn by other romance comic cover heroes: the rock star guitarist in "Operation Star" and the motorcyclist in "Play With Fire".

Flag-based stage uniforms were worn by rapper Vanilla Ice in his performances. Singer JC Chasez of 'N SYNC wore a US Flag shirt, sitting on a motorcycle for a cover of Teen People (November 2001).

A Mod Cover. A cover (Falling in Love #123, May 1971) shows a man in a Mod shirt kissing a woman. Art: Jay Scott Pike. We see the man from the side, and don't see much of his collar, or how it is fastened. But we do see the puffy Mod sleeves. The sleeves narrow down to tight, much-buttoned cuffs in the Mod manner: four buttons in this case. The puffy sleeves show off his huge arm muscles. It might have influenced later romance tales:

A phallic design is on a boulder. Pike's signature is right below this, and aligned with the design.

A line of dialogue suggests this guy is a Bad Boy But highly sexually desirable and effective in his kissing. This too anticipates "That Special Man".

Another Mod Cover. Ric Estrada's cover for Girls' Romances #152 (October 1970) shows a man in a Mod shirt and striped bell-bottomed pants. His outfit anticipates the one in "That Special Man". Like it, the hero has a puffy sleeved shirt, tight cuffs, and a shirt that does not quite fully tuck into the tight belted, striped pants. Both outfits are green.

Men in White

Miss Peeping Tom. "Miss Peeping Tom" (Young Romance #193, April - May 1973), drawn by Art Saaf, offers some variations on the rock star tale paradigm: As usual in Saaf, the men's clothes suggest that they are comfortable in social institutions and roles, here the life of athletes. As is often the case in Saaf, the men seem to own the turf. Things take place in locales in which they are in charge.

The faculty advisor in "Miss Peeping Tom" is really cool. He wears sharp, authoritative suits. They are both Mod and dressy, in the Art Saaf tradition. One is pinstriped, the other solid gray. Both approaches indicate authority figures. One can tell he is dressing this way deliberately, to look like an authority figure. After all, that is his job at school.

The faculty advisor's hair is elaborately coifed with the sort of military precision found in other Saaf males, such as the mesmerized young men at the rock concerts in "That Special Man" and "The Bet". All of these guys look as if they are operating under some sort of discipline - whether self-imposed or imposed by others is unclear. The advisor also makes the most of his hierarchical relation with his principal. He calls the principal "sir" and implies he's operating under a military-style Chain of Command. The advisor is clearly much more interested in this than the principal, who barely notices or takes part.

The way the three athletes are Captains of their teams suggests a world full of hierarchies.

Hoaxes in fiction often benefit from hierarchical chains of command. See my discussion.

Hard to Handle. "Hard to Handle" (Love Stories #150, June - July 1973) is also drawn by Art Saaf. It recalls the slightly earlier "Miss Peeping Tom": a muscle-man hero in a plain white tee shirt; a hero who runs a boat; a society with men organized into chains of command; a happy ending.

"Hard to Handle" seems inspired by J. M. Barrie's play The Admirable Crichton (1902), and even more by a musical film loosely inspired by Crichton, We're Not Dressing (1934). Both "Hard to Handle" and We're Not Dressing have similar revelations about the hero's profession. Both contain a plot twist in which the heroine discovers something on a remote part of the island. The discovery in "Hard to Handle" is more interesting, and contains more punch. Its impact is extended by a final revelation in the story.

Hero Kent Paris is in all white, both tee shirt and pants. This sounds plain. Actually Kent Paris is one of Saaf's most handsome leading men.

Firebird. White tee shirts sometimes appeared in glamorous ads: see the November 1968 print ad for the 1969 Pontiac Firebird 400, featuring a muscular young man in a white tee and his spectacular silver car. The man's casual-looking tee is just the right size to show off his huge chest, arms and neck. The white round motorcycle helmet he carries echoes the white curving muscles under his white tee shirt. The helmet has a large black visor, and suggests a motorcycle cop's helmet. The precise way the hero is carrying the helmet, tucked under his arm, also suggests a police official. Both the helmet and his stance subtly suggests he is uniformed. The helmet is phallic looking. So are his car and his motorcycle. The ad is entitled "The Graduate." Its hero does look as if he is graduating from college, and achieving manhood.

Both men's white tees are linked to roles: Kent Paris is a sailor, the Graduate is a biker. Both men benefit from the macho mystique of these roles. But neither wants to be permanently categorized by them either, as their tales make clear. The Graduate's big black motorcycle is now marked "For Sale".

The ad copy refers to both of the ad's main subjects:

Another good ad for Pontiac (February 1969) is perhaps by the same photographer and gung ho writer. It also has similar text formatting. It's cleverly titled "We'd like to put in a good word for hoods." It sounds like it's praising hoodlums. But then one realizes it's talking about car hoods. The ad keeps up both meanings.

It shows five serious, well-dressed men in dark clothes and lots of attitude standing behind a bright red Firebird. The handsome man in front in the slick suit is staring challengingly at the viewer. So are many of the good-looking members of his team. The man in the photo is delightfully ambiguous. Maybe he is the leader of a slick group of hoodlums, maybe from Las Vegas. Or maybe he and his buddies are just a group of successful young businessmen. Like the Graduate, who's a well-built biker, these guys have more of a dark side than typical men in ads.

The ad-copy continues to praise hoods: "Why not? We've got the toughest looking in the business. Take that sweep of metal on the '69 Pontiac Grand Prix. You won't find a longer stretch from Sing Sing to Alcatraz." And ends: "Obviously, this is no year to go around bad-mouthing Pontiac's hoods."

Camaro. Ads for the Camaro resembled those for the Firebird. The two best ads show a bright red Camaro, like the red Firebird in "We'd like to put in a good word for hoods." These two ads are "New Camaro. Feb. 26th." (late February 1970) and "New Camaro. One look says a lot. One drive says it all." (April 1970). Both ads feature the same hunky guy. He's well-muscled, like the star of the Firebird ad "The Graduate". He's a bit more respectably dressed though, in sweaters. His black sweater in the second ad is edgier. It is all black, except for the erect yellow collar that encircles his huge neck.

"New Camaro. Feb. 26th." is sometimes made part of a two-page spread. It appears on the right page, while the left page shows a man with a blue Camaro. He's wearing a white shirt with big patch pockets, over a bulky white sweater. The shirt has uniform qualities.

Corvette. The enthusiastic car-talk in the Firebird ads recalls earlier ads for other cars. These ads all have a large beautiful photo, showing a handsome man with a car; a title phrase with a period at the end; enthusiastic prose full of car talk; and a punchy final statement with some sort of clever phrase and often a parody on an intellectual reference.

The 1969 Corvette Stingray ad "The car that talks back." ran in The New Yorker (May 4, 1968). It reads: "Corvette tells you what's happening under the hood - an instrument panel crammed with gauges keeps you informed: water temperature, oil pressure, ammeter, tachometer, rally clock, brake system warning light, even a fiber-optic monitoring system for the running lights. The rest of the message you get from your fingers on the wheel and the seat of your pants. It's a meaningful man-machine relationship." The handsome man in the sweater looks keen. Like the other men in the ads, he is at once wholesome and aggressive. The car's silver metal side mirror stands up in front of him like a phallic symbol.

The 1969 Corvette Stingray ad "Perpetual emotion machine." ran in Sports Illustrated (June 10, 1968) and The New Yorker three days later. The ad read: "Fair warning: Something about this one will get you all unglued. Maybe the slippery shape. Or maybe all that energy under the hood. Or the road-ready combination of independent suspension and disc brakes at all four corners. Whatever it is, the '68 Vette has got to be one of the most desirable cars ever built. So desirable, in fact, that you can order an exclusive new anti-theft warning system for it. Now, if anyone opens a door or the hood, he triggers a blurting, blaring horn. You might call it a piece of resistance for a pièce de résistance."

Photo: Mickey McGuire and Jimmy Northmore of Boulevard Photographic, Inc. McGuire and Northmore of Detroit's Boulevard Photographic studio provided car photography for many years. The photo was included in a Detroit Institute of Arts exhibit, and in its accompanying book The Car and the Camera: The Detroit School of Automotive Photography (1996) by David Lanier Lewis, Bill Rauhauser, Alan Phipps Darr, Tracey Albainy.

Waiting For Someone to Love Me. "Waiting For Someone to Love Me" (Falling in Love #116, July 1970). Art: Art Saaf. A nurse falls in love with an arrogant playboy who is one of her patients. The blond hero resembles the later blond muscle-man of "Hard to Handle".

White Medical Uniforms

The Adventures of Young Dr. Masters. The Adventures of Young Dr. Masters (1964) is a short-lived, two-issue comic book from Archie Adventure Comics, about Dr. David Masters. Dr. Masters is a physician, not a rock star. But his activities have some broad links to the rock singers: Other heroes are encased in similar elaborately buttoned white uniforms:

Stripes

Stripes and pinstripes often appeared in men's clothes in the romance comic books, around 1970. Here is a list:

Falling in Love

Young Romance Girls' Love Stories Heart Throbs Secret Hearts Love Stories Girls' Romances Supergirl Young Love Our Love Story

Athletes in Stripes

The college football player on the cover of "The Show Off" (Heart Throbs #145, September 1972) has small sections of orange-and-white stripes on his sleeves, socks and helmet. This is one of the best football uniforms in the comics.

The man on the cover of Falling in Love #109 (August 1969) is in an aggressively vertically striped bathing suit. So is the man on the cover of Secret Hearts #132 (December 1968). The tough, muscular man on Falling in Love #109 also wears a sleeveless beach jacket that is styled like a motorcycle jacket, with a big collar, slash pockets and zippers. Its gray color suggests a sweatshirt and other athletic practice wear: usually a symbol of jocks in the comics. His clothes seem carefully designed to ooze aggression. One of the young men on the beach in Falling in Love #109 holds a phallic guitar.

The well-built fellow on the cover (Girls' Love Stories #173, September 1972) is in an aggressively striped dress shirt that really shows off his arms and chest. He's got bad news and looks sad. But things can't be too bad, since he's surrounded by large phallic symbols on the dock where he's perched. These include a long tilted board running under his seat. Art: Art Saaf.

More casually dressed is the muscular hero on the cover (Young Romance #192, March 1973). He's got the (very willing) heroine in a clench. His legs are encased in striped trousers. Art: Probably Art Saaf.

Striped Suits

These romance tales were actually before the fashion industry decided that pinstripes were the power look for men, in the mid-1970's. So comic books were a bit ahead of the fashion curve. However, one can see non-comic-book fashion examples of pinstripe suits at an earlier date: the TV-movie A Clear and Present Danger (James Goldstone) had its powerful lawyer hero in pinstripe suits. It was broadcast March 21, 1970. This was around the same time that striped suits became big in romance comic books.

Both the hero of "One Kiss Too Many" and his friends are in a series of Mod double-breasted suits. They are always dressed up to the max. The suits are totally hip and mod. The hero later gets into a spectacular white tuxedo. Earlier, he had appeared in both a white suit, and in navy blue pinstripes. All of these outfits are extremely spiffy.

The faculty advisor in "Miss Peeping Tom" is really cool. He wears sharp, authoritative suits. They are both Mod and dressy, in the Art Saaf tradition. One is pinstriped, the other solid gray. Both approaches indicate authority figures. The pinstripe suit has such flamboyant Mod features as huge peaked lapels and large side pockets. Somehow these only underscore how dressy the suit is.

The hero of "Lover - or Liar" is shown wearing probably the best suit Art Saaf ever gave to one of his heroes. It's a remarkably sharp double-breasted gray one with numerous thin stripes. The high fashion hero also wears cuff links. The hero combines the monied authority look with the Mod high fashion look in one sensational package. If they ever make a movie about the seventies, one might do worse than use this as a model for the hero's clothes.

The best image in "No Love for Miss Goody Two-Shoes" is on the cover. Art: George Tuska. It shows a businessman making love to a woman at a party. He is dressed in a blue-green suit with stripes running through it. We see him at full length, stretched out over the seated woman, passionately kissing her. He is one of the most dressed-up characters in the romance comics. His clothes mark him out as a big businessman. He looks extremely elegant. He also looks overwhelmingly confident, both socially and sexually.

The cover of Young Love #79 shows a man all dressed up in a striped dark blue suit. He is clearly a businessman, wealthy and successful. He is holding a shiny black phone, which underlines the executive image, as well as giving him a power look. The cover hero looks authoritative. His careful grooming has certain Mod features: large side pockets on his suit, long black pointed sideburns.

The character of the boyfriend in "Too Spoiled for Love" changes between the cover and the story. In both he is wearing a really good blue striped suit, and polished black leather shoes. On the cover (maybe by Bill Draut), he is a smirking Bad Boy who knows how dressed up he is. In the story (art by Ric Estrada), he's a sensitive Good Guy. He looks even more attractive though, with a better build and a killer business power suit. SPOILERS. The plot twist in the story, where he turns out to be working for the heroine's wealthy father, will return in "Hard to Handle" (1973).

The cover of "They Called Me a Boy Chaser" has the heroine happily kissing a man in a good striped blue suit. He's a well-built leading man type, and his suit is perfectly fitted and tailored, showing off his muscular arms and chest. His suit makes him look both dignified and super-charged, as if his muscular body is roaring to go. He also looks very successful and wealthy. The story splash panel has an athlete in an orange and black striped sweater, another in a letter sweater.

The racecar driver of "Match-Maker, Match-Breaker" wears a black striped suit (page 3). He later wears a blue overcoat with a turned-up collar. He looks especially grown-up and mature.

"But He's Not the Boy for Me" features a snobbish young woman who falls for a men's clothing salesman. She's hunting for a rich husband, instead. The salesman's suits are some of the dressiest in comic books of the era. Writer: Stan Lee Art: John Buscema. (Yes, Stan Lee wrote romance comics).

Related Tales

"Poor Paul" (Young Love #100, October 1972) is an inventor. The shirt the hero wears at the beginning is unusual. It is a black shirt, with lots of small yellow dots all over it. Whenever the shirt folds, the colorist has filled it with yellow creases. The effect is of something strange and metallic, that reflects light out of every crease. The collar also seems to reflect bright light at odd angles.

When the hero finally gets a job, he is wearing a suit with a large patch pocket. It is very macho, and suggests that he has now attained some sort of manhood. Such ne'er-do-well heroes who finally get jobs always show up in suits at the end of the tale; it is a romance comics tradition. See "Stray Cat" and "No Wedding for Me" (1972). The heroes of those tales wind up in extremely elegant, double-breasted suits that suggest they are now refined and well to do. By contrast, the hero "Poor Paul" is dressed with macho assertiveness, as if he has finally got his act together.

The husband in "Go To Her, My Darling" is extremely dressy throughout, always wearing clothes that are appropriate for business. This reaches its climax at the end of the tale, when he is in a very sharp double-breasted blue suit. This is one of the dressiest images of any man in the romance comics. The clothes are consistent with Mod fashions, but do not push them to extremes. Instead, the suit emphasizes upper crust elegance.

Bad News (Falling in Love #143, October-November 1973). Susan can't decide between her goody two shoes boyfriend and the slightly slimy hipster who pursues her.

This story is full of comedy. It takes clichés of the romance comic and exaggerates them to the point of parody. Bob, her All-American clean cut boy friend, never seems to make a pass at her. Bob is always dressed in traditional clothes, including a tie and blazer when on a date. The pathetic Ralph, on the other hand, dresses like he is the ultimate Mod menace to women. Unfortunately, Ralph is ugly, his clothes are tacky, and his bad boy repertory is limited to trying to kiss the heroine at the end of their dates. He is supposed to be the slimy Other Man, but the reader actually feels sorry for him. He is in there, trying to be a major league romantic menace, but life has not dealt him a very good hand. Bob is very handsome, on the other hand, but he doesn't do anything with it. He's like a block of wood. The romance starved heroine is caught in the middle of this. She is completely confused, and not at all sure what she wants. The fact that she is a perfectly "nice" woman also makes her problems have an extra comic dimension. All three of the characters are actually extremely good people. Even Ralph just wants to wear Mod suits and kiss the heroine - he seems like a genuinely decent guy behind his villain's mustache. None of the characters has an ounce of meanness.

I have no idea how this story snuck into the romance comics. It seems like a zany spoof of ideas taken seriously elsewhere.


Fashion Magazines

Men's fashion magazines have some outstanding articles and layouts.

The 1986-1992 era is especially good in men's fashion. The dressy clothes actually look good on people: not just the professional male models in magazines, but actual guys in real life.

For a bit more on fashion magazines, see this article's sections on The Wild One, White Tie and Tails, Tuxedos.

GQ

GQ's best issue of the 1980's is "The Power Look", GQ (September 1988). It indicates the subtle way The Wild One and related films influenced business dressing. The title article "The Power Look" shows well-dressed business executives - and these photographs by Walter Chin are the definitive guide to 1980's business style. Many are carrying expensive-looking, gleaming black leather attache cases. In their own executive way, these are as combative and aggressive-looking as the black leather motorcycle jackets of The Wild One. A second article "The Semiotics of Shoes" explores the meaning conveyed by footwear. The table of contents illustration shows a well-shined upscale black leather business shoe, worn by a man astride a motorcycle. It's incongruous but sexy. And makes its point that business shoes can be as aggressive as the boots worn by bikers.

Two chalk-striped suits are especially good: a navy blue (page 385) and a very dark gray (page 387). Both are six-button double-breasted suits with peaked lapels: an archetypal good design for business suits.

"The Power Look" (page 380) should be read together with a one-page introduction "City Style" (page 379). "City Style" also introduces a later article, "GQ Predicts" (page 442), photographed by Lou Salvatori. "GQ Predicts" is a pleasant look at tweed casual wear, and shows its male models clowning around on New York streets. "City Style" features one of the models from "GQ Predicts", James Guidera, similarly photographed on the streets. But he is wearing, not casual tweeds, but a very dressy suit, like those in "The Power Look". It's as if "The Power Look" and "GQ Predicts" were somehow magically fused together. It's an unusual structural approach, to linking three articles. The broad-shouldered Guidera in "City Style" looks exceptionally pleased, as if he knows he is outfitted in something special. "City Style" and "GQ Predicts" are available online, in a version that is clearer than the actual print edition.

The same model James Guidera in "GQ Predicts" is astride a red-orange and silver motorcycle. The cycle's black leather seat is conspicuously phallic. Guidera is encased in a tight-fitting gray tweed suit, a tweed with an attention-attracting surface. Guidera in other shots holds a bicycle or chopsticks, both phallic symbols. Another shot shows Guidera and another model John Pearson riding a bicycle built for two, a shot full of symbolism. Blond John Pearson is on the front seat and dark-haired James Guidera is riding on the rear seat. Much of the symbolism is "baked into" the design of the bicycle: whoever sits on the rear seat looks like the Man in Charge. In this case rear-seated James Guidera is the boss. Guidera also has a bigger smile, a dressier white shirt, shinier black shoes and a leather wrist-watch band. Guidera is gripping a phallic symbol. The bike is shiny silver, like a mirror. The shots as a whole feature vehicles: buses, cars, taxis, big trucks and another bicycle. The vehicles are brightly colored, powerful and very clean looking. One wonders if they were carefully prepared for the photo shoot. Both the vehicles and building signs are mainly in primary colors: red, yellow, blue.

A pair of shots show James Guidera and John Pearson in similar three-piece suits, each with an endless column of six buttons on the vest. Guidera's suit is better, with peaked lapels and matching diagonals on the shoulders. It also looks dressier and more imposing. This continues the hierarchical relationship where James Guidera looks like the boss of John Pearson.

John Pearson returned on a bicycle three years later in a Pierre Cardin ad (M November 1991) (page 77). Here he is the star attraction, in a sweater. He now gets the phallic symbols: the bike, and a tilted champagne bottle on his front basket. A later ad in the same series shows Pearson looking great in a Pierre Cardin tuxedo (M December 1991) (page 57).

Business manuals talked of chains of command, expressed in references to superiors and inferiors in the hierarchical chain. The men's fashion magazine GQ wittily played on such writing, in a brief unsigned piece on business suits "City Style" (GQ, September 1988) (page 379): "There are two cities one must be perfectly suited for these days. In the daytime power city, one must one-up one's colleagues, both superior and inferior, with one's utter suitability to the job at hand. And in the nighttime and weekend style city, one must impress one's maître d' but otherwise run right over the top of one's colleagues with one's social and sartorial superiority. All in the spirit of fun, of course. Increasingly, these two urban playing fields are invading each other's territory. More and more businessmen can wear a tweed suit to the office without setting off the sprinkler system, while that serious double-breasted doesn't look so out of place on the avenue on the weekend or at the new hot club at night." The next page examines business suits that express "The Power Look", as the feature is titled. It continues the business language: "double-breasteds rose from about 5 percent to about 30 percent of the business market in the last few years", calls an executive in a peak-lapel suit a "peak performer". It opens with a limitlessly perverse celebration of hierarchy: "Power to the people was merely one of those quaint ideals of the Sixties, but power to the executive branches is in vogue now more than ever."

See also "The Way They Wore: 1957-1987", GQ (June 1987) (page 192), for a look at a shiny leather executive chair. (The recreation of Kennedy-era Mad Men style suits on the next page is also something to see. The ultra-confident man wearing it looks sexy.) A column in GQ (July 1988), Howard Kaplan's "Confessions of a Headhunter", explores the tricky deep chairs reserved for an executive's visitors.

Todd Eberle in GQ photographed a young man in an excellent corporate suit. Everything is heightened in the suit, beyond normal street wear. It's a rich medium gray, almost a caramel-color. It has really loud pinstripes. Huge peaked lapels, with pinstripes running up them. Big trouser cuffs. He's seated on a pile of newspapers.

"Desk Set" (March 1988) looks at six good double-breasted suits for business, worn by men at fancy desks. Photography: Lothar Schmid. "Business suits in serious shades and traditional cuts". The men occupy black leather and chrome chairs.

"Shift to Neutral" is subtitled "Business Battle Dress in Various Shades of Khaki", GQ (January 1991) (page 82). It looks at good suits in neutral colors: khaki, light blue. The article explicitly avoids the main points of business dress: navy blue or gray, pinstripes. Instead it offers unexpectedly dressy clothes in neutral tones. The suits are in solid colors, without patterns. This emphasizes their shape - the suits look like exercises in pure shape. The models who wear them have friendly, regular guy faces - and perfect builds. The builds and the pure shapes of the suits call attention to each other. Photographed by Walter Chin. Like Chin's earlier "The Power Look", this is aggressive, polished business wear.

Khaki is a traditional color of uniforms. Some of these suits do indeed suggest uniforms, being worn by more than one man:

By contrast, the article ends with a young man duded up the max in a light blue suit in a bookstore (page 91). He's reading, is totally absorbed, and holding the book in front of him at a phallic angle.

By GQ (February 1992), numerous manufacturers were offering superb suits in ads. These were a fashion ideal of the period: double-breasted suits in solid colors, mainly some shade of gray, often richly textured. The suits were terrifically well-shaped. They would be flattering to almost any real-life man, making him look very dressed up. And also cheerful and fun-looking. They were a paradise of fashion. See the ads for: Canali (page 3), Cole Haan (page 4), Pal Zileri (page 13), Lubiam (page 18), Corneliani (page 23), Impressions by Hart Schaffner & Marx (page 41), Fabio Inghirami (page 57), Principe (page 63). There were also ads for the brightly colored sweaters of the era: also flattering to actual real-life men. See: Perry Ellis (page 9), Pronto-Uomo (page 12), Nani Bon (page 40). Also brightly colored: the fashion spread "Prints of Bel-Air" (pages 168-175) photographed by Dewey Nicks. This featured super-loud print shirts for spring.

Barry McKinley. GQ had good spreads in earlier eras. "Thoroughbred Dressing" (GQ September 1981) is photographed by Barry McKinley. It shows men in the countryside, in horsey situations. The men are mainly wearing spectacular riding boots. The tall heavy boots go up to the men's knees. They are not lace-up: the ridding boots' shafts are unbroken expanses of shiny leather. The men wear attractive trousers in rich colors and fabrics. One is in shiny leather pants. Others are in corduroy. The title spread shows the hero dramatically extending his leg straight out as he mounts a horse. He and the other men look as if they are enjoying being sexy looking. I don't know where most men would actually wear clothes like this in real life, but they look fun.

Barry McKinley did a cover of model Michael Holder, GQ (September 1978). It anticipates the Thoroughbred shoot: a young man in country-ish clothes that mix the casual and the aristocratic, brown sports jackets, a sweater or vest, a soft shirt and tie.

Cowboys. A man in cowboy gear is on the cover, GQ (August 1979). He's in an elaborately stitched cowboy hat, a gray suede cowboy shirt with red trim, and carries a fancy gray leather boot. Silver metal is part of the outfit: the ends of the string tie, the tie fastener with a horned bull sculpted on it, his belt buckle, the boot buckle, the spur on the boot. The tie around his throat seems to be made of twisted strands of leather. So does a wrist band on his left wrist. The band has an elaborate, complex fastener. The cover lettering matches his outfit: red lettering picks up the red accents of his shirt, and the yellow lettering is almost a match for his yellow throat scarf. Photo: Albert Watson, of model Bart Turner.

An internal illustration by Albert Watson in the same issue shoes a cowboy in related clothes: another gray suede shirt, light gray jeans, a string tie and gray spurred boots. The gray jeans are especially good looking. He also wears a brown coat, that is less interesting than the rest of his outfit. A second photo shows a cowboy in fancy but clean-cut clothes: a blue cowboy shirt with white trim, and white chaps.

The hero of the film The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981) also wore what looks like a gray suede outfit. It is less colorful than the GQ cover, being a pure light gray. But it has elaborate button fastenings for its front shirt panel. The shirt has some fringe: less than traditional on Western movie buckskins. The matching suede trousers have unusually long belt loops.

The elite space pilots in the short story "The Game of Rat and Dragon" (1955) by Cordwainer Smith wear glamorous brown suede uniforms.

M

M was another magazine that like GQ, focussed on business dressing for men. M never became as proverbial as GQ. But it was often detailed and informative. M had its peak issue a year earlier (August 1987). The article "At "21": Clothes for Serious Business" is the other definitive article on 1980's corporate style. It was mainly filmed at the New York restaurant "21". Photographed by George Chinsee. The opening image, of three men all in subtly different double-breasted navy pinstripe suits and red ties, is a definitive rendering of the "power look". The three look like insiders, and power players in business. They look as if they are collaborating together. But everyone in the article looks as if they would be instantly acceptable in the business world.

The same issue's article on Fall Tweeds is also stylish, if a bit more casual (sports coats and ties). It too is photographed by George Chinsee. One wonders if this pair of articles influenced the later pair in GQ (September 1988): "The Power Look" and "GQ Predicts". Both magazines have a main article about high-powered business suits, followed by a look at tweed sport coats for more casual events.

The men in both articles look wholesome, cheerful and well-dressed in their sport coats. But: I personally rarely recall adult American men in sport coats, in real life. If real-life men want or need to get dressed up, they simply wear suits.

The men in "At "21": Clothes for Serious Business" are engaged in a clear context: attending business meetings at 21. But it is unclear what the men in "Fall Tweeds" are doing. They are in an abstract context, or lack of context. They do seem patrician and upscale. The article is shot at Teddy Roosevelt's mansion Sagamore Hill, now a public museum. Are these men the wealthy young heirs of Old Money, hanging around the family estate? Or are these nice middle class visitors from Manhattan, showing the proper attire to visit a museum? Or does the mansion simply symbolize refinement - something these young men have in abundance?

The first man photoed is remarkably sharp, looking like a social ideal (page 123). He is engulfed in an endless series of layered clothing. He reminds one of the similarly layered dancer in the comic book tale "That Special Man" (Love Stories #152, October - November 1973). Both men look self-absorbed, having a pleasant personal experience that shuts out the rest of the world: the dancer has his eyes closed, the tweed-encased hero in M has his face turned down. Both have something powerful and prestigious above, dominating them: the dancer is standing below rock stars on stage, the M hero is below the imposing decor of the mansion. Still the M hero seems to have wealth and power, in a way the dancer does not.

"The Best Clothes in the Best Stores" (October 1988) is a large scale survey. This includes jazzy double-breasted suits, a bit more avant-garde than the power look. A good photo by Stephen Orlick shows an arrogant upper crust young man in an especially elegant, lustrous dark suit. He's the coach of a pro football team, and two of his dejected players are trailing behind him. Unlike the cutting-edge coach, they look traditionally masculine in their conventional football uniforms: clearly those of the Chicago Bears. They've either been defeated by another team, or chewed out by their coach, or both. The coach's lustrous near-black suit echoes the shiny black jerseys of the football players. The suit's enhanced shoulders echo the padded shoulders of the football uniforms. Avant-garde features include the subtle stripes, the besom pockets and the precisely sculpted shape. The shape looks "thought through": a result of careful planning. An earlier pair of Orlick photos (pages 248, 249) show the same man looking bulgingly muscular in a pair of forcefully polished double-breasted light gray suits. All of the suits in these Orlick photos are six-buttoned double-breasted, with large peaked lapels. This was a fashion ideal in this period.

"The Best Clothes in the Best Stores" is shot in real-life locales, in the various cities the stores are located. These locales are glamorous, and visually interesting in the photographs. Such named, real-life backdrops also appeared in "At "21": Clothes for Serious Business" and its Fall Tweeds sequel. They seem to be an M tradition. They were much less common in GQ.

Art Streiber has a good series, mainly showing men looking good in traditional single-breasted suits. They were filmed at Seattle's "Museum of Flight". The phallic planes, the clean cut "leading man" type models, and the conventional, simple suits convey a "traditional masculinity". Unlike many clothes of this period, these do not convey a business or upper class perspective. They could be men of any social class, dressed up for some occasion.

"The Best Clothes in the Best Stores" (October 1989) is a follow-up to the 1988 piece of the same title, one year later. Unfortunately, many of the clothes are sports wear, and not too interesting. Stephen Orlick has a good portrait of a suited man outdoors in Chicago (page 166), and two of a man in the colorful architecture of Chicago's Auditorium Theater (page 184).

Also nice: "The International Style" (January 1989) (page 86), showing Italian fashion, both high fashion suits and sports wear.

"Bankers' Stripes on the Move" (February 1991) shows real Wall Street traders, engaging in hip activities while wearing dressy pinstripe suits. One is riding a motorcycle. Another wears in-line skates. Their activities are sweet; their clothes are swaggering.

Advertisements. The Christian Dior ad (October 1988) (page 83) features a very good gray pinstripe suit. It is just the right color gray. It is perfectly shaped and fitted. The model looks like British actor Ralph Fiennes, who would have been 25 at the time. He looks intelligent and thoughtful - an image not harmed by his classy suit.

This ad is one of a series in the same magazine. An earlier sportswear ad (pages 74, 75) shows two men messing around. One is up to mischief and has pulled a chair out from under the other. But magically this man is floating in space. There are undertones and subtleties. The fancy chairs match those in the Fiennes suit ad. The chairs run through the whole series of ads, often in surrealistic ways. An ad for a blue velour work-out suit is outstanding (page 85).

The Aquascutum ad (November 1988) (page 79) shows an excellent gray suit. It looks simple: just a solid gray suit. But is also looks utterly dressy. This ad too seems to show Ralph Fiennes. He looks really grownup and adult: definitely not a juvenile. His suits suggest a responsible person with a serious job. And yet someone with a sense of humor.

A Hugo Boss ad photographed by Neil Kirk (November 1991) (page 75) shows men in a traditional barbershop, but dressed to the nines in contemporary suits. The well-dressed hero comes across as incredibly arrogant - which in this context is a plus, not a minus. All four men customers in the barbershop are in sharp gray suits. They are well-dressed in what successful young businessmen wear. There is a sense of brotherhood. And of belonging. They are part of the world of business. The hero's suit is of a kind that would have maximum prestige: double-breasted, solid-toned, peak-lapeled, gray. He also wears really shiny business shoes.

The hero's earth-tones-and-chrome barber chair seems designed to put him on maximum display, from head to toe. It is also loaded with precisely positioned phallic symbols. The phallic arm of the hero's chair is the same gray color tone as his suit. One wonders if it has been color-adjusted for the photo. And if the erect arm's complex silver head has been added in: it doesn't seem to be present in the next chair.

Another Hugo Boss ad photographed by Neil Kirk (M December 1991) (page 65) shows a group of men again. This time they are all wearing tuxedos. The tuxedos seem to be a dressy very dark gray, rather than black. As in the earlier photo, the gray conveys a prestigious image in this period. It suggests business success. The hero's tux has gigantic peaked satin lapels. Peaked lapels were also a prestige feature of business suits. On this tux the lapels are made out of acres of shiny gray satin. Even in their tuxes, these men are conveying a business suit image.

Grey tuxes are cool. Tony Orlando wore a good one on an episode of his TV series in the 1970's. They can look dressy. However these Boss tuxes are not that great, considered purely as clothes. While I often like Hugo Boss ads of the period, their actual suits were far from the best of their era, either.

Other

Soap opera star David Fumero wore a full corporate look for a magazine photo. This included a very dressy dark gray pinstripe suit from Louis of Boston, a white dress shirt and black-and-silver striped tie. This "power look" is remote from his typical jazzy-young-man gear of leather jackets and pants. But he looks very good in it.

White Tie and Tails

Golden Age comic books regularly featured their heroes dressed up in white tie and tails. Often times, they were dancing in night clubs: Later, during the Silver Age, white tie showed up in Lois Lane (1958-1967) and the Flash (1963-1965).

Print magazine illustrations of white tie and tails:

Book covers:

Detectives

Speed Saunders

Detective Comics

Larry Steele, Private Eye

Detective Comics

Slam Bradley

Detective Comics

Cosmo, The Phantom of Disguise

Detective Comics

Steve Malone, District Attorney

Detective Comics

Spy

Detective Comics

Spencer Steel

Jumbo Comics

The King

Flash Comics

Comic Cavalcade The Chameleon

Target Comics

The Firebrand

Police Comics

The Sandman

Adventure Comics

World's Finest Comics Inspector Dayton

Jumbo Comics

Super-Heroes

The Flash - the Golden Age Hero

Flash Comics

Comic Cavalcade The Flash - the Silver Age Hero

The Flash

Dick Cole

Blue Bolt Comics

Starman

Adventure Comics

Dr. Fate

More Fun Comics

The Human Bomb

Police Comics

Green Lantern - the Golden Age Hero

Comic Cavalcade

Green Lantern - the Silver Age Hero

Green Lantern

Superman

Superman

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Lois Lane

Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane

Science Fiction Comics

Stuart Taylor, time traveler

Jumbo Comics

Ghost Gallery

Jumbo Comics

Strange Adventures

Strange Adventures

Romance Comics

A Date With Judy

A Date With Judy

Girl Comics Girls' Love Stories Heart Throbs Young Romance

Variations in Formal Wear

Blue Bolt

Blue Bolt Comics

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

The Flash

The Flash


Tuxedos

Tuxedos seem more popular in the Silver Age of the 1950's, than they do in the Golden Age of the 1930's and 1940's. They are especially prevalent in the Silver Age comic books featuring the Flash and Jimmy Olsen. This is perhaps paradoxical: the Flash and Jimmy are relentlessly middle-class characters, and definitely not part of a moneyed elite.

Print magazine illustrations of tuxedos (which usually appear around the winter Holidays):

Many tuxedos of the 1986-1992 era are styled to look like business suits. The men wearing them look like successful businessmen. The men look very dressed up.

Federal Men

Adventure Comics

Larry Steele, Private Eye

Detective Comics

Spy

Detective Comics

Adventures in the Unknown

All-American Comics

The Spectre

More Fun Comics

Inspector Dayton

Jumbo Comics

The Whip

Flash Comics

Dick Cole

Blue Bolt Comics

The Chameleon

Target Comics

Hawkman - Golden Age hero

Flash Comics

The Fox

Blue Ribbon Comics

Tarantula

Star Spangled Comics

Sub-Zero

Blue Bolt Comics

The Human Bomb

Police Comics

Wildcat

Comic Cavalcade

Batman

Detective Comics

The Green Lama

Green Lama

Sergeant Spook

Blue Bolt Comics

Mr. Risk

Super-Mystery Comics

Green Arrow

Adventure

The Black Canary

Flash Comics

The Brave and the Bold Superboy

Adventure Comics

Roy Raymond, TV Detective

Detective Comics

Big Town

Big Town

Aquaman

More Fun Comics

Adventure Challengers of the Unknown

Showcase

A Date With Judy

A Date With Judy

The Flash

The Flash

Detective Comics Green Lantern - the Silver Age Hero

Green Lantern

The Atom

The Atom

Superman and Supergirl

Action Comics

Superman World's Finest Comics Lois Lane

Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Dr. Fate

Showcase

Science Fiction Comics

Especially good: the tuxedo-clad athlete groups in Strange Sports Stories, such as "Danger on the Martian Links" and "Warrior of the Weightless World". These have art by Carmine Infantino, who frequently drew tuxes in The Flash.

Ghost Gallery

Jumbo Comics

Strange Adventures

Strange Adventures

Strange Sports Stories

The Brave and the Bold

Robotman

Detective Comics

Romance Comics

Some depictions of heroes in formal day wear (cutaway coats) are also included - even though this is a distinctly different kind of apparel than tuxedos. Cutaways are almost always the garb of men at weddings, in the romance comic books. Tuxedos can be for weddings too, but they are most often shown at dances and parties rather than weddings.

Some of the best tuxedo depictions are in the comic book Love Stories, notably "One Kiss Too Many" and "Puppet on a String". The men start out in good suits, then move on to tuxedos for the climax of the tale.

Falling in Love

Girls' Love Stories Heart Throbs Secret Hearts Young Love Young Romance Our Love Story Love Stories Love Confessions

Costume Parties

Comic books sometimes featured costume parties.

Costume parties are highly visual. They are seemingly perfect for the medium of comics.

Inspector Dayton

Jumbo Comics

The Justice Society of America

All-Star Comics

Stuart Taylor, time traveler

Jumbo Comics

Dick Cole

Blue Bolt Comics

Aquaman

Adventure

A Date With Judy

A Date With Judy

Big Town

Big Town

Johnny Thunder

All-Star Western

Strange Adventures

Strange Adventures

Space Ranger

Showcase

Lois Lane

Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Superman

Superman

Action Comics World's Finest Comics The Flash

The Flash

Green Lantern - the Silver Age Hero

Green Lantern

The Atom

The Atom

Romance Comics

Girls' Love Stories Secret Hearts

Related Stories

Green Arrow

More Fun Comics

Air Wave

Detective Comics

The Human Bomb

Police Comics

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Superman and Supergirl

Action Comics

The Atom

The Atom

The Flash

The Flash

Hawkman

Hawkman


Transformation Films

Men who get made over are a long time movie subject: maybe longer than most people realize. Key examples: Like many things in film, male makeovers go back at least to the 1910's: a decade in which many film traditions were founded.

See also the prose novel Powder and Patch (1923) by Georgette Heyer.

Taking Care of Business (Arthur Hiller)

Director Arthur Hiller is a veteran of the Golden Age of television in the 1950's. His theatrical career has mixed serious drama with comedy, often with a satirical edge. While his dramas tend to be rather less than first rate, his comedies have included such artistic successes as Teachers (1984) and Outrageous Fortune (1987).

In Taking Care of Business (1990) he's hit pay dirt again, with a comedy that gets in some sharp jabs at the yuppie lifestyle and the business world.

Taking Care of Business benefits from the presence of John de Lancie. Lancie is always associated with his role as Q in Star Trek. But his performance in Taking Care of Business likely draws on another side of his career. Lancie has an uncanny ability to embody upscale executives, finance whizzes and yuppies. He can really look exceptionally well-dressed. On the TV comedy series Trial and Error he played the hero's formidably Establishment boss. He has a similar role in Taking Care of Business, representing business upper crust.

While this film has "makeover" aspects, it is less purely a makeover-film than are many others. The poor hero does indeed get to borrow one of many lavish business suits shown in a upbeat scene. But his main "success" in the film is not attributed to new clothes, but to the businessman's notebook he finds and uses.

The Boyfriend School / Don't Tell Her It's Me (Malcolm Mowbray)

Don't Tell Her It's Me is also known as The Boyfriend School, which was the title of Sarah Bird's original novel (1989). Bird wrote this film adaptation as well.

This sparkling romantic comedy also fell into critical oblivion, despite a great cast and a very literate script. The characters in this film are far more intellectual than those in many American movies: three are professional writers, and the hero is a highbrow cartoonist. With Shelley Long along as the deus ex machina of the plot, convincing intellectuality reigns supreme, whether she is discoursing on the evolution of the romance novel, or instructing her tiny daughter on the consequences of eating electric cords. Her character is always wonderfully articulate. This sparkling character might be the best role Shelley Long has ever had.

The film benefits from the location filming in Charleston, South Carolina. As filmed by cinematographer Reed Smutley (The Long Hot Summer, Gleaming the Cube), a specialist in glowing, sun-drenched, exterior scenes, Charleston's historic architecture and summertime fertility casts a beautiful glow over the proceedings. Even among today's virtuosic color cameramen, Smutley's work is distinctive. His interiors are not bad either, with their bright lighting and rich colors.

Fixing Pete (Michael Grossman)

Fixing Pete (2011) is a little comedy about a slob sportswriter who gets a fashion do-over from the newspaper's style expert, a glamorous woman. It has plenty of charm.

Both of the actors cast as slob men are playing against type and their previous films roles. Hero Pete is played by Dylan Bruno, best known as the dapper FBI agent in the TV series Numb3rs. He was part of a long tradition of slickly groomed FBI men. See other such characters in the TV series White Collar and Battle Creek. And sidekick Charlie Schlatter was very well-dressed as the young doctor and amateur detective in Diagnosis Murder.

The hero is not only changed in his physical appearance: he is also taught manners. And most importantly, he learns to revise his male chauvinist attitudes towards women.

The hero is treated as a good writer, from the start to end of the film. Writing is seen as an admirable occupation. It gives the hero prestige and value throughout the story, whatever his other faults.

The Makeover (John Gray)

The Makeover (2013) is a modern-day version of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. It has a gender reversal, with the professor being a woman, and the lower class person who gets transformed is a working class man.

The original Professor Higgins was an expert on speech and linguistics. This is still part of the repertoire of the scholar Hannah Higgins in The Makeover. But her expertise has been extended in interesting ways. She is now a specialist in innovative education techniques. She is applying these in schools, on an industrial scale. She is best described as an expert in cognitive science: the study of how people think, perceive and learn. Cognitive science, also known as cognitive psychology, is today a cutting edge discipline. It is interesting to see it embodied in a movie. I only wish these scenes were longer, and took up a greater share of the film. See my list of cognitive science films.

Scientist characters are widespread today on American TV, especially in crime dramas and science fiction shows. The Makeover is an example of a romantic comedy with a scientist in the lead.

Many makeover films show the hero as a tramp, before he appears in regular clothes. The Makeover is different. The hero plays a respectable working class man, with a steady job, a responsible attitude, and a place in society. But he looks terrible in his standard working class get-up. And startlingly better in a good suit and tie. There is an eerie dimension of social commentary. Working class life is depicted as people getting the short end of the stick.