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 | Leather Jackets | Sportscasters | Yellow Sweaters and White Shirts | Purple-and-Yellow Costumes | Lace-Up Shirts | Trench Coats | Stripes | 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

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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 tale 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:

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.

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.

Letters

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

Films

Comics Rock

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. He's also been photographed in:


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.


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 boots.

'N SYNC

98 Degrees 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.

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.

Cool As Ice. Rapper Vanilla Ice wore a black leather motorcycle jacket in the film Cool As Ice (1991), courtesy costume designer Ingrid Ferrin. Its huge epaulettes are outlined in white, and contain the number 1 in white circles. It is also 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.

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.

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.

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 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).

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, collar insignia, and peaked officer's cap. It is drawn by John Rosenberger, and written by Jack Oleck. As in "Play With Fire", the cap has a black vinyl visor, and is full of precisely realized visual detail.

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", 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.

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 flapped pocket towards the base of the Perfecto is moved to the upper chest. On the other side of the upper chest, a metal ring is now embedded in the leather. The Mirage can be seen in a two-page ad in GQ (September 1988) (pages 98, 99). It is modeled by a young man with a guitar, who resembles actor Rob Estes.


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.


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 Mullins 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.

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: 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.

Lace-Up Shirts

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 pulp magazines. Doc Savage wears khaki trousers whose ends are lace-up, tucked into high lace-up boots, on the cover of Doc Savage Magazine (March 1934). See also Doc Savage Magazine (March 1936), where Doc parachutes in a similar outfit. Art for both covers: Walter Baumhofer. The trio of American heroes in the Douglas Fairbanks film The Mollycoddle (Victor Fleming, 1920) wear action gear out West that includes tall, lace-up boots. The comic book hero The Chameleon and his assistant Slim wear them in "The Mysterious Miss De Laise" (Target Comics #11 (Vol. 1 #11), December 1940).

Romance comic book heroes wearing lace-up shirts include:

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 also designed to be the most conspicuous feature of the pants.

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

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 My Love The cover of Love Stories #149 shows many couples making out. In each instance, it is the men who are elaborately dressed, in mod clothes. Their shirts include stripes, targets, spirals, and bubble-like dots of varying sizes. One man is in a fringed buckskin jacket, another in a fringed vest. The powerfully muscular hero wears a brown leather vest, and a shirt with overlapping scales. He has his arms encircling the heroine.

The college football player on the cover of Heart Throbs #145 (September 1972) has small sections of orange-and-white stripes on his sleeves, socks and helmet.

An anonymous young man is deep in kissing a woman in Italy, in Art Saaf's "Make Love To Me" (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.

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 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. One of the young men on the beach in Falling in Love #109 holds a phallic guitar.

Nick Cardy's cover of Girls' Romances #144 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. He also wears a big black leather belt buckled in front and high-heeled boots also with a buckle. Jimmy Olsen had 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.

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. One can tell he is dressing this way deliberately, to look like an authority figure. After all, that is his job at school. 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 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 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. 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. The story splash panel has an athlete in an orange and black striped 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.

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.


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).

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

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.

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

Wildcat

Comic Cavalcade

Batman

Detective Comics

Sergeant Spook

Blue Bolt Comics

Mr. Risk

Super-Mystery Comics

Green Arrow

Adventure

The Black Canary

Flash Comics

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

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 "Warriors 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.

Inspector Dayton

Jumbo 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

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

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Superman & 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.