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 | Long Coats | Uniforms and Vehicles | Leather Jackets in Film | Award Jackets | Red Leather | Gray Leather | Silver | Sportscasters | 1980's Sweaters | Yellow Sweaters and White Shirts | Mannix | Purple-and-Yellow Costumes | Boxing and Uniforms in the Mod Era | Lace-Up Shirts | Mod Clothes in Comics | Flag Uniforms | Men in White | Whites and Tennis Whites | White Lab Uniforms | Car Ads | Stripes | Dots | Mod Clothes | Fashion Magazines | Suits 1900 | BMW Ads

Indexes: White Tie and Tails | Tuxedos | Daytime Formal Wear | Trenchcoats | 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)

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on film directors)

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. Photo. Photo.

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.)

Contemporary artist Kurt Lundqvist paints idealized portraits of athletes. He sometimes uses such 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 number of real life football star Red Grange). The video is 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: Harold Lockwood is a rugged civil engineer in the great outdoors in Mister 44 (Henry Otto, 1916). He gets his nickname from having a 44 inch chest. The film also has a noble Native American guide Eagle Eye (actor Lester Cunio).


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



Vehicles and Racing

Racing: Vehicles: Piers: Police Vehicles: Photos: Avirex aviator jackets:

Badge Numbers

Badge Numbers: Collar Insignia: Locales:



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 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 cover by Dan Zolnerowich (All Sports Comics #v1#2, December 1948-January 1949) shows the blue-uniformed football hero fumbling the ball, while being tackled by the opposing team. He also loses the game. He looks dismayed. So does a teammate watching this. One tackler is a well-built man in a #11 red jersey. The red team is better looking, better built than the losing blue team. The red team member whose face we see has his mouth closed. Two of the blue team have receptive open mouths, including the player who's losing the game. Photo.

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 hero (Anthony Michael Hall) also has 9 on the left sleeve of his varsity jacket, as well as on his sports uniform chest and shoulders. The sidekick has 3 on his jacket. These serve as a constant reminder of the duo's numbers.

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 football 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 publicly televised 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. Photo. The whole thing was very public. ESPN: "A Tony Romo lookalike trotted out onto the field at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for batting practice Tuesday to the laughs, smiles and cheers from the Texas Rangers players." CBS: "Joe Nathan can do a pretty good impersonation of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. The pitcher and New York Giants fan had no choice."

The real Tony Romo has dressed up as his own favorite character Superman, a number of times. He looks exceptionally happy doing so. Superman is indeed a good-guy. Photo. Photo.


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


Well known athletes wear such numbers: Some football teams use such numbers systematically for quarterbacks:

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 shiny 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


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

Romance Comics

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.

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 Randy, she fools around with leather jacketed cyclist Mike Murdock behind his back. Mike Murdock is hardly the menacing-biker though: he's drawn to look cute and non-threatening. His jacket has epaulettes, but few other jazzy features. It is not a Perfecto, unfortunately. Still, he is the only person in the tale with a full name, and the only person with any joie-de-vivre.

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 sleeve is covered with military style patches, including a fist. The fist and the number 2 patch below combine to be conspicuously phallic. There are also insignia of rank on the jacket's sleeve, expressing a Chain of Command.

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 hero wears a tight metal wrist band that matches the rivets. The bulky, heavy leather jacket is somewhere between dark gray and black, echoing the gray pants. The jacket is elaborately belted in front. There are no signs of zippers in the illustration. Photo.

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 Carlos Ramirez 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.

Romance Comics: Art by Don Heck

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 romantically 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 Tom 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. The tight clothes, black leather, and white pants show up in other art by Don Heck. Hero Tom has leading man good looks. He's angry, and is gripping a phallic tree trunk.

Betrayed. The cover of Young Romance #89 (November 1971) shows the hero Allen in tight leather pants. These bell-bottoms are worn with a big black leather belt: common in romance comics of the era. The hero Allen 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) Online 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.


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".

Patrick Cassidy is one of the few Hollywood actors who likes being photographed wearing Perfecto-style motorcycle jackets. He looked even better in a spectacular full length leather coat.

The Twilight Zone episode Black Leather Jackets (Joseph M. Newman, 1964) has three aliens invading Earth, masquerading as bikers. They wear matching Perfecto-style jackets. The jackets also have an identical chest insignia, making them uniforms. Everything has been done to make both the leather and metal parts of the jackets gleam. It is not clear that these are actual Perfectos. They might be a stylish imitation, made by someone else.

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 shiny black leather of the Mirage looks both soft, and strong.

The Mirage can be seen in a two-page ad in GQ (September 1988) (pages 98, 99). It is modeled by a muscular, broad-shouldered young man with well-worn jeans and a phallic guitar. He resembles model James Guidera. Or perhaps actor Rob Estes. The guitar links the upscale jacket to rock music, rather than motorcycles. Photography: Guido Flueck.

Calvin Klein: Three for the Road. "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 and bigger zippers. It also has a big patch pocket on the sleeve, like a pilot's uniform, something the Perfecto always lacked. Photography: Fabrizio Ferri.

Model: Jesse Harris. Jesse Harris specialized in portraying leading man types, macho, classy and authoritative. Often he was in the dressiest of business suits. This gives his appearance in this leather uniform a special kick. Harris is photographed here with iconography associated with rock stars: uniforms, leather, an elevated position, phallic symbols. Throughout the photo shoot Harris is linked to phallic symbols like cars, poles, towers, gas pumps. A second shot (page 114) has him all in black: shirt, trousers, shiny shoes.

Versace. Designer Gianni Versace created a series of related-but-different black leather tops and jeans. Photos were taken by Doug Ordway in South Beach in Florida, circa 1992. These are spectacular. The leather clothes are full of white stitching, that recalls denim jeans and jackets more than leather wear. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo.

Kenneth Cole. Designer Kenneth Cole was featured in People (November 16, 1998) (page 104). Photography: George Lange. He wears what at first looks like a black leather jacket. But actually it is styled like a man's dress shirt. A heavy, oversize leather shirt. It is made of a heavy, shiny leather. The shirt is almost like one of those Pop Art works that feature a large, transformed version of a familiar object. Like a shirt, it has heavy black leather button holes, rather than zippers. The button holes look difficult to fasten or unfasten. The button holes' elaborate stylings call attention to themselves.

Cole wears the shirt with the elaborate, shiny black leather "casual" shoes popular in the 1990's.

Calvin Klein: Josh Lucas. Actor Josh Lucas wore a gleaming black leather jacket, with black zippers and an erect, 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. Two large vertical black zippers on the upper chest, have arrow-shaped tops that make them look even more phallic. 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.

The jacket is designed to make the wearer look wide-shouldered, and with brawny upper arms. This is fairly common in contemporary jackets. But it still makes the wearer look imposing.

Lucas wore the jacket with tight jeans. And a black leather belt with an exceptionally wide metal buckle loop. Just as the jacket is a variation on the standard black leather jacket, so is the belt a variation on a standard belt. The belt buckle echoes the belted collar.

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


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. Some of the messages are blatantly sexual. Others suggest a bad boy image, like DANGER.

The left sleeve has a design-with-letters. It is positioned on the sleeve like a uniformed organization's insignia. It gives the jacket a uniform impact. So does shoulder lettering, which recalls an epaulette.

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.

Black leather biker jackets with white lettering, and uniform caps, recall The Wild One. The clothes derive from The Wild One tradition - but transform it in inventive ways.

Gabriel Garko. Italian actor Gabriel Garko wore an unusual black leather jacket. It is clearly inspired by the Perfecto. But it has been transformed, to look oddly tight and form-fitting. Also transformed: the zippered pockets are now straight vertical or horizontal, unlike the diagonal pockets on the Perfecto. The curved-in vertical lines deliberately underscore how radically form-fitting the jacket is. Photo. The jacket looks rough and street-smart, like the original Perfecto.

Gabriel Garko is capable of drastically varied appearances. He can wear an elegant white suit. This is for the television mini series Rodolfo Valentino - La leggenda (Rudolph Valentino - The Legend) (2013). Photo. This suit is as forming-fitting as his biker jacket, however. He can add such perverse wear as shiny glasses and leather gloves to it. Photo. He also appeared in tails. Photo.

Jérémie Laheurte. Jérémie Laheurte is a French actor. He is protean in appearance. This link will take you to this article's section on his French TV crime series Paris Police 1900 (2021). He wore good suits in that.

Earlier the 27-year-old actor was photographed in something much more juvenile: a Perfecto-like motorcycle jacket, with a giant collar, from Maison Martin Margiela. He wore his hair cut down to the minimum, and a skimpy gray tee shirt. It's a glamorized look at a young tough. Photo. He's also worn a light-orange Perfecto-style jacket (2014). Photo. A more gentlemanly look: Photo.

Hutch. David Soul wore a different, simpler kind of black leather jacket on his TV series Starsky and Hutch. It emphasizes snaps rather than zippers. Its collar flap was unusual in its day. Photo (1977). Photo. Photo (1975).

Chris Evans. Actor Chris Evans wore a creatively styled jacket, posed on a motorcycle. The jacket has an inventive use of color. And lots of strategically placed zippers, including one on the erect leather collar. He wore it with black jeans and shiny black shoes. Photo.

Michael Fassbender. Actor Michael Fassbender teams up a sleek black leather motorcycle jacket with shiny black shoes and a black gym bag. The bulging bag has a silver zipper and metal work rings. Photo. Photo.

Sean Poague. Actor Sean Poague was photographed in an inventive leather jacket. Photo. Different jackets: Photo. Photo.

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. Lochte wore it with a black shirt and black leather pants. The vest has a party-like feel. It looks light-weight, and designed to be worn indoors for long periods without getting too hot.

As the World Turns. The TV soap opera As the World Turns (1983) had a costume party. Everyone dressed up in "punk" clothes, then a craze. Character Brian McColl (actor Frank Telfer) showed up in a shiny black leather motorcycle jacket and cap. This outfit, with its leather uniform cap, tries to be as decadent as possible. And also a comic parody of decadence.

Mystery 101. Mystery 101 is a series of mystery films, made for the Hallmark Channel. The first episode (2019), which is the pilot for the series, is also known as Mystery 101. The series' Good Guy male character is police detective Travis Burke, played by actor Kristoffer Polaha. Burke is originally from Chicago, and has plenty of big-city sophistication. Burke is often shown in slick, fashionable black leather jackets. In the pilot Mystery 101 and the second episode Playing Dead (2019) he's in a jacket with ribbed shoulders and upper arms. The jacket is otherwise smooth and elegant, with silver zippers. Photo. Photo. Photo. In other films, he wears a simpler leather jacket. It's a more traditional motorcycle jacket. This features lots of silver zippers. Photo. Photo.

In Dead Talk (2019) he sports a tuxedo. The black tux is traditional and stylish. Photo. Photo.

Photos by Steven Klein

Tom Hiddleston. Actor Tom Hiddleston was photographed in a motorcycle jacket, black pants and boots. Photo. He also appeared in a black leather coat full of shiny metal rivets connecting the leather pieces. A red sign on the wall says "KEEP OUT". Interview magazine, September 24, 2016. Photography: Steven Klein.

Alexander Skarsgård. Actor Alexander Skarsgård posed for a magazine shoot (2011). He wore a shiny black shirt made out of some unusual glazed material, tucked into tough, tight black jeans, a black leather snakeskin belt, and smooth, shiny black leather boots. He's kneeling on a bed with shiny black cushions, and holding a big baseball bat, also shiny and black. The shiny shirt's big patch pockets and epaulettes give it a uniform feel. The shirt is so shiny it almost looks as if black oil has been poured over it. Interview magazine, May 23, 2011. Photography: Steven Klein. Photos. Photo. 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.


Marlene Stewart. Marlene Stewart is a Hollywood costume designer. She did the clothes for the film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013). Hansel, a grown man in the film, is in a complex black leather coat. It anticipate's the Angel's outfit in Paradise Lost: erect wide-spreading collar, chest buckles, nested shoulder curves, gear held by belt.

Max Brown. Max Brown played an angel in Paradise Lost (2015), an episode of the supernatural TV seres Sleepy Hollow. He wore a spectacular Medieval leather jacket, filled with silver metal aspects. The jacket has chain mail sections. Its sleeves have eight leather sections, each one smaller and tighter than the one above, giving a "collapsing telescope" effect. The jacket has three huge buckles and straps in front, making it look tight. It has a huge stand-up leather collar. Max Brown carries a large silver circle, worn on a belt. The silver circle has a series of phallic silver spurs or prongs emerging from it, sharp and dramatic looking. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo.


Tom Miller. Tom Miller was an artist who painted the covers of numerous paperback books. His cover (January 1971) for the paperback of Joyce Carol Oates' With Shuddering Fall shows a handsome, arrogant man in a gleaming leather motorcycle jacket. The jacket is close in style to a Perfecto. It lacks the belt and epaulettes though, which oddly makes it look dressier. So does the turtleneck the man wears under the jacket. The Mod hero has the "razor cut" hair that was glamorous in that era.

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 uniform leather shirt and tight leather pants. Two of his followers are also in gleaming leather pants. Photo. Photo. 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 uniform 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 wears studded black leather wristbands and a studded belt. The fasteners on his leather gloves echo this studded gear.

The chief villain's shirt unexpectedly has Mod elements, from the early 1970's, as well as punk. These Mod features include puffy sleeves with tight cuffs. He has the muscular build, well-developed neck and elaborately coiffed hair of such Mod heroes as "That Special Man" (1973).

Long Coats

Long Coats can also be impressive.

Storm. Joseph Campanella wore a long black rain slicker, in the episode Storm (Paul Wendkos, 1967) of the TV science fiction series The Invaders. The coat is shiny, and shows off his build.

Andrew Fezza. Fezza designed a full-length black leather coat. The impressive coat is remarkably shiny. The double-breasted coat conceals fasteners - it tries to look like a pure expanse of black leather. The only visible fasteners are the belt at the waist, and big black buttons on the cuffs. The black leather on the belt is vivid and shiny, while the buckle is thin and inconspicuous. See the fashion spread "The Big Story" (GQ, August 1986) (page 149). Photography: Arthur Elgort. The model is likely Grant Caradine. Photo.

Andrew Marc. 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. Photo.

Drizzle. Drizzle is a line of raincoats, by Carol Cohen (1988). The men's coats look a lot like trenchcoats. Like a trenchcoat, these long raincoats are designed to be worn over a suit. The wearer's shirt and tie are visible at the collar. But otherwise the coat mainly fully covers the suit. Usually the coat's collar is worn turned up - also like a trenchcoat.

The coats are highly effective against rain, being waterproof and completely covering the wearer's suit. Suppose the wearer has just come indoors out of the rain. It's always effective when the wearer strips off his gleaming wet Drizzle coat, and his dressy 1980's suit is revealed, bone dry. The wearer is still perfectly dressed, even after going through a thunderstorm. He is all set for business. The waterproof Drizzle coat soon dries indoors. When put back on, it looks just as dressy and intimidating as ever.

An ad shows a white coat (worn by model Michiel Van Dijk). GQ (September 1988) (page 82). Photo.

The best version of a Drizzle is a shiny jet black. It looks like black leather, but isn't. A double-breasted shiny black panel snaps up the front with two columns of black snaps. The panel is especially imposing. The long coat has tremendous swagger. Like a trenchcoat, this Drizzle makes a man look uniformed.

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (Simon Wincer, 1991) is an action film. The rich businessman villain has a team of security guards who double as hit men. The guards are never seen in traditional uniforms. But they always wear identical clothes on duty. Sometimes these are prestige suits, while at corporate headquarters. But in action, they wear matching long black leather coats. These have huge stand-up collars. And a panel that snaps down the front. The coats look massive in the shoulders and upper arms. It is hard to tell if the coats are leather, or some sort of leather-look fabric. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo.

2Be3. The French pop band 2Be3 liked to be photographed in long black leather coats (1998). The coats went down to just below the wearer's knees. They seemed precisely designed and fitted. Often the group wore them with matching black leather pants. The coats were gleaming and dressy. They had an executive look, like many of the suits worn by the group. 2Be3 wore them both on stage, and in publicity photos. The coats were worn with black tee shirts or sweaters, and the men carried phallic, high tech looking black portable microphones with them on stage. The coats had big lapels, broad shoulders and narrow waists. The trousers had big pockets into which the wearer could thrust a hand. The coats and pants gave the men an utterly heightened look.

2Be3 wore outfits made of shiny black vinyl. Each outfit had matching shirt and trousers. Photo. Photo. The shirts were styled like jackets, and maybe should be considered jackets:

The shirts were designed so that the members' broad shoulders looked bulging under the shirts. The bulging shoulders seem to put stress on the shiny fabric.

The members wore the outfits with matching black leather belts. Each belt had a rectangle of silver in front, that served as a belt buckle.

2Be3 were photographed in matching black leather jackets. The jackets had large X symbol on their chests. The X symbols looked like insignia on uniforms. The way the three men were in identical clothes also made the band look uniformed. In the photos Adel is reaching out to shake the viewer's hand. Photo. A photo shows two members of 2be3 as shirtless under these leather jackets.

A gym workout has Frank making boxing moves, while Adel and Filip hold a large, shiny black leather punching bag. One photo shows Frank making a spectacular high kick to the gleaming bag. Photo.

The band also wore upbeat Gallic versions of cowboy clothes. These use both suede and black leather. Photo.

2be3 had spectacularly colorful stage uniforms. These were tank tops in bright colors, marked out into curving regions by gray lines. Photo. They wore them with shiny track pants, often in bright metallic colors. A stage routine reportedly had them merging from a giant silver statue of a robot, while wearing these colorful uniforms. The uniforms have a 3D quality, with the round regions seemingly recessed and seen in depth between the gray lines. The lines seem phallic, while the recessed round regions seem like female symbols.

Filip of 2Be3 wore a car racing suit, bright red with black trim. He carried a racing helmet, also red with black accents. This was a spectacularly bright example of color. One cuff has a checkerboard racing pattern, in red and black squares. This is unusual. The suit tunic makes a spreading V-shape, from a narrow waist up to broad shoulders. The suit uses every trick to make the shoulders look broad, and direct attention to them. An erect black collar calls attention to Filip's muscular neck.

Filip Nikolic went on to a solo career. He frequently sported fashionable black leather jackets. Photo.

2Be3 is sometimes spelled "2 Be 3", with spaces. Photos.

Uniforms and Vehicles

Comic Books

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

Play With Fire. Writer: Robert Kanigher. 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. Cover. A panel, Complete Story.

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 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:

Athletes, dreamboats, bikers - these are different groups in most schools. Our hero can excel at any of these looks.

"Play With Fire" begins just before the senior prom. The characters are graduating seniors, about to leave school. At the dance class for the prom, the hero turns out to be an authority on dancing. This links him to another prestige group, rock stars. He's not just an authority. He skillfully behaves like a full-fledged Authority Figure:

  1. He gives the heroine an order to show him her dancing.
  2. Then he authoritatively evaluates the heroine's dancing. He's positive about it, and not at all mean. But this sneakily establishes himself as an Authority Figure.
  3. He also gives the heroine small orders - also an Authority Figure trait.
  4. The police-style cap he later wears as a uniformed biker also suggests Authority.
The white suit-of-sorts he wears to the dance class simply seems stylish, at first. But retroactively, it comes to look like a uniform - because it is similar to the motorcycle uniform he wears at the end. The suit has the same colors as the biker uniform: white with a purple shirt. The suit jacket's two patch pockets also suggests a uniform. So do his white shoes. Their color matches his suit. Plus, they are buckled, like his motorcycle boots to come.

The hero Danny has an iconography associated with rock stars and sometimes athletes in the comics - uniforms, leather, phallic symbols, an elevated position:

  1. At the tale's start he is linked to such imagery: his baseball uniform, his phallic baseball bat.
  2. In the middle dance class section: his uniform-style suit, his elevated arena on the roof, phallic doors he controls, the gigantic phallic pillar with the school marquee at top. white leather buckled shoes.
  3. A brief encounter with Danny (page 9) has him elevated on a staircase, gripping a phallic bannister.
  4. In the tale's finale with the hero as a biker: uniforms (his spectacular biker uniform), an elevated position (on his motorcycle), phallic symbols (his motorcycle, the number 7 on his uniform), black leather buckled boots.
The hero embodies the rock star / athlete paradigm in other ways too: One wonders if the sudden appearance of the heroine's wetsuit is magically caused by the hero's entrance on his motorcycle. There is no explicit magic in the tale. But there is a subtext of things behaving as if by magic: 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). Cover. On the gardening cover, the young man Jason's simple but color-coordinated sweater, pants and shoes suggest he is in some sort of uniform. Jason's posture elevates him above the woman he is kissing. He has ramrod straight posture.

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. Online.

One overhead shot in the diner (page 4) shows the uniform 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 glamour.

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

The uniformed hero is described as "over-sized" and "overgrown" (page 4).

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".

Run from Love. "Run from Love" (Girls' Love Stories #56, August 1958) has its fisherman hero in a giant high-peaked cap. It's black and white, like his shirt and scarf. This cap would be impressive on a big city Police Chief, let alone a village fisherman. It has surging curves in front, and strong elevation all around. It expresses precision in its complex shape.

The cap is unusual in that it contains no insignia. Unlike most uniform caps, it does not mark its wearer as belonging to a group or organization. Instead it expresses a personal Authority of its wearer.

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) (page 2). The pencils are perhaps by Art Saaf. A crowd of screaming girl fans is held back by stalwart cops.

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 male rock band performing as a group. Like the hero with his prestigious roles 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. Another parallel: both the police and the rock group carefully, deliberately plan ahead. The police and the rock group are allied, with the police providing crowd control for the rock group. The policemen's super-sharp uniform caps show all sorts of careful styling, with badges, high peaks, center bulges, and curving shiny black visors that can shade their eyes. The cops we see all look young, maybe as young as the rock group. Maybe even younger. The cops and the rock group look like men in their mid-twenties. These cops are a bunch of young pretty-boys, who enjoy being dressed up in their Social Authority Figure uniforms. Despite their youth, the cops have broad shoulders, and very long arms with which to form barriers against the groupies. The arms are almost supernaturally strong, in their ability to hold the crowd back.

Are these men real cops? Or are they private security guards, carefully dressed to look like police? Maybe they are employees of the rock group itself. Or a professional sports team giving its members a special treat. It is hard to tell.

"Just Another Groupie" is a modified version of an earlier tale "Love Is a Game...for Two" (Girls' Romances #145, December 1969). Cover. 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. These cops are considerably older than the young police in "Just Another Groupie". Art: Mike Sekowsky.

Although these stories are apparently non-political, at least when looked at on the surface, they subliminally evoke two great political images of the day. The rock stars are a glamorized version of hippies and liberals, while the police executing crowd control at the concert recall riot police controlling student protesters. The uniformed, disciplined cops represent right wing, male authority. The rock stars express left wing, male sexuality. The police are just as glamorized as the rock stars. Both are slicked-up versions of key political images of the day. One is liberal, the other, conservative. But here the two groups are in deep collaboration.

Like other romance comic books about rock, these tales have ancestors in Jimmy Olsen tales about Music. See the two uniformed men guarding singer Jimmy in "The Rock 'n' Roll Superman" (Jimmy Olsen #32, October 1958) (page 6). Jimmy is guarded while singing in a stadium. And outside a stage door from fans mobbing him, as in these romance comic tales. The uniformed handsome men at the stage door wear peaked caps with shiny visors.

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.

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.

Comic Books: Pilots

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. The pilot's uniform is designed to be as serious and authoritative looking as possible. It recalls a military uniform, with an enormously high peaked officer's cap. We also see the cap in profile, later on in the story (page 3). Art: Mike Sekowsky. The tale was reprinted (My Love #28, May 1974).

The young pilot has an equally handsome young co-pilot. Both men are in identical uniforms. There is a suggestion that they both thoroughly enjoy being dressed to the max in these common, spiffy clothes. It shows the pair of them standing together, trying to impress the stewardesses.

Wings of Destiny. "Wings of Destiny" (Green Lantern #7, July-August 1961) also opens with a spectacular image of a uniformed pilot. The dressy uniform is police-like in structure: it has four patch pockets, a belt and peaked lapels. The pilot wears a high-peaked uniform cap. The cap is un-police-like, with elaborate gold bands, insignia and metal rim attaching the visor. Art: Gil Kane. Both on the splash and page 6, we always see the handsome pilot linked to phallic symbols.

Magazine Illustrations by Herbert Paus

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.

Magazine Illustrations

Magic Carpet. A pilot is drawn on the cover of The Magic Carpet Magazine (January 1934). He's encased in a leather flyer's uniform suit and helmet. This seems to be the magazine's last issue. Art: Margaret Brundage. Cover.

Elevator. An elevator operator in a sharp red uniform is attacked by a crook, on the cover of Ten Detective Aces (v34 #2, December 1938). Art: Norm Saunders. Cover.

Blueprint. A pilot in leather jacket and helmet battles a crook in a pinstripe noir suit, on the cover of Ten Detective Aces (v43 #3, January 1942). Both want a blueprint of a plane. Art: Norm Saunders. Cover.

Mail Carrier. A postal mail carrier is in a sharp blue uniform. He carries a leather mailbag. He's just unlocked a phallic mailbox. The cover of F.B.I. Detective Stories (December 1950). Art: Norman Saunders. Cover.

Pop Singers

JC Chasez. JC Chasez of 'N SYNC has been photographed in spectacular outfits, often associated with riders, drivers or pilots:

JC Chasez wears sports uniforms:

JC Chasez sometimes wears unusual cloth uniforms. Most of these have common features, and one suspects they come from a common source: 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.

Avirex. Avirex markets a sleek looking version of the MA-1 jacket, made of nylon. The jet-black version is especially good. Its model number is an official-sounding AVF19BO03.


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 Duhamel. Actor Josh Duhamel has also been photographed in a black leather jacket inspired by MA-1 pilot jackets. It has the MA-1 style, left-sleeve complex patch pocket with a vertical zipper along the side.

Aeronautica Militare. See also the zippered sleeve pockets of the Aeronautica Militare series of pilot jackets. These gleamingly shiny leather jackets often have other zippers and patch pockets too. Actor Trevor Donovan wore a black leather jacket from this series for a magazine spread.

Days of Our Lives. The TV soap opera Days of Our Lives (June 3, 1988) showed a ceremony where series police characters Roman (Drake Hogestyn) and Abe (James Reynolds) got promoted. The officers are in remarkably classy dress uniforms. See the photo at We Love Soaps. The uniforms are like a naval officer's, only jet black instead of navy blue. The extra-sharp uniforms are worn with white dress shirt and tie. Silver badges gleam on their chests and high-peaked uniform caps. Conspicuous silver rims on the uniform caps connect their shiny black visors. The authority-figure senior officer is speaking into a phallic silver microphone. The cap rims, like the microphone, seem like machinery. It was a 1980's dream to get really dressed-up. These uniforms are an example.

Cannon. The TV detective series Cannon had the episode The Seventh Grave (1973). The local police chief of a small town, played by Robert Donner, wears a sharp all-black uniform.

Simon Hewitt. British investment banker Simon Hewitt helped rescue the novel Futility (1898), which prefigures the real-life Titanic. Simon Hewitt, a handsome yuppie, was photographed wearing a traditional ship's officer's uniform, navy blue, double-breasted, with gold trim. He looks terrific in it. The marks of rank on the sleeve express a Chain of Command. Photography: Steve Ellison. See People (April 27, 1998).

Leather Jackets in Film

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. Thompson's black leather gear is usually gleaming and shiny. It can look transgressive.

Tommy Thompson did the police uniforms and crooks' black leather coats and jackets on the TV series Highway Patrol. See the motorcycle jacket in Mother's March (1958) and the long leather coat in Auto Press (1959). Not to mention the motorcycle cop's big boots in Hostage Officer (1958).

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.

Award Jackets

Award jackets are also known as varsity jackets. They are everywhere in films. As GQ magazine reminds us, "The good-looking guy in a leather-sleeve varsity jacket is an iconic American image that's beaten into us since the first day of high school. Hell, Evans himself played that very type in the 2001 classic Not Another Teen Movie." From the article "Chris Evans Is the American Style Hero We Deserve" by Jake Woolf (GQ, April 26, 2016).

Evans' jacket is blue, with light red lettering and salmon leather sleeves. This sets up a vibrant blue-red combination. Colors of leather sleeves in award jackets have different effects. White sleeves make men look classically athletic, elite and clean-cut. Black leather sleeves can flaunt the aggression of motorcycle jackets.

Avirex. Avirex used to make all-leather varsity jackets. These often had years made up of phallic numbers:

These Avirex varsity jackets have an inner tag that says "Varsity Club Membership", followed by a long number.

Adidas. 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 jacket. The black sleeve has large 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 giant red logo, right in the center of the chest. The massively muscular hero is photographed on a bright red "recumbent bicycle" exercise machine, something also worth seeing. The bicycle looks demanding to ride.

Adidas made shiny track suits in the 1970's. These included matching jackets and pants, giving the outfits a "uniform" quality. The royal blue suit was perhaps the best color. Actor Richard Hatch was photographed in one. John Beck made a TV commercial in a suit. But the red was also popular. The shiny black outfit and a dressy gray one were also imposing.

Guess. 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.

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 entertaining 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.

Bruno Campos. Brazilian actor Bruno Campos wore a shiny red leather Missoni suit in People (November 16, 1998) (page 134). Photography: Robert Sebree. Perhaps paradoxically, Campos is much better dressed than anyone else in the issue, with the possible exception of fashion mogul Kenneth Cole (page 104). Red leather is a classy but underutilized look.

The red shade is a touch light, with a bit of orange. It conveys a youthful, festive look.

Goodfellas. Ray Liotta wore a dark red leather blazer jacket in the film Goodfellas (1990). Such a blazer both makes the character look like a bit of a roughneck - and yet glamorous too. It's not something that would be worn by someone upper class.

The dark red color is an unusual shade: not a typical straightforward red. It is visually interesting, and attracts the eye.

Schott Brothers. In the 1970's it was easy to buy red leather jackets. Schott Brothers, who made the Perfecto, sold leather jackets in a number of colors, including bright red.

Gray Leather

Gray leather can be highly effective looking. It combines gray, a power color for men, with leather.

Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck wore a gray leather jacket in a shampoo TV commercial (2003). The jacket has a stand-up collar.

Ricky Martin. Ricky Martin liked to perform in shiny gray leather pants. He often paired them with a brown shirt filled with criss-cross lines. The shirt had a see-through effect. It's unclear whether it is actually see-though, or whether it simply gives that illusion.

Ricky Martin also liked an ensemble of gray ribbed sweater, black leather pants, and shiny black dress shoes.

Martin was photographed in a heavy gray winter coat, bulky in the shoulders and chest. It encased his neck in a tall erect collar. He wore shiny gray gloves that might be leather, or might be some lustrous high-tech vinyl or plastic. The shiny gloves call attention to his gloved fingers, which seem designed to look phallic.

Martin has a pair of light gray track pants. He wore these for seated portraits, rather than stage work.

Kyle Lowder. A photo shows musician-actor Kyle Lowder singing on-stage in gleaming dark gray leather pants and a shiny silver shirt. It's very pop star-ish. The silver shirt almost looks like armor. He's singing as part of a group, that is dancing behind him. Photo.

He also wears a gray leather shirt and pants, with shiny black lace-up boots. The shirt cuffs have a beautiful rounded look, giving a Mod effect. Photo.

Other photos show him in a gray leather jacket, thin and elegant, as street wear. Photo.

Paul Satterfield. Actor Paul Satterfield appeared in magazine Soap Opera Update (December 1, 1992) (page 42), wearing a gray leather jacket over his bare chest. The jacket is simple: mainly a huge expanse of high grade gray leather. The gray color and smooth leather make him look unexpectedly classy and powerful.

Justin Theroux. Actor Justin Theroux took part in a fashion shot for Esquire UK (2014). He wore a fancy gray leather jacket. It has elaborate ribbing on the upper arms, and a different kind of ribbing on its elbow patches. It also has a belted collar, complete with silver buckle and belt holes. Theroux looks aggressive wearing it. Photo. Photos. Theroux wears the jacket with grey jeans. He's sitting in a fancy car on a gray leather seat, his hand gripping the gray steering wheel.

Gray Lensman. The cover of Astounding Science Fiction (October 1939) featured Gray Lensman by E.E. Smith. The Lensman hero wears a gray metallic futuristic uniform, complete with such uniform features as flared trousers and erect collar. Tall gleaming gray boots go up to his knees. The boots look like leather, but it's unclear whether the rest of the uniform is. Art: Hubert Rogers.

Caesar. Jules César (François Roussillon, 2011) is a film version of the opera Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) (1724) by Handel. The costumes are by Laurent Pelly. The costume for Julius Caesar is outstanding. It's a macho version of an Ancient Roman warrior's uniform. Only it is made nearly entirely of a soft gray leather. Both the color and the fabric look terrific. The uniform has a sculpted front, that echoes its wearer's muscles: something found in Roman armor. Singer Lawrence Zazzo has tremendous presence in this.

Nocona Boots. A magazine ad for Nocona Boots illustrates a pair of their gray boots. The boots mix shiny silver gray sections, with a dark gray shaft that is nearly black. (1978). Art: Alex Ebel. Art.

JC Chasez. Singer JC Chasez liked to perform in gray sweaters or shirts. Also:

2Be3. When the French pop band 2Be3 got together in 2004, Frank wore a shiny gray leather jacket with a gray tee shirt and light gray cargo pants. The straps and buckles of the pants, and the large buttons of the leather jacket, attract the eye. So does a symbolic circle on the tee shirt front. The outfit was both sporty and surprisingly dressy. The gray is echoed by a silver outdoor staircase. Photos: Gregoire Mahler. Photo. Photo.

Kurt Lundqvist. Contemporary artist Kurt Lundqvist likes gray clothes, where other artists might choose black:

Motorcycle Police. Some modern-day countries have motorcycle police in sharp gray leather uniforms. These countries are all democracies, and no political statement is being made here. I simply think these uniforms are spectacular:

On the other hand, maybe these uniforms are proof that Democracy is really cool! Something we would all do well to remember and celebrate.

All these uniforms are often extended by white belts. All the uniforms have conspicuous epaulettes. The Austrian and German jackets seem to flow into erect collars.

The German Feldjäger uniforms have:

The uniforms of the Politi in Norway are the closest to black. And maybe should be considered black. The Politi jackets often are double-yoked in back. The officers carry equipment holders on their belts - that are the exact color of their leather uniforms. They also have dangling rings full of keys.

A photo shows a handsome man in a Perfecto-style leather motorcycle jacket, talking to a Danish Politi officer in his head-to-toe leather uniform. The good-looking man looks definitely subordinate and subservient to the officer. The man wears a white muscle shirt with pink letters and a plunging neckline under his biker jacket. This recalls the scoop-neckline sweater worn under his jacket, by the subordinate, mesmerized young dancer in "That Special Man". By contrast, the officer is in a pure uniform, from his neck to his feet. The uniform is of smooth, gleaming gray leather. Its epaulettes, erect collar and loaded equipment belt underscore its uniform character. To his credit the handsome man has taken the trouble to wear a black leather belt with his snow white pants, and shiny black leather lace-up shoes.

In photos, men wearing all these uniforms tend to look happy and pleased with themselves. And why not? The uniforms are very flattering.

Bike Cops. A photo showing a team of Norway Bike policemen, was edited using computer technology. The edited photo gave them bulging muscles and leather uniforms. The uniforms are a very dark gray, almost black. Photo.

Johnny Ryan. Clancy Brown, Bruce Abbott and others wear 14 on the collar of their jet-black police dress uniforms in the finale of Johnny Ryan (Robert L. Collins, 1990) (see 1:28 to 1:30). The uniforms have very long coats, and a V-array of ten metal buttons pointing up to their shoulders. Long coats for men have a swaggering effect, and were popular in the 1990's. The coats are tailored so that the shoulders are as broad as possible. The V-array of buttons suggest the men's broad shoulders and narrow waists.

Black uniform caps with metal badge-like insignia and shiny black visors, are pulled down to shade the policemen's eyes. The officers wear dark gray uniform leather gloves. The shiny gloves call attention to their hands, and are the only part of the uniforms not black or metal. Aside from insignia of rank on the sleeves.

The hero has gold buttons and insignia; his subordinate's are silver. A similar hierarchical use of gold and silver will soon be used in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), another Clancy Brown picture. In both films this expresses a Chain of Command. Photo.

The finale emphasizes uniformity and precision. All of the police at the finale are in one of these dress uniforms. The hero moves with disciplined precision, turning at right angles while presenting the flag. Then the hero (Clancy Brown) and his subordinate (Bruce Abbott) move along a complex path, keeping absolutely in synch staying side by side.

The first 32 minutes of this cops-versus-gangsters film are good; then it takes a wrong turn into bad material.

Shawshank Redemption. The film The Shawshank Redemption (1994) shows how effective dark gray uniforms can be. Costume Design: Elizabeth McBride. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo. The leather "Sam Browne belt" chest harnesses are also gray. Like most Sam Browne belts, they have a double-pronged belt buckle at the waist. They also have a smaller but conspicuous buckle, part-way up the leather strap that runs diagonally across the chest.

These uniforms are utterly traditional. They are based on dressy, highly effective traditional plans and structures.

The men's caps explore a wide variety of different shapes. They are not all alike.

The guard Captain (Clancy Brown) has a gold badge and gold metal trim on his uniform. His men have silver badges and trim. This expresses a Chain of Command.

There are also dark blue uniforms for some subordinate guards. These are worn with blue shirts, and blue leather Sam Browne belts.

Gray Tuxedos. Gray tuxes are cool. They can look dressy:


Silver Suit. Silver suits were sold commercially in recent years. Their fabric looks unique. Usually they were fashioned into excellently fitting suits, shaped just like a well-dressed executive's business suit. Only made out of their gleaming fabric. Actor Adam J. Harrington wore one on A Dance with Death (2012), an episode of the TV detective series Castle. Photos. He played a host-presenter on a TV dance contest show. He acted very much like a standard announcer, while wearing this special suit. A scene showed him stepping forward to announce the contest, while geysers of fireworks erupted on either side of him.

Brazil's Beto Malfacini has been photographed wearing a similar silver suit. Photo.

A different kind of silver clothes are in Mr. Monk Goes to the Bank (2008), an episode of the TV detective series Monk. A "living statue" is a human pretending to the a statue. The statue here wears a silver military uniform. The sharp uniform has patch pockets, and a giant high-peaked cap. The silver clothes are very shiny. The statue is played by actor Jonathan Chase. Photos. The silver clothes look heavier and tougher than the soft-looking silver suit on Castle.

Racing Suit. Actor Charles "Chip" Lucia wears a silver racing suit in Hotshoes (1983), an episode of the TV series Hardcastle and McCormick.

A silver racing suit is also employed by the crafty hero of a TV Commercial.

Radio Star. Video Killed the Radio Star (Russell Mulcahy, 1979) is one of the most famous of all music videos. And one of the best. It features the group The Buggles, two of whom wear shiny silver jackets. The band members also wear shiny clothes in various dark colors.

Kurt Lundqvist. Contemporary artist Kurt Lundqvist likes silver trunks and shorts:

Metallic Shirts. Musician-actor Kyle Lowder sings on-stage in a metallic silver shirt. The silver shirt almost looks like armor. It is not a smooth, soft surface, like today's silver suits. Photo.

A different, Mod gray leather shirt appears in a fashion photo. The shirt has the tight cuffs of the Mod era. The stiff, cylindrical cuffs are so metallic that they almost look like manacles. The tight shirt really shows off the man's chest, encasing his muscles in a shiny gray uniform. The matching trousers make the whole outfit a uniform.

Oui. Oui magazine liked silver clothes for men, in the 1970's.

A spectacular silver leather jeans outfit (October 1973). It looks like a silver leather version of a denim outfit of the era, both jeans and matching jacket. The jeans are worn with a wide heavy silver-studded belt.

A series of illustrations, showing a man in silver clothes seated next to his girlfriend in a movie theater. His broad back encased in a silver shirt, echoes the silver metal of the chair he's seated in. It suggests he has a machine-like quality, powerful and dynamic.

Dunas. Jeff Dunas photographed actor Jonny Lee Miller in a shiny dark gray shirt jacket. Photo.

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. He seemed like a senior executive evaluating a subordinate's job performance: a standard Authority Figure activity. The whole enterprise expressed hierarchy and a business Chain of Command, understood and seamlessly evoked by ESPN experts. It was a clever visual conceit.

It was 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. It is very official looking. It is clearly created by costume designers who understand every detail of racing suit uniforms.

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.

1980's Sweaters

Andrew Fezza. Andrew Fezza was known for his elaborately patterned sweaters. Such sweaters were a fashion enthusiasm of the 1980's. They were very flattering to most real-life men, and one would like to see them revived.

Jantzen. Jantzen, a long-time manufacturer of sweaters, was mass-marketing such jazzy sweaters by 1988. A Jantzen ad in USA Today (page 12C, October 21, 1988) says "We've created a collection of highly individualized styles". "This abstract pattern is a result of Jantzen's advanced knitting technology." This links the sweater to both abstract art and high tech. The abstract pattern includes a phallic T shape in the front.

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: Magazines:

Virgil E. Pyles

The pulp magazine artist Virgil E. Pyles often signed his work "V. E. Pyles". His cover for Detective Fiction Weekly (March 27, 1937) shows a Hollywood mystery by Steve Fisher. The three young men are in the elegant sportswear worn by Hollywood figures. The two in front wear pale yellow shirts, that look nearly white. The man in charge wears a yellow sweater over his shirt. This good-looking young authority figure has wavy blond hair that echoes his yellow clothes.

Pyles' cover for Argosy (January 25, 1936) illustrates Max Brand's Western story "The Streak". The cowboy wears a yellow shirt, with a buttoned-up front panel. He wears brown leather wristbands, and gleaming light brown leather chaps. The cover says of the cowboy, "He couldn't stay on the home range".

A photo of Pyles suggests he might have used himself, as the model for some of the men on his covers.


Sweaters. In the Mannix episode The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher (1967), Mannix is working undercover with a fellow private eye (Glenn R. Wilder). The eye is blond, and wears a yellow sweater that echoes his hair, at a coffee house. Plus a white dress shirt underneath. Mannix is in a similar sweater and white dress shirt, that is almost identical with the blond's outfit. Only Mannix's sweater is gray, echoing his dark hair. The pattern of visual "rhymes" makes for a vivid scene. Earlier a well-built man in a mauve sweater and pale gray pants leaves the coffee house. Sweaters are definitely a uniform there.

The atmosphere and clothes at the club house are collegiate and clean cut. But these guys in sweaters are also heavily muscled, and exude menace. They are tougher than most of the previous Hollywood stars in yellow sweaters. The uniform quality of the sweaters also differs. Previous Hollywood stars tended to be the only man present in such outfits. The uniform nature of the coffee-house sweaters suggests toughness and discipline.

Lloyd Bochner wears an off-white sweater and white trousers as a wealthy yachtsman in the Mannix episode The Girl Who Came in with the Tide (Gerald Mayer, 1969). It's an odd but effective combination. In some shots, the sweater looks light yellow. The patrician look of such sweaters is part of the characterization here. He also wears a navy blue yachtsman's uniform peaked cap, with gold insignia, and a curved shiny black visor. He's another sweatered character whose clothes are linked to uniforms.

Mod. Real-life singer Neil Diamond appears as himself, as the singer in the coffee house, in The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher. A poster on the wall, shows Neil Diamond in a shiny black shirt. He's not wearing this heavy black shirt in this scene, however, but more casual clothes. Later, Neil Diamond has a second scene, where he is indeed in the fancy black shirt. The shirt glows and gleams, like black satin, only a bit heavier and smoother. It has Mod elements, like tight cuffs. The big, stiff collar of the shirt is different: it looks more like black leather, and less like satin.

In the episode Who Will Dig the Graves? (1968), it is Harry Dean Stanton who gets the Mod treatment - something not part of his persona in most other films. Stanton wears a shirt with vibrant red-and-black horizontal stripes. He's also blond. Meanwhile the villains at the end are in the dressy suits often featured on Mannix.

Suits. Other Mannix characters are in dressy suits:

These suits are rarely worn by hero Mannix, who usually wears sport coats instead. The sport coats suggest a working class image for Mannix. A working class man who has achieved prosperity on his own terms, through his private eye business. Mannix is typically the only man on the show, in a sport coat.

Color and Aesthetics. Mannix represents a radical rethinking of the private eye genre, to use color. Earlier TV PI's, like Peter Gunn, were influenced by film noir, and were in black and white. But Mannix exploded in color, in sets, clothes, landscapes, flowers, etc. It's a bit like what happened to movie Westerns around 1950, when Hollywood started making them in brilliant color - reportedly to give viewers a reason to leave their TV set and come to the theater.

The handsome helicopter pilot in A View of Nowhere wears a red windbreaker and green visored cap. This matches red and green equipment on his helicopter. Photo.

A Sleep in the Deep (1969), set in the dock region of a fancy boating area, shows the power of simple clothes. Jonathan Lippe wears white trousers, a wide black leather belt, and a simple bright blue shirt. He looks terrific. Skip Homeier is in a variation of this: he wears the white trousers and simple belt, but also wears a plain beach jacket over his shirt. He looks uniformed.

Influence. The influence of Mannix has been felt ever since. Consider the British police drama Holby/Blue, with its sweater-clad hero. Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo.

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: Comic book heroes dressed as boxers: Purple clothes for heroes in DC romance comic books: Stage actors in purple: 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.

Boxers. Boxers and Wrestlers:

Boxing and Uniforms in the Mod Era

Boxers: Jantzen. In the 1970's swimwear maker Jantzen issued men's swimwear that looked like boxing trunks. Some were bright gold, or other metallic colors. They also had purple trunks with contrasting red-orange trim, a vivid combination. Jantzen's publicity called these "punch trunks". They were tighter than actual boxing trunks, but otherwise very authentic looking.

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. The jackets have a patch pocket on the left sleeve, and cloth waist and tight cuffs: features recalling Air Force MA-1 uniform jet-pilot jackets. MA-1 jackets are often made of nylon: so is this jacket.

The jacket-and-trunks form a true uniform: they have matching colors and fabric, and jacket sleeve pocket and trunk waist share the word JANTZEN in boxing-trunk style lettering.

The outfits combine two potent, powerful uniform traditions:

Men got a chance to wear uniforms as street wear in the mid 1970's. Many seized the chance, and throughly enjoyed themselves.

The jacket zipper is dark purple and recessed behind a small front panel, helping it be almost invisible when zipped. This makes the jacket and trunks look like an unbroken expanse of shiny material.

What newspapers said:

More Uniforms. These ads are part of a newspaper culture of the era. Compare newspaper ads for the men's clothing store Hughes & Hatcher: Men were often photographed looking thoughtful in such uniforms.

Baseball Jackets. Another popular uniform among 1970's men was the baseball jacket. These were shiny, made of nylon, and in brilliant colors. They featured metal snaps down the front, with reflective color tops and shiny silver bases. Fancy besom pockets added swagger.

Their team insignia were as uniform-like as possible. These jackets and insignia were clearly the work of top designers, employed by Major League Baseball teams. The blue Milwaukee Brewers jacket has curving insignia on the chest in front, with the team name BREWERS in gold, that is exceptionally uniform-like. So is the shiny gold map of Wisconsin on the sleeve. Any man wearing this jacket looks uniformed.

Eisenhower Jacket. The Eisenhower jacket was a short uniform jacket, developed in World War II for General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The sharp jackets became popular, including with civilian men after the war.

A newspaper fashion article (circa 1971) shows a revival of the Eisenhower jacket. This was at the height of the Mod era. When men got to wear uniforms as street wear. The new jackets were shaped precisely like a standard Eisenhower jacket. But were made out of leather. The handsome man photographed wearing the jacket, wore matching tight leather pants with it. The exact color of the outfit was not clear in the black-and-white photo, but it was much lighter than black.

Uniform Jacket. A View of Nowhere (1968) is an episode of the TV series Mannix. Hero Mannix wears a suede jacket with uniform features: epaulettes, patch pockets on the chest. The jacket has a swaggering quality.

Mannix wears the jacket while flying as a passenger in a helicopter. It conveys the sense that he is uniformed while flying.

Hooper. Burt Reynolds plays a stuntman in the film comedy Hooper (1978). He stands in for a star actor (Adam West playing himself). Both men are uniformed in precisely identical leather racing suits. Photo. Photo. Photo.

Avengers. The Fear Merchants (1967) is an episode of the British TV series The Avengers. A macho man (actor Bernard Horsfall) working out in a gym, wears blue boxing trunks. He does not seem to be a boxer. Rather, this character Fox is a successful businessman. Fox is in just a single scene, near the start. A second vivid scene involves a man in a sharp chauffeur's uniform (actor Peter J. Elliott). He terrorizes the man he is driving. Both of these scenes take place early in the show. Wardrobe: Jean Fairlie.

Boxers: Tom Tyler. Actor Tom Tyler played a boxer in the silent film Red Hot Hoofs (Robert De Lacey, 1926). Stills show him in what look like black leather boxing trunks and leather boxing gloves. The trunks look heavy and shiny. The unusual use of leather for the trunks, is perhaps related to his character being a cowboy, and Red Hot Hoofs being a Western. There's a phallic-looking pole with a rounded head, on the wall behind the hero. The costumes for Red Hot Hoofs are reportedly by the great Walter Plunkett. Photo.

Tyler often appeared in elaborate costumes. When he played a cowboy-turned-mounted-police-officer in The Cowboy Cop (Robert De Lacey, 1926), he wore a snazzy police uniform with high-peaked cap and boots. And a black tuxedo with such spiffy features as peaked lapels, high stiff collar, and vest. He carries a cane while in his tux, and later rides a motorcycle, both phallic symbols. He also makes one of those phallic Thumb Gestures.

Later Tyler starred in Adventures of Captain Marvel (John English, William Witney, 1941) as the comic book super-hero. This is an ancestor to today's film Shazam!.

Boxers: Actors. Actors posed in magazine shoots dressed as boxers (not in purple or yellow):

David Fumero took part in a boxing match, on his soap opera One Live To Live (September 19 and 20, 2006). His boxing gear was black with white trim: trunks, leather boxing gloves, robe.

Lace-Up Shirts

Comic Books

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).

Lace-up boots:

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 and rock stars. Likely ancestors of their treatment of rock are Jimmy Olsen tales about Music. Romance comic book heroes wearing lace-up shirts include:

Athletes sometimes get similar clothes and treatments in 1970's romance comics, too. They share key features used to treat rock stars: Uniforms with lace-up fastenings, leather, phallic symbols, performing in elevated areas, membership in a group, men below them in heavy elaborate clothes staring up at them from below, influence and control over the staring men's feelings, calm pleasant self-control by the uniformed man above: Firefighters:

Linemen. Related: the rock-star-like treatment of Linemen. The linemen are depicted in ways that recall comic book treatment of rock stars: an elevated position, uniforms, leather, phallic symbols, calm planning, membership in a group. The linemen's leather climbing belts are perhaps analogous to the rock stars' lace-up clothes.

"The Unknown Super-Deeds" (Superman #131, August 1959) shows two linemen on its splash panel. Artist Al Plastino has loaded the splash with phallic symbols, directly linked to the linemen in the panel. These include electrical power towers, a wrench one lineman holds, and a hardhat with a huge erect visor. As in other Otto Binder tales with phallic symbols, the symbols are non-violent work tools and equipment. The two men are wearing matching gauntlets with star symbols on the cuffs, a neat touch. These gauntlets make the men uniformed. The men also wear rope coils, and a belt used for climbing.

Scenes of crooks posing as linemen, to carry out planned schemes, full of phallic imagery of telephone poles:

Government agent heroes go undercover as linemen in The Scarface Mob (Phil Karlson, 1959). They wear fancy leather jackets and huge boots. They are part of a government group, and carrying out a well-planned scheme.

More Romance Comics. Other romance comic book tales:

This Is Good-Bye. "This Is Good-Bye" (Girls' Love Stories #76, February 1961). Art: John Romita. The splash and cover show a shipboard romance, going wrong for the male hero. High above him, a man in a spiffy uniform mess jacket is kissing the woman the hero perhaps loves. Such mess jackets were featured in movies: His First Command (Gregory La Cava, 1929) shows its officers uniformed in white mess jackets with stiff epaulettes. They look tall and commanding.

The uniform in "This Is Good-Bye" lacks lace-up. But otherwise, the man above shows features associated with rock stars and athletes in the comics:

In addition to his elevated position and uniform, the man above has another way of dominating the hero below. The uniformed man is taking the hero's girlfriend away from him. See also the climatic scene, and cover of "Play With Fire", and its uniformed biker. Both the biker in "Play With Fire" and the uniformed man in "This Is Good-Bye", are very good at kissing. See also numerous John Ford films.

A Mask for a Hero. "A Mask for a Hero" (Adventure Comics #181, October 1952). Win Mortimer's cover lacks lace-up clothes. But otherwise shows features associated with rock stars and athletes in the comics. The cover shows the Masked Hero on a platform, elevated over a crowd staring up at him. The crowd below is emotionally agitated - something caused by the man above. Two well-built young men in the crowd below are in brown suits: brown is a symbol of subservience. They are hatless, so we can see their elaborately styled hair. The Masked Hero above also has complex hair. The Masked Hero above is in a good suit, well-fitting. It shows off his build. And makes him look socially sophisticated. Its peaked lapels are part of the glamor of the film noir era. His mask gives him a uniformed feel: it's something that could be worn by a large number of men, in order to look alike. He's the only man whose tie can be seen: a phallic symbol. The Masked Hero is linked to a phallic City Hall style building behind him. It gives him an official look.

Fashion Photos. They are not comic books, but photo spreads in men's fashion magazines often show imagery related to rock star comics. See the discussion elsewhere in this article, of "Three for the Road", "JC Chasez: Rugby and Drums", "New Camaro. Feb. 26th.", "Desk Set", "Fall Tweeds", "The International Style", "Barber Shop", "The Men's Club", "BMW: N Street", "BMW: Santa Barbara". These photos only occasionally show lace-up clothes, however.

Illustrations and Book Covers

Lace-up costumes appeared earlier in multiple media:

The Circle Home. 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. His hair is perfectly coiffed in one of those elaborate 1970's styles. His phallic leather boxing gloves are on the floor. 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.

W.I.L. One to Curtis. The well-dressed spy on the paperback cover W.I.L. One to Curtis (circa 1967). He's in a tightly buttoned trenchcoat, rather than lace-up clothes. He seems to have deliberately dropped his expensive black leather attache case over a fence, as part of an intrigue. The gleaming case matches his black hair, and the black buttons on his trenchcoat. The iron fence is full of phallic arrows; the mountains in the background are also phallic. The sidewalk where he's standing is much higher than the background. His elevated position, uniform-like trenchcoat, phallic symbols and leather gear anticipate the rock stars of 1970's comics. So does his calmly in control attitude, his execution of a careful plan, and the social prestige he gets from his expensive businessman's gear. Art: Victor Kalin. W.I.L. stands for Western Intelligence Liaison. Photo.

Kurt Lundqvist. Contemporary painter Kurt Lundqvist has:

Ricky Martin

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.

On-stage Ricky Martin paired these pants with a shirt with lace-up collar. Four pairs of long laces criss-crossed his bare chest. Lines extending from the collar drew attention to it.

A different pair of black leather pants is made of dozens of rectangular leather patches, pieced together. The trousers have a conspicuous lace-up fly.

Martin also sings in white pants with a lace-up fly. The laces are black, and really stand out against the white pants. He pairs these with a blue denim shirt. with very long three-button cuffs. In most ways the denim shirt and white pants look like conventional clothes worn by millions of guys. But the long cuffs and lace-up pants make them unique.

Martin has brown leather pants. They have an enormous numbers of what seem to be drawstring loops, that hang down in front over the fly. The drawstrings resemble brown shoelaces. A guess: the pants don't really need drawstrings to keep them tight, especially not this many. Instead, he drawstrings are a fashion touch. They are really conspicuous.

Pop Singers and Photographs

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. He wears a white tee shirt underneath, so that the laces stand out. The shirt is in many ways more like a motorcycle jacket, with a zippered chest pocket and metal snaps on its erect collar strap.

Patrick Juvet's album "got a feeling" (1978) shows his name in sports-style lettering. He's wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket over his bare chest. Two metal chains are around his well-muscled neck. In front of his chest is a gleaming black leather ice skate with elaborate white laces. The silver blade of the skate echoes the silver zipper of his jacket.

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. Photo.

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. Photo.

'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.

Paul Walker in the film The Skulls (Rob Cohen, 2000) wore shiny blue long Adidas boxing trunks, huge gleaming black leather boxing gloves, and tall lace-up black Adidas boxing shoes with white laces. Long trunks were fashionable in that era, whether for basketball or boxing. The long trunks were considered both dressy and sexy. Shiny long basketball trunks were popular as street wear. Photo. Photo. Photo.

Snow Clothes

A Newport ad in GQ (February 1992) (inside back cover) shows a man with his dog on a leash. The dog's master is a grinning young man around 30, in elaborately laced ice skates. The skates are a brilliant, aggressive magenta and black, with white laces. The skates look spectacularly oversized. 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. The gloves have huge, long, shiny pinkish-red thumbs, that are designed to be phallic. His oversize pair of gleaming nylon dark blue snow trousers, are held up by a pair of big dark blue suspenders. The suspenders recall the business suits of the era, and suggest this handsome young master is a wealthy yuppie.

Another Newport ad shows a muscular skier, his legs spread apart in an aggressive stance. He's wearing gleaming black ski boots, and tight-fitting shiny dark blue ski pants. Photo.

Film and Television

Western stars regularly wore shirts with lace-up fronts:

John Wayne:

Francis X. Bushman wore a lace-up leather shirt during the big chariot race in Ben-Hur (Fred Niblo, 1925), set in Ancient Rome.


For more information on boots in general, please see my brief survey of Boots in Silent Film. And my lists of boots in the films of directors Allan Dwan, John Ford, Joseph H. Lewis, Raoul Walsh.

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.

Liam Hemsworth was photoed on a fire escape, wearing a Perfecto-style black leather motorcycle jacket with lots of zippers and snaps, dark striped jeans with many patches, and elaborately laced-up black boots. The boots have silver-like steel-capped toes and silver eyelets for the laces. The boots look as if they are hard to lace up, or under tension and heavy stress while they are laced - perhaps this is an illusion created by a deliberate design effect. The column of eight eyelets is elaborately curved, looking as if they are bent together by the laces, and about to spring open. It's probably an illusion, one created by the curved line of eyelets.

Figure skater Elvis Stojko wore trousers that laced up the sides. The trousers look like shiny black leather, but are likely some more flexible material. The eyelets are silver metallic, like those on a boot. He wore them with a matching shirt, and black skates.

Colton Haynes stars as comic book hero Roy Harper, the Red Arrow, on the TV series Arrow. His red leather costume features elaborate lace-up along the sleeves, and in two front panels that rise up V-shaped from his waist to his shoulders. The panels bulge out for his chest muscles at the top, and are tight over his abs lower down. The lacings have silver eyelets, like a boot or leather shoe. His costume also features elaborate leather straps and silver buckles, holding his quiver on his back. The color of the uniform is dithered, so that the bright red of the bulging chest, shoulders and upper arms, transforms down into the near-black-with-red-tinge of the lower arms and tight abs.

Comic book hero costumes have some of the greatest creativity and care lavished on their design, in modern films and TV. See also the section of this article on Red Leather.

Mod Clothes: Comic Books and That Special Man

While they don't involve lace-up clothes, some romance comic stories are related to the above rock music tales, especially the classic "That Special Man" (Love Stories #152, October - November 1973). Like the rock star tales, they feature Mod clothes.

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.

At the end of "Make Love To Me" the heroine returns to the States. Her "man back home" Brian is far from dull. He's red-haired and in a gorgeous Mod double-breasted blue suit. He's a riot of color and top fashion.

Death of a City. "Death of a City" (Supergirl #2, January 1973) Writer: Cary Bates. Art: Art Saaf. Jeff and scientist Professor Allan Forsyte are handsome romantic rivals for Supergirl.

We get a close-up of Jeff'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 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.

Jeff is first seen in a muscle shirt with wide, horizontal stripes (pages 2, 3). This anticipates the striped tee shirt of basketball team Captain Dick Foster in "Miss Peeping Tom". Dick's tee shirt is more dignified than Jeff's muscle shirt. Dick's long white pants are more of a power look too - something he takes advantage of by his stance. Dick also wears a yellow headband that matches the stripes of his shirt in color and shape. This gives his outfit a "uniform" look. Both men are really coming on strong with the heroine while in these striped shirts. But both scenes are doomed to be interrupted by the appearance of another man, a romantic rival for the heroine.

The illustration (page 10) of the scientist hero holding the bottle of Kandor, smiling, recalls a similar laughing portrait of the hero in "Hard to Handle" (page 8). The handsome scientist's all-white clothes also anticipate the hero of "Hard to Handle". The scientist's clothes have elements of a uniform. They also look like a dressy business suit. It is a powerful combination.

Both men have links to Saaf's romance comic book heroes:

In general, I think Jeff and his clothes are mainly interesting, as precursors to later romance comic heroes. By contrast, the muscular scientist and his white uniform are something special.

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 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.

A Third Mod Cover. Art Saaf's cover for "I Won't Marry You" (Heart Throbs #135, November 1971) features two handsome men, angrily ordering the heroine choose one of them to marry. They seem like authority figures, issuing moral directives. Both wear Mod clothes, including bell-bottoms, big belts and tight form-fitting shirts. The man on the right wears a shirt with big sleeves and tight cuffs, expertly fitting bell-bottomed striped pants and tight black leather belt: all features anticipating "That Special Man". He also has the precisely coiffed curly hair, pretty but perverse sensual face and big muscles of the hero of "That Special Man". He differs from "That Special Man" in wearing a wristwatch with a black leather band, suggesting he has a responsible role somewhere in the bourgeois world.

The cover also anticipates Saaf's cover for "The Show Off" (Heart Throbs #145, September 1972). That shows a Coach and a football player, similarly demanding that the heroine choose one of them. Both covers have a light-haired, somewhat gentle man on the left, and a dark-haired macho man in really good clothes on the right.

The later tales "The Show Off" and "That Special Man" have their heroes in uniform. By contrast the men in "I Won't Marry You" are in regular street wear, not uniforms. But there is a uniform-like quality to the shared features of their clothes, like the big belts with conspicuous rectangular belt buckles.

A possible ancestor to the "I Won't Marry You" cover. This is a cover drawn by Howard Purcell (Mr. District Attorney #14, March-April 1950). It shows an angry convict in prison, chewing out the hero. The convict is teamed up with an angry cop. Both are in gray uniforms. The convict anticipates the man on the right of "I Won't Marry You". Both men have:

The man on the left in "I Won't Marry You" wears a wide leather belt, like the angry cop in Mr. District Attorney #14. Both belts are worn outside outfits, not for support, but to make waists look tight. And while it might be stretching a point, the Mod medallion the man on the left wears, might be an analogue of the cop's badge.

I Am a Woman. "I Am a Woman" (Young Romance #190, January 1973) also has its hero David in one of those Mod shirts (page 1). It too has puffy sleeves, tight cuffs, and a bit of extra material at the waist tucked into tight, belted bell-bottoms. It has a fairly big, pointed collar. Art: Perhaps by Tony DeZuniga.

Lying Lips "Lying Lips" (Girls' Love Stories #180, October - November 1973). Writer: ?. Art: ?. Cover: Jay Scott Pike. The characters repeatedly play a party game, where blindfolded men try to guess the identity of women who kiss them, just from their kisses. The game is the subject of Pike's cover. So if the cover inspired the story, this game was already central to Pike's cover. Complete Story.

This tale is relentlessly grim, and not much fun, after its opening scenes.

Pike's cover for "Play With Fire" showed a biker uniform with insignia of tightly blindfolded skulls. The uniformed biker who wears it is passionately kissing a woman. Pike's cover for "Lying Lips" extends this blindfold imagery. In both covers, blindfolding is linked to unleashed romantic feelings.

The blindfolded hero Ron on the "Lying Lips" cover wears an extreme Mod shirt. It is not flattering, unfortunately. But it does look decadent and transgressive: important aspects of Mod fashion. It has a huge pointed collar.

Good-looking men in the background are laughing derisively, on the cover.

The best art in the story "Lying Lips" shows the blindfolded men. They tend to have rich heads of hair, that stick out over the blindfold.

The first man to be blindfolded in the story is Ron again, looking very different from the cover. Ron wears a shirt with a somewhat big pointed collar. However, one of the images (bottom right on page 3) of him kissing shows the collar with long giant points, like the collar of the hero's Mod shirt in "That Special Man". Ron's giant Mod collar looks great. Such collars are transgressive and phallic. Unfortunately, none of the other portraits of Ron show his shirt this way. It is oddly inconsistent.

Ron likes being blindfolded. He orders the person doing it "Tie that blindfold good and tight".

Ron in the story wears a huge rectangular metal belt buckle, as he does on the cover. Ron in the story has a conspicuous leather belt and shoes.

The second blindfolded man is wearing a shirt or jacket styled as a uniform. Uniform-like features include a chest patch pocket and epaulettes. This too is Mod (top of page 5). None of the other men in the tale are especially Mod. None look uniformed.

The heroine is only present at the first party with Ron, because she is serving pizza to the guests. She is there in a subservient role. The story invokes Hierarchy.

What Kind of a Girl are You? (Young Romance #162, October - November 1969). The men in this tale wear unique Mod creations:

All of these Mod shirts are striking and unusual. They tend to be pullover type shirts, with different kinds of innovative geometric patterns on them. The shirts are not loud, or particularly flamboyant looking. Instead, they seem to be making innovative statements.

More traditional men's clothes are here too. The sport coat with the black and white stripes at the end is striking. Even better: the salesman who is dressed in a traditional black suit, white dress shirt and black and white striped tie. He looks like the last word in traditional elegance. It is easy to imagine him as the romantic hero of a 1950's comedy.

Flag Uniforms

The Flag Uniform. Nick Cardy's cover of Girls' Romances #144 (October 1969) shows a man dancing in a Mod uniform based on the U.S. flag. Cover. 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".

Rock Stars. Flag-based stage uniforms were worn by rapper Vanilla Ice in his performances.

Singer JC Chasez of 'N SYNC wore a U.S. flag shirt, sitting on a motorcycle for a cover of Teen People (November 2001). Photo. He's pointing straight at the viewer like Uncle Sam Wants You.

Pulp Magazine Covers. Football uniforms inspired by the U.S. flag are on the covers of pulp magazines: Complete Sports (Vol 4 #3, November 1942), Complete Sports (Vol 5 #2, January 1947). The uniforms are related. Both show an area around the player's neck, filled with white stars on a blue background. This is one-half of the imagery of the U.S. flag. But the uniforms do not include standard white-and-red stripes. They do have irregular white-and-red bands on their sleeves. And red stripe-like zones on blue helmets.

Films. In Easy Rider (1969) Peter Fonda wears a black leather motorcycle jacket and pants. His jacket has a US flag on its back, his helmet has a flag design, and so does the jutting gas tank of his motorcycle.

Men in White

Miss Peeping Tom. "Miss Peeping Tom" (Young Romance #193, April - May 1973), drawn by Art Saaf. Excerpts.

THE ATHLETES. This tale offers 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 three athletes have both first and last names. They include swim team Captain Andy Green, basketball team Captain Dick Foster, and weight-lifting team Captain Steve Anderson. This gives these men extra power and prestige. The same is true of related men in other tales: baseball star Danny Fields in "Play with Fire", quarterback Dan Casey in "Enemies in Love", sailor Kent Paris in "Hard to Handle". See also wealthy heir Van Harrington of "Puppet on a String", Gary Jackson and athlete Roger Blake of "One Kiss Too Many", swimming star Hal Brooks of "Play with Fire".

Steve Anderson turns up in a pure white tee shirt, when his is piloting his phallic canoe. His white tee shirt anticipates that of Kent Paris in "Hard to Handle".

Aside from the kissing man on the first page, basketball team Captain Dick Foster is the only male character who consistently seeks out romance. Dick Foster also wears some sort of uniform in both of his appearances, also unique in the tale.

"Miss Peeping Tom" takes place in a flower-filled Spring. The three team Captains are certainly seniors, soon to graduate. So likely is the heroine.

THE FACULTY ADVISOR. 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 faculty advisor has many strategies that cement his image as an Authority Figure:

All of these techniques are harmless to others. The advisor's strategies are lacking in malice. But they strongly convey an Authority Figure image.

Like the athletes, and the rock stars in other tales, the faculty advisor is likely good at planning. He has thought out all these strategies in advance. Then is looking for opportunities to implement them. By this time, he is exceptionally slick at finding such opportunities and acting on them.

AN ANCESTOR? "Lois Lane's College Scoops" (Lois Lane #55, February 1965) anticipates "Miss Peeping Tom":

  1. "Lois Lane's College Scoops" has a flashback, showing Lois Lane applying for a reporter job on her college newspaper. This anticipates the heroine of "Miss Peeping Tom" applying to join the school's camera club. Both organizations involve communication (newspaper, photos).
  2. The paper's male editor hazes Lois by ordering her to join the college's all-male fencing team, for a story. This anticipates the male faculty advisor of "Miss Peeping Tom" assigning the heroine the hard (maybe impossible) task of getting photos of male athletic stars.
  3. The editor has Authority Figure attributes (desk, typewriter, dress shirt and tie, giving assignments. editor's eye-shield with shiny black visor). He anticipates the Authority Figure faculty advisor in "Miss Peeping Tom" (who has different attributes, though).
  4. In "Lois Lane's College Scoops", the muscular fencing team Captain is sympathetic, and helps Lois get her story - although not without some sneaky tricks of his own. This anticipates the way the team Captains in "Miss Peeping Tom" are mainly helpful to the heroine.
  5. The Captain's glamorous all-white fencing uniform anticipates the white tee shirt of Captain Steve Anderson in "Miss Peeping Tom".
The fencing uniform has lace-up white shoes. And what look like straps. Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger.

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. something celebrated by the stories; a happy ending.

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

A MOVIE ANCESTOR. "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:

THE HERO. 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. Sometimes his face looks like that of a tough guy. Other times, he seems boyishly charming in an All-American way.

Kent Paris has blond hair. He resembles other blond musclemen by Saaf in having lots of precisely coifed hair, such as weight-lifter Steve in "Miss Peeping Tom", rock star Jesse in "That Special Man", and boxer Tommy in "I Gave My Love Away". Like Steve, Kent Paris's hair can sometimes look straight, other times wavy, depending on what looks most sexy at the moment. By contrast, rock star Jesse's hair is always richly, complexly wavy, maybe even a bit curly.

The precision with which these men wear their hair, is part of their arsenal. It suggests all sorts of things, including a commitment to discipline.

Kent Paris is a bit older than these other men. He's old enough to be an authority figure, given half a chance. He's expert at authority figure behavior, like assigning the heroine tasks, and judging her performance on them. He conveys a calm confidence when doing such authority figure actions.

COVER. The cover by Jay Scott Pike, shows the heroine caught in the hero's net. Cover. It might be inspired by an episode in the science fiction comic book tale "Fishermen from the Sea" (Strange Adventures #105, June 1959) (page 5). Art: Mike Sekowsky. This shows both the hero and heroine caught in the net of alien fishers. The heroine in both tales, is a blond woman with lots of hair in a red dress.

Also: Pike's version of the hero on the cover, looks quite different from Saaf's in the actual story. The heros are dressed differently too: Saaf's hero wears a white tee shirt and white pants, while Pike's wears a white sweatshirt and dark pants.

AUTHORSHIP. Robert Kanigher edited the issues, in which "Miss Peeping Tom", "Play With Fire", "That Special Man" and "Hard to Handle" appeared. Did he write the stories? These tales, like most DC romance comics of the era, have no writers credited.

Kanigher contributed stories to The Flash that were explicitly credited to him. Some of these share elements with these romance tales. This makes it likely that the romance tales are also by Kanigher:

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".

Love's a Stage "Love's a Stage" (Girls' Love Stories #180, October - November 1973). Writer: ?. Art: Jay Scott Pike ?. A stage actress finds a handsome, likable newspaperman at the publication that gave her a bad review. Complete Story.

The newspaperman hero Barry is dressed as a social Authority Figure, in a good suit. His evaluation of the heroine's acting is Authority Figure behavior. Evaluating other people's job performance is what Authority Figures do. He has a whole, powerful social institution behind him, too, the newspaper. He's a member of this organization.

SYMBOLS. Barry is regularly linked to phallic symbols:

LINKS. "Love's a Stage" has features that recall "Miss Peeping Tom" and especially "Hard to Handle":

A different character in "Love's a Stage": the handsome actor seen only on the splash.

The actor kissing the heroine on the splash is dressed like the hero of "Hard to Handle". Both men have shirts and trouser cuffs that end in ragged edges. This suggests "rough" environments. The actor has the Mod, elaborately coiffed hair of men in romance comic tales. A difference: the actor in "Love's a Stage" wears laced-up boots, rather than the simple shoes of "Hard to Handle". His clothes are more uniform-like. His kiss is designed to make the heroine just a bit awkward: she has to stretch up on her toes to meet him. This tension likely heightens her feelings. The heroine on the cover of "Play With Fire" also has to stretch up awkwardly to meet the hero's kiss.

Whites and Tennis Whites

Tennis whites and other all-white clothes, are a sophisticated, elite look.


Comic books:

White Medical and Lab 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 comic book heroes are encased in similar elaborately buttoned white uniforms: These white medical uniforms have common features. Their front panel buttons up the side or top, and the erect collar also buttons. The front panels do indeed recall some police uniforms, while the erect collars evoke some military uniforms.

Such uniform coats completely encase the heroes, both their chests and necks. Their elaborate buttons make them look hard to remove.

Richard Chamberlain on the TV medical series Dr. Kildare sometimes wore such white medical uniforms. They buttoned up the side, along the shoulder, and on the collar. However, the collar is shorter and flatter than many comic book uniforms. See the episode A Shining Image (Buzz Kulik, 1961).

Series character Pete Ross wears a glamorous all-white fencing uniform in "Lois Lane's College Scoops" (Lois Lane #55, February 1965) (pages 2, 3, 4). It recalls these other uniforms in appearance. Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger.

Cars: Magazine Ads

Firebird: The Graduate. White tee shirts sometimes appeared in glamorous ads: see the November 1968 print ad for the 1969 Pontiac Firebird 400. Photo. Photo. The ad also appeared in college sports souvenir programs, as early as October 28, 1968.

It features 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 precision 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.

But he also suggests a uniformed police officer, standing with disciplined precision. The ad is subtly ambiguous about his identity - like the more explicitly ambiguous Firebird ad about "hoods" (see below). A related ambiguity: how old is this guy, anyway? He could be a college graduate in his early twenties. Or he might be in his later twenties, old enough to be a policeman. His simple short haircut suggests either a college athlete of the early 1960's, or a policeman.

The ad copy says the Firebird has "all-new looks". Both the Graduate and the Hoods have the ability to develop looks crowded with ambiguity. It's an almost magical capability. And like the Firebird, these men might have "genius below decks."

The hero's white tee shirt anticipates Kent Paris in the romance comic book tale "Hard to Handle" (Love Stories #150, June - July 1973). 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:

Firebird: Hoods. 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. Photo.

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."

Both "We'd like to put in a good word for hoods." and "The Graduate":

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 more respectably dressed though, in sweaters:

  1. In the first ad he wears a light gray sweater over an open collar shirt. The sweater is full of glamorous phallic folds. He's also got his hands on the car, which looks like a huge phallic symbol in front of him. Both the hood and the headlight look spectacularly phallic. He's got a big smile. Photo.
  2. His black sweater in the second ad is edgier. It is all black, except for the erect yellow collar that encircles his huge neck. He wears matching black pants, giving his outfit a uniform quality. Photo.
"New Camaro. Feb. 26th." is sometimes made part of a two-page spread or even a three-page spread. (See Life magazine, February 27, 1970, for the three-page version.) It appears on the right page. While the left page shows a guy with a blue Camaro. Photo. The left page guy is wearing a white shirt with a big patch pocket, over a bulky white sweater. The shirt has uniform qualities. It also looks restrictive, with tight cuffs, and odd double buttons in front. He looks trapped in all this layered clothing. The sweater has a high turtleneck collar, encasing and trapping his neck. He wears a wide brown leather belt, adding to the layered, trapped look. The brown leather is distinctly less macho than black leather would be. It has an unusual shiny glaze, calling attention to itself. The extra-broad belt loops of his black trousers also really stand out, against the brown belt. Such broad loops are also unusual.

The left page guy looks apprehensive.

His girlfriend looks like she is in control of the car. Instead of a phallic symbol, the circular headlight of the car makes a circle or female symbol. This round, recessed region could also be a symbol of the left page guy.

The two men look a bit like the pairs in romance comic "rock star" tales, such as "That Special Man" (1973):

Corvette. The enthusiastic car-talk in the Firebird ads recalls earlier ads for other cars. These ads all have: The Corvette Stingray ad "The car that talks back." ran in The New Yorker (May 4, 1968). Photo. 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 Corvette 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 Corvette Stingray ad "Perpetual emotion machine." ran in Sports Illustrated (June 10, 1968) and The New Yorker three days later. Photo. 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." Here the bulging hood of the car itself, in front of the driver at the wheel, forms a phallic symbol.

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.

A pair of ads show a gleaming off-green '69 Corvette. One is titled "You don't have to beware of substitutes. There aren't any." It concludes: "It figures Corvette is the only genuine sports car built in America. One like this is enough to discourage anybody else from even trying." The other ad reads: "With this one beautiful exception, there is no such thing as a true American sports car." The evocation of how "beautiful" the car is, is especially daring in this macho context. It evokes all sorts of feelings. Some of these are transgressive.

Another ad is titled "Superiority complex." It features a bright red Corvette. The text concludes "That's the real beauty of Corvette. It does all the work, you get all the credit." This is a hidden evocation of the "beauty" of the car again. It also links that beauty to an unfair advantage for the driver. Earlier the ad says that Corvette is "The kind of car that brings out the driver in you. And why not? Everything is in your favor." Photo.

A Corvette ad was titled "Did you expect anything less from The Leader?" It calls the Corvette "an astonishingly beautiful sports car".


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 well-built fellow on the cover (Girls' Love Stories #173, September 1972) is in an aggressively striped dress shirt that really shows off his muscular 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.

Art by Don Heck

An earlier well-built guy in a striped dress shirt is on the cover (Girls' Romances #157, June 1971). He too is on a dock filled with jutting phallic symbols. Art: Don Heck. Both his striped shirt and snow white pants are skintight. He wears a tight big black leather belt. Cover.

He recalls the actor Paul Dennis on the cover of "Catch a Falling Star" (Young Love #91, January 1972), also by Don Heck. Paul Dennis too is well-muscled and in a skintight sweater. He wears a giant black leather belt. A piano player in the background wears striped bell-bottoms and a black leather vest. Cover.

Vertically Striped Swimsuits

Vertically striped bathing suits: 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.

Romance in Stripes

The hero and heroine are at an ice cream shop, on the cover of Falling in Love #112 (January 1970). The muscular hero is in a orange-yellow-and-black striped shirt. He wears a turned-up collar. The couple's ice cream sodas match their outfits: the heroine's pink strawberry drink echoes her red-and-white dress; the hero's chocolate soda harmonizes with his shirt. Art: Nick Cardy. The couple look like the couple in Cardy's "flag uniform" cover (Girls' Romances #144, October 1969). Their clothes have similarities: the heroine on the flag cover is in red-and-white; the hero on both covers is aggressively striped.

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 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 hero also wears neat casual clothes. He climbs in and out of a window, with the window sill serving as a phallic symbol (page 3).

The best image in "No Love for Miss Goody Two-Shoes" (1970) is on both the splash panel and the cover. Art: Maybe George Tuska? Art Saaf?. 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. In the background, other slick business-suited men embrace women.

The cover of Young Love #79 (March - April 1970) shows a well-built 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. He is giving an angry order. His careful styling has certain Mod features: large side pockets on his suit, long black pointed sideburns.

The character of the boyfriend in "Too Spoiled for Love" (1970) 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" (1969) 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 heroine of "Somewhere I'll Find Him" (1970) meets a man at a resort in a sharp pinstripe suit (pages 4, 5). Tom Burns might actually be overdressed for a resort, but he looks good anyway in pinstripes. The heroine Binnie regards Tom as an ideal figure of romance. His name is symbolic: Tom is often associated with masculinity, while Burns suggests the heroine might be "playing with fire". The desk clerk referring to him as "Mr. Burns" underscores his masculinity. The clerk's deferential reference to him as "Mr." also suggests a Chain of Command. Tom Burns is the only person in the tale with a full name, giving him presence and suggesting his erotic power.

The racecar driver Brett of "Match-Maker, Match-Breaker" (1970) wears a black striped suit (page 3). He earlier wears an overcoat over it, with a turned-up collar (page 3). He looks especially grown-up and mature. The back view of him in the overcoat shows his broad shoulders. This anticipates another sexy Good Guy, the hero Van Harrington of "Puppet on a String" (1973). Van Harrington shows even broader shoulders in his tux. Art: Win Mortimer.

"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

Go To Her, My Darling. (Young Love #79, March - April 1970). The husband in this tale 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.

The cover of the same issue shows a man all dressed up in a striped dark blue business suit. This cover is for a different story. Still, it suggests that this issue was experimenting in high-powered business looks for its heroes. Both the cover hero and the husband in "Go To Her, My Darling" are in the spiffiest of business clothes.

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.


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" (Young Romance #202, November-December 1974) and "No Wedding for Me" (1972). The heroes of those tales wind up in extremely elegant suits or sport coats 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 hero looks as if he might be a nerd. There are suggestions that he is a genuine inventor. He might be very impractical, but he is not a phony

Dots. Mod shirts with circular dots, mainly in 1972/1973:

Mod Clothes: Photographs

Mod Clothes: Magazines

Seagram's. Seagram's Gin had a long-running series of magazine ads. They featured well-dressed men sharing their secrets for mixing perfect cocktails. The series dates back at least to 1967. In 1972, the men in the ads suddenly started wearing Mod suits, shirts and ties. Photo. The three best 1972 ads have some of the top Mod fashion of the era. The men have lots of neat, well-coifed hair: also a Mod ideal. The men are shown with lots of phallic symbol tall thin glasses and bottles. These ads are captioned: Mod fashion was often wore by rock stars on record covers. And employed as stage uniforms of rock stars in comic books. By contrast these Seagram's ads show "regular men", dressed in suits or sport coats for socializing.

Ken Harrelson. Baseball star Ken Harrelson appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (September 2, 1968). He was dressed in one of the best Mod suits of the era. The baby blue suit includes a Nehru jacket. Like the best Nehru jackets, it has an erect collar and broad shoulders. He's photographed holding baseball bats: both a sign of his profession, and phallic symbols. Photo.

Harrelson, nicknamed "The Hawk", liked to wear other Mod styles too. He was one of the flamboyant figures of the era. He was aggressive about pursuing a Mod look, in defiance of his baseball bosses:

Robert Redford. Only Robert Redford could wear a spectacular pink suit in The Great Gatsby (1974). It has that Mod feature, an elaborate double-breasted vest with columns of buttons. Photo. Illustration by Richard Amsel, for GQ (March 1974). Photo.

Mod Clothes: Albums

Bobby Sherman. One of the best Mod outfits was worn by singer Bobby Sherman. This was for his album Here Comes Bobby (1970). Bobby Sherman wears a light-blue shirt, yoked in front like a cowboy shirt. The shirt is also classically Mod, with puffy sleeves, tight cuffs, and a giant pointed collar. The shirt's chest and arms are full of hanging fringe. He wears this with deep blue leather pants. And black leather belt and shoes. Photo. Photo. A similar shirt in white: Photo.

Berlin. Lou Reed's album Berlin (1973) is lurid in its songs. But it has a glamorous cover full of Mod people. A smiling young man has lots of elaborately coiffed black hair, a form-fitting black shirt, two ornate, decadent necklaces, an opulent watch, a huge black leather belt, skin-tight jeans, and high-heeled ultra-shiny black shoes with jeweled soles. Platform shoes were a craze in the 1970's.

Rockapella. Mod styles influenced pop singers decades after their heyday. Rockapella's video of "Pretty Woman" (2001) has one of the group in tight leather-look pants, and a matching leather-look jacket.

A photo of Rockapella has them all in identical clothes: a uniform, in effect. They all wear green nylon Air Force MA-1 uniform jackets, dark glasses, skintight black pants and identical lace-up shoes. The team is photographed from their left hand side, making the zippered pockets on the left sleeves of the MA-1 jackets conspicuous. These pockets are among the best features of the MA-1.

Elvis. Elvis' most famous outfits in his later career had Mod elements.

The skintight black leather suit Elvis wore for his Comenback concert (1968) has uniform aspects. The shirt has two big patch pockets.

Even more Mod are the white jumpsuits. Both had bell-bottoms, and a huge belt:

  1. Concert in Madison Square Garden, New York City (1972). This was worn with a cape.
  2. Broadcast concert from Honolulu (1973).

Mod Clothes: Store Displays

Sibley's. Sibley's Shoes stores had a background screen in their store windows (1973). It was a "photomontage", showing many men in spectacular Mod clothes of the era. The men looked powerful: it was a display that celebrated power. These men were dressed for business or prestige social events that likely involved business. The screens were captioned "Men". The photos were all black-and-white.

A man wears a gleaming black leather trenchcoat over his business suit and tie. He is taking off a pair of dark sunglasses. He looks very assertive.

A very well-built macho man is in a business suit and tie. He is excessively handsome, and muscular. He is determinedly moving forward towards the viewer. He is a foot taller than his wife, who's trailing along behind him. This was in direct contradiction to the manners of the time, which said he had to escort her, walking behind her.

A man in a very Mod tuxedo. It is made up of many color patches.

A man has one hand inside his sports jacket, like Napoleon.

A much younger man in a fancy black leather jacket. The jacket has numerous narrow leather straps with metal buckles. The chest patch-pockets are strapped and buckled shut. So are numerous strapped pockets on the sleeves. The tight leather jacket fits the slender man like a glove. Both the black leather and the buckles are gleaming. Such straps were popular on leather jackets in the 1970's. This jacket takes the number of straps to an extreme.

Mod Clothes: Books

Assignment Peking. Assignment Peking (1969) is a spy thriller novel by Edward S. Aarons, published as a paperback original. Its cover by Robert McGinnis shows the hero in a great off-white suit. Photo.

Charles Addams. Cartoonist Charles Addams put the Addams Family in over-the-top Mod clothes, for the cover of his book My Crowd (1970). This is funny, and also creative.

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.


"The Power Look" Issue. 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 attaché cases. In their own executive way, these are as combative and aggressive-looking as the black leather motorcycle jackets of The Wild One. The men also wear excellent black leather business shoes, shined up to the max.

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.

"The Power Look" is full of exceptionally dressy business suits. Two chalk-striped suits are especially good: a navy blue (page 385) and a very dark gray (page 387). A different photo of the gray suit is also on the issue's Contents (page 8). Both suits are six-button double-breasted suits with peaked lapels: an archetypal good design for business suits. See also an ad in the same issue for Alexander Julian showing such a suit (page 103).

The photo of Jesse Harris in the navy pinstripe (page 385) is so definitive a look at good business suits, that it was used on subscription cards for GQ. So was the close-up of Harris in a different suit, that opens the article (page 380-381). (It's online.) Also good: Harris as one of two men in dressy light gray suits (page 389). These too look like business ideals. (Harris also starred in a Walter Chin spread on casual wear "15 Easy Pieces", June 1988: online. Harris' table-top pose is especially good.)

"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 business 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. Guidera is surrounded by brightly colored phallic symbols: a fence, tow truck and tower in the background. "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, darker pure-black pants and a leather wrist-watch band: all features that also make him look like the boss. With Pearson as his subordinate. 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 matched pair of shots show well-built James Guidera and John Pearson in similar three-piece suits, each with an endless column of six buttons on the vest. The suits are designed to make the men instantly identifiable as businessmen. But Guidera's suit is better, with peaked lapels and matching diagonals on the shoulders - features lacking on Pearson's suit. It also looks dressier and more imposing. In all these features, Guidera is designed to look like the boss and superior, and Pearson is set up to look like James Guidera's subordinate and inferior.

Also: James Guidera gets three solo photos, while John Pearson is only shown in images where he is boss Guidera's subordinate.

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).

A Mock "Business Manual". Business advice manuals talked of chains of command, expressed in references to superiors (bosses and executives) and inferiors (their subordinates and employees) in the hierarchical chain. The manuals gleefully celebrated superiors' abilities, power and success, and gave instructions on their workings to businessmen readers. Some of these business advice books also detailed superiors' ability to invade rivals' turf, territory, personal space, and offices. The men's fashion magazine GQ wittily played on such writing, in the brief unsigned piece on business suits "City Style" (GQ, September 1988) (page 379). It too pretends to give detailed instructions to businessmen: "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 instruction of businessman readers, expressed in 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 and the opportunities open to superiors: "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." This clearly refers to business executives, but it subtly reminds one of the power of the U.S. President, and his executive branch of government. The previous page's "City Style" played on the political power phrase "key to the city" by saying "And here's the key to the modern city suit".

Chairs. 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. So does what might be the same man, in a very traditional Lanvin tux (page 198).)

A column in GQ (July 1988), Howard Kaplan's "Confessions of a Headhunter", explores the tricky deep chairs reserved for an executive's visitors. These chairs are "sharp-looking numbers, cowhide and chrome" - the mix of black leather and shiny silver chrome is seen as something special. The column is in the tradition of the era's business manuals, that explain and cheerfully celebrate executives' possibilities, opportunities and power. The linked article looks at many examples of such deep chairs.

Desk Set. "Desk Set" (March 1988) also offers a business manual style treatise on the care-and-feeding of business power. This is a manual with a difference, however. Business books seemed to show how men who already had power could exert it or maintain it. Such key GQ articles as "Desk Set", "GQ Predicts" and "The Power Look" instead show how Good Guy outsiders could learn to project a power image too. These outsiders include technical experts, not just executives. As the great comedian Jimmy Durante used to say, "Everybody wants to get in on the act!"

"Desk Set" looks at "Six double-breasted business suits that work overtime" worn by businessmen at fancy desks. The suits are extraordinarily dressy. These men are in suits that express and downright exude business power. "Business suits in serious shades and traditional cuts define this season's most powerful profiles". Readers are instructed "Show you mean business with aggressive" styles. The men occupy black leather and shiny silver chrome chairs: always a prestige combination. Both the chair arms and desk legs are phallic. Black leather is as aggressive in the business world, as it is in motorcycle jackets. The men also use jet-black electronic equipment, engagement calendars, phones and pens.

These men are not all executives: the first man we see seems to be writing a complex "state diagram" in his black leather notebook, and is likely a computer whiz, doing an analysis. His spectacular power suit is designed to call attention to his broad shoulders and good build. He looks thoughtful in his concentration on his work, and highly brainy. The suit's subtle, rich color and complex lustrous surface finish make him look beautiful: a classic Good Guy image. The suit's unique fabric has a high-tech look, that is impressive and just a bit intimidating. The black-leather-and-chrome motif of the chairs is kept up by his leather notebook with its gleamingly shiny chrome silver binder rings. And he wears a shiny wristwatch with a black leather strap, as do others of these men. The precise leather straps remind one of the leather armbands worn by 1910's movie cowboys, or the studded leather wristbands of today's heavy metal rockers. 1910's Western films' leather gear are discussed in my article on Fritz Lang.

The man on the third page is likely a financial consultant or expert, judging by his calculator. He does not seem to be primarily an executive. Of course, he might be a Vice President in Charge of Finance, or some other executive title. He's in a black suit with black-and-white accessories: clothes that are accurately described as "aggressive" in the caption. His clothes are both beautiful and intimidating. His calculator is one of the cooler toys of the era. It's black-and-silver, in keeping with the chairs. It's a carefully designed phallic symbol. It's emitting, or ejaculating, rolls of white paper at the top.

The bow-tied man on the fifth page looks like some sort of high-powered consultant in the arts. Maybe an expert on paintings. This is top GQ model Jesse Harris. He's photographed from below, making him look in charge, while the unhappy business manager on page 6 is pictured from high above, making him look subordinate. The computer expert on page 1 and financial expert on page 3 also look in charge. By contrast, the business manager types facing them on pages 2, 4, 6 look subordinate. These three experts (pages 1, 3, 5) all look as if they are doing things, while the subordinate manager types on pages 2, 4, 6 look inactive. "Desk Set" wouldn't be a business manual of the era, without "superior" men in charge, and "inferior" subordinates. As usual, it is the superiors who get celebrated.

The three experts have iconography associated with rock stars: they are doing things that cause them to be admired, their clothes have uniform-like undertones, they employ black leather, metal and phallic symbols.

Online. Photography: Lothar Schmid. Schmid's name is credited, on the phallic black vertical line that supports the first desk. The geometric forms in the photos, overhead angles, and reflections in the glass desktops and chrome chairs, all recall Constructivist photography of the era of Alexander Rodchenko and László Moholy-Nagy.

After Hours. Frans Van Der Hayden did the photo shoot "After Hours" (November 1986). It shows the sophisticated looks men wore to take part in Manhattan night life. Best: the double-breasted, peak-lapel gray suit by Pal Zileri. Photo. Also good: the long black coat by Bill Robinson, the hero wears over his dressy gray suit. Robinson has a flair for dramatic black clothes. The shiny black leather gloves by Flores also help make the hero look encased. Photo.

The Newspaper King. Todd Eberle (1963-) 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. His soft gray tie echoes daytime formal wear, such as cutaways. His pinstripes echo the striped pants worn with cutaways.

He's seated on a pile of newspapers. The contrast between the elite suit and the rough newspapers is striking. It gives him a dominating quality. So does the way he's using a second pile of papers for a footstool. This shows his shiny black leather business shoe coming down hard on something.

More Suits. Jesse Harris starred as James Bond, in the photo shoot "One Up on James Bond, the 017 looks of 007" (April 1989). Photos: Mario Testino. Harris is shown in a good black suit and well-shined black shoes.

GQ (March 1988) had some good ads for suits. See the ads for:

Meanwhile some ads are strikingly perverse: Valentino was offering a good business suit in ads (Fall 1988). It was of the most dressy business type: gray, subtly striped, double-breasted, peak-lapelled. Walter Chin's photo paired it with very shiny black business shoes. Photo.

Both Principe and Toni Gard offered white suits in 1989 for spring and summer wear. Reporter featured a light-color off-white suit.

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 version 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), Redaelli (page 79). 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, worn with white shorts or "basic black jeans", as the spread puts it (page 174). The black jeans make their wearer look macho. Shirts with lots of big circles were "in": a fashion idea that should be revived. These too would be flattering to real-life men.

Recordings. Suits showed up in other media. Classical pianist Barry Douglas wore a sharp gray suit on the cover of his recording Pictures at an Exhibition (1987). It is patterned, peak-lapeled and double-breasted. And very, very well-shaped.

Television. Such suits also appeared on television. High-powered, well-dressed men on Murder, She Wrote wore them: Jeffrey Nordling as the prosecuting attorney in Dead to Rights (1993), Alan Thicke as a corporate raider in The Phantom Killer (1993), the stockbrokers and corporate raider in How to Make a Killing Without Really Trying (1990).

A different kind of dressy suit was worn by Sean O'Bryan on the episode Bloodlines (1993). This was a severe all-business, all-black three-piece suit. O'Bryan carries a glitzy black leather attaché case, also part of the businessman look.

Father Dowling Mysteries also featured good suits on guest stars. In the episode The Reasonable Doubt Mystery (1990) David Selburg played an aggressive, well-dressed businessman in a double-breasted peak-lapeled gray suit. It shows off his shoulders. He's very successful and linked to an impressive office building. Also good: the fancy, upscale leather jacket, complete with epaulettes, worn by a yuppie on the jury.

See also actor Brett Cullen in full businessman mode in The Restless Remains (1994), an episode of Diagnosis Murder. Photos.

Illustrations. A newspaper illustration by Jamie Nixon shows a handsome young man dressed up in the era's businessman ideal: a double-breasted gray suit (Detroit Free Press, Section B, page 1, November 3, 1989). It accompanies an article "Playing Against Time", which claims young men were hanging on to their youth unreasonably. While the yuppie in the illustration is spectacularly dressed for business, including leather gear like shiny black shoes and a briefcase. his outfit also has toys popping up all over it. Some of the toys are phallic: a baseball bat, a slingshot, a lollipop. It's a cheeky picture.

Men dressed up in good period clothes, complete with hat, were on the cover of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine:

Shift to Neutral. "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 to the max in a light blue double-breasted suit in a bookstore (page 91). He's reading, is totally absorbed, and holding the book in front of him at a phallic angle.

Barry McKinley. GQ had good spreads in earlier eras. "Thoroughbred Dressing" (GQ September 1981) is photographed by Barry McKinley. It shows aristocratic young 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 riding 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.

Traditional rural Australia is the setting of "Tough Wear!" (GQ June 1983). Online. The young man in the long yellowish duster is a classic image of how people imagine the Outback. The duster goes down to his ankles, breaking just over his suede lace-up half-boots. The title page shows two young men who are eagerly climbing the world's most phallic windmill. Their glances are looking up, firmly fixed on its summit. The text of the title page proclaims "Mountaineering gear, military fatigues and cowboy classics . . . brawnier than ever - are all on Summer's comeback trail."

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. Online. Online.

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.

There's a good cover on the 1963 Western paperback Top Gun. Cover.


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.

Best Issue. M had its peak issue (August 1987) a year earlier than GQ (September 1988).

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 good 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 spread celebrates such navy pinstripe suits as a uniform, something all three men wear to look the same. The three men exhibit disciplined precision in their mode of dress. The three look very satisfied, as if they are enjoying themselves.

Fall Tweeds. 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 in "Fall Tweeds" 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) (page 1). 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 glamorous, macho 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.

Best Clothes in the Best Stores. "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 a 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. It too is shot on locations. Unfortunately, many of the clothes are sports wear, and not too interesting. But there are some good suits.

A young man looks friendly and inviting, in a nearly-solid dark blue suit (page 163, the title page of the story). This suit has at least two dimensions, One the one hand, the suit is a perfect example of the late 1980's ideal business suit: dressy, double-breasted, peak-lapeled. On another level, the double-breasted suit recalls a ship's officer's dress uniform. With his dark blue suit and white dress shirt, the hero looks as if he is in spit and polish, regulation uniform. Clothes that some organization of older, authoritative men has specified and required. The hero is smiling and looks as if he really enjoys all this. The "naval officer" effect is enhanced by the blue-painted metal wall in front of which the hero is standing - it looks ship-like. Blue is the traditional color of authority figures, which is why ships' officers wear it. Photography: Art Streiber in Portland, Oregon.

Other men show up in perfect business suits of the era: pinstriped, double-breasted, peak-lapeled (pages 166, 168). These have the corporate executive look, in a pure, outstanding form.

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).

The International Style. Also nice: "The International Style" (January 1989) (page 86), showing Italian fashion, both high fashion suits and sports wear. The double-breasted suits that run through the article are especially good. Two of the best are from Ermenegildo Zegna (pages 100, 101). These are both gray with peaked lapels and broad shoulders, in the 1980's upscale yuppie style. The man on the left (page 100) is gazing sternly out at the viewer, his hair perfectly styled in a serious executive cut. Both the suit and the haircut convey Power. He looks like the viewer's demanding executive boss.

The Ermenegildo Zegna suit on the right (page 101) looks terrific too: perhaps the best in the article. This double-breasted suit does not look like business wear, however. Instead, it evokes a social event or important personal event, one that has the hero getting really dressed up.

Also excellent: a dressy Navy blue suit by Gianfranco Ferre (page 94). It's worn by an intelligent-looking young man. He's photographed in an official site, the State Archives in Lucca, and looks like a government official. He matches a portrait of a gorgeously uniformed Marchese above him. This suggests his very dressy suit also has qualities of a uniform. It does evoke naval officers' uniforms. This Authority Figure young man is holding a large official book in front of him as a phallic symbol. The illusion of Authority is skillfully done.

The opposite page (page 95) shows three young men in different sports coats, also by Gianfranco Ferre. The coats are deliberately loud, in contradiction to the dressy fashion trends of the 1980's. One is even plaid (!!!). My favorite is the bright red check jacket. These young men are wearing clothes that deliberately proclaim their non-business status. And having fun doing so. The three are clearly visitors to the Archive, and having fun.

The contrast between the dressed-up government official and the three guys recalls rock star comic book tales. The official is dressed up, in charge, and linked to uniforms and phallic symbols: like the rock stars. The three young men are like the audience members in the rock tales. Like them:

Features add to the official's status of dominance over the young men: The photo spread also includes sweaters. Tennis sweaters are typically white, like other tennis clothes. This one (page 102) by Enrico Coveri defies convention by being jet black, with a bit of white trim.

More Suits. "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 it 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.

Hugo Boss

Law. The best of the early Hugo Boss ads shows the hero in a lavish, imposing law office, filled with legal books. He's wearing a corporate very dark gray pinstripe suit. This ad appeared in GQ (October 1987). This young man is shown posing in the style used by oil paintings of middle-aged corporate Vice Presidents: a neat touch. It makes him look expert at business Power. Photo. Photography: Bob Krieger.

This was part of a series, showing the hero in law offices, always in gray double-breasted business suits. The suits convey the corporate "power look" of the era. Photo: Bob Krieger. Photo.

Fashion magazines showed such power imagery in double-breasted suits, often in pinstripes:

Barber Shop. A Hugo Boss ad photographed by Neil Kirk (M, November 1991) (page 75) shows four 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. The similar suits make the men seem uniformed. 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 shoes, which seem to be made out of some special leather, have just a touch of gray to them. They are conspicuously laced-up.

The hero's earth-tones-gray-leather-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. A control lever stands nearly straight up. 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.

The chair is full of circular rivets, binding pieces together. These remind one of complex construction sites.

A fifth man is dressed very differently from the four business suited men. This is a barber. He wears a white uniform jacket. He is in conventional gray trousers, and well-shined black leather shoes without laces. He's been caught in a moment of personal service to the hero, brushing the hero off with a small whisk.

The ad has features in common with "rock star" comic book tales:

Shine. A Hugo Boss ad shows the hero as one of a group of seated men getting his shoes shined. The hero is staring right at the viewer, breaking the "fourth wall". He seems deeply satisfied.

This ad was likely conceived as one of a series with the "Barber Shop" Hugo Boss ad. Both have features in common:

Silver Bar. The Hugo Boss ad in M (January 1989) (page 29). Photo: Bob Krieger. The hero is at home, in a fancy double-breasted black tux in front of an even fancier chrome bar. He seems to be awaiting a holiday party guest. A vase of red roses suggests a private romantic evening. The lavish silver bar is full of silver rivets, suggesting construction work and power. An upper region of the bar sticks out over a lower, also recalling construction work. The top surface of the bar is a silver metal mirror.

Two barstools mix silver chrome and shiny dark gray leather seats. This subtly echoes the prestige leather-and-chrome chairs have in the business world. One stool is higher than the other, suggesting hierarchy. Soon the the hero will be sitting higher than his guest, looking down on them. It's behavior from the business world and its business manuals, here sneakily carried over into apparent "romance". For that matter, the hero's tux is styled like one of the imposing prestige business suits of the era: something common in 1980's tuxedos.

Gray Tux. 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 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.

However these Boss tuxes are not that great, considered purely as clothes. While I sometimes like Hugo Boss ads of the period, their actual suits were far from the best of their era, either.


The suit manufacturer Kuppenheimer put out a brochure (Spring '93). The clothes are very much the kind seen in GQ and M, serious dark gray business suits, full of glamour. The cover shows a handsome young man done up as a successful businessman of the era. He has on a gray pinstripe suit. He sits in a black leather and silver chrome desk chair with a padded leather back. And holds a phallic shiny black phone. He's grinning with delight. It's an image of happiness.

Another photo shows two men at a glass-topped business desk. This echoes the photo spread "Desk Set" (GQ, March 1988). Both the GQ and Kuppenheimer desks or tables are a long piece of glass supported by a single mid-section long bar. Both photos show men writing in an engagement-calendar-style notebook. The Kuppenheimer man is making handwritten notes, while the "Desk Set" man was concentrating on "state diagrams" used by analysts. Both look expert.

One of the men in the Kuppenheimer photo has a glossy black phone. This has a stylish keypad with bright white letters. Phones in that era were seen as symbols of power, and as phallic symbols. As in the Kuppenheimer photos, shiny black phones were linked to well-dressed businessmen. See:

An interior illustration shows the pinstripe-suited young man from the cover, holding a phallic pool cue. A somewhat older man, clearly an authority figure, looks on him approvingly. The young man's suit is single-breasted, the handsome authority figure's suit is an even dressier double-breasted. Both are pinstriped. Both men are smiling and very happy. Fashion images like this, showing a group of elite men dressed to the nines, playing pool, were standard. See the tuxedo clad men in the "Polo University Club" ad: GQ (September 1988) (page 200). Photo.

This Kuppenheimer brochure is clearly designed to look as much as possible like an issue of M, or especially GQ.


An ad for Baumler shows a serious, good-looking man in an archetypal good business suit of the era. It is just the right shade of dark gray, with just the right finish on the wool cloth surface, pinstriped, and with large peaked lapels. He's wearing a dressy white shirt with a subtle pattern, and a glossy serious tie. The whole effect is of a serious businessman. WIth touches of the authority figure and an executive in a command position. He's seated in a silver car and holding a gray-silver phallic-symbol computer device. The model is perhaps Greg Carswell.

Carswell also appeared in a 1991 ad for Baumler, seated on a desk, wearing a sports coat and carrying a rolled-up newspaper with the word "Financial" at its top. A gold desk drawer handle is also phallic.

The cover of The Detroit Metro Times (March 23-29, 1988) shows a man wearing a Baumler suit. It's a near-solid gray with a subtle pattern and double-breasted, in the best traditions of its era. Like other Baumler suits, the man wearing it looks extraordinarily business-like. He looks sophisticated, and very dressed up. The article whimsically suggests he's involved in "International Intrigue", the title of this fashion spread. He certainly looks like an elite agent. Or maybe a hero who's stumbled into a nest of spies. The suit is part of Baumler's "Avantgarde 2000" series. Photo: Carson Kruger / Detroit Photographic. Photographed at the Amtrak train station in Dearborn, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit).


Greg Carswell appeared in magazine ads for the Italian suit maker Canali (1989-1990), photographed by Bob Krieger. These suits are dressy, but considerably less pure American-businessman in style. The suits are luxurious, opulent and spectacular. They are mainly double-breasted, and solid in rich colors. There is also a vested suit, worn with a watch chain.

Earlier model Rick Rider appeared in a pinstriped suit for Canali, photographed by Gaetano Besana (1984). Photo. Photo. The suit is almost caramel-colored, conspicuously striped, and downright loud. But it looks fun to wear. Like many Canali suits, it is double-breasted with peaked lapels, and very well cut. The lapels, pockets and other lines of the suit have a knife-like sharpness. They look aggressive. The suit looks like "I'm a businessman, and having fun wearing this unusual suit. But I'm still as aggressive as hell."

David Fumero

Soap opera star David Fumero wore a full corporate look for a magazine photo. This included a very dressy dark gray, almost black, 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. His hair is shorter than he usually wears it, and styled in a businessman's cut. He is glaring seriously at something off-camera.

In recent years Fumero played a well-dressed villain on the TV series Power. His pinstripe suit was especially good. Photo.

David Fumero modeled a shiny black fabric that looks much like leather for the Jean Claude Jitrois brand (1998). He and the other models wore both black shiny pants and elaborately sculpted motorcycle jackets. Fumero's jacket has huge horizontal zippered slash pockets across his chest. There is nothing in the silver-zippered pockets - they are empty except for more of the black leather-look fabric. The jacket sleeves are especially shiny and striking looking. They are bulky in the upper arms, suggesting big muscles, and much narrower in the forearms. Photo.

A more recent example of Jitrois wear. It's like what the college fraternity Vice-President or well-dressed yuppie wears. Photo.

Fumero was also photographed in a shiny red motorcycle jacket, and red pants.


The Men's Club. Esquire magazine had its high point for depicting good business suits, in the spread "The Men's Club" (March 1983). Writer: Vincent Boucher. Photography: Fabrizio Gianni. Photo. The five businessmen are all dressed in sharp gray suits, white dress shirts and gray ties. Each suit is in a different version of gray, as are their ties. The effect is of maximum variety, within very strict limits of what looks best in business (gray suits and white dress shirts, well-shined black shoes). These men are uniformed.

The gray suits suggest a power image for men.

The men are seen full-figure, emphasizing they are in suits, with matching jackets and trousers.

The men share iconography with portraits of rock stars:

There is the mix of shiny silver chrome (the water cooler stand) and black leather, that is prestigious in the business world. The man's belt also mixes the silver buckle with the black leather of the belt.

The issue's cover shows a man in serious business clothes. He's handsome, but unsmiling, and looking down at the reader. The issue is titled "The Business and Fine Art of Dressing". It strongly asserts that the issue is a business manual that will give power advice to businessmen. Photo.


Principe by Marzotto was an Italian line of dressy business suits, popular in the 1980's and 1990's. "Principe" is Italian for "Prince". Men certainly did look like Princes in their suits. As a promotional tool, Principe supplied suits for leading men on American television series. These men looked dressed to the nines. Often the men played dashing roles, that were a bit edgy or transgressive.

Principe provided wardrobe for the TV series Wiseguy (1988), about a heroic FBI agent undercover in organized crime.

Principe also dressed newsman Bob Berkowitz, host of the talk show Real Personal (1992?-1996) on cable channel CNBC. Berkowitz was glamorized on the show, looking like a businessman Authority Figure. This was from an era when both the media and the fashion industry were expert at creating Authority Figure men:

Watching Real Personal is like seeing one of the business manuals of the period come to life.

Berkowitz was always polite, friendly and respectful to his guests. They always looked good too, in suits. While Berkowitz was glamorized, he and the show also treated his guests well.

For more information see Michele Willen's article on Real Personal (1995).

Soap Operas

Daytime soap operas were full of men in good suits, in this era.

The magazine Soap Opera Update (December 1, 1992) ran the results of a Reader's Poll. The character Lawrence Alamain (played by actor Michael Sabatino) was voted the best-dressed man on the soaps. A photo (page 53) shows him in one of the good gray double-breasted suits of the era, complete with peaked lapels. The same issue shows actor Jim Storm dressed up to the nines in a navy blue suit and red tie (page 6): also a standard of the period.

Suits 1900

A number of historical works, especially mysteries, show men in dressy suits from the early 1900's.

Murdoch Mysteries. Murdoch Mysteries (2008-) is a Canadian TV series, set in 1900-era Toronto. It is brilliant at both mystery and comedy.

Jérémie Laheurte. Jérémie Laheurte is a French actor. He is protean in appearance. Starring in the French TV crime series Paris Police 1900 (2021), he's gone the classy Murdoch Mysteries route, in a form-fitting dark-gray three-piece suit, white dress shirt and tie. He also wears a watch chain, and a cap with a jutting stiff visor. It's an Authority Figure look, with pleasant hints of kinkiness. Photo, Photo, Photo.

This link will take you to this article's section on Jérémie Laheurte's fashion work.

Roy Glashan's LIbrary. Roy Glashan's LIbrary is an Internet source for classic fiction. It has modern-day cover art for many older mysteries. Some have glamorous looks at traditional 1900-style suits or uniforms. The suits look dressy, elaborate and intimidating. They are worn with elaborate hats and well-polished business shoes. P.C. Richardson's First Case. Two Gentlemen Incog.. The Murder on the Enriqueta. Detektive Nobody. The Mallet. Admirer. Barradine Detects. Mr. Pepper, Investigator.

Mid-century suits. The Story Escapes Me. The Wolf Woman. The Lethal Logic. B. Typhosus Takes a Hand. The Miracle of Herbert Plunk.

Cowboys. Their Guardian From Hell. Ambush At Torture Canyon. Trail Partners.

Uniforms. Get Out and Get Under. Red Refuge.

Sports gear. Good Fishing.

Science Fiction and Vehicles. Mill of the Gods. The Vanishing Point.


BMW: N Street. The BMW ad in the fashion magazine M (July 1988) (pages 16-19). It also appeared in Time (August 1, 1988) (pages 26-29). Photo. Photo. Photo. Photo. The ad is titled "N STREET", referring to the setting in the elite Washington D.C. district Georgetown.

It shows men in white tie and tails arriving outside a house, to a fancy party. The many men in tails are pleased to be part of an elite group. The last pair of pages include an older macho man in front, and a wistful patrician younger man in the house doorway. A phallic lamppost is near the macho man, and a phallic chandelier is above the young man. A man inside seen through a window is also near a phallic lamp. All of these and other men are perfectly uniformed in white tie and tails.

ROCK STARS. These men in white tie have aspects that recall rock stars and athletes in comic books: complex spectacular uniforms, operating as a group, performing in an elevated area (the high steps of the house, the window of the house), phallic symbols, systematic advance planning, calm self control, and pleasure.

And like the rock stars, they are dominant over men below, who are garbed in awkward or tight clothes:

The men below are under the control of the men in tails above: also like the rock star stories. Each man below has to experience the result of that control as an individual, while the men in white tie function smoothly as a group: also like the rock stars.

Neither the chauffeur or valet uniforms have any insignia on them. Their wearers are not part of any team or organization. The color in their clothes contrasts with the jet black coats of the men in tails.

The chauffeur and parking valet uniforms seem to swallow the men up, and impose new personalities on them. The parking valet uniform makes its wearer look utterly menial.

The chauffeur and valet are photographed from above - the camera is looking down on them. This makes them looks subservient and disciplined. By contrast, the camera is positioned to look up to the men in white tie and tails - even when the men are standing on the street. The makes the men in tails look dominating. And big. A similar approach is often used in rock star tales, like "That Special Man". (This goes far beyond these tales. Photographing heroes from below is common practice in US film and television.)

HIERARCHY. These men below are likely employees of the men in white tie and tails. So the ad is also a celebration of business hierarchy and the Chain of Command. The men in white tie are business "superiors" (bosses, executives); the men in the chauffeur and valet uniforms are their business "inferiors" (employees). "Superiors" and "inferiors" are terms much used by business manuals of the period. These manuals are definitely, enthusiastically on the side of the superiors. So is this ad - at least in part. The ad evokes the celebration of superiors' opportunities, skill and power found in the era's business manuals. The ad is one of the most opulent and visually clever celebrations of superiors' power in the period.

However, everyone in the ad is groping their way to fulfillment, in complex ways. Not just the superiors, but the inferiors too. Presumably the superiors, the bosses in white tie, ordered their inferiors to wear these chauffeur and valet uniforms. The uniforms are especially sharp. They likely trigger cravings in viewers to wear such uniforms themselves.

The men in white tie, the superiors, really, really know what they are doing. In their own superlative white tie and tails. And the uniforms they have arranged for their inferiors.

The men is white tie are likely Government movers and shakers: they are attending a gathering on N Street. So they embody both business power and Government power. This anticipates the classic GQ feature "The Power Look" (September 1988), and its celebration of "the executive branches". That could refer to business executives, or the President's executive branch of government. So these articles' men represent Power at its maximum. Like the business manuals, these articles celebrate these superiors' power, skill and opportunities with unlimited gusto.

BMW: Santa Barbara. The BMW ad in M (February 1989) (pages 6-7). The ad is titled "The Santa Barbara Racquet and Polo Club". This series of BMW ads have titles naming the upscale areas where they are set.

We see one of the polo players, a handsome man maybe in his late thirties, sitting just outside the stables. He is grinning in total delight. The photography emphasizes uniform leather gear he wears. He has big brown leather boots, tall and smooth. Just above them, complex leather straps fasten leather knee protectors to him. This is all for safety and the good of the game.

As a polo player and an apparent Santa Barbara (home for the elite rich) resident, this man is perhaps very rich. Or perhaps he is just taking part in the game - say an office worker from a middle class suburb who's been recruited because he can ride. He looks like a friendly, nice guy next door type, genuinely likable. He seems more middle class than rich.

But comparing him to "N Street", he actually more resembles one of the dominated men below in that ad, such as the chauffeur or valet parker. And the dominated men below in the rock star tales:

This man looks exceptionably happy. Whatever is being done to him, he thoroughly enjoys it.

On some Internet scans of this ad, it is hard to see the chest 2 on the hero's uniform. Maybe the 2 is not there at all.

BMW: Ocala. The BMW ad in M (October 1988) (pages 16-17). The ad is titled "Ocala". It shows many men at an outdoor horse show. all clad in elegant tuxedos, mainly jet black. The tuxedos make them look like virile, successful businessmen.

Two guys in the upper left corner are staring into the camera, with big smiles. There are no women near them, but they are all smiles. The right-hand man is especially good-looking. Many of the eleven tuxedo-clad men in the photo are looking at the horses, or other men, rather than their girlfriends.

BMW: The Old Blues Rugby Club, Berkeley. The BMW ad (1989) is titled "The Old Blues Rugby Club, Berkeley". Elite young men in Rugby team uniforms cheer enthusiastically for a red car. The star player is in an all-black Rugby uniform. So are his teammates. Another team is in red-and-black Rugby uniforms. Like Polo, Rugby is seen as an elite sport.

Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas. Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas (2005) is an episode of the TV detective series Monk. The desk at a fancy hotel is manned by Lewis (played by actor Maury Sterling). Lewis wears a spectacular, bell-hop style uniform. The uniform is black, with gold buttons, name tag, and trim on the front panel, epaulettes and high collar. It's as good as the uniforms in the BMW ads. Costumes: Ileane Meltzer. Video Clips.

White Tie and Tails

Esquire Fashions for Men (1966) is a how-to book explaining how men's clothes work, and how to dress. The cover calls it an "illustrated handbook" "on every aspect of fashion". It has good illustrated explanations of formal wear, both tuxedos and "white tie and tails". The book is credited to John Berendt and the Editors of Esquire Magazine. Berendt was a long-time editor and writer at Esquire.

Book Covers. Book cover illustrations:

Music. There are many photos of classical musicians in white tie and tails. Musicians perform in formal clothes. For them, tails are action wear: Mysteries. Prose mystery novels sometimes had their detective heroes in tails. (These were not pictured, but described in words.): White tie is also worn by men other than detectives in prose crime fiction: In prose mystery fiction, white tie and tails seems especially common in 1928-1950.

Magazines. Print magazine photos of white tie and tails:

Print magazine illustrations of white tie and tails:

Films. Films:

Comic Books. 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).

What follows is a checklist of comic book stories featuring white tie and tails.


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


Detective Comics

Spencer Steel

Jumbo Comics

Mystery Thriller of the Month

Blue Ribbon Comics

The King

Flash Comics

Comic Cavalcade The Chameleon

Target Comics

The Firebrand

Police Comics

The Sandman

Adventure Comics

World's Finest Comics Cliff Cornwall

Flash Comics

Radio Squad

More Fun Comics

The Crimson Avenger

World's Finest Comics


Detective Comics

Inspector Dayton

Jumbo Comics

Gang Busters

Gang Busters

Mr. District Attorney

Mr. District Attorney


The Flash - the Golden Age Hero

Flash Comics

Comic Cavalcade The Flash - the Silver Age Hero

The Flash

Dick Cole

Blue Bolt Comics


Adventure Comics

Dr. Fate

More Fun Comics

Johnny Quick

More Fun Comics

The Human Bomb

Police Comics

The Shining Knight

Adventure Comics

Green Lantern - the Golden Age Hero

Comic Cavalcade



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

Mystery in Space

Mystery in Space

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

Young Romance Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Green Lantern - the Silver Age Hero

Green Lantern

The Flash

The Flash


Magazines. Print magazine photos 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.

Comic Books. Tuxedos seem more popular in the Silver Age of the 1950's and 1960'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.

What follows is a checklist of comic book stories featuring tuxedos.

Federal Men

Adventure Comics

Larry Steele, Private Eye

Detective Comics


Detective Comics

Speed Saunders

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

Cliff Cornwall

Flash Comics

The Flash - the Golden Age Hero

Flash Comics

Hawkman - Golden Age hero

Flash Comics

The Fox

Blue Ribbon Comics

The Sandman

World's Finest Comics


Star Spangled Comics


Blue Bolt Comics

The Crimson Avenger

World's Finest Comics


Adventure Comics


Adventure Comics

The Shining Knight

Adventure Comics

The Human Bomb

Police Comics


Comic Cavalcade


Detective Comics

The Green Lama

Green Lama

Sergeant Spook

Blue Bolt Comics

Mr. Risk

Super-Mystery Comics

Johnny Quick


Green Arrow

More Fun Comics

Adventure The Black Canary

Flash Comics

The Brave and the Bold Superboy

Adventure Comics

Pow-Wow Smith

Detective Comics

Roy Raymond TV Detective

Detective Comics

Gang Busters

These are mainly gambling dens. Not glamorous.

Gang Busters

Mr. District Attorney

Mr. District Attorney

Johnny Law

Big Town

Big Town

Big Town


More Fun Comics

Adventure Challengers of the Unknown


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

More Fun Comics


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


Detective Comics

Romance Comics

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.

The hero Gary Jackson of "One Kiss Too Many" is in a series of Mod suits. All of these outfits are extremely spiffy. Gary is 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 a double-breasted white suit, with a huge pocket on the chest. The patch pocket gives it a uniform feel. He looks like a Commanding Officer. And in a blue business suit with a red tie that gives him a business Authority Figure look. So he's covering all his bases. He wears this suit while dispensing some bad news over the phone. This suggests he already knows all about business power techniques. At the tale's end, he and all the other men at the dance are in white tuxedos: making the tuxedos be a uniform, as well as formal wear. Gary Jackson is nearly the only person in the tale with a full name, giving him presence and suggesting his erotic power.

New Romances

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

Daytime Formal Wear

Television. The episode A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station (1967) of the British TV series The Avengers. This has a memorable man in a cutaway coat (played by Drewe Henley). This episode is also full of men in uniform. The less-than-competent but spiffily dressed Admiral is especially good (Richard Caldicot). So is the railway attendant (Peter J. Elliott). Even the Guard at Norborough is well-dressed. Wardrobe: Jean Fairlie.

Comic Books. Formal day wear (cutaway coats) 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.

There is no standard look for cutaways in the comics. They have widely varying approaches.

"The Wrong Bride" (1964) is especially good, with the cover showing its patrician hero looking arrogant in a striped ascot tie and erect stiff collar. He's linked to numerous phallic symbols, including the church rafters and beams, and two tall pointed windows. Art: Jay Scott Pike. The image is repeated as the splash page.

"Take My Love to Heart" (1958) shows a macho man groom in a slick cutaway. Groom Tommy has to compete with the heroine's old boyfriend Doug, who's shown up in a suit and tie. At first it looks like a tossup. But eventually the tale suggests Tommy's cutaway gives him romantic presence and erotic power. Art: John Romita. Complete Story.

The cover (Girls' Love Stories #81, September 1961) for "The Wrong Time to Cry" shows another of John Romita's smooth macho men. The groom's gray cutaway echoes a corporate gray business suit of the era. His legs and upper arm form strong vertical lines, while the rest of his torso is bent over. Cover.

The cover for the wedding tale "Till Death Do Us Part" (1960) shows a groom and his Best Man in matching cutaways. The two are identically dressed down to the smallest detail. The men look uniformed. The Best Man is making one of those macho Thumb Gestures. Cover.

The cover showing a wedding (Young Romance #166, June-July 1970) has the groom kissing the bride immediately at the conclusion of the ceremony. In some ways this is just the conventional finale, where the minister says "You may now kiss the bride". In other ways, it celebrates the handsome groom's powerful eroticism, in his perfect cutaway. It evokes the comic book treatment of rock stars: a man in an erotic uniform (in this case a groom's formal wear) being looked at by an admiring crowd. Like the rock stars he's well-built, has lots of perfectly coiffed hair, and is linked to phallic symbols: the windows behind him. And as in the rock tales, the men in the crowd are in tight or awkward clothes: the minister, the man in the suit. Art: Bill Draut. Cover.

Johnny Quick

More Fun Comics

A Date With Judy

A Date With Judy



Jimmy Olsen

Jimmy Olsen

Brides in Love Falling in Love Girls' Love Stories Young Romance Young Love My Love


Book Covers. Trenchcoats appear on book covers:

Television. Trenchcoats appear on television:

Comic Books. Trenchcoats are sometimes worn by comic book heroes. I've included various fancy raincoats too, which strictly speaking might not actually be trenchcoats.

What follows is a checklist of comic book stories featuring trenchcoats.

Steve Malone, District Attorney

Detective Comics



The Black Canary

Private eye Larry Lance wears a trenchcoat over his pinstriped noir-era suits.

Flash Comics

DC Special Mr. District Attorney

Mr. District Attorney

Gang Busters

Gang Busters

King Faraday

Danger Trail

Showcase Date with Danger

Date with Danger

Roy Raymond TV Detective

Detective Comics

Mystery in Space

Mystery in Space

Strange Adventures

Strange Adventures

J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars

Detective Comics


Adventure Comics

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Big Town

Big Town

The Flash

The Flash

Adam Strange

Mystery in Space

Strange Sports Stories

The Brave and the Bold

Romance Comics

Young Romance Young Love Girls' Love Stories Heart Throbs Girls' Romances

Costume Parties in Comic Books

Comic books sometimes featured costume parties. They were especially common in Superman Family tales.

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

For a pulp magazine precursor, see the cover of Street and Smith's Love Story Magazine (November 21, 1925). Art: Modest Stein. Photo.

Inspector Dayton

Jumbo Comics

The Justice Society of America

All-Star Comics

Ed Wheelan's Humor Series

Flash Comics

Dr. Fate

More Fun Comics

Slam Bradley

Detective Comics

Stuart Taylor, time traveler

Jumbo Comics

Dick Cole

Blue Bolt Comics



A Date With Judy

A Date With Judy

Big Town

Big Town

Johnny Thunder

All-Star Western

Strange Adventures

Strange Adventures

Space Ranger


Lois Lane

Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen



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 Falling in Love

Related Stories


World's Finest Comics

Green Arrow

More Fun Comics

Air Wave

Detective Comics

The Human Bomb

Police Comics


Detective Comics

Crime Must Pay the Penalty

Crime Must Pay the Penalty

Jimmy Olsen

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

Lois Lane

Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane

Superman and Supergirl

Action Comics

The Atom

The Atom

The Flash

The Flash



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:

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.