Monday, March 18, 2013

Broadway Joe: Fashion Hero?

Joe Namath and daughters Jessica and Olivia

I mentioned a few days ago my admiration for Guy Trebay's style. His literary style. He's a fashion writer -- so everybody knows his fashion style -- and in "The Rise of the Well-Dressed Man" (The New York Times Style Magazine, February 27, 2013), Trebay not only writes well and with humor, ending his article with a well-wrought punch line, he has some striking words to say about Joe Namath's early flair for fashion:
I found myself thinking about Broadway Joe. You remember him, of course, the quarterback legend and media gadfly, a self-styled cartoon whose athletic prowess was pretty nearly overshadowed by his randy off-the-field antics. Goofy-handsome and with gull-wing bangs swooping back from his forehead, Joe had woolly pecs, a dense Happy Trail and a wardrobe that called to mind a coal-town Oscar Wilde.

He wore shearling and raccoon and posed in pantyhose for a Hanes Beautymist commercial. He was an unabashed narcissist with a fondness for natty green blazers. He liked rump-hugging trousers with taut notch-pockets. He wore Brut cologne, silk foulards and white cleats on the field. Unembarrassed in his embrace of fashion, Namath was way out in front of the culture, a sartorial forerunner of all the athletes who have lately morphed from slobs wearing saggers into designer sandwich boards crowding the front rows at Versace shows.

He was -- if you'll forgive the use of a lint-covered term from the cultural sock drawer -- a metrosexual avant la lettre. Unlike the hippies and gender benders and rocker peacocks who were his near contemporaries, Joe Namath wasn't toying with masculinity. His liking for nice clothes was no particular "tell" for sexual preference. That he wore coats made from the sheared pelts of expensively farmed rodents did not mean Joe Namath secretly liked men: it meant he liked mink.
In contrast, most sports stars of those day cared not a whit about style, says Trebay, and Michael Hainey, the deputy editor of GQ, agrees:
"With the exception of Joe Namath, most sports stars in the past took a 'Who cares?' attitude about dressing."
Indeed, few men cared about fashion, until the last fifteen years, when style in clothing began to go mainstream. Did Broadway Joe play a role? Trebay thinks so:
I realized that Namath may have been slighted by historians of fashion. Maybe he is the liminal figure theory-heads are always rooting around for. Maybe, unacknowledged and in those long-gone days, it was Broadway Joe who began the inexorable march of butch dandies into the mainstream.
An intriguing perspective. I've often thought of Namath over the years, remembering his standing joke:
"I can't wait till tomorrow . . . 'cause I get better looking ev'ry day!"
That isn't happening to me these days of my decline, but maybe I can still go in style . . .

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At 9:53 PM, Blogger Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Beautifully written. Glad I read it.

At 3:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You mean Trebay's article? Yes, he's quite the stylist. He had another well-written article some weeks back -- on London and its curiosities -- also worth reading.

Jeffery Hodges

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