The 2011 Kempt Awards – Part One: The Gentlemen
Christopher Hitchens with Ian McEwan (left) and Martin Amis in Uruguay via The Guardian
We spend a good deal of time here at Kempt headquarters discussing the gentleman’s style: his clothes, his facial hair, his accoutrements, etc. In addition, though, over the past year, we’ve attempted to broaden the definition of style to include his behavior as well: his adherence to a certain chivalric code, his etiquette, the words he uses, his manner of pursuing artistic and athletic endeavors, his morality, his aspirations and, inevitably, the periodic missteps that can and squander those aspirations.
While we hesitate to dip our toe into the murky, stale bathwater of year-end reviews (and while we have even greater hesitation to hurl ourselves, willy-nilly, into the business of doling out meaningless, award-less “awards”), we’re doing so anyway.
Maybe we’re slightly more nostalgic for 2011 than we’ve been in the past.
Or, more likely, maybe we’re finding the exercise of attaching superlatives to people and things and moments to be kind of fun.
Whatever the reason, we present for your perusal—in three parts over as many days—the 2011 Kempt Awards.
Part One: The Gentlemen
The Gentleman of the Year
Still reeling from the loss of Steve Jobs, the cultured world was hit with yet another devastating blow on December 15 with the passing of Christopher Hitchens. As former Prime Minister Tony Blair said in eulogizing his countryman, “Christopher Hitchens was a complete one-off, an amazing mixture of writer, journalist, polemicist and unique character. He was fearless in the pursuit of truth and any cause in which he believed. And there was no belief he held that he did not advocate with passion, commitment and brilliance. He was an extraordinary, compelling and colorful human being whom it was a privilege to know.”
Biggest Missed Opportunity
Ted Williams, Homeless Guy with the Golden Voice
He was an instant sensation. The first viral video of 2011. A down-on-his-luck homeless guy holding a cardboard sign at an intersection. And out of his mouth came… something incredible. The voiceover offers came in: Cleveland Cavaliers, MSNBC, Kraft Foods. And then, six months later, after three trips to rehab, they all went away. And so did he.
The Best New Designers of 2011
Ovadia & Sons, Perfecto by Schott, Ian Velardi, BLK DNM, Todd Snyder
They range from homegrown Italiana to biker-tough outerwear. If you were waiting for a chance to get acquainted, now’s the time. Read our full story here.
Greatest Loss to the World of Jetset Playboys
When 78-year-old Gunter Sachs killed himself with a single gunshot to the head in May of this year, the world not only lost an accomplished marksman, but also a fine bobsledder, photographer and manufacturer of ball bearings. Of greater concern, though, was the fact that Gunter was widely considered to be the world’s last remaining “Original Playboy,” of which there were 12 and only 12. Read our full story here.
Most Impressive Group of Men
SEAL Team Six
Three months after killing Osama bin Laden, the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as DEVGRU and casually referred to as SEAL Team Six, lost 15 of its members when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan on August 6.
Most Deserving Emmy Award
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
After five seasons brilliantly embodying Coach Eric Taylor, molder of men, Kyle Chandler finally received some long-overdue acknowledgement at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, where he won Best Actor in a Drama Series. Clear eyes, full hearts…
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sunglasses
Steve McQueen – Persol Steve McQueen
Here’s one thing we like about sunglasses: not a lot’s changed. If it looked good in ’56, it looks good now. So to help you settle on your own personal style last summer, we brought together some of the most stylish gentlemen ever to block out UV rays, together with the modern equivalent of their signature shades. If you get to be cool enough, they start naming sunglasses after you. In McQueen’s case, it’s a chunkier version of the aviator, good for driving, smoking and getaways. See Godard, Downey Jr, Cruise and the other nominees here.
Most Dramatic Occupy Protest
UC Davis Silent Protest of Chancellor
The day after a UC Davis police officer flippantly pepper-sprayed a group of peaceful college students, one of the students injured in the attack led a protest to shame the University’s chancellor as she walked to her car, serving as a chilling reminder of the efficacy and power of silent protests.
The Top 10 Fragrance Experts on YouTube
Choosing just the right scent for the season is a tricky business. Sure, you could head to the fragrance department at Barneys. Or you could go to YouTube and watch what, in our humble opinion, are the “Top 10 YouTube Videos Featuring Random Dudes Offering No One in Particular Their Favorite Fall Fragrances of 2011, Broadcast from What Appear to Be Their Parents’ Basements.” And the nominees are…
The Men of the Hour of the Year
George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Jamie Hince, Fabrizio Rollo, Amare Stoudemire
There were a lot of stylish men in 2011, and we did our best to wade through them all, week by week, and pick out the best ones. Some were just good. Others were frighteningly great. And then, there were the five best…
Explorer of the Year
They don’t make Antarctic explorers like they used to. So earlier this year we took a moment to celebrate one of the boldest, most hard-headed men of the early 20th century: Mr. Ernest Shackleton. And to do the man justice, we went to video. Our expert guide was Eric Sanko, whose puppet play based on the Shackleton expedition ran at BAM this November. He’s been poring over historical records for years now—including a little back and forth with the archives at Burberry, who outfitted the original edition—so everything you see here is just the way it was at the time.
The Best-Dressed Gentlemen at a Major Sporting Event
The Wimbledon Chair Umpires
Unlike the rest of us, the Wimbledon chair umpires actually had an excuse for wearing a piped jacket. The clothes come courtesy of Polo Ralph Lauren, but the look comes from hundreds of years of British lawn games, from croquet to, well, grass court tennis. Looking sharp is all the more important since the Cyclops system has made him largely decorative. Now that a computer’s making the hard calls, this gentleman’s main purpose is to sit above the net and look pretty. By our lights, he did a great job.
Least Impressive Man
After a three-year national spectacle, the former Illinois governor was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being found guilty on 18 counts of corruption, including trying to buy President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat for $1.5 million. On the day of his sentencing, Blagojevich pleaded for mercy and for the first time admitted his crime, saying, “I am accepting of it, I acknowledge it and I of course am unbelievably sorry for it.”
Greatest Loss to Photojournalism
Vanity Fair photographer Tim Hetherington was killed by an RPG attack on April 20 while covering the conflict in Misrata, Libya. Hetherington was a four-time World Press Photo of the Year winner and codirected the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo alongside Sebastian Junger, who announced his retirement from embedded military journalism shortly after his partner’s death.
Most Influential Revolutionary
Proving that social media could, and would, change the world, Ghonim’s Facebook page entitled “We are all Khaled Saeed” sparked Egypt’s pro-democracy revolution and eventually led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak after three decades of brutal dictatorship.
Most Enjoyable Character on TV
Tie: Roger Stirling, Madmen; The Commodore, Boardwalk Empire
In their own way, Roger Sterling and the Commodore are both slobbery messes, though Sterling’s one-liners, as brilliantly compiled here, are certainly more… articulate. Regardless, Sundays are far more enjoyable thanks to their presence on what continues to be television’s very best night, by a lot.
Rookie of the Year
Keegan Bradley, PGA Champion
Bradley became only the third player in PGA history to win the first major he ever played in: the 2011 PGA Championships. In his final round, Bradley triple-bogeyed the 15th hole to fall five shots off the lead with three holes to play, but then posted back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 and then won a three-hole playoff.
Best Baseball Acquisition
Chicago Cubs Hire Theo Epstein
Looking to shed a curse of their own, on October 21 the Chicago Cubs hired Theo Epstein as president of baseball operations and signed him to a five-year, $18.5 million contract. Two days later, Epstein took out a full page ad in The Boston Globe thanking Red Sox fans for their support. Epstein helped deliver Boston their first World Series title in 86 years—the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 103 years.
The Biggest Loser
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner
A front-runner to be the next mayor of New York City and one of the brightest young stars of the Democratic party, Rep. Anthony Weiner had become a YouTube sensation for his dramatic rants on the floor of US Congress before it all fell apart thanks to a sexting scandal that led to his resignation on June 21.
Husband of the Year
Mark E. Kelly, Husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Shortly after retired astronaut Mark E. Kelly learned that his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, had been shot, he saw an erroneous news report that she had died. “It was a terrible mistake,” Kelly said, “as bad as it was that she had died, it’s equally exciting that she hadn’t.” For weeks, Kelly sat vigil at his wife’s bedside as she struggled to survive and began to recover. “I am hopeful that something positive can come out of it,” he said recently. “I think that will happen.”
- — Randy Goldberg
— Russell Brandom
— Paul Underwood
— C. Brian Smith