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The Icon: Martin Sheen in Badlands


There’s a lot of wildness in the world, as Sheen the Younger has pretty amply demonstrated in the past couple weeks. So we thought we’d take a moment to celebrate Sheen the Elder in one of his wilder moments: playing the outlaw Kit Carruthers in Badlands. As it turns out, machetes are small time.

Perfectly Embodied: Men’s style has been drawing on the fifties for a while now, and 1973’s Badlands is the guiding light. It’s not just the double-denim—although it’s the best example of it you’ll find. The white tee is note-perfect too, and Sheen’s pompadour is not to be underestimated. Add in the kind of swagger you only get from years of James Dean worship, and you’ve got a wholesale embodiment of 50s rebel style, 20 years after the fact and as close to timeless as American style gets.

Words of Wisdom: Kit: Where’d you get that hat? State Trooper: State Kit: Boy, I’d like to buy me one of those.

The Backstory: The plot of the movie is pretty grisly—think Travis Bickle by way of James Dean—but that’s the point: you can hide a lot of unpleasantness behind a 50s rebel pose. Sheen pulls it off because, in part, he had a taste for wildness himself. Six years later, he would drink himself into a heart attack on the set of Apocalypse Now, then spend a couple decades of his life on the wagon. But even in the wild years, he had a certain charisma that let you know the wild ride would end up somewhere worthwhile. And thanks to no small amount of grit, it has.