Here’s a little history lesson for you: plain white T-shirts first appeared in the late 19th century, when some manufacturer decided to split the union suit into separates. And originally, they were meant to protect one’s finer outer layers from the perils of, well, sweat.
Like boxers for your chest.
But the rules have changed in the past century. The undershirt has, on occasion, been called to take sartorial center stage. Like before bed. Or between takes on set. Or during takes, for that matter. And throughout it all, some brave, overtly stylish men have succeeded in proving that these baser layers can be worth way more than their thread count.
Before the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and Twitter, a movie star’s biggest offscreen stage was an awards show podium.
And there was none grander than the Oscars. So if a celebrity wanted to unequivocally take their stance on the current state of government, war, immigration, gay rights or what have you, they’d have to win first—then decide whether it was more important to thank the list of people who got them there or go off-book on some rant that would surely ruffle a few feathers. (Or, in the case of Marlon Brando, send up a Native American woman to decline accepting the award on his behalf.)
It made for the sort of incredibly surreal moment that we’ve been seeing less and less of lately. And that’s a shame. So, in honor of those sometimes patronizing, sometimes endearing and always overly passionate moments of stardom, we’d like to look back at a few of the finer exhibitions of celebrity political grandstanding.
The civil rights movement was born out of an ugly time in US history, but we’ll be damned if it didn’t make for some good-looking protesters.
With the always-impeccable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the way, a sea of crisp suits, skinny ties and Wayfarers led our country into equality. In honor of the great man and movement, we dug through the archives and were surprised to find a handsome lot of style icons also heading up the charge for civil rights—a veritable who’s who of impossibly cool gentlemen—everyone from Brando and Newman to Belafonte, Dylan and Davis Jr. Hell, even Charlton Heston got in on the action. It’s as if somehow impassioned, selfless endeavoring has a way of adding an extra layer of dapperness—not to mention being on the right side of history.
The turtleneck. It’s a statement, for sure—and not the easiest one to make without verging on creepy Euro-beanik, or for lack of a better word: dweeby.
The trick is to avoid some common pitfalls—wearing something too gauzy, too tight or with a maniacally steadfast gaze. There’s a sweet spot in the middle there. And we’re going to help you find it, by taking some subtle cues from some of the most stylish guys to ever do it.
Sean Connery with stunt double Big John McLaughlin, Never Say Never Again, 1983
When the city of Fort Lauderdale recognized Big John McLaughlin, Shogun of the Sea, with a star on the Walk of Fame earlier this year, he responded, “Does one have to be alive to collect it?” It likely was not the first time Mr. McLaughlin asked some form of this question, having pioneered diving, stunt rigging and motion picture safety techniques in the late 1950s that are still in use to this day. Jaws simply wouldn’t have been a scary movie if it weren’t for Big John.
“I guess the craziest thing they ever asked me to do was bite a live tiger shark,” he reminisces. But his favorite was doubling 007 in eight Bond films, including Thunderball, in which he doubled 34 different people.
Allow us to join the city of Fort Lauderdale in raising a glass to Big John, the Shogun, and all the brave men who have kept our precious style icons safe over the years. To that end, we close the week with…
Today’s monochrome gem captures Marlon Brando circa 1948, sitting barefoot on a rolltop desk. The original print goes up for auction in two weeks at Julien’s. If you’ve got a spare $600, it’s all yours.
The fashion world is usually focused on the slim-fit set, so we thought we’d take a minute to celebrate the bulkier gentlemen of the blogosphere. As you might expect, the rules are a little different. Instead of darted shirts, we’re thinking three-piece suits, double-breasted jackets and flannel. Mr. Gleason, take it away…
This handsome two-color screenprint comes from Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow screening series, which had the brilliant idea of screening On the Waterfront on August 20th at the same Hoboken docks where it was filmed.
They also picked up some ad love and industrial cred from co-sponsor Levi’s…which might explain all the attention being paid to Brando’s note-perfect buffalo plaid jacket on the poster. (The revolver’s an optional accessory.)
He was also the last star of his kind, bridging the gap between Old Hollywood’s contract players and today’s twenty-million-dollar free agents. More than James Dean or even Marlon Brando, Newman shaped the movies he was in around his own persona, the loveable, beatific loser. He made Hollywood more concerned with the heels of the world and less comfortable with the folks who run things, whether that meant the prison guards of *Cool Hand Luke* or the corrupt judges of *The Verdict*. There have been other movie stars—even other outsiders—but one way or another, they’ve all been copies of the same genuine article.
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