MEN'S SPRING 2012
T - Cover Star: Dustin Hoffman
Verdict: Shot by…wait for it…Hedi Slimane (he who shot the Gainsbourg WSJ. cover), the marathon man appears in all his shaggy, craggy glory. While I'm not usually a fan of portraits that resemble UV photo outtakes (hel-lo, sun spots!), this image somehow works, making the 74-year-old actor look sexy. Yeah, I said it: Grandpa looks sexy.
The Issue: Highlights: The aptly-titled "Tao of Hoffman" cover story by Giles Foden is smart, beautifully written and offers a rarely-seen glimpse into mind of a star who has long struggled with crippling depression (who knew?). Men's Fashion Director Bruce Pask's "Leader of the Pack" packing tips are actually useful, and "Revolutionary Road" follows photojournalist Trevor Snapp through Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. There are interesting profiles on menswear designer Siki Im, Red Hook art collective Still House, NYC yoga guru Eddie Stern, aristocratic French farmer/chef Daniel de la Falaise and actor Willem Dafoe (or, more specifically, Willem Dafoe's face). Also on the aging face front, we have "Freshly Pressed," in which literary lions Peter Carey, Richard Ford, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amos and Dennis Cooper glower into the lens of photographer Mikael Jansson wearing crisp designer button-downs that throw their wrinkled visages into high relief. Based on the evidence here (Hoffman, Dafoe, Rushie, Amos, et al.), EIC Sally Singer clearly likes her some wise, weather-beaten older men. I feel ya, sister!
Low Points: Suzy Menkes' stating-the-obvious treatise about military-inspired menswear ("War, What Is It Good For?"). The always-pretentious Will Self takes on the smart and sassy Azealia Banks using ponderous language that had me yelling at the page (and why is the 19-year-old Banks profiled in the men's issue, anyway? I don't get it.) Also, sorry, but the pint-sized rapper can hardly be called "curvy," as she is here. Honestly, if I read one more T story about an obviously svelte female artist—Banks, Lana Del Rey—described as being "curvy," I'm going to throw up in my mouth. And then I'm going to send T's editors (who have clearly spent too much time in the fashion trenches among malnourished models), a subscription to Big n' Busty magazine—I don't know if that's a real magazine, but it should be!—so they know what the word curvy really means. Along with the repeated misuse of the word "curvy," we also have the Remix section's "Edible Selby" column, which appears in every issue of T. While I have no truck with this month's subject, London restauranteur Margot Henderson (I've eaten at Rochelle Canteen and loved it), I have had enough of The Selby himself. I mean, the guy is talented and all, but why does his food column appear in every. single. issue? It's just overkill, and makes each issue of T indistinguishable from the last, especially since Selby's column feels so visually similar to the "Profile in Style" series that also appears in every issue. In fact, that's my biggest gripe with T these days (along with Singer's predilection for grungy, borderline-ugly photography and the preponderance of surf/skateboard features): the issues are almost interchangeable, given that there are no distinct features or sections unique to the men's, women's, travel and design editions. No wonder advertisers are bailing. [NOTE TO SINGER: Yes, I'm available to consult. Call me, we'll tawk.]
WSJ. - Cover Star: Josh Brolin
Verdict: No. Just…no. Brolin is a seriously handsome guy—a manly man, if you will—but this…wait for it…Terry Richardson photo (yes, the same guy who shot T's Lana Del Rey cover) is unflatteringly lit and (why, why, why?) features Brolin wearing an ill-fitting white tuxedo with a black shirt and tie and a vintage cowboy belt. I don't care if it is a Tom Ford joint. The whole thing just looks super, Velveeta-level cheesy, and not ironically so. The inside shots of Brolin, however, are yummy (save for the one where he's tonguing a dog and wearing more goofy Western gear). What is up with that,WSJ.?
The Issue: Highlights: The Brolin cover story is engaging (if slight), Pharrell Williams is given the "Tracked" treatment ("23 carats in his emerald-cut diamond ring/17 friends in the studio/4 songs completed start to finish"), and John Waters takes to WSJ.'s "Soapbox" to wax eloquent (and hi-larious) on everything from "the new bad taste" and the current dearth of exploitation films to the genius of Johnny Knoxville (yes, I just used the words "genius" and "Johnny Knoxville" in the same sentence. Blame John Waters!). There are some great fashion features, including the "No Socks Required" bucks story, an in-depth profile of Theory mogul Andrew Rosen, Steve Garbarino's exploration of the fashion world's current fascination with English tailoring ("The British Are Coming!"), and "From the Desks Of…," which showcases the well-appointed work stations of four distinguished gentlemen.
Low Points: The "Partnership" piece on Ted Danson and his manager, Keith Addis. It's not bad, exactly, it just feels too similar to the Robert Downey, Jr. BFF feature they did four months earlier. And then there's the Daniel de la Falaise "Gentleman Farmer" piece, which is exactly the same as the Daniel de la Falaise piece T did in their men's spring style issue, which came out about a month earlier. Shame on WSJ. (or on de la Falaise's publicist, who really should know better than to book their client in two competing titles in the same month). At least they used a different photographer. There's also an unwelcome sense of déjà vu in the "To Sirs, with Love" piece, which showcases high-powered businessmen who chucked it all to become teachers, but looks suspiciously like a redux of T's "Freshly Pressed" feature, right down to its spare, black and white portraits of men in tailored button-downs. Ditto "The New Naturals" an unstructured suit spread that has the same soft focus look as T's featherweight Italian suit feature (and also calls to mind the stylized editorials in Fantastic Man, but that's whole 'nother story). J'accuse, WSJ.!
Final Score: T wins for ingenuity and getting there first. WSJ. has some great stuff in their men's style issue, but gets major points off for laziness. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but there is nothing cool about being a copycat.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's Style Smackdown featuring T vs. WSJ. online. Additional entries in the T vs. WSJ. Style Smackdown include holiday 2011 and women's spring 2012.