Naked without a jacket

Some of y’all were advising me on a “look” for my band, once I start a band. That, of course, is a worthwhile consideration — yet another thing to settle before actually forming the band itself, along with the band name and playlist.

But y’all were a bit off with the platform shoes with goldfish in them and other suggestions. As I responded, my own concept of a “look” is somewhat different.

I tend to think back to when I saw Dylan with The Band in Memphis in 1974. Basically, they were casually dressed with dark sport coats over work shirts, and jeans or other casual pants. I seem to recall a scruffy old sofa on the stage. It was comfortable, homey, and vaguely old-fashioned. They were dressed sort of like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, only without the guns and cowboy hats.

That’s the sort of look I’m comfortable with. It’s the way I dress. It’s more or less the way I’ve dressed since high school. There was once a sort of clearance/warehouse sale at the base exchange at Hickam Air Force Base back in 1970, and they were getting rid of all kinds of out-of-style items. I picked up a couple of sport coats for $5 each. One of them I really liked. It was wool, a sort of rough, tweedy wool. It was a dark, dark blue with other dark colors in it, vaguely seen, and a faint sort of reddish pinstripe running through the hard-to-see pattern. I wish I still had that jacket, even though it wouldn’t fit me now. It was very like what The Band would wear, or what a cowboy in a particularly cool western might wear, and have to pull out of the way to draw his sixgun.

Over the years, I got dressier than that, and took up such items as the bow tie. But nowadays, when I do wear a tie, I’m the only one at ADCO who does. And more and more often, I don’t wear one at all. So I’m drifting back more toward that look I had as a student. But part of that look is that I always, always wear a jacket.

How could I not? How would I get around? Where would I put my:

  • Car keys (right outside pocket)
  • Wallet (sorry, but I’m not going to deform my spine by sitting on a wallet in my hip pocket)
  • notebook (my Moleskine fits perfectly in my inside pocket on the right
  • flip-up shades (breast pocket)
  • pills, tissues, etc. (antihistamines and such that I always carry — left outside pocket)

Where would all that stuff go without a jacket? And then there’s my iPhone, which I wear clipped to my belt — you want me to go around with my phone exposed to the weather?

The other day, on NPR, I heard an interview with British actor Bill Nighy, who among other things said the following:

SIEGEL: You have a look and bearing that says, at least to my American eyes: British gentleman. Is it true that you feel naked if you’re not wearing a suit?

NIGHY: Yeah. In fact, a jacket, really. I’m a jacket man. And if I’m without one, I am kind of seriously disabled. I don’t know how to operate in shirt sleeves.

SIEGEL: You don’t?

NIGHY: It makes me anxious and uneasy.

SIEGEL: Even to a reading for a part or something very informal?

NIGHY: Yeah. It’s ludicrous. People sometimes inquire why there’s a lack of classical work on my CV with the emphasis on Shakespeare and I have joked in the past that it’s because I can’t operate in those kind of trousers. But, in fact, it’s true. I can really only operate in a decent lounge – what we used to call a lounge suit. It is kind of my muse and I am ludicrously attached to the idea.

I did a play on Broadway here in New York and the director desperately tried to get a jacket off me. He said, you’re in the garden. It’s summertime in England. What would you be doing wearing a jacket? I said, I always wear a jacket in the garden. Anyway, he did get the jacket off me and he actually made me appear without socks, which was deeply unsettling.

SIEGEL: This was very difficult for you.

NIGHY: Yeah…

Exactly! How indeed does one get along with a jacket? I can’t imagine. I gathered that this was supposed to be heard as an expression of the actor’s eccentricity, but I thought he made perfect sense. No wonder I like Nighy in pretty much anything I see him in (“Page Eight,” “I Capture the Castle,” “Love Actually“).

As for going about without socks? Totally beyond the pale. Let’s not even go into that.

Like Butch and Sundance, but without the guns and hats.

56 thoughts on “Naked without a jacket

  1. Brad

    Bottom line, costumes are not cool. The way some rockers dress is particularly not cool.

    The Band was cool. They just showed up, in extremely normal, timeless clothes, and played…

  2. bud

    Boring would be more like it. Kiss has it about right. Or perhaps Elton John at his prime. Today we have Lady Gaga. If you’re not going to be flamboyant why bother?

  3. Brad

    What you’re describing — Kiss, Elton John and Lady Gaga — are pretty much the opposite end of the taste spectrum from what appeals to me.

    I’m not against showmanship, mind. One of my favorite concerts I ever attended — I think I’ve mentioned it here before — was when Leon Russell made a dramatic entrance in the middle of a long, high-energy jam that was already going on. He strode casually onto the stage wearing a white suit with a white cowboy hat, playing a white Stratocaster. He wandered about on the stage, playing along, then climbed up onto a grand piano (there were two grand pianos on stage, and the other was already being played), and played standing up there for awhile. Then he climbed down, put down the Fender, and sat down to the unoccupied piano and really brought the music to a final crescendo. It was awesome.

    But it derived most of its power from Leon’s own extremely cool charisma and stage presence — not from outlandish visuals or fireworks or any other nonsense.

  4. `Kathryn Fenner

    If you are an entertainer, you are making a choice regarding how to present yourself that, you hope, comports with what will please the audience. I’m always more comfortable with a costume–for one thing, most people look better in them. Evening clothes for evening performances, say. I daresay Phillip sounded better with the USC Symphony because he was in white tie and tails. The visual was appropriately elegant. I remember Cher and Carol Burnett wearing stunning gowns for their TV shows that added greatly to my enjoyment and that of so many others. Sure, if your tastes run tot he grungier sort of music, go nuts with plaid (flannel shirt or sportcoat), but dont kid yourself that it wouldn’t be a costume.

  5. Brad

    It’s not grunge. It’s more like… seedy professor. It’s like a Graham Greene character.

    It’s better dressed than grunge. You know how Paul McCartney is dressed on the Abbey Road cover? Like that — dark suit, no tie, white shirt — except that he needs to have on shoes and socks.

    For Phillip’s kind of music, white tie is perfectly appropriate. But it would be wildly out of place with any sort of music I might ever hope to perform. My music would be far more earthy and informal.

    If I so much as wore a tie as I stepped out onto the stage, it would create an unrealistic expectation in the audience. The music they’d get from me wouldn’t be that dressed-up. Even though I still wear a tie much of the time, I would need to take it off before mounting the stage. Or completely loosen it, at least.

    Of course, I believe a gentleman should dress for dinner. I think society really took a wrong turn whenever that ceased to be the standard.

    But this isn’t dinner.

  6. Bart

    “Boring would be more like it. Kiss has it about right. Or perhaps Elton John at his prime. Today we have Lady Gaga. If you’re not going to be flamboyant why bother?”……bud

    O.K., gotta admit I had fun with trying to imagine bud wearing a KISS or Elton John outfit on stage. The black and white make-up, high heel black studded boots, shoulder pads, and the electric guitar was a feast for the imagination.

    Me, more of the Band type of guy overall since I left the corporate world of Brooks Brothers pin striped suits and all of the other essential business person’s “costume”.

    Now, since my business is run from my home office, shorts, Hawaiian shirts or “tees”, sandals, and anything else that is comfortable is the dress of the day. Jimmy Buffett all day long except no rum during business hours.

  7. `Kathryn Fenner

    No, I don’t know how Paul McCartney dressed on the Abbey Road cover. It was before my time and not my genre.

    Grungy-styled music can include many forms of jazz, rougher types of rock, blues, some types of country, singer-songwriter stuff, and even avant garde classical, although one would hope for something architectural and black–Comme des Garcons or Yamamoto—for that. One would hope….

  8. `Kathryn Fenner

    Oh, that one. Didn’t know what it was from.

    My top ten 20th century iconic images would include the sailor kissing the woman on V-E/V-J day, the Dorothea Lange’s migrant mother, Marilyn Monroe on the subway grate, Michael Jackson Thriller, the famous Amelia Earhart photo, [I need a pinterest board], Richard Nixon leaving office, the helicopter from the last day of Vietnam, the shooting of the young man from Vietnam, the woman grieving over the Kent State corpses, the car after JFK was shot, I Have a Dream…..*among* the many iconic images are…..James Dean, Elvis Presley in the white suit, Princess Diana in the white Elvis suit with the tiara, Gone With the Wind poster photo….

  9. bud

    Some other iconic images: Rosa Parks on the bus, the lunchcounter protestors, the moonlanding, The Arizona exploding on Pearl Harbor Day, the Berlin Wall coming down, The suffragettes marching circa 1910, Fort Model Ts rolling off the assembly line, The Hindenburg burning, Lucky Lindy in Paris, The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

  10. bud

    I “like” Silence suggestion.

    21st century imagery is dominated by 9-11 or related events such as the killing of OSB. Perhaps some economic stories would find a place although it’s hard to think of anything along that line that’s genuinely iconic.

  11. Brad

    Or, even more fun… let’s predict what the iconic images of the century WILL be.

    I hope at least one of them has flying cars in it…

  12. Libb

    My numero uno 21st iconic image, so far, is the photo of our nation’s 1st African-American president being sworn in. Didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime and very gratifying that it did.

  13. Brad

    Mmmm. I can’t picture any particular image of Obama being sworn in that stands out. Although I thought this one was very cool.

    And Michael Jackson? Thriller? Hey, I know what Thriller was, but I’m not connecting any particular image with it…

  14. Silence

    The picture of a very disheveled and hirsute KSM in his undershirt is a pretty iconic war on terror picture, as is the one of Saddam Hussein, fresh from his spider hole, being held on the ground by his American captors. I doubt either of those will stand the test of time, though.

    They aren’t exactly the Eisenstadt Life magazine – End of WWII sailor kiss picture.

  15. Brad

    Apropos of nothing, one of my favorite grumpy old man quotes, from “A Hard Day’s Night:”

    Stuffy middle-aged man: “Don’t take that tone with me, young man. I fought the war for your sort.”

    Ringo: “I bet you’re sorry you won.”

  16. bud

    There are a shrinking number of tie wearers still in our building. Jackets seem to be completely gone except for a couple of top level folks when there is a big meeting at the State House or something. Interesting how the tie faded away very slowly over many years but hasn’t completely left the building. Those folks that do wear them seem to be trapped in a sort of time warp.

  17. `Kathryn Fenner

    The recent Michael Jackson Tribute show that came to town had it–Jacko all slouchy….

    Speaking of public sculpture–theres a really cool piece(s) on the Pickens Street pedestrian overpass on the USC campus. Worth walking over to see–grab lunch or coffee at Colloquium….

  18. `Kathryn Fenner

    Iconic 21st century image–the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Kate and William’s engagement picture.

    20th century images–the Challenger explosion. Neil Armstrong on the moon. Madonna Blond Ambition tour(the blond ponytail, bullet bra)…Charles and Diana kissing on the balcony after their wedding. Their engagement photo–launched a thousand tea towels.

  19. Brad

    Here’s the thing about ties…

    I didn’t wear one today. And consequently I look closer to my idea of how to appear on stage with my band than I did as EPE at The State.

    I’m wearing a Faded Glory dress shirt that I bought at Walmart for $3 several years ago — one of several that look remarkably good when starched, and have led to complements when I have worn with jacket and tie.

    But I’m wearing no tie.

    And I’m wearing the jacket from a green poplin Brooks Brothers suit that I got from a clearance sale at an outlet for $50.

    And brown wash-and-wear Izod chinos.

    And 25-year-old dirty bucks.

    Which is fine, and comfortable. But I’m supposed to drop in on a business reception at the Cap City Club late today. And while no one will say anything, I’m going to be thinking people are looking at me and saying, “What’s with Robbie Robertson over there?

    Actually, that would be pretty cool if they said that…

  20. Libb

    “Mmmm. I can’t picture any particular image of Obama being sworn in that stands out.”

    Beg to differ, Brad. There is a photo by Chuck Kennedy (McClatchy photographer at the time BTW) being called “iconic” due to the unusual angle and proximity of the image. And it so beautifully captured the new president and his family enjoying a very special, happy moment.

  21. Phillip

    re iconic, influential photos of the 20th century…Kathryn mentioned a few Vietnam-related ones, but I don’t think this one’s been mentioned yet…the young girl fleeing the napalm attack.

  22. Brad

    That was an enterprising shot by Kennedy. But I had no particular memory of it.

    And as presidential family pictures go, I doubt it will have the searing endurance of John-John saluting as his father’s caisson goes by. To mention yet another iconic image from the 20th.

  23. bud

    The 20th century is full of rememberable moments. A few more:

    Reagan’s microphone moment (when he firmly stated he was paying for that mic). The holocaust with Ike looking on. American hostages returning from Iran. Rodney King beating. Challenger exploding. View of the earth from Apollo 8. Titanic lifeboats from Carpathia. Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarejavo in 1914. Truman holding the paper of “Dewey’s victory”.

  24. Silence

    Any more pictures from the 21st C. so far? It’s interesting b/c we are almost saturated with media now, and I think that’s a lot different than when a lot of the iconinc 20th C. images were published.

    I don’t think there’s a single iconic picture of Obama being sworn in, either.

  25. `Kathryn Fenner

    @bud–but those aren’t all images–I think there are fewer iconic images (redundancy?) earlier in the century because the media was not as massed–Life Magazine probably did as much as anything to establish iconic photographs.

  26. `Kathryn Fenner

    and Silence–the dispersal of news coverage through the internet and even cable, has also lead to a dearth of single best images of the 21st century. If everyone is a reporter, it’s harder to establish a winner.

  27. Mark Stewart

    Iconic images are like McDonald french fries, they have to be widely consumed to be savored.

    I don’t think Presidential inaugurations ever produce compelling images; the staging is just too much of a set-up and the emotive content is far too superficial.

    I think the best photo of Obama would be the one from his campaign stop at Williams Brice with a stadium full of enthused people filling the background. That sort of captured best what is his strongest traight. The one of him in the situation room during the Bin Laden raid is probably his worst (hunched over sitting in the corner). At the same time, that photo probably captures the full weight that the office of the President can deliver to one individual – and neatly bookends with GWB’s “mission accomplished” thumbs-up on the deck of the carrier.

  28. Brad

    Taking off on what both Kathryn and Mark said…

    Kathryn notes correctly that many of the historic moments Bud cites do NOT have still-photo images associated with them. There are a number of reasons for that, but one is the demise of the dominance of MASS media.

    When there were a relatively few photographers shooting still images (as opposed to video) of historic events and then distributing them through MASS media, the entire society had the very same images burned into their consciences.

    Mark is right; the one image of Obama that will have the kind of lasting impact on the public imagination of the images we’re talking about from the 20th would be the one in the situation room as the SEALs ran down bin Laden. Why? Because all of the elements are in place:
    — It was a dramatic, historic event.
    — Only one photographer was present, and this is the image he provided.
    — All media picked it up, thereby giving everyone the shared experience of that moment that is more rare today than it was a generation ago. Now, there are so many news outlets and they have so many images to present and the public’s attention is so fragmented that it is rare for the great majority of Americans to have the same experience of that single-frame image.

    Imagine, for instance, if a dozen Marines had shot pictures with their phones of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and texted them home. Rosenthal’s picture would still be the best — a function both of his professional skill and good luck to have snapped the shutter at that particular instant from that particular angle, giving him an awesome composition — but it wouldn’t necessarily have been the one everyone saw. The effect might have been watered down.

    OK, maybe that’s a bad example, because that one exposure WAS so awesome. But you see what I mean.

  29. Brad

    There is also — and I’m taking the conversation into a different direction raising this — the question of whether it is possible for an event like the battle of Iwo Jima to occur today.

    First, there’s the question of whether an existential struggle like WWII will happen again between some of the most technically advanced countries in the world. I hope it can’t. The greatest chance of it happening would be all-out armed conflict between this country and China, which would be almost unimaginably destructive to life on this planet. So let’s hope not.

    But beyond that, would there be the national will to continue a battle that inflicted such casualties, and such horrific suffering on even the unwounded survivors, as did Iwo Jima and Okinawa — and to a lesser extent the earlier major Pacific battles? A battle in which each soldier is in communication with the folks back home. Maybe so, with the professional military we have now. But in the event of a total mobilization, with a force made up largely of draftees? I don’t know. It would depend on the degree to which the populace saw the nation’s continued existence as riding on the outcome…

  30. bud

    Perhaps the Reagan mic moment is not a good example. But whenever I see those photos of the Sarejavo assassination, I get goose bumps knowing how that moment changed the course of history in a way like nothing else. The Ike photo is also one that is powerful and griping. Not sure why that wouldn’t qualify. And certainly the Truman shot is as Iconic as they come. Ditto Challenger.

  31. bud

    That photo is somewhat in the category of which photo stands out. The sailor kissing the nurse photo is unique as is the Vietnamese girl running from the napalm. Several Abu Ghraib photos could fit bill.

  32. Brad

    Has anyone mentioned the Abu Ghraib pictures? THAT’S one — or actually, several, but particularly this one — that fits the category.

    That one is actually a combination of modern and traditional factors. It’s modern in that only in a world in which the bar to sharing photographs is as low as it is now would they have come to light. And traditional in that so few people had the opportunity to take such images, that when he did and shared them, it had the impact of a traditional MSM-taken image in the 20th century.

  33. Silence

    Good mention on the Abu Ghraib picture that you linked, Brad. Definitely an important image, no idea whether it will stand the test of time or not, but it was important in our time.


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