Not sure if you should wear that Tommy Bahama shirt out tonight? The magnificent bastard is here to help. Go ahead. Ask away.
It's been a week since Paul Fussell died and we've mourned the best way we know how: by re-reading Class for what we believe is either the 30th or 31st time since its publication in 1983 (we read it at least once a year). No, obit writers, Fussell's masterpiece is not The Great War and Modern Memory, which won the National Book Award in 1976 and we're convinced is a very good book; it's Class, his sagacious, hilarious examination of social class in America.
We think so highly of this book that we've made it required reading for family, any prospective SO, even for prospective acquaintances with whom interactions have gone beyond "hi." If you receive this book as a gift from us — and we gift it often — consider it an invitation to a club where "What would Fussell say?" is the secret handshake.
For the rest of the week we're pulling our favorite bits from Class because, well, it helps us deal with this loss.
Fussell on elite male and female looks in the U.S.:
It requires women to be thin, with a hairstyle dating back eighteen or twenty years or so. (The classiest women wear their hair for a lifetime in exactly the style they affected in college.) They wear superbly fitting dresses and expensive but always understated shoes and handbags, with very little jewelry. They wear scarves—these instantly betoken class, because they are useless except as a caste mark. Men should be thin. No jewelry at all. No cigarette case. Moderate-length hair, never dyed or tinted, which is a middle-class or high-prole sign, as the practice of President Reagan indicates. Never a hairpiece, a prole usage. (High and mid-proles call them rugs, mats, or doilies. Calling them toops is low-prole. Both women's and men's elite looks are achieved by a process of rejection—of the current, the showy, the superfluous. Thus the rejection of fat by the elite.
Q: What's your take on eyebrow maintenance? The unibrow is something to be avoided at all costs but there seems to be a lack of guidance on the subject in terms of the well-groomed male.
A: Agreed that the unibrow should be avoided, though a few of our favorite Muppets make it work.
Just as we outsource cutting the grass and trimming the shrubs to lawn care professionals, we also recommend outsourcing eyebrow maintenance to your hair care professional. No manscaping here — that's a violation of the artful dishevelment principle — you want just enough deforestation so you don't end up looking like George W. Bush in the Navy pilot or blow years.
Any decent salon (and even a barbershop or two) has warm wax at the ready and can tidy up that patch of real estate in seconds. Simply ask for the service and tip well. It lasts for about four weeks, roughly the same time between haircuts, which is a convenient coincidence.
Wearing of ironic mustaches is down 100% in New England this morning as Wes Welker dropped a critical pass at the New York Giants 23 yard line with 4:00 left that would've most likely won Super Bowl XLVI.
Even Welker himself shaved his 'stache after the game.
After the drop, Chris Collinsworth said, "Welker makes that catch 100 times out of 100." Seconds later Al Michaels replied, "That must be the 101st."
Welker posed for a "Got Milk?" campaign with Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks before the game. In his post-game interview Welker said, "It comes to the biggest moment of my life and I don't come up with it. It's discouraging."
The Patriots, who didn't win a regular season game against a team with a winning record, were exposed as a fraud even bigger than our beloved GBP.
Earlier: Tom Brady's Emerging Bald Spot Signals End of Patriots' Dynasty
Q: What does the MB think about baldness? Obviously not George Costanza bald, but shaving one's head completely. It comes off as kind-of-MB-ish, potentially, but also frat-boy-ish. Where's the needle on the MB-meter when it comes to a completely shaved head?
A: There are a couple things to keep in mind when you're thinking about shaving your head as smooth as a bowling ball. First, does your naked head actually look like a bowling ball? Hair hides a lot of flaws, including asymmetrical facial features, funny-shaped skulls, below-average eyebrows, etc. Even a little hair can help a little bit — when you shave it all off, you may end up calling more attention to aspects of your appearance you'd prefer to keep less visible.
Second, the smooth-shaven look requires a lot of maintenance. That's one reason that we've advocated for a less aggressively shorn look for bald men in the past. That, plus the fact that there's a pretty good chance you're going to end up looking like a penis, a white supremacist, or a magician. Which is not to say that the full Savalas can't work for some men. As our guide below shows, the closer your shaved head looks to a large brown egg, the better your chances of success.
Earlier: Ask the MB: Artfully Disheveled While Balding
Q: I was wondering about appropriate MB sideburn length. Specifically, what's the appropriate sideburn length-to-width ratio? I've seen guys whose sideburns are narrow, but grown fairly long (past the earlobe) and it looks too long to me given the width. It got me thinking, thus my question. Thanks!
A: When it comes to sideburn length, follow the golden ratio — 1.6180339887. In other words, if you want sideburns 1 inch in width, make sure they are 1.6180339887 inches long. We know maintaining that degree of precision sounds tough, but over time, you will master it.
Throughout history, Wikipedia tells us, architects, artists, industrial designers, and Mother Nature herself have relied on the golden ratio as an aesthetic guide. If it's good enough for da Vinci, Mondrian, Le Corbusier, and the Parthenon, it's good enough for your face.
Use the chart below as a handy guide.
via asos.com. $17.24.
Q: What is your take on espadrilles?
A: In the June 2011 GQ creative director Jim Moore stops just short of endorsing them but recognizes their popularity saying they're "a big trend this summer," and that they're best "anytime you'd wear your flip-flops." [page 58]
Even though they were invented in the 14th century (principle of archaism), and are usually made of canvas and rope (principle of organic materials), for us they fall into the footwear no-mans land between a shoe and a sandal, currently occupied by MB bête noires Sanuks and Crocs.
However, if your preferred pedicurist is booked — June is Pedicure Awareness Month, BTW — we say go for it, as long as they're a. less than 20 bucks, and b. gingham.
Earlier: Brad Pitt wears Sanuks so they're OK. Right?
Earlier: 4 year-old Rory McDermott lost the nail on his big toe thanks to Crocs. Ow!
When Tiger Woods finally addressed the media after his sex scandal last year, his statement included 3 "sorrys," 1 "apologize" and 0 "regrets." By contrast, Representative Anthony Weiner's opening statement included 4 "sorrys," 1 "apologize" and 1 "regret."
In other words, Anthony Weiner apologized 33% harder than Tiger Woods, and he didn't even nail any of these chicks!
But do you know what Anthony Weiner didn't apologize for? His promiscuous flag pin usage. Seriously, when Biggovernment.com released this photo of his remarkably hairless chest, we initially thought, "No, that can't be him ... no flag pin. He wears that stupid thing every time a camera's within 500 feet."
Later in the day, however, the horny Congressman admitted to and apologized for almost everything — the dick pics, the sexting, the lying. It was a sad, sordid performance, but let's hope, amidst all the political maneuverings and voyeuristic speculation that's sure to follow, its essential lessons are not lost in the hubbub:
1) When you're peppering Internet strangers with questions about their blow-job skills, that's when you should be discreet. When Andrew Breitbart accuses you of tweeting glamour shots of your dong to your Twitter followers, and you actually did tweet glamour shots of your dong to your Twitter followers, that's when you should be totally candid and transparent.
2) If you're 46 years old and your chest is smoother than an 18-year-old stripper's cooch, you have vanity issues.
3) Never wear a flag pin.
Earlier: Hal Holbrook in 1973's The Enforcer. The original American flag lapel pin?
Yesterday Donald Trump announced he isn't running for president.
We didn't realize Trump's run was an either/or proposition between leading the country and giving up his Celebrity Apprentice gig. After all, President Obama finds time to golf every weekend — why couldn't Trump just tape his show on Saturdays?
But apparently his bosses at NBC don't want the host of one of the network's few successful franchises spending any time solutioneering issues like Social Security and health care when more pressing matters of state are at hand — like whether or not to fire Meat Loaf. And given that Trump makes rougly six and half times more money for a single episode of Celebrity Apprentice than President Obama makes in a year, it was easy to see which way the wind was blowing on this one.
I read this on The Daily Beast and thought it prudent to advise the MB. Toolbaggery has a deadly weapon in its arsenal: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Over two years ago we added "The Principle of Not Looking Like Mark Zuckerberg" to the MB canon, so we're definitely aware of the threat his fleece, Adidas slides, and non-pedicured toes pose. However, it should be noted that the rise of Microsoft did not lead to widespread adoption of fellow Harvard drop-out Bill Gates' colorblock-sweater-over-floral-woven look.
Ed. note: We are officially madly in love with Rebecca Dana, the author of the Beast piece.
If you're going to do it, do it like this
Q: What are the rules for stubble on your neck and face? To me, stubble/five o'clock shadow represent the 'I don't care, deal with it' look. I like it, if I had a thicker coat I'd do it. However, is it wrong to have a problem with those who shave the neck, but leave the face stubbled?
A: No, it's not wrong to have a problem with this oxymoronic look. It's completely defeating the point of the stubble and doesn't make sense prima facie. Get it?
Add it to the list of other things we don't understand, like decaffeinated coffee, non-alcoholic beer, and dry humping.
Toolbag icon Roger Clemens has previously been on these pages for his banded collar shirt and double-breasted suit, but he really brought the heat yesterday thanks to HTH (Human Toolbag Hormone) and an obvious midlife crisis: frosted hair, sort-of goatee, and reflector blades. Thanks, Rocket. We look forward to the trial in April, 2011.
Q: I love my girlfriend and everything she does or wears is sexy and beautiful. Except for one thing, she plucks her eyebrows so thin it makes her look like a surprised doll. I wish she would grow them out naturally, but I have no idea how to tell her -- plus I don't think an MB would ever try to correct his girl's appearance. But the eyebrows are making me crazy -- I was even thinking of taking her camping for three weeks just to force them out. What can I do?
A: Lee, first off, thanks for entrusting us with your love life -- we are always surprised at how few people seem to think a men's style website is the most appropriate venue for solving tricky relationship problems.
In any case, our first thought is that we generally prefer cat-like women: graceful, inscrutable, with fastidious grooming habits. But we agree that plucked, or at least overplucked, eyebrows take fastidious grooming one step too far.
So here's what we suggest you do. Casually browse through one of your girlfriend's old photo albums, tell her how cute she looks, etc. When you find a photo from her pre-plucking years, ramp up the praise even more: "Oh my God, look at you. Those eyebrows. You look like Brooke Shields!" Don't overdo it or she'll get suspicious. Just the one comment and move on to some other subject. Now, the seed has been planted. If your girlfriend fails to take action, that's a clear sign she'd prefer to look like Divine than Brooke Shields. In which case you have our deepest sympathies.
Q: What's MB's stance on chest hair grooming? Obviously a shaved chest is unacceptable but chest hair run rampant seems less than magnificent. I tend to trim mine short using a buzzer but this seems like the most favorable alternative to an unbecoming chest. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
A: Not to hedge, but this all depends on the amount and type of chest hair growth. The 40 Year-Old Virgin clearly needed to "wax that Teen Wolf thing right out," as his pal Jay rightly put it. Besides wearing film's best-looking suit, Cary Grant also sports one of film's best-looking, artfully disheveled chests in North by Northwest. (Incidentally, he's 55 years old in this picture.) If you just have a few unsightly stragglers poking out from around your nipples, go for the laser. It hurts like wax but after a few treatments they're gone forever, and you're ready for a Dolce & Gabbana shoot.
Q: No facial hair? Ever? So how do explain Brian Austin Green nabbing Megan Fox? George Clooney and Elisabetta? Pitt and Jolie? Surely these guys aren't toolbags. If they are, I have no chance at all.
--TTH in Texas, Cash
A: Just looking over our facial hair channel, and while we've definitely said no to age-inappropriate facial hair, we're not shaving zealots. (However, as beards now hit the peak of the trend curve -- with Brad Pitt now resembling The Dude -- we're heading more vigorously in the opposite direction.)
About the couples you mention: Megan Fox (age 23) probably had a crush on Brian Austin Green (age 36) since she was 10 and he was on 90210. George Clooney is rich, famous, and handsome. Any one of those three is usually enough. Angelina Jolie? Ick!
Q: I just found your site the other day through www.onthefly.com, a truly wonderful website for the modern gentleman. It now has another feather in its cap--it has led me to you folks! Immediately upon finding your site, I went looking for answer to something I've been wondering for quite some time now. Alas, it appears that you have not addressed this yet. How do you feel about manicures? Pedicures, I gather, are required for sandals, but what about the other 10 digits?
A: We endorse meticulous personal grooming, especially when someone else is doing it. Artful dishevelment does not extend to peeling cuticles. So yes, manicures are MB-approved. However, since they are your more dexterous digits and near your face, it's possible to care for these adequately on your own. Feet, on the other hand, require a professional, unless you have yoga master-level flexibility.
Q: I shave my head, due to hair loss, and feel that it detracts from your artfully disheveled standards. Are there any general rules for us smooth-domed MB wannabes that I should be following?
A: Dan, you said you shave your head, but how often do you shave? We ask because in our opinion, the fully shaved look (aka the Savalas) as a can't-miss cure for baldness is ultimately about as can't-miss as Rogaine or Propecia -- it doesn't always work as advertised. If you're Michael Jordan, go for it. If not, well, just look at Jack (top) -- suddenly one of the world's coolest dudes looks like a bigger toolbag than Joe the Plumber.
Our advice: when you shave, leave enough stubble to make your wife/girlfriend think twice about asking for special favors. Then, don't shave again until you start worrying about the impact wind/hats are having on your hair. The more hair you have left on top, the more frequently you'll have to shave. When you're looking like Jackson Pollock (bottom), you're looking just right. When you're looking like Larry Fine (inset), you've let it go too far.
Q: Are you ever going to touch on the atrocity of wearing flip-flops and jeans together? Your silence suggests it is still appropriate attire as you pontificate pearls of bastardly fashion from your cozy West Hollywood cyber-cafe.
A: Woah, Lar. There's actually a bit of a chill this morning on the terraced patio here at Urth Caffe on Melrose, warmed only slightly by an organic dolce espresso and the sight of Meg Ryan. Anyhow, we're from a small farming community in the middle of Wisconsin, and we say flip-flops and jeans are fine, but only if you've had a pedicure in the last 21 days.
Top: Zach Galifianakis
Bottom: Jim Carrey at the UK premiere of Disney's A Christmas Carol
(Memo to Gillette: May be time to send Zach Galifianakas some free razors.)
Q: My girl trims downstairs, should us guys tidy up? I'm not saying a full wax, I'm just saying...
A: As a rule, we're extremely wary of style trends popularized by male porn stars. But if your overgrowth is interfering with your girl's sexual pleasure, well, there are very few opportunities in life where you can come off as sensitive and considerate when your real goal is a blowjob. Break out the trimmers.
Q: Magnificent Bastardom is difficult when you've been dealt the hairy back card... and not just a little fuzz -- I could pass for Chewbacca's Uncle if unkept. I shave it as often as I can, even use Men's Nair on it once in while. Since upkeep time resources are significant, I do cheat once in awhile and just trim the back of my neck. I've been thinking of accepting my fate and allowing some hair to grow as it is more work to maintain my hairy back than maintain my lawn. Is it acceptable to have a 'trimmed' hairy back? [Maintained and cut short with am electric trimmer -- versus smooth and stubble free.] Any suggestions on back hair abatement tools?
--BearBack in Minneapolis
A: Shaving your own back? That must require a special modification to a Gillette MACH 3 or flexibility on par with Plastic Man.
And by the way, why are you maintaining your own lawn? Do you have something against illegal aliens? We're thinking that you might even be able to get a lawn/back maintenance combo deal -- if your back hair is as thick as you say it is, it's possible only a weed whacker can truly do the trick, and let's face it, in this economy, illegal aliens are in no position to be too picky about the jobs they accept.
All kidding aside, the only solution is a series of laser treatments. Yes they are costly and painful, but in the long run cheaper than razors or moonlighting gardeners.
Q: How does the MB view going gray or in my case white around the temples? Must I go to a salon for a pro dye job or are there any good product that I can use at home?
A: Neither! Graying temples are like an accessory from God. Rock 'em while you can, like George Clooney did 10 years ago (top). And as the gray takes over the rest of your mane, resist your temptation for coloration. Going gray naturally is the MB way. Dyeing is best left to Las Vegas performers and Billy Mays.
Very MB: 40-year-old Hugh Jackman showing up at the Teen Choice Awards with biceps twice the size of Robert Pattinson's legs.
Not so MB: A pit stain the size of Lake Tahoe. This ample lady doesn't seem to mind (too much), but a Disney startlet could drown in that thing. Stay away, Miley!
Q: If you have nasty feet and shouldn't be wearing sandals, what do you recommend with shorts? Some Pumas with low socks? Thanks.
A: Over the last three decades, thousands of Vietnamese immigrants have journeyed across oceans in boats we'd be afraid to board in a wading pool just to make your feet presentable in sandals. Get a pedicure! And if you think that sounds kind of girly, do you know who else gets pedicures? Lions! Well, circus lions anyway. And if it's man enough for them, it's man enough for you too.
And what if you have some kind of physical deformity a pedi can't cure? You're on the right track. We prefer anything vintage from Puma, Tretorn, Adidas, with no-show socks or none at all. You'd have a hard time going wrong picking just about anything from Classic Sport Shoes' Adidas Originals page.
via Saks Fifth Avenue. $24.50.
Now that it's officially spring, we highly recommend Kiehl's Facial Fuel Moisturizer with SFP 15 Sunscreen. Apply as the last thing before you head into the office. Protects an MB's face from damaging UV rays, and also has enough zip for you to skip the morning cup of coffee.
This not a question so much as a fear and I believe you guys can help. Summer will be here and in parts of the US it will be happening sooner. Men should and will be wearing sandals. The problem is, and you've addressed one problem (the lack of a pedicure) which is bad but the choice of sandal is also important. A thong type as opposed to the crisscross or strap. On some men the crisscross and strap type make men look like Fred Flintstone. Could you come up with some guidelines?
--John (from Ireland)
A: Yeah, we take a backseat to no one about the importance of a pedicure. Last June was Pedicure Awareness Month and this June will be no different. It's the MB version of The Golden Rule: don't expose nasty-ass toes to others.
Fred Flintstone lived in the Pre-Footwear Era, which makes his car-driving even more remarkable. Imagine the wickedly painful blisters most men would get powering a stone-wheeled auto with their feet. Anyhow, we don't see that big of a stylistic difference between thong and crisscross/strap, to be honest. They can both work. One type of sandal we do avoid is a strap/crisscross that covers too much toe. This has an unflattering chubbing-up, holy-crap-that-dude-has-an-ingrown-toenail effect. You'll know it when you see it.
The MB-preferred shaving technique
Q: Ever since I began shaving, I've been getting razor bumps in the neck region. I've tried shaving with a five blade electric razor after taking a hot shower, shaving with the direction of the hair, and only shaving once every three days. However none of these methods seem to alleviate the problem. I don't want to do laser hair removal. What do you suggest?
A: Sorry Brock, we cannot help you. The morning shave leaves our faces as smooth as Barbie's ass.
But we can't just leave you in a bumpy-necked lurch. For assistance we've turned to Michael Gilman, co-founder of men's grooming site Grooming Lounge for some answers:
First, an irritation-free shave is all about preparation. Shaving right after a shower is important, but only half the battle. In addition to shaving a warm beard, he should also prepare the beard using a shave oil
and shave cream
combination. The oil will help his whiskers stand at attention and the cream will work in tandem with the oil to soften skin and the whiskers. The result is less razor drag and irritation.
Secondly, for guys with sensitive skin, 5 blades is just too much. It's the equivalent of taking three or four extra passes with the razor. For sensitive skin that’s too vigorous. We suggest a triple bladed razor and that's what we use in-house.
Another tip is to really make sure he's shaving with the direction of hair growth and not just "down." For a lot of men, hair grows side to side or diagonally and it's important to follow this path to reduce irritation. Of course, no slicing and only going against the grain for areas that really need it and only doing so once.
Finally, in addition to a soothing, non-alcohol based aftershave
, there's a miracle product that really helps guys with chronic razor burn. It's called Barc Bump Down
, and God knows how it works, but applying some post-shave really reduces razor burn and bumps. I've used it myself to ward of irritation and its slight sting is well worth it.
Q: My stylist recommended American Crew Forming Cream as a "product" to keep my do in check. However, in these tough economic times, $15 for less than four ounces of goop seems like a luxury I cannot afford. Are there cheaper alternatives to this product out there?
A: Well, you could try Twilight heartthrob and new "It" guy Robert Pattinson's approach and not wash your hair for four years. Natural oils combined with dirt provide high hold and shine!
Ed, we're going to be frank. You're getting your hair cut by a stylist -- which is likely running you a minimum of $50 plus tip -- and you're bitching about $15 for product? While we hate their shampoos, American Crew hair cream is probably our all-time favorite grooming product, and that 3.53 oz. container lasts forever. Possibly the best $15 you'll ever spend.
via Barney's Co-Op. $129.00.
Q: Thanks for the pedicure PSA. Open toed sandals + big-jagged-yellow toenails are almost worthy of the official toolbag list. It is really a huge problem out there. In fact, it is probably better that the MB just recommend that open-toed are always completely out and unacceptable in its continued effort to rescue humanity.
A: First, we're not out to rescue humanity. Lost cause! We're out to stop humanity -- specifically men -- from wearing pleated khakis.
Second, your suggestion sounds reasonable until you realize how many wicked good-looking flip flops and sandals are on the market. Most of humanity has wicked-ugly toes, but if you're one of the lucky ones, combine them with a pedicure and sandals and turn them into a valuable summer asset.
Magnificent Bastard is giving back to the community this month with a PSA (Public Service Announcement), declaring June Pedicure Awareness Month. Soon we'll have links to a nail salon in your area, but in the meantime, if you are without pedicure, here are some recommended closed-toe footwear options to cover up that nasty shit, and spare the rest of us. Please.
Cole Haan 'Norland' Fisherman Sandal, $185
Bacco Bucci 'Hossa' Slide, $149
Keen 'Maui' Sandal, $29.95
Frye 'Max Fisherman' Sandal, $187.95
To Boot New York 'Weston' Slip-On, $225
All via nordstrom.com.