A Look at the Polo

Eroll Flynn, doing what Errol Flynn does (photo: thehairpin.com)

Following up on the “Study in Casual” a few posts back, I thought I might make a few item-specific articles with the goal of shedding some light on the history and evolution on some of my favorite pieces. This week: a look at the Polo.

The Polo shirt is one of the most versatile options available in a man’s casual wardrobe, and the diversity of its adherents reflects the usefulness of the garment. Polos are beloved by preps, rappers, dads, golfers, and more. They offer a touch of class to an outfit that might be a little too dressed-down with a t-shirt while sacrificing almost none of the comfort. Most of all, as is true of most enduring styles, a good Polo features a clean and stripped-down design that makes a strong statement without using strong language. A Polo is at once classic and timeless: it’s easy to look bad in a Polo, but it’s even easier to look damn good in one too.

Polos are also known as golf shirts or tennis shirts (the three can be used interchangeably, but one term or the other usually brings about small but specific differences), and the shirt we know and love today was first designed by French tennis player René Lacoste in an effort to escape the pitfalls of the then-standard “tennis whites”: long-sleeve, button-up shirts, flannel trousers, and ties. In 1926, Lacoste debuted the first tennis shirt, which addressed several problems with the more formal attire of his forbears and would become the hallmark of classic Polo design for years to come.

First and foremost, the loose, jersey-knit cotton breathed well and held up better under athletic performance. Secondly, the soft collar could be rolled up to protect the neck from the sun, a move that would be imitated by frat guys years later, no doubt in direct homage to the creator of the shirt they loved so very much. Third, the short, cuffed sleeves were a big improvement over the long sleeves that players often rolled up during competition, and that had a tendency to unroll and become cumbersome. Lastly, the tail of the shirt, longer than the front allowed for easy tucking and helped keep the shirt in place.

Prior to this design, English Polo players wore long-sleeve, oxford-cloth knit shirts with button-down collars, but after Lacoste began mass-marketing his tennis shirts in the early 30s, the sportsmen were eager to pick up the more practical and comfortable garment for use in their own sport. The term “polo shirt” or “polo” caught on, and soon even tennis players would refer to the garment as such. Lacoste’s mass-marketed version of the Polo, debuting in the 1930s with his own brand, Chemise Lacoste, featured a crocodile emblem on the left breast, an embrace of the nickname bestowed upon him by the American media. The emblem remains one of the more recognizable icons of fashion, and is sometimes credited as the first visible branding of a garment.

René Lacoste (right) in the original Lacoste Tennis Shirt (photo: PenningtonandBailes.com)

Branding and marketing can get you very far in the world of high fashion, as proven by Ralph Lauren Polo shirts (my personal favorite), which were not manufactured until the early 1970s when the designer debuted his new line of preppy, Ivy League-inspired clothing, appropriately dubbed “Polo”. This helped to further establish the catchall moniker of “Polo” for similar shirts, and gave Lauren’s garment a leg up in terms of brand recognition (see Kleenex, Band-Aid, etc). Despite the somewhat ersatz nature of the WASPiness perpetuated by the brand, Ralph Lauren Polo shirts became and remain wildly popular, and in terms of the collective consciousness, probably remain the gold standard for what we now refer to as a Polo shirt.

Thus ends the “A Brief History of the Polo Shirt” segment of this post. Let’s move on to more practical, non-athletic applications. As mentioned before, the Polo is an incredibly versatile garment, mainly because it hits a sweet spot between sporty, casual, and slightly dressed-up. If you work in an office that utilizes a “business casual” dress code, you probably see more Polos on any given Friday than Ralph Lauren has in his own closet. The softness and breathability of the fabric make for an extremely comfortable wear, while the collar and two or three-button placket (depending on designer) lend the Polo just a touch of dressed-up sharpness. It’s the mid-point between a t-shirt and a button-down, and can replace either in a pinch.

Polos also tend to cut a rather attractive silhouette due to the somewhat stretchy nature of the fabric. In “A Study in Casual”, I talked a little about the best fits following the natural lines of the body, and a well-fitted Polo will achieve this with no tailoring better than any other shirt. Since a Polo looks just as good (if not better) untucked, go for as close of a fit as you can manage. If you’re a tall guy like me, this can be somewhat tricky when trying to strike the correct balance between “long enough” and “fitted enough”, but experiment with a few different brands to find what works best for you.

Of the many, many, many Polo options available, the Ralph Lauren slim-fit mesh Polo has to be my all-time favorite. It’s soft as a baby’s butt, won’t make you sweat, and has a deeply flattering and athletic cut (plus you get that iconic Polo player logo). The downside: branding is everything, and a brand as popular as Ralph Lauren is going to be priced accordingly. RL Polos go for $85-$100 at retail, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Fortunately, as a popular item, they’re frequently on sale, and they’re extremely durable. As something that will last you for several years after purchase, it’s a decent investment.

Uniqlo has a much cheaper and still smart-looking alternative, for around $15 a pop. These are a tad less comfortable than the more expensive options (the fabric tends to be a little rougher and less breezy), but on the plus side, you won’t have to worry about being out $90 if you spill shrimp cocktail on it.

Now the big questions…what to wear with a Polo? As discussed, the options are pretty endless, so let’s take a look at some stuff to avoid. You’ve probably noticed that a lot of chain businesses have implemented Polos as part of their uniform, so avoid the tucked-in Polo and khakis look unless you want to look like a Best Buy or TGI Friday’s employee. It’s not uncommon to see a Polo paired with a jacket or blazer, but I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to dress up enough to wear a jacket you should probably put on a shirt that buttons all the way down. Jeans, especially slim-fit, dark-wash jeans are almost always a solid bet, and a Polo goes well with shorts for a summery look. A lot of supposedly style-conscious people will tell you not to tuck in a Polo, but I think a tuck with a pair of well-fitted shorts, a nice belt, and some clean sneakers will make you look your grandpa (in the best way).

Don’t be this guy (photo: flickr.com)

The Polo gets something of a bad rap these days, mainly because it’s associated with snooty rich assholes and/or frat guys (and with good reason), but like craft cocktails and artisanal cheese, just because a douchebag is a fan doesn’t mean you should throw out the product entirely. Remember, a Polo is a good part of a wardrobe, which means you should have options other than 14 different Big Pony shirts in assorted colors for casual wear. Also, don’t wear your collar up if you’re not playing tennis, ever. Ditto layered Polos. Just…stop.

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A Strange History of Souses: the Nation’s Weirdest Drinking Laws

Last night I was doing my manly dinner duties, aka, running to the store to fetch wine and Parmesan cheese. I stopped into a relatively recent addition to the neighborhood, something I would describe as a “hipster grocery store”, for lack of a better term, knowing they would probably have non-canned cheese available. Much to my dismay, they apparently had no license to sell alcohol, as there was no wine or beer to be found.

I walked a few blocks further down Knickerbocker, to the Associated Supermarket, knowing that they sold beer, and thus, would probably sell wine. No dice. After posting a puzzled status update to FaceBook, it was confirmed to me that New York is in fact, one of several states in which the sale of wine in grocery stores is prohibited.

A rifle through the Internet revealed some interesting history. One of the odder tidbits concerns the city’s first open container laws, passed by Ed Koch in 1979. It was originally pitched as a quality of life measure to cut down on the number of derelicts imbibing on city streets and sidewalks, with Councilman Frederick Samuel reassuring constituents that, “We do not recklessly expect the police to give a summons to a Con Ed worker having a beer with his lunch.”

Most relevant, however, is a provision that allows only a single individual living within a few miles of his or her business and holding no other liquor licenses in the state to sell spirits and wine for off-premises consumption. This restriction is unique to New York City, and part of the city’s long-standing but swiftly crumbling opposition to chain businesses. Basically, it means only sole proprietors can sell liquor and wine.

This is a good idea in theory, I suppose. The smokescreen of supporting local business is often invoked by proponents, who say that you’re blessed with a myriad of options from knowledgable wine-slingers rather than subjected to the generic stocks of a soulless entity like CostCo or Whole Foods (or, y’know, a neighborhood chain grocery store). In reality, and especially in neighborhoods like Bushwick that are swiftly becoming gentrified but are still, in certain respects, food deserts, it means that liquor store owners are given permission by the state to not give a shit. The Discount Liquor store I ended up going into was filled with a poorly organized selection of bottles and tended to by a disinterested clerk who clearly made most of his money from the folks who wander in and buy marked-down rotgut whiskey.

For a city with some of the most relaxed liquor laws in the Northeast this is an oddly restrictive practice, but as is the case with many NYC regulatory curiosities, it’s mostly about commerce. It will be interesting to see how this law holds up as the city gentrifies further, and its constituents (presumably) become more vocal about consumer advocacy.

The aforementioned FaceBook comment thread brought the proclamation from my friend Ian that the three weirdest states in terms of alcohol laws and restriction were Utah, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Let’s take a look, shall we?

They’re not messing around

Utah is one of the 18 “control states” in the union, meaning that the state government controls a significant portion of the alcohol sold for retail or wholesale within the state. This means there are spooky state-run liquor stores, which are also the only places that one can purchase beer for off-premises consumption with an ABV% higher than 3.2 (I had a personal experience with this, when my brother and I split a six pack during a road trip and were mystified at our complete lack of buzz). Liquor and stronger beer can be purchased in restaurants and bars or nightclubs that are licensed to sell liquor. The serving cutoff time is 1am. Enforcement has apparently been relaxed in recent years, partly due to complaints from members of the Olympic International Committee during the 2002 Winter games. There have been a lot of inching reforms over the past several years, including a loosening of laws that supposedly prohibited restaurant patrons from drinking alcohol before ordering food, after a series of controversial citations were administered to grown adults who apparently can’t be trusted to follow the state’s archaic religious nanny-state regulations.

An SC Dispensary-issue bottle

Speaking of history, there’s a lot of it to be found in South Carolina’s liquor laws (and probably more than I can adequately explore within the confines of this article). In 1892, a “dispensary system” by which the state completely controlled the wholesale and retail sale of alcohol was established in response to mounting pressure from the state’s growing prohibitionist faction. It’s clear that history repeats itself, as the dispensary system was more or less a brilliant ploy by Governor Ben Tillman to appear to capitulate (at least partly) to the demand for prohibition. In actuality, the dispensary system allowed for rampant corruption by the state politicians who controlled it (they sold political offices and accepted bribes from local distillers, and embezzled untold amounts from the dispensary itself), and helped Tillman secure a seat in the United States Senate, where he would remain until his death in 1918 (a full two years after the dispensary system had been dismantled by the General Assembly).

Today, liquor is available for off-premises consumption only between 9am and 7pm, and banned outright on Sundays. Beer and wine sales vary from county to county, with some allowing sales 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and some bars remaining open until 7 or 8 in the morning, but recent pressures have more or less established a 2am closing time for most, except by special permit (which has a provision against events that “violate the public peace”). The strangest bit of rule-mongering? Until 2006, South Carolina was the last state in the union that mandated cocktails and liquor drinks served in bars to be made with mini-bottles, aka “airplane bottles”. In what might go down as the most dunderheaded move by teetotaler legislators, the impetus behind the law was to standardize the amount of alcohol served in each drink, and to allow for easier taxation. It was somehow overlooked that mini-bottles contain 1.75 oz of liquor, whereas the free-pour drinks sold by bars in every other state contained only 1.2 oz. Basically, the state government forced bars into over-serving. Whoops.

Take your state-approved allocation of spirits and get out, Citizen!

The first sentence of the Wikipedia entry “Alcohol laws of Pennsylvania” reads as follows: “The alcohol laws of Pennsylvania contain many peculiarities not found in other states, and are considered some of the strictest regulations in the United States.” Strap in.

Pennsylvania is another “control state”, and wine and liquor may only be purchased at those same spooky, State-run stores, but there is also a “Limited Winery License” that can be acquired by a winery (in our out of state) that produces less than 200,00 gallons per year. Businesses that hold these licenses can sell their wine in their own shops, to state-run stores, or ship directly to customers. Strangely, there’s also a note indicating the wineries are permitted to sell “wine or liquor scented candles”.

Beer gets confusing. It is available for on-premises consumption at bars, restaurants, and available for off-premises consumption at licensed beer stores and distributors, but they typically only sell in bulk, meaning cases (24 beers) or kegs. However, patrons can purchase six-packs, twelve-packs, and individual 24oz and 40oz bottles directly from bars and restaurants, in quantities not to exceed 192 oz per purchase (!). Stranger still, many grocery stores have begun offering beer for sale at restaurants attached to the store, but only under very strict guidelines (the restaurants must have a clear separation from the rest of the store, a separate cashier, and seating for 30 customers or more). A convenience store called Sheetz in Altoona, PA obtained a liquor license for an attached restaurant, and the ensuing debate went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ultimately decided that Sheetz could only sell liquor for off-premises consumption if it allowed on-premises consumption as well (??).

Bars and restaurants are forced to close at 2am, as is the case in most of the country. However, unlike most states, minors are barred from consuming alcohol under any circumstances, even when provided by a parent or guardian, and even when consumed for religious or medicinal reasons. Minors can also be charged with “constructive possession” by simply being in the general vicinity of alcohol being consumed illegally. Hasn’t anybody told Pennsylvania that the children are our future?

No liquor on Sundays, but this is OK

In the interest of self-examination, I’m going to take a look at the laws of my native state, the finger-wagging but selectively lax Republic of Texas. Like a lot of other states, Texas raised its minimum drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1984, to comply with a federal law that would cut highway funds to the state by as much as 10%. Beer and wine are available at grocery stores and convenience stores between the hours of 7am and midnight Monday through Friday, and between 7am Saturday morning through 1am Sunday morning, and at Noon on Sunday through midnight. The same holds true for alcohol purchased in restaurants (to be consumed on premises only), but on Sundays from 10am to noon, liquor, wine, and beer are only available for purchase when ordering food.

Liquor is only available for off-premises consumption at liquor stores (which are privately owned) from 10am to 9pm, Monday through Saturday. No liquor may be purchased for off-premises consumption on Sunday. Bars and restaurants state-wide may sell beer, wine, and liquor with the same restrictions (save for the Sunday ban). Apparently, a 2am closing time is legal only in counties and cities where such hours are approved, and require a special license. However, from my own personal experience, this encompasses basically any county in Texas where bars are allowed to operate.

There’s also a strange yet seldom enforced rule that I can’t find much documentation on, but that I have seen selectively enforced. As the legend goes, legislators were facing stepped up pressure to restrict serving amounts in order to cut down on drunk driving deaths, and arrived at a limit of two drinks per customer per transaction. The so-called “beer and a shot” rule was put in place so that someone might be able to chase their shot immediately with a beer. Like I said, I can’t find much evidence to support this being a hard and fast law, and its very seldom enforced, as people will often take turns buying rounds, and I have never seen anyone in a bar refused when ordering three, four, or even five drinks at a time. However, there is a bar in Downtown Austin which serves $4.50 pitchers of Lone Star beer during happy hour (5-8pm) on Fridays, and in accordance with the supposed “beer and a shot” rule, the purchase of said pitchers is limited to one per two customers. The employees at this establishment are very proactive about enforcing this rule, supposedly because the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission would put them in serious hot water if they weren’t. Still, I have been served a pitcher of beer while waiting for other friends in different bars before and have never been given a second glance.

Texas is additionally divided by a bizarrely byzantine system of wet and dry counties, and exceptions and special licenses that can be applied. There are 18 “dry” counties, in which all sales of alcohol are illegal, and 47 “wet counties” in which all sales are legal. That means the 189 remaining counties are a strange mix of wet and dry neighborhoods, which can be navigated with the help of the exceedingly odd “Unicard” system. Certain dry areas allow for the limited sale of alcoholic beverages by “private clubs”. The spirit of this exception was (supposedly) to allow organizations like the Freemasons or whatever to have bars in their clubhouses, but in practice, hundreds of restaurants throughout the state simply declare themselves private clubs, which you can join by purchasing a Unicard, which basically serves as your membership ID in these so-called “clubs”, which often charge no fee, or only a nominal one, to join. Essentially, it’s a pass to drink in dry areas. Come to think of it, the Unicard system is little more than an updated, more bureaucratically annoying version of South Carolina’s Dispensary system: it’s a way for the state government to appear to kowtow to the hand-wringing of teetotalers while still making booze readily available to people who want it. History repeats itself, as we’ve learned.

Looking back at this research, I think I’ll have to disagree with Ian and place Pennsylvania as the most bizarrely restricted state in the union (that I know of). Its laws and regulations aren’t just restrictive, they’re flat-out strange and nonsensical in terms of what is and is not allowed. A common theme running throughout all of this: everything is gradually being challenged, and, most likely, slowly changing. Will we one day find ourselves in a country in which every state’s alcohol laws are as libertarian as Louisiana?

My old (and perhaps oldest) friend Ben once recounted a trip to New Orleans, in which he walked into a Crystal Burger at 3am, shirtless, and drinking from a cup filled with Jack Daniels. He described putting his drink down on the counter to order, and the employee behind the counter yawning as he rang up another routine transaction.

“That,” Ben concluded, “is freedom.”

#OCCUPYBERGDORFS: “If it’s money you want, I can tell you I have plenty.”

Welcome to #occupybergdorfs, a weekly ruination of the absolute worst that the world of fashion has to offer. Each week, we’ll bring you a new eyesore, and break down exactly what makes this particular outfit “WTF”-worthy. A partnership betweenChange Machine (Jen Blair) and Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo (John Jarzemsky), #occupybergdorfs is dedicated to giving you that extra dose of schadenfreude you so desperately need to get you through the week.

Without further ado, may we present…

Givenchy Basketball Wool Sweatshirt & Wide Leg Trousers with Basketball Taping
$4,465.00 @ Bergdorf Goodman

Who would wear this?

John: An anonymous extra from Taken, or some other Luc Besson-produced film in which vaguely sinister Eurotrash thugs are dispatched with ruthless efficiency by Liam Neeson.

Best time to wear this?

Jen:  A brisk morning jog on The Grid.

Worst time to wear this?

John: When actually playing basketball, or when trying to flee from Liam Neeson on a dirt bike whilst emptying an uzi over your shoulder.

Who (if anybody) can pull this off?

Jen:  A young Jonny Lee Miller; an order of basketball-playing space monks in The Fifth Element 2 – The Sixth Element; wealthy transhumanist libertarians living in isolated self-sustaining eco luxury house-pods in the Pacific Northwest.

Is it fashionable?

John:  They’re going for some sort of streetwear vibe, which is definitely getting more popular, especially in NYC, but the bagginess seems like a throwback to the 90s.

Is it fairly priced?

Jen: Compared to other geek-chic luxuries (like a trip to the space station), the outfit is a relative steal.

What do you wear with this?

John: A giant foam-rubber basketball head to entice wild basketballs into mating with you.

What would be a better use for the cash?

Jen: The individual responsible for this travesty was clearly utilizing a mere 10% of his brain when he sat down to conceptualize the design; why not celebrate that idea and treat yourself and 222 of your closest friends to the latest Luc Besson cinematic train wreck at your local multiplex.  Or, if you prefer quality over quantity, four MacBook Airs.

A Study in Casual

When speaking of the most basic levels of competence, an oft-invoked benchmark involves one’s ability to dress one’s self. An example: “I’m not sure if I would trust Ernie with that new account…he knows how to dress himself, but this might be a little above his pay grade.” When viewed literally, the adage makes perfect sense. What, after all, could be more simple than covering one’s naked flesh before heading out the door? What is one of the first things we learn to do independent of our mothers and fathers, alongside using the toilet and brushing our teeth?

When considered in full, the words are misleading. Dressing one’s self, in the most bare-bones sense of the phrase, may come easy, but dressing one’s self well remains a bit more elusive. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of casual men’s dress.

Frank Sinatra–an indisputable Original King of Cool, whether on stage in a suit or relaxing at home.

A common mistake, and one that I made myself until very recently, is to assume that dressing “casually” is synonymous with dressing sloppy. While the rules of style relax and loosen further down the chain of formality, to assume that casual dress works in spite of thoughtlessness is an egregious, though all too prevalent error. Visit any college town or urban center where tourists congregate, and you can see the proof in all its gaudy glory: branded, ill-fitting t-shirts and crocs as far as the eye can see.

In the world of style, as in most other spheres, men have it fairly easy. The uniform basics of men’s dress allow for a much more minimalist and pared-down closet, and men’s pieces tend to last longer and sell for less. However, the hard and fast rules and variable conformity of tailored style often leaves some men in the dark when the time comes to hang up the monkey-suit and step out a little more. It’s like a teenager who has been wearing a uniform to school his entire adolescence suddenly being told that he can wear whatever he wants; the results will always be interesting, but usually the apparent evaporation of rules and authority will lead to some very suspect decisions.

This is the root of the problem: many of the rules for more formal dress still apply to casual wear, and dressing down has some of its own unique rules as well. As mentioned earlier, you can play faster and looser the more casual you get, but throwing caution to the wind means you’ll end up looking effortlessly sloppy, or worse, like a study in failure. To reiterate, nobody is asking you to put a ton of thought into what you’re going to wear while you mow the lawn or head to the gym, but you might want to look like you give a shit if you’re headed to a first date or meeting some folks for a day-drink.

FIT

As with dressier occasions, fit rules the day. If your clothes don’t fit properly they’ll make you look dumpy and sloppy, and give your body a blobby, amorphous shape. The reason so many guys run into trouble with casual fit is that not many people bother to tailor casual clothes. This attitude is understandable: a dress shirt or a suit jacket seems like something appropriate for a visit to a tailor, and something that you’re just going to wear out with buddies doesn’t. Part of it may be a fear of appearing too try-hard, but most of the time, it takes effort to appear effortless. In my personal opinion, a fit that is as close as possible to the natural contours of your body without being constricting is optimal. A lot of guys who are bigger or smaller than average will mistakenly think that loose or baggy clothing will improve the perception of their physique, but clothing that doesn’t follow the natural lines of your body makes for an ugly and shapeless silhouette, which usually does little else besides highlight your worst attributes. Be proud of what you have going on, and dress accordingly rather than trying to hide it.

COHESION

While there’s certainly more room for experimentation and improvisation in a casual outfit, generally speaking, it’s best to have a uniform aesthetic. This doesn’t mean that you need to go full on brand-whore and stock your closet full of nothing but Polo and Brooks Brothers, but it does mean that you run the risk of having your sartorial message garbled when you mix and match disparate items too much. This can get very subjective, but use your best judgment. Big chunky work boots will look a little out of place with pastel-colored shorts, for example. Same goes for a t-shirt with gray flannel trousers.

COMFORT

Above all, you should be comfortable. This will be aided by wearing clothes that fit, but comfort is as much about your state of mind as it is about whether or not anything is pulling or bunching. If you’re on edge because you feel like that Supreme hat looks stupid on you, go without. If you just can’t get into the drop-crotch pants fad (this seems to have mostly died out, thankfully) then leave it on the cutting room floor.

Remember, nothing I or anybody else says should be taken as gospel truth, but in my humble opinion, timeless classics always age well, and it’s hard to screw up something that’s beautiful in its simplicity.

You don’t have to be as cool as James Dean to look this good in a t-shirt.

Weird Al Takes His Time

Over at Grantland, Steven Hyden has penned a sort of half-hearted hit job on “Weird Al” Yankvoic. Much as I hate to assail the journalistic integrity of one of my favorite sites, it feels like little more than very competent clickbait to publish a piece with the sub-heading “do we still need Weird Al?” the moment Yankovic has stepped back into the social media spotlight (the satirist has released three videos from his forthcoming album in the last three days). At the end of the second paragraph, Hyden notes–presumably with the impatient breathlessness of a 90s-born teenager–that recording an entire album of top 40 parodies isn’t the easiest thing to do in a timely fashion. In the age of consumer-tantrum appeasement that we live in, after all, relevance has been reduced to a 2-3 day window, and as Hyden explains, “late is usually worse than ‘lesser quality’ these days.”

There’s no accounting for taste, but let me be the first to regurgitate the old engineering axiom: cheap, fast, or good–pick two.  Hyden even goes on to snarkily point out that Al’s latest album, Mandatory Fun is full of songs that were big last summer (emphasis Hyden’s), as though the quality and usefulness of parody and comedy were dependent on the satirist being as up to date with his quips and references as a caffeine-addled redditor. Quality takes time, and as any salty old comedian can tell you, the essence of great material is timeless.

Weird Al’s songs seldom parody the person making the song because Weird Al himself seems to have very little of his brand invested in making Robin Thicke or Lorde look like an idiot (an example media outlets like TMZ, who gathered like slobbering dogs to record Yankovic politely asking Iggy Azalea for permission to parody her hit “Fancy”, would do well to follow). He’s a talented musician and comedian invested in the business of making high quality material that makes people laugh. Right now, when we’re more obsessed with ourselves and our identities and how we appear to other people–one can only guess how much anxiety is a direct result of fretting about the “right” likes, shares, instagram photos, and relationship choices–Al’s obsession with silliness is refreshing, and at times, seems downright heroic.

Unlike most satirists, Yankovic skewers himself, or at least the characters he plays rather than writing direct send-ups of the songs or artists. In the video for “Foil” (source material: Lorde’s “Royals”), Weird Al puts himself in the narrator’s role of a man whose obsession with freshness take a sudden hard left turn into wingnut conspiracy theories, a conceit that’s helped along by the divergent paths of the video’s narrative and the “behind-the-scenes” video-in-video segments featuring Patton Oswalt as a director who may or may not be an Illuminati lizard-person.

It’s moments like these when Weird Al is at his best. When he’s found a way to satirize and thus breathe new life into some decent pop music that has been overplayed well past its sell-by date whilst simultaneously telling a certain demographic to cut the shit in the goofiest and most non-threatening way possible. Who is being taken to task here, if anyone? Lorde, or folks who spend way too much time on Prison Planet?

By that same token, who exactly is Hyden taking to task (perhaps unconsciously): a battle-tested comedian and undisputed master of parody or the notion that perhaps the best art, even silly, goofy-beyond-words art featuring grown men with perms and accordions, needs to spend longer than a few days in the fermentation chamber? We’re becoming a nation of artists that continue to kowtow to impatient brats who demand immediate gratification for impulses that won’t last longer than a week or so at best, and as a result, half-formed gobbledygook like Lost or Prometheus or the last few episodes of True Detective are slowly becoming the norm. Some people, it appears, would rather have things fast, cheap, and mediocre.

Be careful what you wish for.

#OccupyBergdorfs: Barbarella’s Mortgage

Welcome to #occupybergdorfs, a weekly ruination of the absolute worst that the world of fashion has to offer. Each week, we’ll bring you a new eyesore, and break down exactly what makes this particular outfit “WTF”-worthy. A partnership between Change Machine (Jen Blair) and Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo (John Jarzemsky), #occupybergdorfs is dedicated to giving you that extra dose of schadenfreude you so desperately need to get you through the week.

Without further ado, may we present…

Marc Jacobs Wave 3/4 Sleeve Tunic & Flared-Leg Pants

$13,400.00 @ Bergdorf Goodman

Who would wear this?

Jen: London trust-fund socialites. Wannabe London trust-fund socialites. David Bowie.

Best time to wear this?

John: If you were going to a space-themed costume party hosted by snooty rich assholes who would judge you if your outfit didn’t cost almost as much as the down payment on a house.

Worst time to wear this?

Jen: Casual lunches, daytime errand-running, meeting the future in-laws, unless your future in-law is David Bowie.

Who, if anybody, can pull this off?

John:  Someone like Stevie Nicks or Cher, or maybe the ghost of Liberace.

Is it fashionable?

Jen: For better or worse, printed pants are definitely having a moment.

Is it fairly priced?

John:  …No. Women’s clothing, from my understanding, is usually heinously overpriced, especially when compared to men’s, but $13k for one outfit made of something other than baby-skin and diamonds should be cause for outrage.

What do you wear with this?

JenStatement platforms and a ray gun.

What would be a better use for the cash?

John:  Well, $13k would pay the rent on a pretty decent room in Brooklyn for a year or so, but you could also spoil yourself with a slightly used mid-size sedan, or approximately 26,000 tacos from Jack in the Box.

Return of the Blockbuster?

Much as a I bitch about the state of movies, entertainment, and the world in general, in my heart of hearts, I consider myself a hopeless romantic.

How else do you explain my foolhardy notion that maybe, just maybe, we’re entering a new age of great tentpoles?

Before we go any further, I’m going to be talking some about two movies I haven’t seen, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Snowpiercer. Obviously, since I haven’t watched either film I’m not going to get into great detail about them, but the chatter surrounding them is enough to make any film geek approaching thirty get a little mushy inside. I’m fairly familiar with the former, having seen its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes soon after it was released on home video. It was one of the first in what would turn out to be a series of happy surprises, which is to say, a  movie that I was so, so sure was going to be bad, that turned out to be great (the latest entry into this hall of plucky heroes is the delightful The Lego Movie). Again, there’s no accounting for taste, and certainly I’ve been let down by sequels to outstanding projects before (The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?), but the critical and popular reaction to Dawn seems to suggest that I’ll have a grand old time watching humans and apes collide in post-apocalyptic San Francisco.

Snowpiercer, on the other hand, is a film I know very little about. I know it’s release was held up by Miramax, that it features a Korean director, and that almost every person whose opinion on movies I hold in high regard has told me to see it, immediately, and not to read anything about it. Sold.

The few bits and pieces I have read about Snowpiercer have mostly been on facebook, and more than one writer has referred to Snowpiercer, along with Dawn as cause for celebration: blockbusters are getting smarter, and more important to the longevity of such developments, audiences are going to see them. Snowpiercer has made $82 million since it’s release in late June (granted, a paltry $2 million of that is from the US, but that’s not bad for a genre flick by an unknown Korean director that’s been on the shelf for two years), and Dawn has raked in over $113 million worldwide since last Friday (with $80 million coming from the states). Hell, let’s not forget the incredibly fun and competent Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, which has done $350 million worldwide since the first week of June (remember kids, in this global economy, tentpoles are too big to fail).

So what’s the upshot of all this? Well, attendance is still down overall, and doomsayers will probably continue to say that the theater is slowly on the way out as the home options get better and better, by I hold out hope that people like Tim League will continue to make the theater a place people want to go, rather than someplace they have to go. Of course, having quality four-quadrant movies like Dawn and Edge can’t hurt either. At the very least, maybe we’re now in a place where the accounting wizards at big studios are weighing the material costs of producing great content versus that of shitting out some warmed over garbage like Hansel and Gretl: Witch Hunters or The Oogieloves.