“There are just two classes of men in the world, men with suits whose buttons are just sewn onto the sleeve, just some kind of cheapie decoration, or—yes!—men who can unbutton the sleeve at the wrist because they have real buttonholes and the sleeve really buttons up.”
The Secret Vice, by Tom Wolfe
In 1952, a promising young pitching prospect out of Washington and Lee University showed up for a tryout with the New York Giants (the baseball Giants, that is– they hadn’t yet decamped for San Francisco). The prospect made a decent showing: three innings, three men on base, no runs scored. Good screwball, nice sinker, not much heat. ”If somebody had offered me a Class D professional contract,” says the prospect– whose name was Tom Wolfe– many decades later, “I would have gladly put off writing for a couple of decades.” But the Giants cut Wolfe after two days, and he became a giant of another kind. (Via)
From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–
Recently, in the wake of the recession, Wall Street greed, and the wreckage of Lehman Brother, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns et al, the term “Master of The Universe” keeps getting thrown around to describe these fallen titans of Lower Manhattan. Whenever I hear this term I always think of the man who penned it, my nominee for the TSY Style Hall of Fame, Tom Wolfe.
1970s, New York City — Author Tom Wolfe — Image by © Bob Adelman/Corbis
Cultural Chronicler is another term that also gets thrown around a lot– I mean one well reviewed novel and Bret Easton Ellis was the voice of his generation (I remember I lived through it), but few American wordsmiths can actually lay claim to writing about the people and events that shaped a lot of the last 50 years of the 20th Century as a largely inside observer, and in the process coining some phrases that became part of the popular lexicon.
Tom Wolfe always managed to get underneath the surface of events and reveal the most primal of human emotions-greed, arrogance, courage, humor, longing-and come up with phrases like “Radical Chic”, “The Me Generation”, “Social X-Ray”, “The Right Stuff”, and one of his favorites “Good Ol Boy” which he used to describe the racecar driver Junior Johnson.
Other than being an avid reader of Wolfe’s work I have a somewhat personal connection. For a few years we lived in the same NYC neighborhood and while I can never say I spoke to him, he was impossible to miss. A tall man, with an aquiline nose Wolfe was always decked in an immaculate white suit, high collar Jermyn Street custom dress shirt, splendid tie, pocket square that screamed dandy, white shoes, and occasionally white hat. His style was very much like his writing, elegant but with a sense of humor and irony. I mean who dresses like that anymore! Yet Tom Wolfe looked crisp on the hottest of days.
Tom Wolfe — the American journalist, pop critic and novelist, 1980. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS