This morning I was. So my eyes did not linger on page one of the New York Times and dealing with Putin bombing Syria or another crazy campus massacre. Instead, they paused on a handsome young Paul Newman, confidently striding down the beach on the first page of the “Men’s Style” section.
What a relief it was — at least for a moment — to be reading about Newman, Cary Grant, and Steve McQueen. Instead of reading about Putin’s bombing raids in Syria, I could ponder “The Loafer, Reinvigorated.” (Prices ranging from $595-740). Instead of the immigration debate, I could get embroiled in “The Great Cappuccino Debate.” (“Four ounces or eight? Thick foam or none?”) And rather than being subjected to more Trump, I could read about the herd of men seeking facial hair transplants for men who want to look “more mature, more manly.” (Price: $7000) Even more distracting was learning about the $815,000 Greubel Forsey wristwatch which, according to the reporter, “may even be considered, yes, a bargain.”
But the more I read, the more my mind boomeranged back to politics. Even though I wanted to get lost in luxury and style for a few minutes, the obscenity of these articles shocked my conscience.
Starting with the almost-million-dollar watch, I admire Swiss engineering. But I am also aware that it is not Switzerland, but Germany and other countries, that are dealing with the stream of refugees from the Middle East. Regarding the fake beards, the cost of one surgical procedure would put seven young refugees through a year of university.
I drop by Starbucks from time to time (particularly at airports) when I need a caffeine jolt. But forgive me if I skip the “cappuccino debate.” My brain cells are needed for other “debates” like immigration, minimum wage, gun violence, capital punishment and a few other life-and-death issues. Similarly, I like to wear comfortable loafers too, but I can’t imagine spending that kind of money on some leather footwear. Who, exactly, can afford it? And what have they done to put themselves in that favorable economic position?
Last but not least, ever since the movies The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I have always been a great Paul Newman fan. But his passion was not fancy shoes and watches. His passions were raising over $400 million through Newman’s Own Foundation for sick children; raising consciousness about the threat of nuclear war; and, like his pal Robert Redford, protecting an endangered environment.
So don’t cast Newman as a style icon, please. He’s much more than that. He did not proved his manhood with his chin stubble or his accessories. He proved it by taking stands of integrity on the issues of his time.
If we want to be truly stylish, let’s do the same.