No Holds Barred: Corruption Chic

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Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, 1423, Uffizi Gallery, Florence (photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Here I thought early January was all about the Epiphany. When the Wise Men visit baby Jesus, and he gets baptized then the world heads to Carnival and Mardi Gras. But look at the real epiphany we have had! The headlines could have read “a plague on both your houses.” What with the Speaker of the House spectacle becoming an insane reality show  and Joe Biden’s home becoming a warehouse for undisclosed documents that nobody understands. As I started to tally THE NAMES — Trump, Santos, Musk, Bankman-Fried, some banks, even the airlines, the media, and more — we have a real trend: CORRUPTION CHIC.

I mean, who isn’t a major fraud and making it big? Even fake heiress Anna Sorokin is now making a return by living in a one bedroom SoHo apartment sporting her electronic ankle bracelet while she visits her parole officer and meets with TV show producers. No wonder Buffalo bills football player Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest stopped us all cold for 48 hours. It gave us a time-out for a REAL event that didn’t have cheat and deception written all over it. And you didn’t have to be a football fan to get swept up in the outcome. It also gave us something else besides Prince Harry’s million dollar daily dumps on his family.

It’s been reported that we now can only focus for 47 seconds on any screen or conversation. Our attention spans have crashed and burned amidst our addiction to technology. And we are continuing to drop. No one can remember anything or actually have the capacity to read a book let alone have an epiphany. We are into “trending” fast track headlines, thus “corruption” grabs our eyeballs.

Face it, Biden and Trump document busts are hotwired and sexy … for some. It made me think how I don’t even own a safe. I used to store “personal papers” and cash in the freezer. A mobster told me to do that. My burglar alarm was installed 35 years ago and looks like something out of Boogie Nights with a strange key dangling from it. What do I know from “safe and sound”? I was told safety deposit boxes are not “all that” and can’t fit the “big stuff.” I bought a shredder but it broke eating an old credit card. Then again, I don’t have classified documents. Or do I? Isn’t the public dazed and confused by all this government high-end deceit? Apparently not.

My 36-year-old house burglar alarm — straight out of Boogie Nights!

But don’t think you are exempt now with the promise of higher taxes and the IRS more engaged — YOU TOO could be brought up on some forgotten hidden tax “fraud.”

As I say, treachery is trending. And it is clearly upstaging fashion and style, which isn’t hard to do. Last week there was a rumor that Colm Dillane, founder of Brooklyn’s own KidSuper clothing line, has been asked by Louis Vuitton to design the menswear division. Is this the heir apparent to popular Virgil Abloh who died leaving Vuitton leaderless? Do any of us care? Well, it seems it is some statement of something when you realize 31-year-old Dillane is mostly known for cartooning KidSuper hoodies and t-shirts. Time will tell as lux brands struggle for direction and relevance.

Louis Vuitton here we come!

It is no wonder the biggest fashion influence (I mean “trend”) is based on the streaming hit Yellowstone. Mostly for men but we are back to western gear of giant cowboy hats, rough-out boots, blue jeans and checked flannel shirts. And this is making it big in the suburbs, not on Madison Ave or SoHo’s Prince Street.

Yellowstone is about The Duttons — a family of Montana ranchers led by patriarch John (Kevin Costner’s giant acting return) protecting their land through “gentlemanly persuasion and an occasional act of audacious violence.” It has that rodeo roll-out appeal of giant belt buckles, thick denim everything, and ten gallon hats. “Cowboy Couture” is cool again. It always was.

I remember when Jon Voight appeared in 1969’s Midnight Cowboy as Joe Buck in a great embroidered western shirt, tight jeans and “prominent package,” shit kicker boots, neck kerchief, and that famous suede fringed jacket. That became the uniform at Max’s Kansas City for every city hustler.

Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, 1969. Courtesy Everett Collection

Then came 1980’s Urban Cowboy and John Travolta’s Bud character and we were off and running into western honky tonk.

Paramount Pictures/Photofest

Now Old Navy has just produced “John Dutton” denim work shirts and dusty jackets while Wrangler has kickstarted a line of men’s Yellowstone-esque shirts and hats. Yippee-ki-yo-ki-yay!! And … there is going to be a Yellowstone fragrance line coming (Eau de horse barn?). Western wear always had legs. It’s part of our national “Big Sky” fantasy. Look no further then Ralph Lauren. It all looks so tried and true and dare I say “classic.” Not that cartooned hoodies aren’t the new gold standard.

A Wrangler best seller “so you can take the bull by the horns in any situation.”

One thing that happened in early January was a new way to look at self-help. Thank God — maybe we are finally over “wellness.” Even Oprah came clean with “phrases that might be doing more harm than good.”

Still the Queen!

Like … “you have so much to be grateful for.” We can feel upset while also feeling grateful. This feels dismissive and silencing in a moment of struggle. “Time heals all wounds.” Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Telling someone this when they are very upset can be insensitive and shamey. Only they get to decide when they’ve healed, and sometimes we don’t “get over it.” We move on (ironically, Lisa Marie Presley said this recently in a statement about the loss of her son). “Your attitude is everything.”

This is an oversimplification of our reality as an entire network of factors contributes to someone’s success. Their attitude is important but it isn’t the only thing. “Cut out all negativity in your life.” Well, a life without negativity is a life devoid of learning and growing. If we cut out all negative people and experience, we will end up alone and emotionally stunted. “Never give up.” There are certain situations when giving up is brave and necessary. It doesn’t always mean that a person was weak or couldn’t handle it. Instead, it often means they were strong enough to walk away.

Go Oprah! All new food for thought!

But the biggest wake-up message was a photo of Katie Porter, Democratic representative of California, reading the self-help best seller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson during the Speaker of the House voting. Talk about THE epiphanic 2023 message!

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