Sunday, 2 July 2017

Nehru Jackets, Turtlenecks, Golf and 39

Here’s an unusual column about Jack Benny in that has it has nothing to do with his TV show or his violin concerts. It has to do with what he wears.

Benny was the son of a haberdasher (at least, that’s what his father did after getting out of the tavern business), but the article doesn’t mention that. It does point out his wife was extremely fashion conscious; their daughter’s book points out the time when her mother was aghast that Jack was still wearing his stage pants after his act.

This appeared in the Washington Star, May 19, 1968. The punctuation and odd use of quotation marks are as they appeared.


“If you want to talk fashion . . . Mary is the one you ought to talk to. She’s great with this fashion thing . . . in fact, so great, that many a couturier has asked her to join up with them. Maybe she should . . . just think of the extra green stuff we could share,” quipped the great Jack Benny.
But Jack . . . I want to talk male fashion . . . your fashion . . . your image. And with that, he walked, (as only Benny can) over to the mirror . . . adjusted his tie . . . gave me the look and the pause )as only he can) and said, “Well (pause) . . . look at me . . . am I not an image? Am I not a fine fashion specimen for a man of 39? Answer me! . . . well (pause) AM I NOT?
Blue, Bluer
Jack, dressed in a dark blue, well tailored sports coat . . . lighter blue trousers . . . blue shirt and dark blue tie humorously commented “did you notice that the eyes also match the outfit. I must own a dozen blue suits with very little variation in color or cut. Do you think that’s some kind of symbol.” “I do have a very fine wardrobe . . . although I must admit, extremely conservative both in color and style. My clothes are made for me. My tailor is an artist . . . he’s what you call a cutter . . . which means he’s got it . . . in more ways than one.”
“To prove my point and to show how important it is for a performer to look good, I remember a case in mind when I was playing the Palladium in London. The reviewer of the show came out with a vivid description of my wardrobe, describing the cut of the suit, the color and the accessories I wore. It’s wonderful for a performer’s ego. The clothes came off with the accolades . . . so naturally, I sent the reviews to my tailor. We have a great relationship.”
“When I was in New York, I had a “Nehru” suit made for me,” Jack said. I was going to wear it on the Johnny Carson show if Johnny would wear his the evening I was on. But, as fate has it Johnny was late coming to the studio that day and was not aware of the plans. Once again the public was deprived of viewing a new Benny.
He Keep Slim
Jack keeps himself slim and one of the reasons is the fashion image. “My tailor hasn’t taken any measurements in years . . . simply because my weight doesn’t fluctuate. When I need clothes . . . I just pick material and he goes to work.”
One of the changes which took Benny much time to get used to was narrow trousers. “Now, I wouldn’t wear any other kind.”
On turtlenecks . . . “A wonderful casual look, especially with the “Nehru” suit . . . bur absolutely not with formal wear. When the invitation reads black tie . . . that’s what it means.” But . . . if everyone was going to wear a turtle formally . . . then I too, would conform.”
As neat and prim as Jack Benny is when it comes to his clothes, that look dissipates when he plays golf. “I put my hand in the closet when I’m going to play, and whatever comes out I put on. The reason for this is that I play such bad gold that it doesn’t matter how I look.”
“If you know of any way that I could improve my golf game, I assume you that I would change my fashion on the course.”
Actors and performers should really be the ones to set examples in fashion . . . they have the means . . . the guidance, the exposure and the resources for presenting a correct fashion image. Most of them do and the public in many cases follow the patterns they set.
Even in the days of radio . . . most actors and radio personalities dressed well enough to elicit comment on their clothes when leaving.
Jack Benny fell into that pattern 39 years ago and continues to present that bodacious fashion image today. Just what his second 39 years will develop, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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