#44: “You can wake up now, the universe has ended.”
It’s a bit of a morbid thought for such a fortunate girl on such a fortunate Sunday afternoon, but on this day I am exactly the age that James Dean was on the day of his death: 24 years, 7 months, 22 days.
I can’t remember exactly where I read this, though obvious from most photos, in a macabre twist of fate his hairline had not yet grown back in full after being shaved for his final starring role in Giant in which he played an aging oil tycoon. While he was a mere 24 years old, he looked much older than his years. He’s inarguably an icon but I think we often forget that he achieved this immortality all within his devastatingly brief film career, spanning just shy of a 20 month period from 1955-1956.
When one ceases to live in the past, one can begin living in the present, and lay the tracks for a new generation. 1955 was a tremendous year for the generational icon; aside from Jimmy’s first starring film role (East of Eden), it was also the first year that Elvis Presley appeared on TV (rock and roll generation), and the year that Allen Ginsberg published Howl (the Beat generation). Jimmy was the icon of the rebel youth generation. After two World Wars and a Depression in less than a quarter of a century, a new generation of kids were looking for definition and new meaning and that is precisely what Jimmy embodied, especially in Rebel Without a Cause.
What he captured in his style off the movie set was a classic non-chalance that made everything he wore, and the way he wore it, perfect. Simple, tonal items layered over simple, tonal items. Nothing flashy (except the Porsches). Tailored. Looking iconic in vintage or otherwise isn’t a science nor does it take a whole lot of imagination, it’s about wearing clothing that fits a time and a place and a physique par excellence. That is something that each of us can apply to our dailies. We can start by getting our jeans hemmed.