At long last, facially-reconfigured semiotician Alex Kuczynski has returned to her old stomping grounds in the Times' Thursday Styles section, and she's more inscrutable than ever! Yay! Reporting on John Varvatos' new Hamptons outpost, she describes the popularity of the designer's signature laceless Chuck Taylors: "The first time I saw a pair, they adorned the feet of a Hamptons-hopping Beverly Hills money manager. You see what I mean. They're not just sneakers; they are the footwear equivalent of the white man's overbite." This might be the most inaccurate usage of the phrase "you see what I mean" in history!
According to the authoritative reference guide Urban Dictionary, 37 out of 47 voters agree that the "white man's overbite" is "derogatory term used to describe the facial expression white people make while dancing." How laceless Chucks are similar to this offensive display of whitey unhipness it is difficult to say. And the ethnic complications of wearing John Varvatos become more complex as Alex continues. "His men's clothes are clean and fitted in the European sense but slightly rumpled, as if you took a well-dressed wealthy young Italian, got him drunk and let him sleep on the beach overnight." Unhip whiteys? Drunken Italians? What about ... self-hating black people?
Over a large wooden table of T-shirts at the front of the store hangs a homage, unintentional or not, to Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man": a tangle of scores of light bulbs, strung together and hanging from an iron rack, the electric wires braided together. It resembled, in fact, a photograph by the artist Jeff Wall titled "After 'Invisible Man,' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue, 1999-2000."In the book, Ellison used light to define his identity: "Perhaps you'll think it strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light. But maybe it is exactly because I am invisible. ...Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one's form is to live a death." Mr. Varvatos, it is clear, is trying to do the same: on sale at the table are T-shirts that read, "Who the hell is John Varvatos?"Last we checked, he was a middle-aged, balding white dude. Again, we request a hit of whatever the Kucz is smoking. Its potency seems only to have increased.
A Dark, Rock'n'Roll Oasis In The Shine of the Hamptons [NYT]