Buzz Bissinger is having a sexual midlife crisis. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Friday Night Lights stopped having sex with his wife "several years ago," he writes, and "began to wonder about sex and sexuality and where exactly I fit in in the complex spectrum." He started experimenting with sex with men, in being a "dominant leather master," in cross-dressing, in sex clubs. And he spent $600,000 on clothes that make him look like a Russian music producer.
All this is told in a 6,500-word cry for help in the new issue of GQ, if you want to give your brow-furrowing muscles some exercise. Remember when Bissinger endorsed Mitt Romney last year? "This is our country, not our country club." Heh.
First things first: The shopping addiction stuff is not an April Fools joke ("SERIOUSLY: NO," a GQ staffer wrote back when I asked if it were). Bissinger was observed dressing like a member of a Velvet Revolver cover band ("metal-studded leather jacket, brown cowboy boots, and hoop earring") by EW's Rob Brunner last year, and Philly's CBS affiliate has a whole photo gallery of Bissinger wearing entire cows worth of leather.
So we can take it at face value when he writes:
The most expensive leather jacket I own, a Gucci ostrich skin, cost $13,900. The most expensive evening jacket I own, also from Gucci, black napa leather with gold threading, cost $9,800. The most expensive leather pants, $5,600. The most expensive jeans, $2,500. The most expensive pair of boots, $2,600. The most expensive pair of gloves, $1,015. Gucci by far makes up the highest percentage of my collection. [...]
I own forty-three pieces of Gucci—twelve leather jackets, six evening jackets, five pairs of pants, six pairs of boots, four shirts, seven pairs of gloves, and three scarves. I own items from Acne, Affliction, Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang, Balmain, Band of Outsiders, Belstaff, Bottega Veneta, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Charles David, Diane von Furstenberg, Helmut Lang, Ines, Jan Hilmer, J.Crew, Jimmy Choo, Jitrois, Jos. A. Bank, Joseph, Junker Designs, Loewe, Lucchese, Marc Jacobs, Mr. S Leather, Nike, Northbound Leather, Prada, Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren, Roberto Cavalli, Saint Laurent, 7 For All Mankind, Thomas Wylde, Valentino, Versace, and Wesco.
The presence of a couple interesting designers aside, we might note that Bissinger has terrible taste. Unsurprisingly for a lumpy middle-aged guy over-concerned with projecting masculinity, he spent most of his money in that hideous but profitable corner of the fashion industry that consists of clothing appealing exclusively to oligarchs and people who are looking for pieces just a notch more subtle than a sandwichboard that says "I AM A RICH ASSHOLE." This is probably why an article about men's fashion in a men's fashion magazine is accompanied by a single cell-phone photograph of its subject, instead of by an entire spread. (Also, "I spend half a million on Savile Row suits" is not nearly as interesting a personal essay.)
But, okay. Regardless of his taste, by the obscene standards of our age, for a rich person who cares deeply about fashion, $200,000 is not an out-of-ordinary per-year figure. Two Hermès crocodile shirts will get you there. Daphne Guinness probably spends that in a month. Bissinger is never is danger of bankrupting himself, and seems at worst to have had to sell some of his stocks to pay for his clothes. So what, exactly, is the deal? Why is this different from any other successful person who spends a significant portion of his income on luxuries?
The deal is that Buzz is trying to figure his shit out, and spending money on clothes is helping him:
I did engage in a relationship with a dominatrix after the failure of my second marriage. I left the scene after two years. But I clearly missed it, the trappings of leather increasingly irresistible. I liked extreme feelings of restraint and taking pain. But I was also interested in everything. [...]
Was I homosexual because so much of what I wore is associated with gays? I did experiment. And while I don't think it is my sexual being, I can tell you that gay men as a group are nicer, smarter, have a shitload more fun than straight whites. Was I veering toward becoming a dominant leather master in the S&M scene, the leather fetish an obvious influence in most of the clothing I purchased and in much of high fashion itself? I did experiment. Was I a closeted or maybe not so closeted transvestite? Tom Ford makeup is divine; the right foundation and cheek blush and eyeliner and lipstick can do wonders for the pallid complexion. [...]
I also went to Hong Kong and Macao with some friends. We went to sex clubs, many, many sex clubs with many, many women. We became tired. Four days seemed like four years.
Conspicuous consumption is, as always, a good reminder of the ineluctable inequities of market capitalism, and in a just revolutionary state Bissinger and his ilk would be executed. But the sex stuff? You do you, Buzz. We wish your best on your continuing voyage of self-discovery.