Before grunge and Kurt Cobain, back in the eighties and nineties, I bought stuff from J. Crew. I’ll admit, I have worn my share of navy harlequin polos and sage cotton twill trousers. I loved the pretense of the catalogs: the clambakes and canoe trips and beach barbecues — these crazy nonstop vacation soirees! — that the snazzy though comfortably casual people were forever attending within its pages.
In the nineties, when I had just started dating my wife, she went with some girlfriends to a bar in midtown called The Beer Mug. She met a tall guy who claimed in a friendly way to be a model. “Oh, I’m a model too,” she replied with sarcasm. “No, really I am,” he said. He was innocuous, so she continued talking to him, but still didn’t believe the model stuff. A week later, flipping through one of my J. Crew catalogues, she said, “Oh my God. I just met that guy!” and realized he had been telling the truth.
That my wife had met an actual J. Crew person seemed to me a wonderful and meaningful coincidence. Studying him carousing with other models he seemed a cheeky fellow, vain, and mischievous. I was inspired to write a series of imaginary letters from him to my wife (with cutouts of the actual J. Crew Dude) based on the premise that after briefly meeting my future wife, he becomes infatuated with her and deeply resentful of me.
The first letter is below. Enjoy.
Dear Mystery Lady,
It’s me again. I have been thinking of you every second — your eye brows, your sturdy legs, your…and that whole thing you did claiming you were a model too, and doubting I was a model…Well, all kidding aside, I have a feeling you actually did realize, looking at me, that I was a model, and probably a highly paid one, but that sense of humor in a gal just drives me wild!
And, in fact, now you have proof of my profession, and the fact that I am part of (frankly, an integral factor) in a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s more than just selling clothes for J.Crew, it’s about lifestyle, it’s about image and magic and fantasy, and not everyone has the talent and innate appeal to create on camera… Oh boy, I got off track there.
I understand there is “someone in your life.” That guy with the poofy hair, with the vague profession who has ideas about being a writer. And what is up with that? Off track again. Suffice it to say it seems kind of obvious you would be better served with a high profile professional like myself. When it comes to myself and J. Crew, I don’t want to use words like franchise, or indispensable, or reallyfuckingimportant, so I won’t. What I will say is that a fine lady like yourself deserves to be treated right– note I use the term “lady” because I noticed your refined choice of wine, rather than beer, and your crisp laundered socks. You deserve the spotlight on you. A close up shot, as it were.
I know a thing or two about beauty. And you’ve totally got it (don’t necessarily take that as my opinion of your chances of being a model too, however!). That’s why we need to be together. Frankly I can’t just be with anyone. Take Dena there, in the powder blue zip sweater. She’s got nice teeth, sure. Skin is good, et cetera. But, when we talk overall impact…the word that comes to mind is bland. There, I’ve said it. Bland. Sorry, Dena. Also, she’s a damn cheater at Scrabble.
Now, note the toboggan picture. Three hours of work. I kept telling Sebastian, my photographer: Nope! we gotta do it again. Because with the wrong body language it’s just a Stooges goofathon that sells zip. The context is FUN, and obviously the risk is connotations of some sort of sexual pile-on involving incestuous dry humping. And frankly, that is kinda gross. So it takes a real pro on top of the pyramid to give it innocent family abandon, to create that wholesome jovial spirit of the holidays…. That’s what sells sweaters!
OK, check out me and Ingemar. Do you want his sweater? Perhaps. Do you want to be him? No freaking
way. Not unless you like eating raw caribou meat or watching your dead toes fall off. Whereas with myself it goes beyond mere interest in the merino wool snowflake sweater: it’s about lifestyle, longing, expensive German automobiles, designer eyeglasses, magic trolls… it’s ultimately about happiness because I am clearly a happy, balanced human being who has achieved serenity with the help of a J. Crew sweater. That’s what I’m talking about!
Reason #9 to be with me: lovability. The kids love me. They are attracted to me like lint to a belly button. Like this little jean jacket scamp on my shoulders. He smelled a bit like piss and cat food. Go figure. Frankly, this one I could do without because he stuck something sharp into my ear. Not professional, at all. I placed little man in the snow and had a word with his caretaker.
I know, you’re probably overwhelmed at my letter. Take some breaths. So let’s get together soon. How about a shoot with just me and you?
–The J. Crew Dude
(the story continues with Letters From the J. Crew Dude, Part 2)