Today’s Special Feature at the Burger Bar

Maybe some kind of local entrepreneur;
he has that cleaned-up grunge does business
look: tall, though not excessively; slender
but not too skinny; wears his golden-blond
hair pulled back into a short ponytail,
but with loose strands falling to frame
his handsome, regular-featured face
with closely trimmed blond beard. I can’t
see his eyes from my place in the queue,
but I’m guessing they’re grey-blue if not
emerald green. His clothes are casual
but smart; he’s made the effort without
overworking it: grey chambray shirt
over light teal cotton jeans with dress
oxfords, cap-toe, oxblood, plain but
tasteful, well polished, made from good
leather. He’s with a friend, or just
a colleague maybe—or they could be
part of a group of four, though they came
in a little later than the other two, but
all are dressed nicely as if for work,
and all show a bit of flair through hairstyle
or a statement clothing item. Only he,
though, has the natural good looks
and effortless style to stand out
in any crowd, even the lunch crowd
at the downtown burger bar.

Copyright 2015
T. Allen Culpepper


Versace Duo


The market for crotchless leather trousers

priced in the thousands cannot be large,

nor, one hopes, will cheap knock-offs

of them soon be trending in the high street.

But Versace has chosen them for its fall

menswear ad campaign, and there

in striking sculpted beauty stand models

Daan and Filip, wide grommeted belts

cinched tight around their hips, from

which hang the unlikely garments, useless

but exquisitely tailored from the finest

pebble-grained hide of some sacrificial

beast, the open center displaying paisley-

patterned briefs, which, unlike the trousers,

might actually sell in the shops, Daan’s

black ones well-filled, Filip’s white ones

revealing the outline of his penis. Above

the chaplike trousers, Filip, shirtless, wears

a studded leather moto jacket hanging

open to show his musculature and one

partly shadowed nipple. Standing tall,

he wraps his right arm around Daan’s

neck and shoulder in a pose that might

be that of brothers or best friends, except

that Filip’s hand pulls up Daan’s printed

black sleeveless T-shirt as if beginning

to undress him, in the process showing

off the smooth, taut abs of Daan, who’s

slouching a touch to the right. Daan’s

bare left arm hangs straight down

the center of the photo, drawing the

viewer’s eye toward the chaps and

Filip’s package, but his right, bent

at the elbow, crosses his chest underneath

his T-shirt, hand resting lightly on his

own left shoulder. Filip tilts his head

forward, platinum hair in a carefully

constructed mess, sporting his trademark

slightly menacing look, with smouldering

eyes and sneering mouth suggesting

his dominance in whatever kind of

relationship is being portrayed, while

Daan looks up into the camera, head

angled a little back and left, so that

the razor-cut edges of his hair, just

a shade or two darker than his mate’s,

dangle freely, but not looking at Filip,

who also faces forward. Daan’s face looks

brooding,vulnerable, and slightly troubled,

as if he’s not sure he’s really into what he’s

doing. The photograph itself, shot in

classic black and white against a neutral

ground, takes a strong vertical perspective,

emphasizing the models’ slender height,

elongating their straight-hanging left arms,

tracing the center line of their torsos, with

only the belts and Daan’s just-noticeable

twist to the right lining up horizontally.

Though the models’ pose does not look

forced, the photographers obviously

have a penchant for formal composition,

evident in the triangulation of lines, with

the enfolding right arms of both young men

and the shape of Daan’s pulled-up shirt

replicating with softer edges the sharp

angles of the leather jacket’s lapels

and the cotton-cloaked wedges between

the models’ legs. Only the name of the

fashion house, superimposed in yellow

capitals at bottom right, identifies the

vendor of whatever’s up for sale.


Note: The poem references a photograph by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, featuring models Daan van der Deen and Filip Hrivnak, used in the advertising campaign for Versace’s AW 2014 menswear line. The ad appeared in various publications, including the September 2014 issue of Out.


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper


The Darker Side of Fashion Theory

An anorexic adolescent girl with a penis,

pale skin and chest-long hair frizzle-fried with bleach,

displayed against a wintry grey drop for the magazine spread,

when outdoors spring is blooming, greening,

gilding skin and bronzing cheeks,

tries for pay to sell desire for summer sweaters

to young men who couldn’t begin to afford them

and would roast alive if they wore them in July.

Designer, marketer, photographer, editor, model, viewer

all know a twenty-something on the street’s

unlikely to purchase a thousand-dollar cardigan,

the magazine itself’s already bought,

and the delicate model’s hardly the masculine archetype,

so what commodity is actually being traded?


Here must be the logic:

Clothes sell best when skinny women wear them,

but straight men, afraid of looking girly, will resist

wearing men’s clothes modeled by women,

so the next best thing is to have them modeled

by a  pretty young man who looks—though everyone knows

that it’s sexist to say so—pretty much like a girl,

and then the straight boys will look because at first glance

the boy’s a girl, but be willing to buy because he’s

still a man despite that first impression, but still

won’t be able to afford the merchandise

if they are young enough to want it;

but in fact the dude holding the magazine

is almost certainly gay anyway, and though

he can’t afford to pay retail either, he’ll know

where to find the good sales and discount racks,

and has probably been planning some shopping already,

which is good because the model in the picture

is probably too effeminate to attract him,

unless he’s shopping for feminine clothes.

because he’s into drag or pondering a gender transition.



And so, the men’s magazine spread advertising

men’s clothes by male designers for sale to men

still manages to objectify women and perpetuate

a stereotypically narrow view of feminine beauty

while simultaneously exploiting a young man

who fits that idea of feminine beauty, rather than

the rugged masculine ideal, which the male readers

might view as  threateningly unattainable

or as dangerous competition.


And so, when all is said and done,

after viewing the magazine spread

by means of which wealthy fashion moguls

exploit the anorexic bottle-blond girl with a penis

exploited for his/her conformity

to an idealized version of feminine beauty,

some skinny gay boys will go buy

some cheap T-shirts from the sale racks,

and that, boys and girls, is how the fashion business works.


But the clothes are so pretty!


Copyright 2014

T. Allen Culpepper




Do I Need a Camel Coat? A Study of Winter Fashion Trends

I admit I doubt the necessity of a camel coat,

except of course for a camel, though I suppose

I see the logic of the pea coat in the colour

of mushy peas, but despite its Italian provenance,

I’d put it with the vermilion British shoes rather

than the animal-printed pony loafers, which

would catch eyes indoors but don’t seem

quite fitting for the winter weather that

would require the coat.


The evening wear in green and purple velvet

I could definitely go for, but where and when

do I ever need to wear a dinner jacket

in any colour, in velvet or otherwise?

The floral embroidered jacket, though,

could perhaps double for daytime

wear, if paired with jeans or cords

and the right shoes, maybe polished

monks or rugged boots in colored suede…


Skinny jeans with bulging cargo pockets?

Well, I grant the practical need,

but, really, could that look be stylish

on anyone besides an anorexic teen?

Those Adidas trainers in zebra print

complete with tails are brilliant,

I have to say, though I’m sure I

would look foolish wearing them,

despite my taste for adventurous footwear.


And trenches!  Every designer breathing

seems to have one on offer, the ubiquitous

belted coats that all look like, well, trenches;

I mean really, what can you do?

So Tommy trims it down a bit

and Burberry makes it shiny,

but we miss our Alex McQueen.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

Fall Fashion Preview

Start with a statement shoe or Chelsea boot

and work your way upward from there–

something metallic would be good or neon leather

or a deep red suede. Socks if you must; they

are permitted, if not encouraged, in cooler weather.

If you live the kind of life in which people wear suits,

updated classic tweed is good, preferably patterned,

herringbone works, likewise glen plaid or windowpane,

accessories in pine green or a bronze bowtie.

With the suit don’t worry too much about the shirt,

but somehow you must fit a short waxed-denim jacket

in rust or rose or burgundy underneath the coat.

Dressing head to toe in orange or red has also

been promoted, but I’m dubious about that approach

except for the most flamboyant of queens.

If a suit would be too much for your line or work

or play, not to worry, you have options. You could

double up on prints, one for trousers, one for jacket,

in the same colors but totally different patterns.

If you’re not quite that bold, black jeans

or motocross pants are in all the fashion mags,

along with cropped-leg high-waisted camel;

grey Donegal trousers and green track pants

showing up in runway shows. Sweaters are

essential, of course, but opinion varies on what kind.

Some stylists suggest Fair Isle or Shetland;

others cringe at those and insist on a turtleneck

cable knit, preferably mustard-colored.

The top half and the outerwear are where

the difficulty arises.  To stay on trend, you

need to layer a jean jacket; a sport coat

in crimson, pine, or preppy plaid; a golf

jacket in shiny brown or green leather;

a bright blue, super-short peacoat;

and an oversized parka in cream shearling

or patterned grey wool with fur collar.

Top things off with a neon yellow stocking cap,

green felt German schoolboy hat, or beret in camel.


Copyright 2012

T. Allen Culpepper