Joe DiMaggio and the Importance of Dressing the Part

The boisterous and near universal praise that has greeted Gay Talese’s latest book, a collection of groundbreaking sports writing called The Silent Season of a Hero, reminds us of why we asked the legendary writer to join our ranks as a contributor in the first place. Here's Talese on the sartorial lessons that Joe DiMaggio, the subject of his book’s title essay, could teach today’s crop of pro athletes.

Photo: CorbisIn my past writing I once referred to Joe DiMaggio as a “male Garbo,” and by this I meant that he and she shared, in addition to their prodigious talents, an assiduous interest in appearances, images, and the impressions they projected on people who saw them in public. Both kept their mouths shut while saying a lot with their looks, their reserved manners, the way they held themselves, the clothes they wore. Narcissism and hypocrisy might be offensive words if used to describe a privileged public figure who aspires to be seen as a populist, a commoner, an ordinary person (i.e., a vote-seeking plutocrat marching in the Labor Day parade); but DiMaggio and Garbo recognized themselves as belonging to a special species, being singularly endowed with uncommon gifts and inner needs and drives that separated them from those around them; and even after they had retired from doing what had made them famous, they both continued to cultivate their fabled status.

As an elderly and enduring beauty residing in New York, where she eschewed attending public events, Greta Garbo took afternoon strolls through Central Park and along the towering shadows of mid-Manhattan, appearing always in solitary splendor while subtly attired and shaded in soft and flattering light.

As a star athlete, DiMaggio played every game to the best of his ability because he knew there were spectators in the stands who were seeing him for the first time, and he wanted to leave them with a lasting and positive impression. As an elderly man, his hair gray and his face lined with contented traces of his tenured time in the limelight, DiMaggio kept his body trim and straight-spined, standing tall and erect in hand-crafted suits provided by one of his admiring tailors who, instead of payment, regarded it an honor and privilege to have briefly taken a measure of the man.

More on the book at Talese’s official site.

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