Monday, February 16, 2009

the pits

UPDATE: The cover of this weekend's T,
The New York Times Style

The Gratuitous Celebrity Underarm Pose is one of those meaningless trends I wish I could capitalize on journalistically. But in the new publishing economy, which, trust me, is worse than the new rest-of-the-economy, no New York Times or Wall Street Journal wants this story. There's simply too little editorial real estate available to devote any to famous people apparently responding en masse to the American public's command, "Show us your pits!"

Besides, I can just hear my former WSJ boss —who, when he wasn't scolding me for overwriting or demanding I go back and interview 20 more people just to make sure I could truthfully say a growing number of Americans now believe the sky is blue, taught me nearly everything I know about crafting a great trend story—shooting holes in this idea. In my head, he's barking, "Where's the conflict? Where's the forward spin?"

A great trend story, you see, doesn't just identify a trend. Any two-bit reporter can do that. A good reporter identifies the trend and spins it forward: How is the trend already evolving? When will the inevitable backlash occur, and what form will it take? What will be the next trend after this?

I can't answer those questions about the Gratuitous Celebrity Underarm Pose. Or, shall I say, unless someone wants to pay me to ponder those questions, I can't be bothered. What I will do here for free is point out when I began to notice it.

It started with this shot on the cover of the October 2008 issue of Portfolio:

The disturbing focus on the American Apparel Chief Executive Skeeze's underarm left me pondering the magazine's choice of cover image for many minutes longer than I generally ponder this sort of thing. Was it deliberate? I concluded that it was a brilliant bit of art direction; the pose certainly suited Dov Charney's image.

That should have been the end of it. But then, in January 2009, along comes this widely printed pit shot of Kate Winslet at the Golden Globes...

...which reminded me of the Charney photo and had me pondering possible captions ("Winslet Flashes Awards, Axillae"?).

But okay. We're done with this now. Right?

Not so fast...

Et tu, Sasha Fierce?

Last, but, I'm glumly beginning to suspect, not least, is this shot of Jesus Pinto da Luz, Madonna's purported boy du jour.

What would Jesus do?

I'd like to think he'd put on a shirt.


  1. I think it is Beyonce that is notorious for the armpit pose. Maybe it "uplifts" everything?

  2. what about that famous janet jackson cover from rolling stone? celebs have been underarm posing for 10+ years now...

  3. You're so right about the Rolling Stone cover. I had mentally categorized that as part of the annoying mid-90s breast-covering magazine pose trend, but had totally forgot about the underarms!