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American beauties

American beauties
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First Published: Sat, May 03 2008. 12 14 AM IST

Iconic America: Rizzoli Publications, 350 pages, Rs2,400 at Tommy Hilfiger stores.
Iconic America: Rizzoli Publications, 350 pages, Rs2,400 at Tommy Hilfiger stores.
Updated: Sat, May 03 2008. 12 14 AM IST
Iconic America | Tommy Hilfiger and George Lois
Iconic America: Rizzoli Publications, 350 pages, Rs2,400 at Tommy Hilfiger stores.
Of all the times to be American, this is probably one of the worst. But, maybe the world needs a reminder that there’s more to the nation than Bushisms. American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and his buddy, advertising and graphic design legend George Lois, have provided just that reminder in their coffee-table book, Iconic America.
The 350-page book—a “roller coaster ride through the eye-popping panorama of American culture”—celebrates icons, characters, events and motifs that define the country. It packs in everything, from Quaker Oats, Playboy and Tupac Shakur, to Orphan Annie, Band-aid and Gene Kelly. It’s a simple idea—each of the 350 icons are represented by an image and a short paragraph on related trivia or history.
What makes the book fun to flip through is the layout of the pages and the positioning and pairing of images. Spiderman looks like he’s poised to swing across the World Wide Web, Teddy Roosevelt and the teddy bear are placed opposite each other, while the flame from a Zippo lighter seems to be toasting a speared marshmallow.
Original icons: The iron hand of the Statue of Liberty and a softer, tastier imitation.
If you were influenced by Americana of yesteryear, there’s no better way to revisit it. Like true Americans, Hilfiger and Lois glorify brands that have for decades been part of the American way of life, such as Hershey, Life Savers, Budweiser, Fender, CNN, O’Neill and more.
Even though entertainment personalities are a big percentage of the 350 people, places and things, it’s good to see that Gypsy Rose Lee was not displaced to make place for Britney Spears. That’s part of the book’s appeal—icons of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s who have stood the test of time and memory are here; they’ve not been discarded in favour of flash-in-the-pan personalities. There’s no Paris Hilton going “That’s hot”, which is a relief.
We enjoyed reading about W.C. Fields, who liked children “only if they are properly cooked”; the fact that 80,000 Mint Juleps are served at the Kentucky Derby, and the qualities required to be a rider of the horseback mail service, the Pony Express: “young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18, expert riders, willing to risk death daily, orphans preferred”.
Some of the images, however, are also haunting—a young, leather-clad, handsome Marlon Brando, determined Apache leader Geronimo and athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos silently protesting racial inequality with raised, black-gloved fists on the podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.
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First Published: Sat, May 03 2008. 12 14 AM IST