Look at that photo of Hitler in Paris. His whole squad was the physical manifestation of evil and they would've had me and most people I know executed for being what they deemed "subhuman" and yet I have a perverse admiration for their reign of terror because they looked so fucking cool. It's an internal conflict that's difficult to reconcile. I already have to get over the fact that I respect that the Nazis even conquered France and so much of Europe, then look at those coats. Just look at them. I spent double what my rent costs on a trench and it's not that epic.
Why do the worst, most vile, disgusting humans always have to be ridiculously awesome at some aspect of life? It's like they solely exist to challenge our concept of morality and in almost every case I'm on the losing end of the deal. I always side with the psychopaths.
Sex Pistols bassist/degenerate Sid Vicious is one of my idols and it's mostly because he looked so damn good. I mean, despite the fact that he was a girlfriend murderer and a drug addict and a generally deplorable person, I'm somehow able to hold this guy in such high regard because his leather jackets were so dope. Is that okay? Where do we draw the line? I'm here to say that we don't.
Style and conduct overlap in some sense, but they most often exist as completely separate entities, especially when it comes to matters of judgment. That's worth remembering next time you catch yourself thinking about how Charles Manson had a lot of swag.
It's weird. Manson was a racist piece of shit. He drove his followers to kill at least nine people. He was not a good person by any stretch of the imagination, but I unfortunately and sickly kind of fuck with his approach to life. He was charming and anti-establishment and did a lot of drugs and had a lot of sex and isn't that what we all sorta want out of life? It doesn’t help, then, that this dude would get arrested wearing a chambray denim shirt on his 1969 wave god shit, showing up to jail looking like he was about to snatch your girl.
If Manson didn't walk around looking like the chill bro you took acid with during your second semester of college, it’d be a lot easier to hate him, but sometimes a strong steez is all that it takes to overlook someone's enormous flaws. For as much controversy as R. Kelly and Woody Allen's actions have generated, no one will try to tell you that "Ignition" or Annie Hall aren't incredible works of art. That same logic can be applied when you find yourself admiring distinct characteristics of some of history's greatest monsters—in particular, how they dressed.
Horrible people with excellent style represent something about ourselves that we're afraid to confront that's deeper than the surface level of how they dress.
Many of the most notorious gangsters of all time had so much style that we tend to forget that they were even bad people to begin with. Al Capone, John Dillinger and John Gotti have been immortalized in pop culture as these larger than life, mythological figures. Rappers model their stage names after them. Everyone wants a Bonnie and Clyde relationship, but in reality, robbing banks, living on the run and getting gunned the fuck down isn't that glamorous of an existence, but that's the power of fashion. They, and their wardrobes, left an imprint on our consciousness that exists outside of reality. Myth-making is a bitch.
I'm aware that this isn't exactly a huge conversation, but not everything needs to be at the molten hot core of an Internet outrage spectacle to be a relevant discussion. No one talks about how style affects our opinion of terrible people because it's so subconscious that we don’t even think about it. Alpo killed more people than you can count on two hands, helped ruin communities by pushing drugs, and snitched, but because he stepped out on the block barely old enough to drink looking like a swag lord, he’s treasured for all eternity. And when you look at a fit like his, can you really blame anyone for thinking he's a king?
Possibly the most telling part of society's twisted tendency to allow stylistic triumphs to overtake questionable behavior is the cult-like worship of American Psycho's fictional protagonist, Patrick Bateman. There are more articles about how well he dresses than there are ones about what it says that an entire generation thinks that a made-up serial killer is some type of positive role model or male archetype.
And, listen, I'm one of those freaks who worships Bateman. I get it. His penchant for Valentino suits and Oliver Peoples glasses adds a charm to the who whole mass murderer thing. He's basically living out our fantasies while looking damn good doing it. You know, caution to the wind. Live for the day. Fuck tomorrow. How does one justify spending all that money on clothes anyway? Bateman obviously has a few screws loose upstairs and when we're out here budgeting and being realistic like fucking schmucks, we secretly pine to be just as reckless. If civilization didn't project morality onto our every decision, I'd probably axe someone to death for getting a reservation at a restaurant that I couldn't, too.
Bateman's famous quote, "I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust," pretty much sums it up. Fuck compassion and being nice and caring about other people. Just let me count my money and get fresh. Horrible people with excellent style represent something about ourselves that we're afraid to confront that's deeper than the surface level of how they dress. But acknowledging that they look great is the first and easiest step, and the one most of us will ever take.
Ernest Baker is a writer who recently choked out a fuccboi in a NYC nightclub and he wore a Burberry trench while doing it. Follow him on Twitter here.