Nobel Fashion Police

By Sean Carroll | October 19, 2007 11:52 am

Sorry for the meager posting of late. I’m in one of those phases with papers that are justthatclose to being done, and have to concentrate on pushing them out the door. So blogging might be light for a while.

By way of light diversion, here’s the LA Times’ take on grading recent Nobel Laureates on their fashion savvy (hat tip to Jennifer). The first thing to note is that physicists come out looking good, although one suspects that the grading was done on a curve. Here is Peter Gruenberg, of Giant Magnetoresistance fame.

Peter Gruenberg
On the Hit/Miss scale, the Times bestows a “Hit” on Gruenberg’s ensemble. “Here’s a guy who knows cool,” they say. Who am I to argue with the mainstream media?

But it’s not only the physicists who seem to get the benefit of the doubt. Here’s Literature laureate Doris Lessing, just after the Prize was announced.

Doris Lessing
This one is also graded a “Hit.” Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to be graded on my fashion choices as I was being surprised by photographers upon returning home from a trip to the grocery store. But still, rhapsodizing about the “curving highlight of red scarf” seems a bit much.

In other cases, the Times is unduly harsh. Here is Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Rajendra Pachauri
I’m sorry, but that is one stylin’ bureaucrat. Yet the Times gives him a “Miss,” complaining that the blue of his tie blends into the blue of his shirt. Like I said, graded on a curve, and not the same curve for everyone.

And then we have Medicine laureate Mario Capecchi.

Mario Capecchi
Again, the Times comes down hard, especially on the hat. Obviously they’ve spent too much time at Oscar parties and not enough at convocation ceremonies. The guy’s receiving an honorary degree in medical biotechnologies from the University of Bologna. This is the one yearly chance for your typical academic to go whole hog for the pomp and circumstance. Good for him.

  • Yvette

    Glad to know the media have nothing else to do beyond critiquing how someone’s striped tie blends in with their shirt.

    Oh, and I agree about the hat. The fancy ones aren’t as much used in the US ceremonies, but that’s no excuse to criticize our friends abroad for knowing there is a time and place for everything, including awesomely ridiculous hats.

  • Allyson

    There’s a lot of media. Some have nothing better to do.

    But, you know, speaking of spiffy scientists…WHERE CAN I SEE WEDDING PICTURES?




    Obnoxious Reader

  • Jennifer Ouellette

    Personally, I thought Fert’s sweater-and-jeans ensemble was the epitome of cool. All he lacked was a jaunty neckerchief or something.

    Also, WE DON’T YET HAVE THE WEDDING PICTURES! Feel free to send hate mail to our photographer so she gets on the ball. :)

  • John Baez

    Again, the Times comes down hard, especially on the hat.

    The problem is not that Capecchi is wearing that outfit at the convocation. The problem is that he dresses like this all the time! Some people just have no fashion sense.

  • Sean

    If one of my professors and/or colleagues dressed like that all the time, I would judge it to be awesome.

  • dvid still

    a guy dresses like a total loser. But he invents a pill that saves millios! I give a hoot how he dresses?

  • Mark

    I vote we next grade people on their sense of humor.

  • Jason Dick

    My electricity and magnetism professor for undergrad here at UC Davis (Roderick Reid) has a set of four Peter Pan hats from Disnelyand, each with one Maxwell’s Equation sewed into it. He wore one a day for the last week of class :)

  • citrine

    Sean and Jennifer,

    Don’t let your wedding finery mold away in an attic. As Jennifer’s choice sounds more like a cocktail dress (am I correct?) it could be re-worn together with Sean’s reportedly spiffy outfit for a special ceremony in the future … like … ahem … in Stockholm?

  • eric gisse

    I wish my professors dressed like Capecchi once in awhile. The most exciting outfit I have seen any of them wear was a leather jacket and that was for one day.

  • Cliff Moore

    That has to be one of the greatest hats of all time.

  • bitchmobile

    As an actual member of the fashion police- do you people know the difference between being a creator of fashion – vs – a slave of fashion – vs- a victim of it?
    1. Mr. Giant Magnetoresistance needs a tie- preferably a shade between the slacks and the jacket.
    2. Ms Red Scarf needs a brighter purple blouse, needs to loose the bag thing on her left shoulder and remedy the scarf pulling at the hemline of her garment and to seriously consider a change of hairstyles.
    3. The tie is BAD and should be burned, either before or after removing from the wearer. I would recommend a tie with the molecular structure of wine would be a nice touch and dude show the label of the bottle- merchandising is everything.
    4. Things are a tad askew, please line up the centers of the garments prior to allowing photography to occur, otherwise massively cool and I would applaud the man who wears that everyday- only if the angles and centers were appropriately placed- tape them if you have to.

    All definite Glamour don’ts and should have the identity concealing black bars across their faces.

  • Jennifer Ouellette

    bitchmobile needs to learn to spell “lose.”
    a member of the Grammar and Spelling Police


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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