The Unlikely Cool of Bob Balaban

Bob Balaban appears shocked by my Twitter DM. Frankly, I’m shocked he even responded to my out of the blue message—I hoped he might reply a couple of questions on his fashion.

“I’ve a mode?” he asks.

An hour later, we’re on the telephone, and I’m attempting to clarify my ideas about how Balaban, the charmingly rumpled actor who has been in the whole lot from Midnight Cowboy to Shut Encounters of the Third Form to some Wes Anderson movies, has lengthy represented a sure sensibility. He’s not a star, precisely, however he’s nonetheless the form of actor screenwriters write elements for. He normally performs the sensible man, the one whose voice by no means will get too loud. He’s the form of actor who helps others shine. He comes off as unselfish, deprecating and candy. And, as individuals who know him have instructed me, that’s actually how he’s.

Bob Balaban in Ready for Guffman, 1996.Everett Assortment / Courtesy of Sony Footage

As a lot as I take into account myself one of many main specialists on Balaban’s physique of labor, the reality is that I’ve constructed a bit of philosophy particularly round his private fashion. It’s one thing I’ve been obsessive about for a very long time. Bob Balaban is a sly grasp of a form of sensible however unremarkable dressing. Unmistakeable, easy, but additionally put collectively completely. The Japanese journal Popeye calls it the “Metropolis Boys” look; Balaban clothes like a metropolis man. He all the time has—and his look has advanced alongside together with his age. He is additionally all the time had wonderful style in glasses. So I begin off our dialog by asking him about his eyewear by the ages: Did Mike Nichols let you know to not put on them in Catch-22; had been these your glasses on Seinfeld; what notes did Ryan Murphy have about your wardrobe for *The Politician—*as a result of the glasses actually work.

“You are form of defining my fashion by my glasses by the final 40 or 50 years, which is a form of enjoyable option to be assessed,” he factors out. Which, honest. So I attempt to clarify my thesis.

His look within the late Nineteen Seventies, I inform him, is a really explicit Jewish dad fashion that I’ve a sure emotional attachment to. In Shut Encounters and 1978’s ignored masterpiece Girlfriends, you’ll be able to see how he masters the three Bs many Jewish guys of their 30s expertise: Bearded. Bespectaled. Balding. He seems to be just like the dad who’s going to select you up from basketball apply in his Volvo station wagon and let you know you’re stopping to get some Häagen-Dazs at your native upscale grocery store. He likes jazz, classical, the Speaking Heads, and considers Infidels Bob Dylan’s finest album. He works in publishing, in all probability has a subscription to Artforum, and wrote a e book assessment for Dissent when he was in school. 

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