By now everyone has seen New York‘s fall fashion issue with a shirtless Rafael Nadal on the cover. Well, he’s on the back cover, so it’s difficult to randomly encounter. I’ve had to actively scan all the rags at my newsstand for Christie Brinkley‘s mug (she’s this week’s cover girl) and then flip the magazine over to see Rafa (so much work in the name of men’s fashion!), but it didn’t matter to me. And then I saw the pictures, and read the article, and then it all made sense: judging by Nadal’s influence in the world of fashion, the back-of-book placement is just right.
The Rafa article, penned by Ben Williams, notes that only a man of Nadal’s body type — big, bulging muscles — could pull off wearing his signature (and subjectively feminine) tank-top-and-Capris ensemble in such a way that we would never feel compelled to qualify his look the word “men’s” — i.e., “sleeveless man shirt” or “men’s Capri pants” — and he can thank his muscles for that. He gets brownie points for effortlessly and indifferently sporting his personal style.
But while this nonchalance might be why he’s worth a cover story (I’m sure Borg was equally as casual about putting together his “look”), Nadal is too disconnected from his fashion image; he has admitted to not knowing anything about the design of his clothes, nor does he seem interested in this world. For the NY photo shoot the editors couldn’t even use Rafa’s body to its full potential, only including three pictures of him wearing the exact. same. polo. And not even the most exciting piece from the Nike‘s fall collection. A chance to advance the realm of men’s (tennis) fashion instead goes down the drain.
After all this, things are the same as where we were pre-publication: men’s clothes as an afterthought, a formality, a rote exercise. With this cover, I had hoped that NY could make a case for us to rally around Rafa as a style icon. Alas, it didn’t quite work. While the search for Roger‘s replacement atop the rankings is over, the search for his fashion heir isn’t.
Read: “The Beefcake in the Backcourt“, by Ben Williams, New York; also includes a 7-pic slideshow.
More: Two pics after the cut…