The Hardy Boy
September 30, 2009

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I was styling a fashion shoot yesterday in a photographer’s backyard in Venice when somebody happened to mention those two little words – “Ed Hardy.”  Suddenly there was a lot of hissing on that particular summer lawn. The healthy disdain of the cool kids didn’t refer to the person Ed Hardy but rather a glitzy and gaudy line of clothes – I feel bad calling them clothes, OK? – that bears the name of a once-revered tattoo artist (a lot about tattoos this week, right?) No, when people out here say Ed Hardy, they really are referring to Christian Audigier, the glitzy and gaudy designer/entrepreneur behind the line – our own little Count of Three-Card-Monte Crystal.

Audigier first made his dubious mark on fashion earlier in this decade by putting seemingly every straight guy looking to get laid in a Von Dutch trucker hat.  And, along the way, a truck-full of celebrities too, in those crazy Justin and Brittany salad days. In fact, he cheerfully takes credit for inventing celebrity marketing and just about everything else that’s happened since, in a devastatingly detailed profile in this month’s GQ that’s worth the price of the entire issue.

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When it came time to re-up, Audigier and the Von Dutch owners had a spat about putting his name on the label too, so off he went and either seduced or swindled Mr. Hardy (there was a lawsuit later) and now Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier is known across the land. His gold-foiled and rhinestone bedecked T-shirts covered in snake-and-skull-and-bleeding-heart tattoo motifs reached critical media mass this summer – for several tabloid weeks running – as the preferred apparel choice of one Jon Gosselin, the runaway “Plus 8” TV dad.

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Then came Michael Jackson’s untimely demise but never more than too timely for Audigier. I was driving home then, past his little cluster of boutiquelets on Melrose and BAM!, on the eerie electronic billboard looming large over the stores, was a gigantic and glowing image of Mssrs. Jackson and Audigier. TOGETHER. I wasn’t sure if it was real or photoshopped (Audigier is so fake-baked that he always looks a little retouched), though in fact Jackson did drop by the 50th birthday bash last year of the man who sports a tattoo across his back that reads, “Christian Audigier Est. 1958.”

Real or not, I didn’t know what to think then and I don’t know what to think now. Neither do the retailers who sell his clothes, who seem embarrassed by him, though they happily share in his $80-million T-shirt and accessory biz. Neither did the GQ writer, who didn’t want to believe that bling-y (there, I said it) vision of fashion goes so deep in American culture. But that’s Audigier’s genius. He doesn’t care what we think.

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A Neck of a Time
September 28, 2009

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This photo may seem like a little shameless pandering to male admirers of all sexes out there but is there any better way to bring up the subject of neck tattoos? I was standing in line at California Chicken waiting to order my Primavera Wrap the other day and the woman in front of me was sporting big cartoon-y tattoos all over her body including one that I swear looked just like a big blob on the side of her neck.  Then I ran across pics of the fitness model above who wasn’t content with chest and sleeve adornment and expanded it up the side of his neck too. I’m the first to admit I’m 2385048032_360b78b42aconflicted about tattoos, even large ones – they can be hot – but that day at the cafe I was beginning to feel, shall we say, neck and neck with the creeping signs of old-fogeydom. And I do live in L.A., where there most be more tatted skin than anywhere on the planet, short of some tribal enclaves in Borneo. But, to borrow from judge Nina of Project Runway, I’m afraid I don’t find neck tattoos aesthetically pleasing. Nonetheless, they’ve gone mainstream – a site called eHow.com even gives you seven simple steps to getting a neck tattoo. After noting in passing that they are dubbed “job blockers” and sometimes require a premium for the tattoo artist, the advice ends with step 7: “Be prepared to defend your neck tattoo.” Duh.

But back up a minute, maybe even that admonition is outdated, judging by the number of them around these days. I don’t really care, I guess, that a lot of people don’t worry about getting a job, or going to a funeral or flying in to visit dear old mom without giving her a heart attack just so they can look like a bad-ass, at least in their own mind. Remember past-season designer Jeffrey from the aforementioned 219111722_096c6fa3a5Project Runway, who got a lot of his dirty-rocker-trash-talking-villain-of-the-season cred from his big ole neck tattoo (which sported his son’s name as a kind of motley milestone). But every time I saw him on screen I just thought it was ugly. And a little sad. And maybe that’s why I’ve been obsessing over them lately.  This is what people will spend not a little amount of money, effort, time and even pain to achieve? This is their dream? This is what they think looks good? And don’t even get me started on eHow.com’s follow-up article, “How to Get a Breast Tattoo.”