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From NPR: The Sweatpant Moves Out Of The Gym

They are not blue jeans. They are not slacks. They are not chinos or khakis.

“They’re like a jogger,” Lee Davis says of his pants, walking through an outdoor mall in Los Angeles called The Grove. He’s wearing them with a professional black cardigan over a designer white tee, with a crisp fitted baseball cap and fancy tennis shoes. The pants stand out the most. They fit him impeccably, with clear, tapered lines and a high-end, light-khaki material that flows luxuriously.

Davis is just one of several male customers walking through the mall in sweatpants. He says his cost $195, and that they are worth it.

“They’re kind of in between a sweat pant and a dress pant,” Davis says. “Denim sometimes can really be looked at as just casual. This makes it a little more dressy, because of the material.”

He and his nearly $200 sweatpants are perhaps the poster child for fashion’s latest obsession.

What Is Athleisure?

Davis’ sweats are part of a growing trend called “athleisure.” Gym clothes are making their way out of the gym and becoming a larger part of people’s everyday wardrobes — and a bit fancier in the process. The NPD group says sales of athleisure apparel were more than $35 billion last year and that athletic apparel now makes up 17 percent of the entire American clothing market.

H&M, Urban Outfitters, Aeropostale and TopShop have all launched athleisure lines. Certain collections have gotten endorsements from celebrities like Kanye West and Beyonce. Chanel even makes a couture sneaker now. The Wall Street Journal reports that some estimates predict the U.S. athletic apparel market will increase by nearly 50 percent by 2020, even as Americans participate in fewer sports.

How did all of this happen? Will McKitterick, an analyst with IBIS World, says there are two big factors at play in the rise of athleisure: yoga and the cyclical nature of blue jean sales.

First, McKitterick says, there has been what he calls “a change in what’s appropriate to wear.” Think yoga pants. Over the past decade or so, women have led this charge, specifically in their embrace of yoga pants outside of yoga studios. Now yoga pants, tights and leggings have moved from the gym to just about everywhere. That only helped make room for men’s sweatpants to leave the couch.

McKitterick says declining jean sales are part of the equation as well. Reports say sales of denim in the U.S. were down 6 percent last fiscal year. “Men, and people more generally, have a lot of jeans,” he says. “Jean sales have done really well over the last 10 years, and we’ve gone through a number of different fads surrounding jeans, perhaps most recently skinny jeans.

“But, fashion denim is cyclical,” says McKitterick. “So it seems we’re in a downturn period right now, and that’s not too surprising coming off the large amount of sales we’ve seen over the last 10 years.”

Athleisure apparel helps fill that void. For what it’s worth, McKitterick says jeans have faced competition before, from corduroys in the ’70s, and khakis and chinos in the ’90s. Jeans bounced back both times.

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From NPR: The Grand Budapest, A Banquet Of Beards And Melange Of Mustaches

Director Wes Anderson is known for his especially exacting visual style — an attention to detail that goes right down to the individual hairs on his actors’ faces.

Take The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s historical fairy tale about a luxury central European hotel on the edge of war in the 1930s. Nearly every male character in the film has some kind of painstakingly designed facial hair.

And in charge of the trimming, styling and coloring of each follicle — real or fake — was hair and makeup designer Frances Hannon. She’s been nominated for an Oscar for her work on the film, which has been nominated for nine Academy Awards in total — including in other behind-the-scenes categories like costumes and production design.

Hannon says once she received the assignment from Anderson, she “did a huge amount of research” on beard and mustache styles, stretching from the 16th century to the present day.

“I covered the spectrum completely,” Hannon tells NPR’s Arun Rath, “so that with all the mustaches, not only would I find something that suited that actor’s face, but I could give something different to everybody.”

Some characters’ mustaches were more classical and precisely clipped, like M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes. (His mustache, Hannon says, was based on Austrian-born actor Anton Walbrook.)

Others featured a slight twirl, like the mustache worn by the villainous Dmitri, played by Adrien Brody.

And then there’s Bill Murray’s vast face-spanning mustache, which Hannon says was not the work of CGI.

“I have to tell you that was real,” Hannon says. “Bill grew a full beard and mustache. He turned up the hairiest I’d ever seen him.”

(Hannon has some expertise there. She’s worked with Murray since 1997’s The Man Who Knew Too Little.)

But not every actor was able to naturally grow a mustache or beard for the film.

“The majority were fake,” says Hannon. “I would say probably about 60 or 70 percent were stuck-on.”

In part, that’s because several actors had commitments to other films, and couldn’t show up to another set wearing a mustache better suited to central Europe in the 1930s.

But Hannon says those fake mustaches are themselves works of art.

“They’re made of real human hair, which you buy in all different textures and colors,” says Hannon. “There’s usually five minimum colors in each mustache.”

The hairs are sewn individually into tiny holes — less than a half-millimeter in diameter — of what Hannon calls “the finest silk lace you can find. … So you can imagine the time that goes into the perfection of each.”

But of all the actors’ beards, Frances Hannon reserves special praise for Jeff Goldblum’s very real, somewhat Freudian goatee. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hannon said Goldblum had “the most extraordinary beard I’ve ever come across,” and praised how carefully he took care of it.

“I think the difference with Jeff was firstly the way the natural color came through on his beard,” Hannon tells NPR. “I had never seen such distinctive black and white areas that weren’t peppered throughout. … That was completely natural. And we just enhanced the strength of the black [with coloring].”

Goldblum says he found out during pre-production that Wes Anderson was looking for a “banquet of beards” from the actors.

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NPR’s Men In America

By David Michael Newstead.

This week, NPR is wrapping up its series, Men In America. Launched in June, the series ran throughout the summer and touches on a wide range of issues relevant to the modern American man. This includes predictable topics like fatherhood, growing up, and being married as well as some nontraditional topics like unemployment, gay masculinity, and struggling with emotions (to name a few). In my opinion, Men In America has been really interesting and provided a diverse perspective on what it can mean to be a man. For your listening pleasure, I’ve included some of my favorite installments from the series below. And check out the complete NPR series.

From NPR: Hate-Crime Convictions In Amish Beard-Cutting Case Thrown Out

By Krishnadev Calamur.

An appeals court in Cincinnati has overturned the hate-crime convictions of 16 Amish who cut the beards and hair of their fellow Amish.

“When all is said and done, considerable evidence supported the defendants’ theory that interpersonal and intra-family disagreements, not the victims’ religious beliefs, sparked the attacks,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

The Associated Press adds that three defendants who were convicted of non-hate crime-related charges did not challenge those convictions.

The Amish beard-cutters, headed by a man named Sam Mullet, who ran a community of about 120 people near Bergholz, Ohio, were convicted in September 2012 of five attacks in Amish communities in Ohio in 2011. As Barbara Bradley Hagerty reported for NPR’s All Things Considered at the time: “The victims have all been Amish leaders who have spoken out against Mullet, or those who have fled Mullet’s group.”

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From NPR: LA Barbers To Start Testing Blood Pressure

NOTE: This is an interesting idea, because historically barbers were considered part of the medical community. They performed minor surgeries, pulled teeth, performed bloodlettings, and generally maintained much more hygienic instruments than the average man of yesteryear. And while that relationship with the medical field has obviously declined in the last century, perhaps the National Institutes of Health have found a way to make a very old concept relevant to the modern world – David Michael Newstead.


By Shereen Marisol Meraji.

Barbershops are a traditional gathering place for African-American men — a place to talk politics, sports and gossip. Now, some doctors in Los Angeles are hoping to make the barbershop a place for combating high blood pressure among black men.

Death rates from hypertension are three times higher in African-American men than in white men of the same age, says Dr. Ronald Victor, the director of Cedars-Sinai Center for Hypertension in Los Angeles.

“Hypertension is one of the biggest reasons why the life expectancy of African-American men is only 69 years,” Victor says. “That’s a full decade less than white men in this country.”

This week, he received an $8.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund a study testing whether barbershop intervention could significantly lessen hypertension in African-American men. The study will involve getting barbers around the city trained to take their patients’ blood pressure. Victor is working with Dr. Anthony Reid, a cardiologist in nearby Inglewood, on the project.

Reid says most of his patients are African-American. “My patients like me, but they love the barber, and they’d much rather go to see the barber than the doctor, typically,” Reid says.

“The idea is, instead of starting out by asking patients, as usual, to come in to the hallowed halls of medicine, we’re bringing medicine to the people who need it,” Victor says.

A few years ago, Victor had success with a similar project in Dallas — albeit on a much smaller scale.

One of the barbers he worked with then, James Smith, has been shaping up, lining up and fading men’s hair in Dallas for 41 years. He says his customers are like family.

“I’m always the one asking about, ‘How’s your wife, how’s your children, how’s your mom?’ ” Smith says. “So it was easy for me to do that and say, ‘Well, look, brother, how’s your blood pressure? How’s your health?’ ”

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