THIS IS THE MOST FUN ISSUE OF THE YEAR,” SAYS J.D. REED, SENIOR editor of the 1993 Best & Worst Dressed, which begins on page 72. “Essentially all bets are off. It’s a nice change of pace—we get to concern ourselves not with reality but appearance.”
But while the special section may be lots of fun to peruse, it is no small task to put together. The Best & Worsters sifted through thousands of photos before deciding who would make the cut. “You can’t make the worst-dressed list unless you are consistently awful,” says Reed. “If it’s just a fashion slip, you end up in the PUH-LEEZE section. These are people who just had a bad clothes day.”
Reed himself admits to some dubious clothes days. A “catalog shopper who hates stores,” Reed owns just one sport coat and no suits. “The only thing you need suits for are weddings, funerals and court appearances,” he says. “And I’m not planning on committing a felony or getting married again.”
Despite such disclaimers, “J.D. proved to be deceptively knowing about fashion,” says assistant managing editor Carol Wallace, who directed the issue. “He wasn’t thrown by the mention of cavalry twills or four-gored skirls.” This was a dividend because it was Reed’s job to put a burnish not on the clothes but on the prose in this issue—a task for which he is well suited. A former English professor, Reed won a Guggenheim in 1970 for his poetry. His novel, Free Fall, based on the legendary D.B. Cooper, who parachuted from a commercial airliner with $200,000 ransom money, was made into a movie in 1981.
For his part Reed is comfortably ensconced in central New Jersey, where Christine, his wife of 24 years, is studying to become a Unitarian minister. Their three daughters heartily endorse J.D.’s fashion decisions. “My 8-year-old [Gabrielle] clomps around in my shoes,” says Reed. “And my 19-year-old [Alicia] and my 22-year-old [Phoebe] borrow everything. So I’m used to living in a house where whatever is left in the closet is what I get to wear.”
And how would Reed describe his look? “I’m pretty much the oldest living undergraduate,” he says. “My style can be described as Dead Poets Society.”