'Survivor' winner Tom Westman wears it well
Photos: Fall menswear
BY ANNE BRATSKEIR
Anne Bratskeir is a regular contributor to Newsday. Barbara Schuler
August 22, 2005
For 39 days, Tom Westman, 41, lived, played and slept in the same shirt, shorts and bathing suit. And, in retrospect, says the recently retired firefighter from Sayville and big winner of the latest round of the CBS hit "Survivor," he was lucky.
The contestants had been told to show up in something they'd wear to work, which for Westman meant his FDNY T-shirt and pants. Fortunately, said Westman, "my wife, Bernadette, put it in my head to wear a bathing suit underneath at all times, which spared the nation from seeing me run around in my boxer shorts. At least I had something dry to put on every day," says Westman who creatively cut the bottoms off his work pants and stuffed them with straw to use as pillows.
That was then. Today, Westman, whose tribe, Koror, won every challenge, and who personally won five out of seven immunity challenges, not to mention a million bucks, says, "I believe that this is a temporal period in my life, and my latest challenge is to take this moment to find out what the next chapter in my life will be." And while clothes certainly won't make this man, he will need a few more. So when Newsday asked Westman to model some of the new fall menswear styles, he readily agreed.
"I'm in a more visible role, and I have a greater need for a more formal appearance," he says. "I think my next job will probably involve wearing a business suit, and I might get invited to the Emmy Awards for "Survivor," and then I might have use for a tuxedo. That would be so much fun."
Truth be told, he's already having a lot of fun and the, um, tribe has spoken in more ways than one: TV Guide touted him as one of the sexiest men of TV, Men's Fitness rated him one of the 50 fittest men in America, and he received the Irish Spirit Award from Irish America magazine. Add to that, an appearance on CBS soap "The Bold and The Beautiful," and a brand new endorsement contract from Caribbean Joe, a moderately priced line of casual menswear. His proudest new role may be that as spokesman for the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, for which he found himself meeting with the likes of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) last month to help raise awareness for children with hearing impairments. His interest is very personal. His daughter Megan, now 9, lost her hearing to meningitis at 18 months and received a cochlear implant at 2. Now entering fourth grade, Megan attends a public school in a classroom of hearing children.
How does fashion fit in? "I am finding myself sitting down and meeting with a different social circle. Here I am lobbying on Capitol Hill, and I think I have to be more aware of how I look," says Westman.
But, let's be frank. It was no challenge whatsoever to fit Westman, whose snowy white hair and baby blue eyes are a perfect complement to the season's natty styles and autumnal colors. In fact, at one location, three young women recognized him, giggling and squealing as if they had seen their favorite rock star. "Welcome to my life," laughed his wife, Bernadette, 37, who came along for the shoot.
Whether it's a battered bathing suit on Palau or a corporate power suit, the guy wears clothes well. At 5-foot-11 and a muscled 195 (up 30 pounds from "Survivor"), he can pull off jeans and a sweater as easily as a swanky tux. Truth is, he cleans up very nicely.
So, men, you've decided finally to get into the fashion game after wearing the same-old, same-old standbys for years.
Are you up to the challenge?
For a bit of guidance, we asked Joe Zee, editor-in-chief of Vitals Man magazine and a prominent stylist (think Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Orlando Bloom, not to mention Gap advertising campaigns) to give us some survival tips for navigating the fall fashion scene:
"Number one," Zee almost begs, "please do not be a slave to a trend. Sometimes women can get away with wearing a fun trendy piece for a season and then getting rid of it, but for men, it's much more about being classic. Don't listen if people say, for example, it's all about tight shirts or green. If it doesn't look right on you, it's not."
If you're going to invest in anything, make it a suit and a classic one, at that, says Zee. "It doesn't matter if you're a busboy, a CEO or a fireman, a classic suit is a must-have for every guy. There are always occasions when you need to clean up, and a suit will take you there." Zee urges guys to bend the rules a bit and break a suit up. "You can wear the jacket with denim and the pants with a relaxed, checkered pattern shirt."
Dare to be a bit more tailored, urges Zee. "Silhouettes have gotten leaner and slimmer, and everything doesn't have to be big and boxy." But in terms of fit, says Zee, comfort is king.
What's newest on the fashion front for men? Something old. "A tweed jacket with jeans ... it's really like wearing your dad's jacket," says Zee, who also likes the streamlined look of a pea coat over a turtleneck. "There's so much hipness and edge to wearing what's classic," he says. Also, as an alternative to a heavier coat, a "grandpa cardigan is a staple left over from the '50s." Overall, says Zee, surviving the fashion season is a personal thing. "It's all about personal fit, personal comfort and personal taste."
- Anne Bratskeir http://www.newsday.com/features/printedition/ny-2wear4393547aug22,0,4333605.story?coll=ny-features-print