I know what The Kominsky Method wants me to focus on. Series creator Chuck Lorre wants me to focus on his heightened storytelling, as the single-cam Kominsky Method is way more sophisticated than his by-the-numbers CBS sitcoms. The all-knowing Netflix algorithm just wants me to focus on the fact that she show is back for Season 2. I binged all of Season 1 over Thanksgiving break last year and the algorithm never forgets. I know that other critics (at least the ones that make up the Hollywood Foreign Press) were focused on Michael Douglas’ performance as aging actor Sandy Kominsky since they gave him a Golden Globe.
But when I watch The Kominsky Method, I can’t completely focus on Douglas’ award-winning performance or even the show’s mature and nuanced depiction of friendship between two elderly men. I can only focus on one thing: Alan Arkin’s clothes.
Norm Newlander, Sandy Kominsky’s eternally annoyed agent played with frumpy excellence by the Oscar winner, is the best dressed man on Netflix. Period.
Okay, turn that period into an ellipses and add “… at least in my eyes,” because I fully accept that others could make a case for Patriot Act’s Hasan Minhaj or Queer Eye’s Tan France, because they do turn looks (to be fair, it is kinda Tan’s job to turn looks). But both of those men are stylish for 2019, whereas Norm Newlander’s style knows no age. The Kominsky Method could turn into a time travel show of the past 80 years and his look—all textured sweaters, statement ties, classic accessories, and patterned blazers topped off with a perfect pair of tortoise shell frames—would work in every single decade. Norm Newlander is the perfect encapsulation of classic menswear, delivered in a curmudgeonly package.
Compared to all the other men on Netflix, Norm stands out to me. I think it’s telling that his competition (Hasan and Tan) comes from the reality genre, from personalities that use their clothes to establish themselves as The Person To Watch. That’s definitely the case with The Great British Baking Show’s Noel Fielding and his cacophonous style. This is why John Mulaney wears a suit on stage even as stand-up comedy has become more slouchy. He wants to look just a little bit more elevated than the audience (they paid money to see him, after all).
Men on scripted shows, however, usually tend to blend in. Jim Hopper didn’t become a fashion icon until he felt his Magnum P.I. fantasy in Stranger Things 3 (trust me, I’m an expert on Hopper’s looks), and even then, that was what he wore for the entire season. When a male character regularly stands out, it’s usually because they are themselves are flashy AF (the glorious Titus Andromedon, for instance). For an example of how male characters rarely call attention to their clothes, look no further than Newlander’s own begrudging BFF Sandy Kominsky. Douglas is the titular character, but he’s perpetually dressed in browns and blacks, a zip-up sweater and a flat cap. He’s the showboat actor, but he doesn’t draw attention to himself.
That’s why I love Norm Newlander, much in the same way I love deserved style icon Bob Newhart. Instead of wearing a bunch of no-nonsense gray to match his snarky personality, Norm wears color. He wears a lot of color: a goldenrod jacket, a lavender button-up, a burgundy zip-up sweater, a cobalt blue shirt.
He doesn’t just stick to a formula either. My man loves mixing up textures (tweed, flannel, chambray, suede) and hasn’t met a pattern he couldn’t rock, from tartan and plaid to windowpane.
He knows how to keep it classy while casual, with shawl collar cardigans and loafers, no socks.
Unlike other TV characters around his age, Norm’s wardrobe hasn’t settled into a strict, subdued uniform. He’s a no-fuss kinda guy that loves being fussy about his clothes! Style-wise, he’s essentially iconic menswear journalist and author G. Bruce Boyer but on a Netflix show.
I feel I have to call out the Kominsky costuming team because the show doesn’t call out his superlative wardrobe at all, and I actually think that’s a good thing. When male TV characters make a strong fashion statement, it’s usually played for laughs (Seinfeld’s puffy shirt, Ross’ leather pants, even Jim Hopper’s abstract Magnum P.I. print shirt was something out of his comfort zone that be bought to be just a little bit flashy). But through Norm Newlander, The Kominsky Method’s showing that a man can care about how he looks and find ways of eschewing tradition within tradition without being the butt of a joke.
Okay, there is Season 2’s cowboy look. Norm admits that he bought a head-to-toe cowboy look just so he could go horseback riding with his old flame Madelyn (Jane Seymour). “I look like Howdy Doody, the later years,” a self-deprecating Norm admits, but, uh, he’s also totally rocking it??
The Kominsky Method has a lot going for it, to be sure, but I know I’ll stick around for one reason: to see what Norm Newlander wears next. I’d say his style is how I want to dress when I’m his age but, as if this wasn’t already apparent, I kinda already do—and yes, I wrote this entire piece while unintentionally wearing what looks like subtle Norm Newlander cosplay.
Hey, I guess I know what I’m going to look like when I’m 85 years old.
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