Julian Assange joins U.S. President Barack Obama, actor Colin Firth and designer Tom Ford on a list of the 20 best dressed men in the world from the French magazine Le Figaro Madame, as reported by CNN Mexico. Placement on the list is something of a coup for Assange, whose look was described derisively by New York Times executive editor Bill Keller in his tell-all account of working with WikiLeaks. Assange, when he first met with Times men in London, was “lanky, with pale skin, gray eyes and a shock of white hair that seizes your attention… alert but disheveled, like a bag lady walking in off the street, wearing a dingy, light-colored sport coat and cargo pants, dirty white shirt, beat-up sneakers and filthy white socks that collapsed around his ankles. He smelled as if he hadn’t bathed in days.” As he became a “cult figure” with “his hair dyed and styled” he began wearing “fashionably skinny suits and ties.” Now the transformation has paid off in magazine love. Additionally, Assange is included in “The 2011 Time 100″ as one of “the most influential people in the world.”
The official WikiLeaks Twitter account was giddy to point out Assange’s inclusion on the fashion list: “Assange, Obama win best dressed men, but NYT editor calls Assange ‘smelly bag lady’. Journalism!” As of yet, they have not commented on Assange making the Time annual event.
Translated from the French magazine to Spanish to English, Le Figaro Madame describes Assange as the “man with angel face and white hair so sexy that shook American diplomacy… With the look of a former student at Oxford, found the formula to intrigue computerized girls in uniform neo-Victorian.”
Of course, rewarding the man for his cunning can get a bit uncomfortable when one remembers the potential rape charges Assange faces in Sweden. Brushing over that is always awkward. It’s a problem Time runs into as well as the author Germaine Greer sort of rushes past the allegations too:
Egregious to the last, he is convinced that his prosecution for rape in the Swedish courts was engineered by vengeful U.S. intelligence, unable to grasp the plain fact that his callous treatment made two women angry enough to seek redress.
Both of these distinct honors, and their handling of Assange’s complications, bring us back to what makes him so fascinating and so hard to write about. He’s quite the character, an endless spark plug for gossip — and that dancing! — but both his work and supposed dark side, especially his treatment of women, deserve much more careful, measured consideration. Giggle at him, reward him for his skinny suits, sure, but just try not to forget the rest. To be fair, it’s easier said than done.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 21, 2011