New Year’s Eve promises glamour, excitement and magic. Not that the evening really lives up to its reputation very often, but one can hope for a surprise, and maybe a little glitter that will twinkle on into the new year. Rather than roll out one of those long lists that chronicle the year that is passed, MoT looks ahead to the promise of 2013, finding our hope in one bright glimmer from ’12 that took the form of Benedict Cumberbatch (and not just his shoes–but back to them momentarily).
Of the little cadre of impressive young British actors who made a great big spiffing splash this year, Benedict Cumberbatch receives the salute from MoT Department of Anglophilia and General Sartorial Coolness. His peers Michael Faasbender and Tom Hiddleston (below) probably have been told their whole lives that they are rather easy on the eye (in addition to having all that talent). They are people we expect to smoothly transition into positions as masters of their domain, not to mention style icons du jour. Not so much Benedict. He is the most unlikely screen star of the batch, awkward and quirky, like his name. He’s too lean, he’s got that bushy hair, small eyes, and gaunt features in that long horsey mug. In short, Benedict Cumberbatch is not another pretty face. And yet through performance after performance somehow has made these motley features tremendously compelling. Is he more captivating because of his uncharacteristic looks or because we mortals somehow relate to him better because of them, and enjoy the surprise of being so thoroughly pulled into the orbit of his easy but uncomfortable coolness? It’s like this: you go to the Louvre knowing you’re going to see gorgeous beautiful graceful things that you’ve known your whole life and have been taught to admire; you know how to identify their widely-loved features, are not surprised nor disappointed by Canova or Leonardo or whoever. You leave and go on to the next expected stop of wonderfulness on your itinerary. Or you go to some small gallery you only remember vaguely reading about in some dumb blog. But behold: there’s some artist, let’s say some watercolorist–you didn’t know you even fancied water colors–whose work leaps off the wall, commanding you with its sweeping colors and unexpected brushstrokes. You stare. You can’t pull yourself away. You’re late to work. You think about it for the rest of the week, you tell all your friends: you’ve got to go see this guy.
Benedict Cumberbatch is, of course, the unexpected surprise, and not just in his film roles. While other stars are obviously, boringly (if elegantly), styled, we get the sense that Benedict just sort of does what he wants because he doesn’t think anyone is looking, anyway. And as with his performances, nails it, as you see in the cropped picture above. Why do we include an image of just the shoes? Because to take in the whole unlikely charisma of this fellow is to court disaster. You are advised to look upon a complete ensemble only through a pinhole pricked in a shoebox. Don’t blame us if you don’t heed our words. You’ve been warned.
Shouldn’t life just be like that; shouldn’t we all wish our new year to unfold in the same majestic manner with an outlandish and brave use of whatever unpromising–or maybe just non-traditionally promising–material we have? We wish for ourselves and you, dear reader, a Cumberbatchish year. Let’s call it the year of the Cumberbatch. Annus Cumberbilis. Set off fireworks tonight, but tomorrow, follow the Sign of the Shoe.