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Tony Kornheiser

Invest in Soybeans: Now Farmers in Iowa Are Wearing Cashmere

September 20, 2000

I took the train from Washington to New York last week. I brought along a copy of Esquire magazine. Esquire is one of my favorite magazines to take on the train because sometimes I end up taking a long nap, and I don't read a word. I like a magazine that if you don't read it, you don't miss much. (You could say that's my philosophy with this column. You can stop right here, and you'll be fine. It's not like at the end of the column I reveal that Darva is pregnant with Bob Knight's baby.)

Esquire has been around forever, of course, and has somehow managed to survive even though it doesn't feature a step-by-step monthly guide to better abs, or how to increase your sexual potency and drive a woman wild. (At this point, I'd settle for driving a woman home.)

Esquire teaches us the misery of being a celebrity. It's agony for Ashley Judd. It's hell for Meg Ryan. You wouldn't believe what it's done to Angelina Jolie. Don't ask.

Esquire also teaches us about men's fashion in stories like: Great Coats. Under $4,000.

What a relief. I was afraid a great coat would cost me $6,000 and I'd have to settle for wrapping myself with a live goat.

Esquire shows men what we'd look like if we were 25, weighed 130 pounds and had no behinds and could afford to spend $650 on a pair of pants.

We'd look damn great.

The problem is: I have a behind. It's big enough to balance a lunch tray on. Here's what I would look like in these form-fitting, skinny-boy clothes: a bratwurst.

This month, Esquire has a fashion piece titled "Heartland." It's a 12-page photo spread, set in rural Iowa. It purports to show what a well-dressed farmer would wear. For example, a $1,725 cashmere cardigan worn by a man walking through a cornfield. Or a $1,650 wool and mohair coat worn by a young model leaning on a bale of hay.

I assume he's a model because he looks like he's expecting a Lincoln Town Car filled with Evian and Gisele Bundchen to pull up any second. Like she'd be caught dead in Iowa. Or farm boys wrestling in a barn in $420 pants. Which I must say seems like more than a farmer would spend on pants unless those pants come equipped with Angelina Jolie inside.

Hello. Did something happen to soybean prices when I wasn't looking? Farmers have tractors that cost less than these sweaters. For what possible event would a farmer need a $1,750 cashmere sweater? The formal wedding of his prize pig?

1. Nobody is going to pay this sort of money to look like a farmer in Iowa.

2. No farmer in Iowa is going to spend this kind of money to look like Donna Karan's gardener.

There's no such thing as a well-dressed farmer. Do you know what they call farmers who slop hogs in $478 suede jackets, as pictured on page 184? They call them a cab and send them back to New York. The photo spread should carry a warning label: "Farmer Dramatization." At least that's what the TV commercial for "Flonase" carries.

Flonase is some sort of prescription nasal spray for allergies and other hideous nose stuff.

Why would anyone use something called Flonase? I imagine it's a cross between Vicks Vapo Rub and mayonnaise. I'll bet the moment you take it, all sorts of goop starts to pour uncontrollably from your nose. What's next? A prescription medicine called Flo-hole?

Anyway, the Flonase TV ads feature a concerned, 40-ish gent in a lab coat who looks like he's a doctor. Except nowadays you've got to come clean, I guess. Over on the right side of the screen are the words "Doctor Dramatization."

So the guy isn't a doctor. He's an actor. He probably can't distinguish your elbow from Adam Clymer. When you know he isn't a doctor, the end of the commercial really sounds dopey: "Ask your doctor about Flonase." Because 1) With something called Flonase, I'd sooner ask my plumber.

And, 2) There are 4 million American doctors looking for cash now that managed health care is making it hard to afford $1,750 cashmere sweaters so they can look like farmers. Why not get one of them to endorse Flonase? If you need a Doctor Dramatization to endorse this stuff, why shouldn't I just let my nose run like the Missouri River?

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