The Sully look is hot. (Right?)


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Until my son Jim pointed it out, I did not realize that I have the timely good fortune to have the trendy Sully look. "You got the mustache, Dad, and the silver hair thing going on," he said.

Sully is Chesley B. Sullenberger, the gallant US Airways captain who did not ruffle a single gray hair in calmly ditching Flight 1549 in New York's Hudson River last month after his aircraft struck birds and lost power.

In truth, my look is not what might be called the full Sully. The real deal is a trimmer version of myself -- or, more to the point, I am a more wide-bodied version of himself.

We are roughly the same age -- he's 58 and I'm 61. Although Sully's hair has not ebbed to the same extent as mine, we both have good growth on the sides of our heads. Unfortunately, this lends me a more koala-like appearance, which might work better if I were a pilot for Qantas.

The Sully look is essentially a dapper, competent look for the mature male. With one great splashdown, Sully has rescued "dapper" from the sartorial clutches of ascot-wearing twits with real or pretend English accents.

Indeed, I believe it will soon be acceptable for meatpackers, iron workers and lumberjacks to be considered dapper without their pals searching their lunch boxes for signs of foie gras and little cucumber sandwiches.

Of course, the Sully look requires first and foremost a decent mustache. When it comes to under-nose deportment, I have the advantage on those callow youths with Sully-like ambitions.

To be sure, I did not hold my own mustache in the highest regard for many years. I treated it as if it were merely an eyebrow that came down for a drink. While I tried to let it grow down at the tips to effect a Mexican bandito appearance, this made me look more like a wayward cactus than anything else.

The Sully mustache -- let us call it the Sullytache -- is trim and efficient. Its bristles do not curl under stress. This is just the look a man needs on the glide path to the inevitable ditching in the River Styx at the end of life's flight.

It doesn't matter that Sully's life and mine bear little resemblance to each other's beyond our mutually gallant and dapper appearance. Sully was a fighter pilot; in my own military service, I was in charge of strategic drinking and the writing of press releases.

In his job as a pilot, Sully must make life-or-death decisions at the controls. As a journalist, I sometimes will try to land a sentence with a dangling participle, hardly a life-or-death event, although you would think it was the way some readers go on about it.

Another difference between Sully and myself is that he is now justly celebrated as a hero everywhere he goes, whereas the celebrations for me are justly muted as always. That's OK. I didn't play in the Super Bowl either, but I wore a No. 43 Steelers jersey to a party.

In today's world, it's the look that counts and Sully has given a certain great image to men of a certain age. Yes, I am certain of it.

The Sully look says: This gray hair and seasoned stature speak not of ruin and decay but of experience and unflappability. As this is Fashion Week in New York City, I would hope that the Sully look comes down from the catwalk-cum-tarmac and spreads into Middle America.

You see, we more-than-middle-aged men have waited a long time for a good look we could embrace and call our own. We were cute once -- in my case, for about 5 minutes in 1953 -- but then we were led astray by different role models.

We covered our heads so completely with hair cream that flies would get stuck there in the summer, we grew sideburns so long that weed-wackers had to be employed to trim them. Then came The Beatles to confuse everything. If the nights were not so dark, some of us would never have gotten dates.

And now, not a decade too soon and as a shock to our wrinkles, comes the Sully look to make-over our appearance. So let the various birds of life strike -- receding gums, widening waistlines, prostate peculiarities -- we are looking and feeling good, with mustaches in the downward and locked position.

Ladies, I would just like to say to you: Leave your controls in my capable hands. I would like to say this but I just got a call from my tower ordering me to retract my undercarriage and return to my home field, otherwise she will pour a river of cold water on my venerable head. Suffering Sullytache.


Reg Henry can be reached at rhenry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1668.


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