Hamish Bowles is fun to read in Vogue because while it’s too difficult to imagine most any Vogue staffer doing anything the slightest bit imperfect–let alone having a hair out place–Bowles always puts his mustachioed dapper self out there to report potentially humiliating first person stories. His latest story in which Knicks’ star and aspiring fashionisto Amar’e Stoudemire teaches him to play basketball takes the cake. But it’s not the only gem in Bowles’ canon of hilarious first person stunts for the fashion bible.
Here, his best, funniest, first person stories for Vogue:
1. “Now, Forager,” November 2010. Subhed: “Hamish Bowles journeys from doyennes to Dumpsters as he gets schooled in the art of scrounging for his supper.” Yes, Hamish Bowles went dumpster diving, following Novella Carpenter author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, as she scrounges for food amidst Oakland’s dumpsters.
But decades spent in the artificially scented air of hothouse fashion shows, of Fifth Avenue salons and Mayfair aeries, have evidently thinned my blood. I, who once boldly gathered eggs from our nesting Rhode Island Reds, now balk at the fierce hens in Novella’s hut. (I’ve seen Chicken Run and know what these terrors are capable of.)
2. “I Will Survive,” November 2009. Subhed: “Packing only the barest essentials, man-about-town Hamish Bowles ventures into the Utah desert for a grueling wilderness course—and an unexpected life lesson.” Bowles enrolls in a four day course at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School in Southern Utah.
“When I finally scrutinized the small print in the contract I had been sent to sign for the customized four-day course, it gave me pause. “Participants may be injured . . . by natural hazards and elements, including: falling rocks and trees, flash floods . . . lightning, extreme heat and cold, stinging and biting wild and other animals and insects, toxic plants, hanta virus, West Nile virus, and bubonic plague.” One disquieting passage read, ‘Accidents or injuries could include: blisters, abrasions, ankle and knee injuries, fractures, head injuries, rock-climbing injuries, and, in severe cases, death.’ ‘You can do it,’ said Anna blithely (one eye, I suspected, on the tennis) when I expressed misgivings.”
Over the hill, it was Josh’s turn to be triumphant. “Here is some bear scat!” he announced. Josh’s find also seemed unnervingly recent, but neither Jason nor Dave seemed perturbed by the fact that a life-threatening mammal with a mighty left hook was within striking range. Dave knelt to examine the scat, picking at it with his dexterous fingers. “Look, it even found ripe pine nuts when the ones we’ve seen so far haven’t even grown yet!” he effused. Wendy and I knew how brilliant bears could be—we’d both read The New York Times’s front-page story on the savvy bear who had worked out how to open screw-top jars that had foiled many a starving hiker in the Adirondacks. Dave broke off a piece and held it under his nose. “It’s very sweet-smelling,” he said, and almost before I had time to grasp the enormity of the gesture, he popped it in his mouth. I was incredulous. Surely we’d just been told that bear scat couldn’t even be held close to the face, as microbes might transfer and damage your brain? Or was that raccoon? As my enfeebled brain attemped to process the welter of information, Josh rapidly followed suit, carefully masticating a bit for himself. Then they both looked quizzically at me. In the interest of community spirit, saving face, giddy bravado, and thinking of Divine in John Waters’s Female Trouble (if a Baltimore drag queen can do it, so jolly well can I!), I broke off a piece and popped it into my mouth. It was indeed oddly sweet, evoking benign thoughts of Winnie the Pooh and a jar of honey.
3. “SWISH! Hamish Bowles Shoots Hoops with Amar’e Stoudemire,” April 2011.
Suddenly there is an echoing emptiness, and I am totally alone in the vast white hall. I have changed into my Knicks uniform. “When you put your uniform on, you feel more dominant,” Amar’e tells me. “You feel ready to take over, have a great game.” I wasn’t quite sure about the ultramarine, orange, and white mélange, but when I put it on for the first time it’s giving me eighties Stephen Sprouse (although NBA regulations stipulate that the shirt is tucked inside the shorts, rather than worn Teri Toye–minidress style).
January 14 is my first basketball game. The Knicks are playing the Sacramento Kings, ranked at the bottom of the league. I’ve been given Amar’e’s seats and have attempted to approximate the team colors with a teal Balenciaga twinset and an orange Charvet tie. I realize the purple socks are a mistake as soon as I see the Kings’ colors, and I discreetly fold down my trouser cuffs.