The 2008 Image Index: winners and losers

Image is a slippery creature, and one month's style sensation is the next month's tasteless trend. For those keeping score, we offer the 2008 Image Index, a sliding scale of the people, places, ideas and trends that moved up -- and down -- the pop culture barometer this year.



That last stint in rehab in March 2007 really must have stuck. Not only is Jacobs in top physical shape (see the January issue of Harper's Bazaar, where a graffitied Jacobs poses nude with a Stephen Sprouse for Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag), but his multi-culti mash-up collections for Spring '09 were also among the season's best. And those runway shows, which used to start as much as two hours late, have been right on time. At last, he's earned his title as the most influential American fashion designer.


Smart, psychologically compelling plots that revolve around pencil skirts, double martinis and afternoon trysts made us wish for a bigger flat screen. The addictive show also elevated the aesthetics of workplace attire to include sweater sets for women and ties for guys. Meet you at the water cooler to discuss last night's episode?


Not since Burt Reynolds popularized thick upper-lip fringe has the mustache been so hot, thanks to Brad Pitt's latest look. But really, he's no facial hair visionary. Shia LaBeouf showed some fuzz in "Eagle Eye" earlier this year, and a coterie of 'stache-ophiles meet downtown monthly for Mustache Mondays.


How refreshing to see a TV pundit -- and Rhodes scholar -- who's loyal to her signature style. Rachel Maddow, 35, waxes poetic about politics and takes on the GOP on her daily eponymous show on MSNBC. This month she appears in Vogue, and the self-described butch lesbian didn't succumb to a glitzy glam makeover; she's wearing a Jil Sander suit and black Converse high-tops.


East Side guys in skinny jeans. Shrunken blazers with suspenders on gals. Gender-bending fashion was an equal-opportunity trend, and Fall Out Boy pop star Pete Wentz -- who reportedly prefers DKNY women's denim -- even launched a unisex line in April. Hey, we're all for any fad that opens up new closets.


At the beginning of the year she was a mess, having just lost custody of her sons and been hospitalized for mental-health issues. But all that melted away, thanks to a few well-chosen TV appearances, an MTV documentary, her new hit album "Circus" and a European comeback tour. Pop music's favorite fashion train wreck is blond again, and looking better than she has in years, thanks in part to über-stylist Marjan Malakpour, who has been dressing her onstage and in photo shoots. We're even digging Brit's new ringmaster persona.


This year the chemical bromance "Pineapple Express" (named for a potent strain of herb) took in $89 million at the multiplex, we got hooked on Showtime's "Weeds" and its dope-dealing soccer mom, and Cheech and Chong reunited for a sold-out reunion tour. When Jonathan Adler is dealing $68 pot-leaf motif Hashish candles and the cast of the 2009 weed-themed flick ("Leaves of Grass") includes Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss and Edward Norton, you know the stoner's stock is high.


There were so many '90s supermodels gracing the pages of fashion magazines this fall, you'd suspect a George Michael and RuPaul comeback tour was in the works. Linda Evangelista wore Prada's lace head to toe, Naomi Campbell looked as lithe as ever in the YSL ads, Christy Turlington gave her yoga togs a rest and posed for Escada, and Claudia Schiffer was the season's most ubiquitous face as the main mannequin for Chanel and Ferragamo. All are well into their late 30s and early 40s, and in an industry where 24 is over the hill, it's refreshing to see that getting older is actually in fashion.


Vibrating mascara. Super lip-plumping balm. Wrinkle-filling foundation. High-tech makeup scored with customers looking for a fresh variety of magic in a tube or bottle -- and an alternative to plastic surgery's needles and knives.


The Second City stepped up to No. 1 when Sen. Barack Obama took the stage in Grant Park for his election night victory speech. Thanks to Michelle Obama, local designer Maria Pinto's star has risen too, along with that of upscale Chicago retailer Ikram Goldman, who's been unofficially helping the future first lady in the fashion department. How good is the city's standing? When huge-haired Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich became embroiled in scandal, the City of Big Shoulders shrugged it off like so much dandruff.


Blonds, take a back seat. Christina Hendricks, Amy Adams, Kate Walsh and Isla Fisher grabbed center stage -- and even sixtysomething Susan Sarandon posed as a pinup. Not since we all loved Lucy have flame tresses been the tint of Tinseltown.



There's no doubt Audigier's brand-building wizardry has made his stable of labels (Ed Hardy, Christian Audigier and Smet among them) a hit on the street, but this year he came close to flogging his lifestyle brands to death by expanding into watches, children's clothes, animal accessories and a Las Vegas nightclub, not to mention those billboards with his likeness all over town. It can't do much to burnish the brand when Ed Hardy pillow shams turn up in the window of the local Linen Outlet.


If TV style icon Sarah Jessica Parker couldn't save retailer Steve & Barry's from going under, it's time to call a halt to the craze of celebrity clothing lines. Celebs as unlikely as Rod Stewart and Charlie Sheen have put their monikers on labels, and frankly, the trend is insulting to fashion designers. Bring back the age-old actor aspiration: "I want to direct."


Skinny, expensive, easy on the eyes and known to play hard to get -- the iPhone is the gadget world's version of the runway model. With the continual rollout of new versions, and dropping prices, its cachet is teetering like a model on 8-inch heels. And that recent blast of cold air got us thinking: Does that touch screen really seem as cool when you're suddenly wearing mittens?


With Saks at 70% off a month before Christmas, Neiman Marcus literally paying you in gift cards to spend, Barneys New York offering to put items aside until further discounts can be taken and sales announcements flooding in, you have to be a rube to pay full price these days. The days of triple markups are over, and the consumer is king.


A wrinkle in time, indeed. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that cosmetic procedures are down 62% for the first half of this year. Will those Botoxed Beverly Hills matrons finally be able to frown again?


You could pay $300 for elaborate pocket embroidery or 24-karat gold side stitching. Or you could buy simple, flattering, reasonably priced jeans. Suddenly, the choice was easy. And the news wasn't good for the boutique brands.


Bags are still a priority, but not the ones that scream: "I rushed to put my name on a waiting list so I could pay $1,800 for this." Understatement and frugality, or at least the appearance of them, are the new "It."


Her recent tour may have sold out and her arms still look like chiseled alabaster, but the 50-year-old Material Girl is trying too hard to fight Mother Nature. Sure, she can still sport hot pants better than any 20-year-old, but the taut, gaunt look of her face and that A-Rod business make us wish she'd stop trying to fit into the pop princess mold at middle age.

The Image staff

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