Rembert Explains the ’80s: ‘Mr. T Fashion Show’


Welcome back to our series Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 25-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was selected by New York Times columnist Jenna Wortham: Mr. T Fashion Show. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, e-mail us at hollywood@grantland.com.

Rembert’s note: Hollywood Prospectus editor Mark Lisanti gave me a clip to watch, but every now and then Mr. T Fashion Show pops up and nothing else matters. Sorry, Mark.

0:02 This is already the best video ever.

0:03 Mr. T just said “Styling” with a caption. Is this one of many chapters? Why isn’t this clip nine hours long?

0:04 THIS MUSIC.

0:07 Quoth the T: “Hey, everybody gotta wear clothes, and if you don’t, you’ll get arrested.” TRUE.

0:15 Mr. T is beefing with New York and Paris fashion designers. You mean to tell me those chains and overalls aren’t from New York and Paris fashion designers? Prove it, Mr.

0:22 Mr. T’s beef with Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt is completely understood, but Bill Blass? Really, Mr.? Going after Bill Blass seems like a waste of time. That’s like dissing high-end colognes and then dissing Mitchum.

0:31 Quoth the T: “Table the label and wear your own name.” So, ummm … am I supposed to know what “table the label” means? Is that a thing? If I find out that not wearing name-brand clothes is called “tabling the label,” I’m going to be furious that I’ve missed out on years of saying “table the label.” Table the label. Ha. That’s perfect. [Ed. note: You should ask secret anonymous menswear blogger Chris Ryan about this terminology. He'll know.]

0:35 WHO ARE THESE GIRLS?

0:38 “Xena and Zena. From San Bernadina.” Duh.

0:39 Mr. T is just creepily standing on the side of the photo shoot, watching Xena and Zena shoulder-shimmy like their lives depend on it. This is unreal.

0:40 These girls can dance about as well as I can swim: No formal training, but YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT.

0:46 According to Mr. T, this is what Xena and Zena would wear to the grocery store. TABLE THE LABEL.

0:57 Oh, excuse me. Zena and Xena. How dare I! WHO IS NEXT?

0:58 Marta.

1:01 Quoth the T (on Marta): “Our subway sweetheart, taking the A train to fashion in this graffiti-inspired creation.” TABLE THE LABEL, MARTA.

1:08 Quoth the T (on Marta’s accessories): With her mustard socks and her ketchup sash, she’s a real hot dog.” I can’t breathe. That’s the best line ever. Ladies, beware. Especially if you’re wearing (1) a pair of mustard socks, or (2) a ketchup sash. You will be told that you are a real hot dog and you will like it.

1:12 Marta is dancing her face off right now.

1:13 Oh, she’s completely stealing move no. 5 of 9 from “Billie Jean.” Not bad, though, mainly because she’s tabling the label.

1:20 Bye, Marta. GIVE ME MORE DANCERS.

1:23 Why hello there, Jeff. Nice zoom out of your butt. How’d I know your name was Jeff? Oh, because you have a stencil on your butt that says “Jeff.”

1:28 Jeff is a b-boy. I can’t wait to hear what Mr. T has to say about him.

1:30 Quoth the T: “Ain’t no doubt when Jeff’s around. With pants pegged tight and hair in fitness, he’s the ’80s nod to fitness splendor. Stay cool, Jeff.”

1:39 Right as Mr. T said, “Stay cool, Jeff,” Jeff did that Dougie move when you slick your hand through your hair. Maybe that’s how he keeps his hair in such fine fitness. If Jeff’s hair is in fitness, my mustache is currently in “you hoard Cheetos in your pillow cases.”

1:41 I’ve never done suspenders with jeans. I might have to try that. I’d love to stay cool like Jeff. Or if that’s a stretch, be an ’80s nod to fitness splendor like Jeff. I like Jeff.

1:48 Solid eight-second slo-mo of Jeff dancing. He’s in great shape. Jeff’s awesome.

1:54 Bye, Jeff. Will definitely miss you. Sorta bummed about whoever’s next, unless it’s Jeff again.

1:58 Athena.

2:00 Tell me about her outfit, because I’m not sold, Mr.

2:02 Quoth the T: “Athena combines the very best of East and West.” Interesting … Go on …

2:07 Quoth the T: “Whether she’s fixing her bike or primping for the prom, she’s a living United Nation. But there’s no need to vote on this outfit. Thank you, Athena.”

PAUSE for a moment. Just take a second and remind yourself that Mr. T is saying these quotes. OK. That’s all. Carry on.

2:16 Also, Mr. T completely sold me on Athena, and Jeff is so old news. Jeff may be a nod to fitness splendor, but Athena is a LIVING UNITED NATIONS. What that means only T knows, but it’s got to be better than fitness splendor.

2:22 BYE, ATHENA.

2:24 Here’s Kelly. Wearing a nice sweats outfit. I wonder what T thinks about Kelly’s sweats.

2:29 Quoth the T: “All dressed up with no place to go? No sweat.” What a guy. He went there. “No sweat.” Too good.

2:31 Is it just me, or is Kelly really fly? Like, borderline too fly for this Mr. T–funded science fair project. Maybe it’s just me.

2:32 Kelly also has a red fanny pack that matches her red headband. TABLE THE LABEL, KELLY.

2:38 In a sea of great quotes, he’s finally musing on how Kelly is the best thus far: “Perfect for stopping traffic and starting it … who knows what?” That’s just English at its finest.

2:41 I’m in love with Kelly. So is Mr. T. This could end poorly. For him.

2:53 MANNY. I was waiting for a Lost Boy/Aladdin to make his way to the set.

3:00 While Manny is dancing, there’s a zoom-out of Mr. T shimmying to Manny’s moves. It’s quite cute.

3:02 Manny’s cool, but I’d still pick Jeff over him in the battle of the b-boys that I’m sure happens in the next chapter.

3:05 Mr. T just smiled and pointed at Manny. Maybe he doesn’t like Kelly after all. Maybe Kelly’s all mine. Will look into this more.

3:08 Mr. T had relatively little to say about Manny … maybe he’s nervous. If that’s the case, nothing is cuter. Well, except for the fact that Mr. T is like 30 years older. OK, less cute.

3:16 NEW GIRL. I bet her name is Samantha.

3:18 Janine. Boo. She’s such a Samantha. Stop thinking about Manny, Mr. T, and tell us about Janine.

3:19 Quoth the T: “Here’s Janine, cool as a peppermint ice cream.”

3:27 Mr. T just said it’s getting hot in here. This is either literal or a comment about Manny, because Janine is not working it. Not a single move in that repertoire.

3:39 Oh no, we’re out of characters. Take us home, T.

3:41 Quoth the T Monologue: “Hey, that was great. I like that. Don’t you? Gloria Vanderbilt. Bill Blass. Calvin Klein. Eat your heart out. And remember: TABLE THE LABEL. And wear your own name.”

3:54 Phenomenal. Inspirational. Moving. Touching. Nothing more.

3:55 Why the last second was four kids in t-ball uniforms screaming, “Be somebody!,” we’ll never know. But look here. Bill Blass. Eat your heart out.

3:56 Done.


You will watch this 20 times in the next 24 hours. I promise. And then you will finally start leading a life where you table the label. And then you will find Bill Blass and burn his house down. And then you will go to jail. But you won’t wear the outfits of name-brand prison fashion. You will wear your own name. As you sit in prison. For 10 years. For burning down Bill Blass’s home.

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