Duranalysis: Simon and Nick on “House of Style”

Hide the lacy frocks! Nick and Simon have descended upon Sears!

In the summer of 1993, back when Duran Duran was riding high on its post-Wedding Album renaissance, Nick and Simon appeared on an episode of MTV’s long-running fashion series House of Style. In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, an oral history compiled by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks, Nick says, “Going on House of Style was one of the funniest things we ever did on MTV.” He’s right: The segment, in which the boys go a whirlwind shopping spree at Sears, is a trip.

While there’s no John Taylor in this, there is a tall, leggy brunet(te) with great hair and phenomenal bone structure: Cindy Crawford, House of Style’s longtime supermodel host, who, as you all surely recall, played John in Duran Duran’s glamorous “Girl Panic!” video. So it’s pretty much just like having John on hand, except Cindy smiles more.

Nick, Simon, and Cindy arrive at the Sears in Glendale in a black stretch limo, geared up for an afternoon of shopping for budget-friendly casual wear. First up: Cindy and Nick examine a pair of striped t-shirts. Nick rejects them both: "There's too much brown in both of them, I'm afraid." There’s a snide joke at the core of the segment’s premise—“ha, ha, Sears is low class, and Duran Duran would never really be caught dead shopping there!”—which is thankfully neutralized by the sunny charm of Cindy and the Durans*. The boys are on their very best behavior: Nick spurns the shirts because he doesn’t wear brown, not because he thinks they’re cheap-looking and ugly as hell.

*“Cindy and the Durans” is the name of my brand-new vocal quintet. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard our doo-wop cover of “Wild Boys”.

Apologies. I’m getting goofy. This is a magnificently goofy segment, and the mood is infectious.

Simon leads Cindy over to a shirt that caught his eye: “This is actually quite nice!” He seems unaware that it looks eerily similar to the (I’m guessing vastly more expensive) shirt he’s currently wearing. Hey, the man knows what he likes. And what he likes, at least on this sunny California day in 1993, are fuchsia button-downs.

Cindy tries to interest Nick in a sleeveless striped shirt. Nick recoils in abject horror: "That would expose my flesh! I'd never do that." Yeah, Nick’s not keen on showing skin. With some noteworthy exceptions—remember that part in the “Save a Prayer” video where he forgets to wear pants?—Nick is a big fan of head-to-toe layers.

Next, Cindy browses for briefs: "Do you guys need undies? Like, clean underwear when you're on the road?" Simon stares at her wordlessly, his face scrunched up in consternation. Cindy tries again: "What do you wear?" Simon slowly shakes his head, and Cindy finally gets it: "You don't wear underwear."

(Here’s Simon in The Guardian: “I went commando for 20 years, because a guy from another band told me that rock stars don’t wear underpants. In Rotterdam in the 1980s, I was wearing these Jean Paul Gaultier trousers. I came off the stage in a star jump and they opened at the seam and everything was flying towards the audience.”)

"Accessories!" Nick shouts and points across the store, cutting Cindy off mid-sentence. Cindy’s expression of perpetual good cheer starts to slip just a little, like it’s dawning on her that this assignment is, at moments, somewhat akin to a babysitting gig. I feel you, Cindy. If I’m ever graced with the opportunity to meet Nick, here’s how I’m pretty sure it’ll play out: We'll be having this amazing conversation about, I dunno, postmodernism or Bulgarian cinema or fancy shoes or whatever, and then in the middle of it, he'll shout out, "Accessories!” and wander off in pursuit of shiny things, and I'll never see him again.

It seems Nick has found the display of patterned satin clip-on ties. He’s thrilled. "This is my favorite thing in the whole store," he chirps happily as he hauls the entire tie rack into the changing room with him.

When he emerges, he’s covered in dozens of clip-on ties. Cindy starts doing a rough tally, estimating ten bucks per tie: "You're wearing a lot of money here." Nick replies, "I knew I could find a three hundred dollar outfit at Sears." He is very, very proud of himself for this.

Simon models shorts while Cindy provides a running commentary on the view from behind: "Good butt, he's got a good butt going on." Notice that now he’s wearing the cheap Sears fuchsia shirt instead of his own fancier fuchsia shirt. I’m going to quickly remind you that Simon isn’t wearing underwear, which means there’s a very real possibility some unsuspecting dude once bought a pair of shorts at Sears that had previously cradled Simon Le Bon’s naked junk.

At Nick’s suggestion, they all head over to the ladies’ department, where Nick and Simon don lacy white frocks. Nick demurely keeps his pants on beneath his dress; Simon does not. Throughout this segment, Nick’s pants will change color from white to chartreuse and back again. The likeliest explanation, of course, is that he found a pair of suitable Sears pants in some footage that didn’t make the final cut. Because we’re talking about Nick, though, we can’t dismiss the possibility that he habitually brings back-up clothes with him while shopping, just in case he feels like a mid-spree wardrobe change.

Since Cindy’s been acting as their personal shopper, Nick and Simon return the favor and search for an outfit for her. Simon finds a sleazy black mesh half-shirt; Cindy is totally game for wearing it, though she does have one request. She leads them over to the customer service phones: "Can you call and order me a black bra?"

So Nick and Simon (who is now padding barefoot around the store while wearing an adorable pair of striped pajamas; there’s going to be nothing left in Sears that Simon’s junk hasn’t touched by the time he’s done) browse through the lingerie section of the Sears catalog. Simon reads off bra specifications: "B/C cups have adjustable stretch straps. D/DD/E cups have adjustable non-stretch tricot straps. Weight: thirteen pounds?"

Thanks to Simon, I now realize I’ve been mispronouncing “tricot” all my life. He’s right; the final t is silent.

Simon orders Cindy’s bra: "Do you have that in a buxom 34B? You do? Fab."

Cindy manages to look stylish and even somewhat classy in a black mesh half shirt. Cindy, it should be mentioned, is consistently great in this segment, setting just the right laid-back tone. Conversation flows easily; they seem like three friends hanging out together, goofing around and acting like big dorks at Sears.

They wrap up their excursion with a look at clothing from the Zip & Dash line, which, the nice sales clerk explains, are essentially breakfast coats, i.e. something you can throw on quickly and wear around the house while still looking presentable. “So it’s like, zip and dash,” Nick sagely notes. In the background, Sears shoppers covertly stare at the supermodel and the internationally-famous pop stars browsing for sensible polyblend housedresses.

Housedresses! Housedresses for everyone! Cindy, Simon and Nick all model their choices. Once again, Nick keeps his pants on underneath his dress; Simon appears to be inadvertently mooning the lady emerging from the dressing room behind him.

And with that, they’re finished. They lug their gigantic bags of purchases out to their waiting limo and climb in, satisfied with a job well done.

Aw. That was far more charming than it had any right to be. Downright adorable.

Special thanks to an anonymous friend for suggesting I take a look at this. Got an idea for a future Duranalysis? Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Anonymous said…
see, i hear nick deny he'd ever expose his flesh and my mind goes right to the notorious-era crop top. XD

all the times i've watched that video, and the possible consequences of simon's lack of underwear never clicked in my mind. so thank you for that. (i honestly can't decide whether they/the show really did buy everything they tried on or if they drove off with the stuff and then turned around to give everything back to sears. in which case, thank you for keeping your pants on, nick. ...except for the white/beige pants, couldn't save those.)

there's a scene in the credits where simon wears the pajamas to sleep in one of those plastic toddler beds, but alas, mtv chose not to save it. at least we still have this. (so many highlights that simon's accurate appraisal of sears didn't even make the cut! i don't think i've ever shopped there for anything but mattresses, appliances, and power tools.) another excellent post!
Morgan Richter said…
Simon's lack of underwear was the only thing I could think of while watching him modeling clothes. I'm inclined to think MTV really did buy a whole bunch of stuff, if only to thank Sears for allowing a pair of non-housebroken Durans to run loose in their store.

Yeah, forgot to mention Simon and his power tool enthusiasm. I don't think Simon often shops for clothes at stores where they also sell chainsaws...
Kate Crisp said…
It's a crime against humanity that MTV doesn't make this footage available in Australia, because I could honestly watch it all day - what a hoot! I have to find it through clandestine channels via tumblr etc. The whole commando thing did pass me by in the past though - that puts a whole new spin on things! I did read an interview where Simon or Nick was asked if they kept the clothes and apparently they stayed at the store...
Morgan Richter said…
Glad you were able to find the footage through Tumblr, Kate -- I'd been upset that it'd been pulled from YouTube, so it was a good day when I was tipped off about MTV having it. Heh, I suppose it's not surprising that the clothes stayed in the store...

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