Iconic Style: Jack Kerouac

What you don’t know but need to know (must know) about the Father of the Beatniks.

The tenth in a series where we unearth the story and style behind iconic photos.

You think you know Jack Kerouac. We all do. We like to find FEELING in his writing. We like to channel his VIBRATIONS. But there are things you don’t know about Jack Kerouac. Like he helped build the Pentagon. Like he aspired to be a Hollywood star. Like he worked on Desolation Peak as a fire lookout.

Because with every icon there is persona and then there is person. Kerouac is known for the former—the Father of the Beatniks, the voice of the restless, existential 1950s. But every ideal is constructed from somewhere, and there are small acts that make the man.

You know the Kerouac bio—born in Lowell, MA, raised Catholic, immersed in Buddism, a lover of Jazz, booze, and his mother. But we like to remember Kerouac not as a soundbite, but as a ramble, a frenzied scatter of words.

Goddamn it, FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS and the hiding of feelings.

To get to New York for On the Road’s release, he had to borrow $30 for a bus ride. He left shortly after the release, returning to Orlando. While the novel was achieving best-selling fame, Kerouac hid away in a bungalow with his mother, working on Dharma Bums (arguably, his best novel).

Often, it’s what we sacrifice, not achieve, that best defines our character. Kerouac, a man who played football for Columbia, is better known for dropping out. A man who achieved fame for literary mastery, is better known for writing on lengthy teletype scrolls, under the influence of Benzedrine and booze.

While our gut response to Kerouac is to hole up in a coffee shop, tousle our hair, slouch and scribble into our journal, today we remember him not for the FEELING he gives us, but for the passions he wrestled with for his art; the drive that eventually made him an icon.

My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.

For your own writing adventure, we’ve assembled a Jack Kerouac-inspired style guide:

Shirt: Criquet ($55); Pants: Life After Denim ($72); T-Shirt: Hanes ($10); Sunglasses: Warby Parker ($95); Shoes: Nisolo ($139); Notebooks: Word ($10 for 3pk); Pen: KarasCustoms ($55); Watch: Timex Weekender ($78); Pomade: Imperial ($20).

Image via Wikipedia.

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