Leave it to Seinfeld to break new ground by inducting a sitcom joke into the Smithsonian.
The outlandishly unfashionable shirt worn by Jerry Seinfeld on his hit TV show went on display Friday at the Smithsonian, alongside Kermit the Frog, Archie Bunker’s chair and Dorothy’s magic slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”
At the end of its nine-season run, “Seinfeld” — the “show about nothing” — left lots of well-loved lines but few tangible relics suitable for enshrinement in the National Museum of American History.
Thus, The Puffy Shirt, which appeared briefly in a single episode. What makes that bit of wardrobe so memorable is that it serves as an icon, not only of “Seinfeld” but American popular culture.
The show’s been off the air for six years and yet its power — much like the lingering scent of a stinky valet — only seems to grow. Part of the current resurgence in Seinfeld can be credited to savvy marketing. After all, the first three seasons are to be released on DVD in just a few days.
But with the astronomical syndication fees, the Smithsonian, the success of Curb Your Enthusiasm ( another “show about nothing”), and the depth with which Seinfeld has been ingrained into popular culture, it’s clear that there’s still a large following for the show.
Speaking of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David is the real genius behind all this. Witness the post-Seinfeld careers of the cast. Despite new projects from everyone except Jerry (who prefers stand-up), the only one who’s been able to recapture the magic and success of Seinfeld is Larry David. In fact, his HBO show is probably what Seinfeld would have looked like if it hadn’t been on network television and saddled with all the attendant restrictions on language and innuendo.
I’m glad Seinfeld was on NBC, though. There’s something about the warped creativity David used to push the envelope that made the show what it was. On HBO, there are no such restrictions, and as a result Larry David goes hog wild. Curb Your Enthusiasm is still brilliant, risky, and groundbreaking, yet somehow always remains in the shadow of its predecessor.
I’m sure Charmaine Simmons, the costumer who created the puffy shirt, has designed some beautiful clothing in her career. Yet the one thing she’ll be remembered for is a god-awful looking joke of a shirt. A very Seinfeld-esque irony, don’t you think?