The Poetic Hair Stylings Of Leonard Cohen: “I comb my hair for possibilities”


The Hair Club For Singer-Songwriter-Poet-Novelist-Icons

“I comb my hair for possibilities” is a line from Leonard Cohen’s poem, “The Suit.”  Two years ago, I observed in Does This Fashion Suit Leonard Cohen?, a post about a fashionable line of suits purportedly inspired by those verses, that, despite its somewhat misleading title, the poem is less about couture than coiffure:

More to the point, if that poem is to inspire a product, shouldn’t it be a hair product or haircuts or toupees or something hirsute-related? After all, there are two lines about a suit and 23 referring to hair and feelings the narrator experiences about his hair. 

Indeed, “The Suit,” published in Flowers For Hitler by Leonard Cohen is a celebration of hair:

I am locked in a very expensive suit
old elegant and enduring
Only my hair has been able to get free
but someone has been leaving
their dandruff in it
Now I will tell you
all there is to know about optimism
Each day in hub cap mirror
in soup reflection
in other people’s spectacles
I check my hair
for an army of alpinists
for Indian rope trick masters
for tangled aviators
for dove and albatross
for insect suicides
for abominable snowmen
I check my hair
for aerialists of every kind
Dedicated as an automatic elevator
I comb my hair for possibilities
I stick my neck out
I lean illegally from locomotive windows
and only for the barber
do I wear a hat

The Human Body As A Convenient Source Of Literary Devices

It is hardly surprising that Cohen employs hair in the service of his literature.  Few writers have not experienced the sort of desperation that drives  scribblers of prose and poetry to consider body parts as literary devices first and a machine for living second. Whitman  thematically focused on the entire human body in work like “I Sing the Body Electric.” Raymond Chandler wrote about a character in The Long Goodbye who”was eager to help but his legs were rubber . . . ” A complete book (Inscrutable Houses by Anne Colwell) is devoted to, as described by its subtitle, “metaphors of the body in the poems of Elizabeth Bishop.” Tongues, toes, teeth, and thyroids have all been used – with varying levels of effectiveness – as figurative language in prose and poetry.

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Does This Fashion Suit Leonard Cohen?


Another Clothing Line Inspired By A Leonard Cohen Line

Reviewing, as is my wont, the goings-on in the world of  haute couture, I came upon the information that Leonard Cohen, award-winning singer-songwriter, legendary ladies’ man, and certified icon, has, according to Hypebeast, again sparked the imagination of a designer to create a line of swell duds for cool dudes:

The Soulland spring/summer 2011 collection is inspired by the Leonard Cohen poem, ‘The Suit’ – and in more ways than one. With the collection Soulland designer, Silas Adler, has played with the symbolic meaning and seriousness a suit can give the person, who wears it. In addition, the collection literally includes a suit, the first in Soulland history.

For those who have somehow missed the news, Soulland’s head designer is one Silas Adler, a 25 year-old  one-time skateboarder  who founded Soulland in 2002 to create what the hip rags call “lifestyle garments.”  Originally specializing in print t-shirts, the company has, according to its brochure, “now grown into a well-established men’s wear brand recognized worldwide and represented in leading stores across Europe and the USA.”

The Raf Simons Precedent

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Leonard Cohen: “Suit Up!” Poster Boy


Suit up! Dressing smarter changes how you act and think by Colin J McCracken (My Good Planet: April 17, 2016) is a report on a study1 indicating that wearing a suit confers certain cognitive benefits on subjects thus attired. In the words of the abstract of the actual study, “The findings demonstrate that the nature of an everyday and ecologically valid experience, the clothing worn, influences cognition broadly, impacting the processing style that changes how objects, people, and events are construed.”

I’m not, however, interested in the scientific merits of the study. No, I’m taken by the choice of the photo to illustrate the Suit Up! article. Of all the portraits of men in suits in all the galleries in all the internet, it’s a shot of Leonard Cohen that stands atop the piece. It’s especially relevant, to my mind, that Leonard Cohen is not mentioned anywhere in Suit up! Dressing smarter changes how you act and think, in in The Atlantic article on which it is based, or in the original study. It’s the image of the Canadian singer-songwriter, garbed in his double breasted pinstripe jacket and fedora, itself that is expository.

And, although we are given no clue if this picture was selected by someone aware of Leonard Cohen, the artist, or if the photo was simply felt to resonate with the notions advanced by the study, Leonard Cohen is certainly a splendid embodiment of an individual associated with both formal business attire and enhanced abstract processing.


  1. Actually, it’s a report on a report (in The Atlantic) of a study (published in Social Psychological and Personality Science March 31, 2015 ). []

Leonard Cohen Named To GQ’s “Most Stylish Musicians of All Time” List


Leonard Cohen The Canadian singer-songwriter-poet-shaman has always had a sort of night-owl vibe, looking like some rumpled 19th century philosopher, all dark suits and angular, swooping hair. As he ages, this owl just looks wizened.

From Most Stylish Musicians of All Time by GQ Editors (GQ: October 28, 2011)

Leonard Cohen Concert Clothes Cliche Compendium

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Leonard Cohen Concert Review Template: Describing Cohen’s Apparel

With the 2010 leg of the Leonard Cohen World Tour impending, journalists will soon be faced with the challenge of reviewing the singer-songwriter’s concerts. To ease that burden, Cohencentric has set about organizing the Leonard Cohen Concert Cliche Compendium to establish guidelines for reporting on Cohen’s performances. Today’s lesson focuses on writing about the clothing he wears on stage.

It is difficult and perhaps impossible to discover a review of a 2008-2009 Leonard Cohen concert that does not include a reference to Cohen’s sartorial splendiferousness. There are, in fact,  three categories of methods (and a few that fall outside these classifications)  to convey the notion that Leonard Cohen is, as the lads from ZZ Top would say, “a sharp-dressed man.”


Category 1:  Just The Facts, Ma’am

In their purest and most frequently occurring form, exemplars of this minimalist category offer only the verifiable facts of the matter, exposing the writer to little if any risk of being contradicted.  This format is, in fact, ideal for those tasked with reviewing  the concert without attending it (in these case, we recommend the use of the phrase, “dark suit,” a popular format that should be a safe fall-back description unless Cohen goes all Marty Robbins  on us and kicks off the 2010 tour wearing  a white sport coat and a pink carnation).

He wore a black suit and snap-brim hat for the occasion. (Concert Review: Leonard Cohen at Chicago Theatre by Greg Kott. Chicago Tribune, May 06, 2009)

… in a dark suit, tie and fedora …  (Music Review: Leonard Cohen’s Graceful Gift By Joel Selvin. San Francisco Chronicle, April 15, 2009)

He stands very slim and straight, in his dark suit and fedora … (Leonard Cohen Takes Manhattan, Again by Emily Johnson. National Post, Feb. 19, 2009)

Dressed in a double-breasted suit and fedora … (Leonard Cohen’s First Show In Britain In 15 Years Is Immaculate by David Cheal. Telegraph, Jun 18 2008)

On occasion, one may hazard the inclusion of a single, ambiguous judgment.

Dressed in a sharp black suit and a matching fedora …  [emphasis mine] (Sincerely, L. Cohen by Ryan Cormier. Deleware Online, May 13, 2009)

A tad riskier but still within the safe harbor of cliche are the group of standardized fashion adjectives, such as “resplendent”  and “dapper,” which add a touch of glam to the festivities without endangering the correspondent’s cliche credentials.

Cohen, resplendent in a dark suit and fedora, … (A Brief Review Of Leonard Cohen’s Performance In Asheville by Chall Gray. Ashvegas,  Nov 4, 2009)

… the dapper, suit-clad Cohen … [emphasis mine] (Leonard Cohen / Feb. 19, 2009 / New York by Lavinia Jones Wright. Billboard, Feb 20, 2009)

Category 2: The Fashion Assessment

Writers bucking for the fashion desk or those who recently rented “The Devil Wears Prada,” may elaborate on the details more effusively.

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