Why Tom Wolfe First Started Wearing His Signature White Suit

Why Tom Wolfe First Started Wearing His Signature White Suit

Tom Wolfe, an innovative journalist whose technicolour, wildly punctuated prose brought to life the worlds of California surfers, auto customisers, astronauts and Manhattans moneyed status-seekers in works such as The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Right Stuff and Bonfire Of The Vanities, has died.

Wolfe's literary agent, Lynn Nesbit, told The Associated Press that he died of an infection Monday in a New York City hospital.

One of the leading practitioners of "new journalism", Wolfe was widely regarded for combining literary techniques with traditional journalism.

He once said his style of dress was an accident and accentuated his contrarian attitude.

After graduating from St. Christopher's School, an Episcopal all-boys school in Richmond, Wolfe rejected a chance to enroll at Princeton University to stay in Virginia and attend Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts school in Lexington.

Wolfe started as a reporter at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union before moving onto the Washington Post.

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As a dresser, he favored white suits - or cream, or ivory, or even, occasionally, ecru. The book, adapted into a film in 1983 with Sam Shepard, Dennis Quaid and Ed Harris, made test pilot Chuck Yeager a cultural hero and added yet another phrase to the English language.

While the stories have no connecting theme, this is the first book that gave early examples of New Journalism.

Wolfe travelled during the 1960s with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters for his book on the psychedelic culture, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. "The question is not only whether Tom Wolfe can be taken seriously but whether he can be taken at all", a Time magazine critic wrote in 1968.

"I probably have given that impression in the past, but I didn't", he said.

"My contention is that status is on everybody's mind all of the time, whether they're conscious of it or not", Wolfe, who lived in a 12-room apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, told the AP in 2012. He was 88 years old. Having championed the merits of reportage over contemporary fiction, he finally turned to the novel in mid-life, scoring huge commercial success with The Bonfire of the Vanities, a bustling satire on New York's social and racial divide. He is survived by his wife Sheila and son Tommy.

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