In The Zone: Rod Serling’s Midcentury Style

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I remember watching “The Twilight Zone” as a kid on our console RCA TV in the basement, with the now classic theme music still readily playable in my head. I recall one episode in particular in which a young woman has been raped, and her father goes to pick her up from the hospital. They’re riding home in the car and the woman is sitting in the passenger seat, numb and oblivious, when suddenly her eyes light up as she looks out the window and points. It’s him!

The father pulls over to the sidewalk, tells her he’ll take care of it, and gets out of the car. He returns several minutes later, rumpled and sweaty, and says it’s all done. They continue driving home. A few minutes later the young woman’s eyes light up again and she points to another man in the street. “It’s him!”

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“Twilight Zone” creator Rodman Edward Serling was born on Christmas Day, 1924, and died on the 28th of June, 1975. He was a prolific writer, television producer and narrator, most famous for his science fiction TV series. He was also an army combat veteran of World War II, earning a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and the Philippine Liberation Medal.

After the war Serling went to Antioch College on the G.I. Bill, eventually earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature. He met his wife there, Carol Kramer, and they had two daughters, Jodi and Anne.

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Serling probably isn’t the first person that comes to mind when I think of Ivy Style. He was a short, extroverted, mildy shell-shocked Jewish kid from upstate New York. My college yearbook had a “Twilight Zone” theme, and it was mostly black and strange — unpreppy, to say the least. Maybe it was just some die-hard unhappy punk rocker’s theatrical riff on what he perceived as Rod’s weirdness, and that’s been my takeaway memory ever since.

However, the show has been indelibly woven into American pop culture. Serling may have imagined times far in the future, but he dressed like a man of his era. His wardrobe, which was provided by Kuppenheimer, shares certain commonalities with the Ivy League Look yet also breaks with it, showing that Ivy was just a subset of broader menswear trends of the times. He mostly wore tab and straight collars, and when he wore buttondowns they were often short and wide, similar to the Brooks Brothers “Clifford” model.

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I’m sure many of us wish we could travel to some place called “The Twilight Zone,” a place where everyone is well spoken, possessed of a lively imagination, and neatly dressed. — TIMOTHY CATALDO

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10 Comments on "In The Zone: Rod Serling’s Midcentury Style"

  1. Joseph Crangle | November 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm |

    I was recently binge watching The Twilight Zone and thinking the same thing about Mr. Serling’s wardrobe. The whole series is a great survey of midcentury menswear (and furniture, and cars and cold war paranoia).

  2. That episode is actually from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

  3. There’s this temptation, you see–we fall victim to it from time to time–to reflect wistfully upon the Ivy Heyday, murmuring to ourselves, “every shoulder was soft and natural, every collar button downed and rolling.”

    Then…

    you see pictures of chunky, deformed jacket shoulders and double windsor knots that rival anything modern-day politicos attempt.

    And you realize–
    In certain corners of the world, there was barely a Heyday at all.

  4. Exactly. “Heyday” refers to the time when it was most popular, but it was still just a slice of American pie.

  5. Yeah, that is definitely the first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Revenge”, starring Vera Miles and Ralph Meeker: “While Carl (Meeker) is at work, his wife Elsa (Miles) is apparently attacked and left traumatized. Later, driving in town, Elsa points out a man as her attacker, so an enraged Carl kills him. But moments later, Elsa, still mentally disturbed, identifies another man as her attacker.”

    It’s a great episode, but I don’t think it’s the kind of subject matter you’d see on TZ, as well as having no fantastical aspect.

  6. The man was a genius, for sure. He had a child’s crazy “what if..?” imagination, and could then work it into a half-hour show that was intelligent, challenging, and seemed disturbingly close to the possible.

    I believe he wrote almost all of them himself

  7. Cold war paranoia?

    Alger Hiss says hello.

  8. “Style is the man,” Rod Serling.

  9. To Serve Man, a cookbook!

    Always loved the series. I think the half hour episodes were much better than the hour ones. Most episodes had you thinking about them hours later.

  10. The previous posts are correct–there was no TZ episode as Cataldo described. And @NCJack, Serling wrote the majority of the scripts (and some are absolutely outstanding!). Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and others wrote their fair share and contributed some of the series’ most memorable episodes. Serling also was frequently under great pressure to deliver content and wrotesome real clunkers. That doesn’t undermine his genius or legacy. Serling is one of America’s greatest dramatic TV writers.

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