What Sam Wrote About: Spring Fashion 2006

This and all other photos taken by Leigh Shelle Robertus for the Tribune.
Click on any to bring up bigger in a new window.

I worked with models fairly regularly for four years during my style tenure at the Tribune. For some, I can still rattle off a first name, and maybe a quick memory or factoid gleaned when we were on location. Some I could probably walk by on the street and not remember.

Not Ryan Dillon. Oh, never Ryan Dillon.


This was one of our first men’s fashion shoots, and I think we expected guys who were so good-looking to be equally … well, douchey. We were delighted that, on the contrary, all of the men who took part in the shoot couldn’t have been nicer.

But when God was handing out charm, Ryan got seconds … and maybe thirds. He showed up and within an hour the whole crew was smitten — hair, makeup, photography … and me too, of course. (And he was from Montana, so he had that going for him as well.) He was the sort of guy who gave everyone hugs when we were done at the end of the day. And although I’m not normally a hugger, I was that day.

We photographed two themes at the Hotel Valley Ho — spring greens, and light-colored suits and jackets — and the next day did the swimsuit shoot at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, which has the most amazing pools. Like, unbelievably beautiful pools.

So, here’s the thing about working with guy models: Apparently they’re used to changing anywhere. Over time I’d developed a protocol so wherever we were shooting, there was always a room where the models could change. With a door. Sure, it usually was a bathroom, but still — a separate room. At this shoot, for example, we had a hotel room that was “home base,” where the stylists worked, all the clothing was set up, and the photography crew would grab the models and head out to the next location. So I handed the guys their first setups and gestured toward the bathroom, where they could change … and instead, each guy wandered off to his own corner of the room, turned his back and dropped his drawers to get dressed there.

That is something you cannot un-see.

My friend Sue (one of the hairstylists from Le Studio) and I exchanged a look of panicky disbelief — did the guys not hear me when I was talking about changing in the bathroom? Where the hell were we supposed to be looking now, since there was a guy in his underwear in each corner of the room? After our initial “oh, no!” moment (read: black briefs), I looked at the ceiling a lot and I think the stylists made sure their products were fully stocked and ready, no matter how much we really just wanted to bask in the beauty. (And, to be fair, I did get to see the guys in square-cut swimsuits at the next day’s shoot, so I didn’t really miss out on anything.)

After the shoot, we went through the photos, found our favorites … and hit a snag: Our executive editor, the highest guy in the newsroom, said there was no way we could use the photo of Ryan in the tub, because it was too provocative. The photo was killed.

But I really liked that shot. Really. So I went in to his office to plead my case. “I know that he’s lying in a bathtub,” I said. “But he’s fully clothed. And he’s not wet or anything.”

“He looks like he wants to have sex with me,” he said.

“But that’s what makes it a good shot!” I said. “Technically, it’s a ‘clean’ photo, but it’s also visually arresting, because it’s incredibly charged. Isn’t that what makes a good photo?”

He was still leery, but he agreed to let me take the photo to the publisher; if she approved it, the photo could run.

Boy, did it ever run. Giddy with joy, the page designers blew it out — the photo took over the entire section front, and even changed the Arts & Life flag at the top from heavy black to outlined white type. The stories were just blurbs, with quotes from national fashion directors from Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s; this was a case where we let the photos do most of the talking.

I’d see Ryan again from time to time; his more regular job was retail, so of course I’d swing by and check out what was new to the store. He eventually moved to California to try to make it big. I kept his number in my phone and I’d sigh a little when I saw it, but eventually gave it the heave-ho with a heavy heart. I wonder how he’s doing now?

WHAT SAM WORE: 6-17-12
The shirt: “Creativity is subtraction” T-shirt by Austin Kleon, from his website.
(I also have this print of his.)
The shorts: Khakis from the Calvin Klein outlet store at Anthem.
The shoes: Sneakers by Puma, my Christmas gift from Big Booty Judy.
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