Throughout most of my childhood one of my favorite books was a hard-covered copy of The Adventures of Tintin that occupied prime real estate on my bookshelf. And yet, if you asked me today what that story was about I wouldn’t even be able to begin to to you. My dad had brought that book back from one of his trips to France and so with my level of French comprehension in the negatives, I was left to merely flip through the colorful pages and try my damnedest to figure out what was going on. After a few years, and many more business trips, I amassed more Tintin memorabilia, collecting little trinkets here and there, and it wasn’t long before I became fascinated with Tintin’s world without ever actually knowing what stories those pages actually held.
It wasn’t until years later, when I came back to Tintin, this time in English, that I really began to appreciate the stories. While some of them are quite dated (case in point the questionably racist “Tintin in the Congo,”) the twenty-three and a half books in the Tintin anthology still stand as some of the greatest examples of visual storytelling ever penned. What I’ve discovered only recently though, is that the man behind that pen, Georges Prosper Remi, who wrote under the name Hergé is well-deserving of some ink himself. From his friendship with Zhang Chongren, a Chinese artist who helped Hergé better understand Chinese culture, to his fascination with the cinema, to his tongue in cheek political satires, Hergé was a character in his own right, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his personal style.
Looking at photos of Hergé from across his career, it’s easy to draw the Tintin comparisons. If Hergé envisioned Tintin as a fresh faced teenager reporter, than Hergé quite possibly saw himself as the same man just a few decades later on in life. While Tintin had his uniform – white shirt, blue sweater, umber high-waters, caramel lace-ups, and a beige trench, Hergé seemed to have his own respective uniform. Wearing a crisp white shirt, a dark tie, a glen-checked jacket, grey trousers, and black shoes, Hergé’s usual uniform looked like it was ripped right from the pages of his work, attire fit for some Belgian detective, or clandestine contact. But there’s also another way to look at it, I’d say that Hergé dressed just as he drew his panels. His comic strips would start off with all of his constants, be it Tintin’s uniform, or his flipped up hair, or the color of a truck. But, it was how Hergé fleshed everything out from there that made his comics so incredible, adding in Moroccan architecture, or an off-colored sea, or a textured wall panel.
This is the same logic that drew me to Hergé’s style. His black leather shoes, or his grey checked suits, these were his foundation, but it’s his perfectly sized lapels, or his one and a half inch cuffs, or the slight patterning on his tie, or the buttoning point on his double-breasted suit, or his slightly askew tie clip that really make him stand out. Hergé is a great example of how a sense of design can work on so many level, as his style of storytelling crossed over into his daily style, making him a personal icon for me. And let’s face it, if anything can make you overlook teeth that crooked, it’s dressing well.