May 2011

Image: THE XY FACTOR Skin Sensation

The guy courtside at the Lakers in the python jacket and cowboy hat? Meet James Goldstein
by Adam Tschorn

ANDREW MACPHERSON

Ever since my first Laker game years ago, I’ve wondered about the distinctively dressed dude way up close who, from the nosebleeds, looks like a well-done bacon strip in a cowboy hat.

Binoculars reveal it’s actually a deeply tanned man with white collar-length hair who favors head-to-toe wardrobes of leather and python skin, accessorized with a jaunty scarf knotted at the neck. Through a chance encounter at the Chateau Marmont, I learn his name—James Goldstein—and seek to find out more.

The man in question agrees to meet me at the place he’s lived since 1972. The John Lautner Sheats-Goldstein house has been a location for some 300 fashion shoots and a handful of movies, most notably The Big Lebowski. He demurs on his age (at least 60, but he “feels 20”) and source of income (“property investments”), but he is happy to give me the skinny on the duds.

“I like things that are beautiful and have never been done—and that leads me to unusual skins,” Goldstein says. When I bring up that python skin is scarce and isn’t sold in California, he shows not a trace of remorse. “I’ve never had a problem,” he says with a grin.

Goldstein is so bent on being a sartorial standout, he only wears clothes from the current season. So after six months, even the most beloved pieces are filed away in a closet outfitted with the kind of heavy-duty rotating rack you find at the dry cleaners.

It’s quite an inventory. Notable retirees include two motorcycle-style jackets: a 10-year-old orange leather-and-python Roberto Cavalli; and a turquoise leather Claude Montana with padded shoulders from the ’80s. Not yet exiled is a red painted-leather Balmain from AW10, festooned with safety pins, thumbtacks and nose rings. (“I wore it to the Laker game the other night, and it set off the metal detector,” he says. “But it wasn’t a problem.”)

Oh, and those signature Crocodile Dundee–meets–cowpoke hats? They’re custom crafted from python skin by Parisian milliner Jean-Pierre Tritz. Even if you wanted one, you’d have to unhinge your jaw to swallow the price: $4,000. Goldstein has three in heavy rotation—black, brown and, the newest, an office-folder manila that perfectly sets off the python scales.

“This one’s for spring,” Goldstein says proudly. Which means you’ll soon be seeing it courtside.