Sartorial Exclusion

April is the criminalest month here at Co-op. Thanks to the regular bloggers for the invitation to visit; I’m pleased to join other criminal law professors as a guest. With so many criminal law specialists on board, perhaps no one will mind if I stray from the criminal law and say something about top hats, ascots, and immigration policy.

Top hat1.JPGSunday’s New York Times featured a story about Sebastian Horsley, a British author and self-proclaimed dandy who was recently denied entrance to the United States on the grounds of moral turpitude—and possibly, for wearing a ten-inch top hat. A customs spokesperson cited Mr. Horsley’s past arrests for drugs and prostitution. But Mr. Horsley’s attire also attracted attention.

To Mr. Horsley, who has in the past entered the country without incident, the recent fracas arose less from his past indulgences than a current one. In short, his very tall top hat.

“It’s a stovepipe,” he said, referring to the subspecies made famous seven score and seven years ago by Abraham Lincoln. “They asked my girlfriend, ‘Why is he wearing that hat?’ And she told them, ‘Because it wouldn’t fit in his suitcase.’ ”

Back home in England, he noted dryly that he had refrained from wearing his usual makeup and nail polish on the flight so as not to attract undue scrutiny — merely a three-piece suit by the Savile Row tailor Richard Anderson, a pink-and-gold-braid tie, a black velvet topcoat and fur-trimmed black leather gloves.

The NYT article wonders who needs to be protected from whom: U.S. citizens from Mr. Horsley, or Mr. Horsley from U.S. citizens who might fail to appreciate his eccentricities?

Though recent discussions of immigration policy have focused on what to do with undocumented persons already on U.S. soil, exclusion at the border is also an issue of interest. Moral turpitude might be the basis on which the U.S. has denied entry to shady characters such as Amy Winehouse and Sebastian Horsley. But intellectual turpitude is also grounds for exclusion. During the Cold War, the United States practiced “ideological exclusion,” denying visas to dangerous persons such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Doris Lessing, and that Communist conspirator in pyjamas, Pablo Neruda (scroll down here for my preferred translation of “Lone Gentleman”). At present, the U.S. is denying entrance to Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan historian and former revolutionary who had been invited to teach at Harvard; Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim scholar and Fellow at Oxford; Adam Habib, a South African professor of political science; and other scholars. The ACLU, which represents PEN American Center and others in legal challenges to some of these exclusions, has an interactive feature that allows the viewer to browse “passports” of famous persons excluded for their political associations or statements. One of my favorites was Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, whose arrest in Moscow for throwing a snowball at a Stalin statue didn’t win him enough credit to prevent the U.S from excluding him for Communist sympathies. Or was the problem aesthetic turpitude? After all, Trudeau was a known fashionista, criticized in his own country for wearing a yellow ascot to the House of Commons.

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2 Responses

  1. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    Important stuff…great links: with posts like this we won’t mind at all if you stray from crim law.

  2. Mike O'Shea says:

    April is the criminalest month …

    Hmm, “The Criminalest” would make a plausible title for a contemporary album and/or the hit single therefrom.

    Google suggests it hasn’t been taken, so CO readers in the music biz should hop to it.

    Sorry, digressive.