A month into a new decade, Larry David is a style icon and Adam Brody is a sartorial cry for help. The world must actually be ending.
This week, the O.C. (and, more recently, Ready or Not) actor, 40, was spotted Penny-boarding in Los Angeles, sporting a neckbeard, ill-fitting red sweatpants and a black hoodie. He looked like the type of dude who turns his underwear inside-out after day one of wearing it and always has a janky vape pen in his pocket. Nylon editorial director Alyssa Vingan Klein tweeted out the pic and called him a “scumbro” — an apt term that basically means “looking good while looking like shit.”
Maybe Brody sees it as a laid-back SoCal spin on new-dad style. He was also photographed recently carrying his baby girl Arlo Day Brody in an ill-fitting T-shirt and cut-off sweatpants. Other days, he’s sporting moccasins (in 2020? Sis, no!) and that same black sweatshirt.
It wouldn’t be odd to see some unshaven, bedraggled, spit-up-covered 40-year-old dad looking like this in Illinois, but Brody is a Hollywood actor who knows the paparazzi are going to catch his sidewalk sashays. The cool fathers I see in Brooklyn wear simple, fitted brands like Everlane — specifically this dad sweatshirt — and tuck in their shirts when it’s warm. Even Larry David knows to wear fitted pullovers and iron his pants. Brody, an indie heartthrob who literally skated into fans’ hearts in his Southern California–set teen drama, seems to be hanging onto a more “fuck it” version of his early-aughts glory. Now he’s going full 2003-era blink-182 concertgoer.
Scumbro Brody is — I’ll admit it — still hot. The look may quench our thirst, but does it actually help his image and career?
Scumbro style has been adopted in recent years by stars like Jonah Hill and Pete Davidson. “It is, at its core, a Los Angeles iteration of style that sees grown men dressing like high-schoolers for whom skating is life and small-time Ritalin sales is a hobby,” Vanity Fair style writer Kenzie Bryant, who coined the term scumbro, said in 2018.
Scumbro has a close association with douchey celebrities, too. Shia Labeouf and Justin Bieber are self-described assholes, while Davidson and Hill both exude what I’d call an acerbic dominance. They’re all white actors, too, and there’s a certain white-dude privilege at play here: What’s really just sloppy, careless dressing gets a pass as a deliberate subversive style.
Brody’s pivot to scumbro is all the more surprising given he’s not perceived as a dick. He’s forever the unthreatening, endearing softboy archetype Seth Cohen. But his choice of role has shifted — have you noticed? He’s made a comeback playing some major goons.
The O.C. existed before geekdom became attractive — and, thanks to Silicon Valley titans, an alpha-male thing. Seth loved comic books, science fiction, video games and Death Cab for Cutie and lived as a social pariah before bad-boy Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) moved into his house. But then, when the show ended in 2007, the geek archetype shifted. Geeky dudes were hot commodities. This was the era when the term “adorkable” was widely used for not just Zooey Deschanel on New Girl. The adorkable male included geeky, boyish celebrities who could make you laugh, like Michael Cera, Jesse Eisenberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
After The O.C., Brody seemed destined to become a blockbuster actor like former teen soap stars Jared Leto of My So-Called Life or James Franco of Freaks & Geeks (the show that also gave us Martin Starr, Jason Segel and Seth Rogen). Instead, Brody took on supporting characters in the underwhelming films Jennifer’s Body, Lovelace and Sleeping With Other People that didn’t do much to show his range.
Brody’s also famous for his marriage to Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester. Marrying the star of another generation-defining teen drama doesn’t exactly help a guy procure a new image. “We can’t get enough of nostalgia, and Seth Cohen still just is a lot of people’s first great TV love,” celebrity journalist Lucy Ford tells MEL.
It’s fitting that Brody wasn’t Penny-boarding alone. He was accompanied by his wife when his scumbro style went viral. They’re an adorable Los Angeles couple. But there’s a dissonance between the seemingly wholesome middle-aged man — who goes on strolls with his wife and does dad things like watching The Irishman on his phone — and the shitty men he’s played amid his career revival.
Brody put on his best Roman Roy drag to play another entitled, begrudged rich boy in the thriller Ready or Not. In the upcoming film Promising Young Woman, he plays that incessant brand of nice guy “helping out” an intoxicated Carey Mulligan, only to bring her home and try to fuck her.
Brody also has a recurring role on his wife’s ABC sitcom Single Parents. He’s Derek, the deadbeat baby daddy to Meester’s character, Angie. He works at a fast-food joint and doesn’t know he fathered a kid. “He’s scruffy and a struggling musician who gives his demos out at the drive-through, lives in his van with a turtle named Phoebe and eats chips and queso with his shirt off,” entertainment writer Alyse Whitney tells MEL. (Okay, let’s not slander shirtless eating.) Whitney adds, “He’s maybe an alternate universe Seth Cohen where he grows up to be a wannabe rockstar.”
That makes sense! It’s entirely believable that a 2004 softboy would eventually become a manipulative “nice guy.” So let’s finally kill off our Seth Cohen fantasies and give Brody the rightful attention he deserves. In the end, he’s a dad who dresses like shit, like nearly every other hetero dude. I just hope he showers.