Say ‘Cheese’: A Fashion Writer’s Take on a Celebrity Mug Shot


The recent arrest of soul singer James Brown prompted fashion writer Robin Givhan of the Washington Post to ruminate over the often-unflattering police photos of celebrity arrestees.

She writes, “The celebrity mug shot has emerged as society’s ultimate equalizer, a glimpse of the famous at a moment when their glossy sheen has been stripped away. The culture takes cruel pleasure in guffawing over the misfortunes of the famous, and the mug shot is a particularly wicked source of amusement.”

She continues, “Brown’s photograph is especially fascinating because his hair is in a state of dishevelment unmatched except for the startling image of Nick Nolte, who, in the mug shot taken after his 2002 arrest for driving under the influence, looked as though Vaseline was his hair product of choice. Brown is known for his elaborate hairstyle, each tamed strand secured in place by some mysterious combination of spray and pomade…

“When Brown walked out of the jailhouse, he was back to looking like the godfather of soul…Although it appeared that Brown had yet to gain access to any grooming devices, someone had mercifully brought him a hat.”

The Smoking Gun website maintains an archive of celebrity mug shots at


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