Entourage star Adrian Grenier’s mom Karesse was on the phone, talking about her son’s striking eye color. “I think it runs in our family,” said Ms. Grenier, a longtime New Yorker and vice president at Corcoran. “I guess his eyes change with what he’s wearing. Sometimes they look green, sometimes they look gray, sometimes they look blue-blue. He was blessed.”
Is it just us, or are blue-eyed men in the midst of a major moment? The two twin bad boys of summer, Jude Law and Brad Pitt, both have them—glowing in menacing, mesmerizing Technicolor from the pages of Us Weekly and other tabloids. So, too, does Mr. Grenier, the aqua-eyed star of this season’s must-watch TV show. He seems harmless enough: bopping around town, drumming in his band with that shaggy crop of hair—but ladies, beware! When Mr. Grenier was young, “I remember the little neighbor girl saying, ‘I love your eyes!’” his mother said. “And she’d write him love notes.” In this age of Queer Eye–encouraged male vanity, of slippery metrosexuals in their $200 jeans, we could swear that blue-eyed men in New York are increasingly working it.
“Of course,” said Kerry Hoefler, 31, a chiseled, olive-skinned bartender wiping down the counter at Café Habana in Soho, when asked whether he consciously employed his searing blue eyes to attract women. “You look at them more directly—you know you have blue eyes. It’s not like you put the ‘blue-eye beam’ on them—you just have them!”
Mr. Hoefler, who despite his protests seemed to be demonstrating the “blue-eye beam” quite effectively on The Observer, was wearing a white wife-beater and cargo shorts as he was ogled by a row of twittering young women sitting at the counter. He said that he got comments on his eye color about every other shift, particularly when he’s underslept—which is when the deep-ocean color stands out more, for some reason.
“Blue eyes are iconic,” he declared. “We grew up in America; it’s the land of pop culture—Paul Newman, ‘Old Blue Eyes,’ all that stuff. On a subliminal level, people understand that. They subconsciously think they’re supposed to like blue eyes—and who knows if they actually do, but they think they do. If they could dye their eyes blue, they would.”
Pass the Visine
It’s fitting that Mr. Hoefler should invoke Mr. Newman, an actor who has been settled into a life of quiet domesticity with Joanne Woodward since 1958, and whose choice of movies and devotion to charitable work seems almost quaint by today’s narcissistic standards. Blue eyes once represented character: either the genteel all-American nice guy as embodied by Mr. Newman (who through a representative declined—modestly!—to discuss his eye color), or a sensitive, skinny, soulful pugilist like Frank Sinatra.
Mr. Law and Mr. Pitt, meanwhile, who have stunk in their last few movies, seem to think that their pretty peepers grant them a special license—permission to behave as eternal 6-year-olds who, no matter how atrocious their actions, are too irresistible not to be forgiven. And it’s not just movie stars with this kind of attitude.
“You forgive a lot more when someone has blue eyes. I don’t know what it is,” said Cliff Dank, a 26-year-old trader with a gripping green-blue gaze. “Maybe it’s the otherness of blue.”
He continued: “For some reason, I feel like you can’t be poor and have blue eyes; it’s almost like you’re well-kept. You’re soft and you’re gentle—you come from a good family.”
“I think blue eyes, on an unconscious level, create an impression of being sincere and trustworthy,” said one 32-year-old New York female writer who pleaded anonymity, still nursing wounds inflicted by one blue-eyed bastard. “I definitely think there’s more of an innocent quality to blue eyes. At the end of the day, you believe that this guy was sweet and good and that he cared. So someone who’s innocent is going to seem less manipulative—but that doesn’t mean they can’t be.”
She remembered one day early in the relationship when her ex squeezed a few drops of Visine into his clear blue eyes before heading out for the day. “He said something to the effect of ‘I have to make sure my eyes are ready to face the world,’” she said.
“Blue-eyed men can look guileless if they want to,” said Elisa DeCarlo, a 44-year-old comedic actress who lives in the West Village. “Men with brown eyes can look soulful if they want to, but they can’t look guileless. A man with blue eyes can open those blue peepers really wide and you’re like, ‘O.K., I’ll do anything you say.’ And you really see that with Jude Law. You’re ready to forgive them anything.”
Stephanie Kornblum, 23, an event planner who lives in the West Village, has noticed that blue-eyed men make significantly more eye contact at bars than their brown-eyed brethren. “I think that they are definitely more secure with themselves,” she said, “because they know that they have something that is very attractive and they can use it to their benefit.” (Not for nothing does her current boyfriend have hazel eyes.)
When Liesa Goins, a 31-year-old senior editor at Allure, has occasional spats with her fiancé, a freelance editor, he “definitely does the whole bat-the-eyes thing,” she said. “And it doesn’t work for me. It might work on other women, but it doesn’t fly with me.”
“You have to train yourself,” said Sharon (she didn’t want to give her last name), a 55-year-old consultant who lives in the Village and has learned the hard way how to handle her swain’s blue eyes. “I think just looking into them can give you a feeling that you’re melting. It can make me forget a lot. That’s why you have to avert your face quickly …. I think it’s silly and absolutely ridiculous; it’s the sort of thing you hate to admit. Because I’m smarter than that.”
Amy O’Connor, deputy editor at Prevention magazine, recalled her first date with her husband, Observer food writer Bryan Miller: a picnic along the Hudson River.
“He reached over to pour me a glass of wine and took off his glasses, and the sun was shining in his eyes, and they were so intensely blue—aqua, actually,” said Ms. O’Connor, 39. “I remember thinking, This is a beautiful man. I don’t think that that would have happened if he had brown eyes. They look like jewels. Women like baubles …. I think the same thing that makes us like diamonds makes us like blue eyes.”
Ms. O’Connor suggested that Mr. Miller’s eye color had given him more breaks in life. “He never had to work very hard,” she said.
“My boyfriend knows he has nice eyes,” said Meryl Scheinman, 24, a restaurant and hotel publicist. She remembered one date when her live-in beau, a 30-year-old TV producer, caught another woman staring at him. “He said, ‘Watch this.’ And the girl literally, two seconds later, was like, ‘You have the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen.’ It was hilarious; it was out of a movie.”
At least one man bragged that a sultry blink of his blue eyes greases the wheels at restaurants and nightclubs, sending him flying miraculously to the front of the line—like a genetically built-in, folded-up $20 bill.
Perhaps a 33-year-old (hazel-eyed) hedge-fund analyst named Ken put it best: “Blue eyes are like boobs for guys.”
The Observer fanned into the streets to confront some more of these enigmatic blue-eyed devils.
Their kind is easy to track in New York City, since a) this ain’t exactly a metropolis of corn-fed Scandinavians and b) so many of them were trained by their mothers from early childhood to wear blue shirts in order to accentuate their eye color.
“If I wear blue, they stick out a lot more. If I have color, if I’ve been out in the sun, you see them a lot,” said steely-blue-eyed Joshua, a 6-foot-3 real-estate associate who was wearing a black suit, slate gray dress shirt and loafers as he prowled Ninth Avenue with two cohorts. “I looove having blue eyes,” Joshua added, “because most people have brown. It’s nice to be a little different. I think you have to play the hand you are dealt! I mean, the average height is 5-foot-10, and I have five inches on the average height. The average color is brown eyes, and I have blue. You know, that’s what God wanted.”
Steven Veitsman, a 28-year-old, dimple-chinned trader with clear blue orbs, was hovering outside the Hotel Gansevoort with two friends, punching numbers furiously into his cell phone. “People will stop you and say you have nice eyes—just randomly on the street,” Mr. Veitsman said. “I’m not kidding. On the train even. It’s like an ace-up-your-sleeve thing.”
By far the most telling characteristic of the new blue-eyed man is the almost academic response he gives when asked to describe the color of his winkers.
“Green-blue-gray,” said Nat Ives, 30, a reporter for Advertising Age, at a recent party celebrating Reader’s Digest at Skylight Studios. “Let’s say blue, on average.”
“They’re kind of blue-green,” said the Daily News’ Ben Widdicombe, 34, recently elected New York’s hottest male gossip columnist on the Web site Gawker.com.
“They change colors depending on what I’m wearing,” said Neil Cave, 34, a lawyer reached at his midtown office. “I think they’re quite interesting.”
“If I’m in the water, they’re a certain color; if I’m in the woods, they’re a certain color.” said Mr. Dank, the trader. “If anything, they’re scary—that’s the truth of it.”
Of course, the scientists have an explanation for the charms of the blue-geoisie. The fact that this eye color is more common in wealthy parts of the world like Northern Europe (because it’s cloudier there) causes many women to associate it with economic success, said Helen Fisher, a Manhattan-based anthropologist. “It’s novel; it’s different,” Dr. Fisher said. “And novelty drives up levels of dopamine in the brain, and dopamine is associated with excitement, pleasure and romantic love.”
Clifford Jolly, an anthropologist at N.Y.U., said that there’s something to the theory that the number of blue-eyed men is dropping in this city—it is a recessive gene, after all. “If people think they’re more attractive, you would expect sexual selection to start working,” said Mr. Jolly. “But they not only have to think that, they have to act on it. So blue-eyed men have to have more children.”
Just keep them away from the nanny.
—additional reporting by