Pay These Masked People To Critique Your Outfit

The Bumbys are a masked, anonymous, be-wigged pair who make a living going to events and critiquing peoples' appearance. I can't decide if this is totally modern, oddly 18th Century, or just Kafkaesque.

The Bumbys, nowadays, are in high demand at events. They did fashion week. They play celebrity parties (if "playing" is the word — they actually call it "A Fair and Honest Appraisal of Your Appearance".) People line up for their critiques — people, naturally, who are already pretty sure they look natty. Here is one evaluation, as quoted in the New York Times' "Styles" section:

You have an Izzy Blow - but non-suicidal - super pretty face vibe. Your look is killing it today. The way I picture you is in Lula magazine, floating on a sea of chiffon and blowing bubbles in a rainstorm. Turbans equal difficult-to-pull-off, but today, and probably usually, you are a queen of awesome.

Said one enthusiast of their appeal,


I decided it was the most genius party diversion ever...It's like a lazy, social person's equivalent to a fair ride: There's a grain of fear (will they think I'm stylish?), a dash of entertainment (the comments are often very perceptive and funny), and there's a communal experience (‘Ooh, what did they say about you?'). It's a lovely intersection of fashion, art, and low-impact party-going.

And in case you are wondering, the assessments tend to be flattering — or at least politic. As Gill Bumby (the male half of the pair) puts it, "I don't ever want this to be a mean, hurtful thing. I'm not interested in tearing someone down. Where's the art in that?"

In case you're also wondering, no, the pair don't have any "expertise," per se — just a way with words, a good eye, and a better gimmick. The dude used to be a trader. Back in '07, he used to sit on the street and type out his critiques for a few dollars. It seemed sort of performance art-y, playing with ideas of self-perception, critique, superficiality and anonymity — and all the time you wondered if maybe, in fact, it wasn't any of that — but there was no sign it would catch the fickle fancy of the beau monde.


But in a way, it makes total sense. It's like a distillation of all the reasons we like Twitter and Facebook and Myspace and YouTube, rolled into one lo-fi package. Aren't all those media different ways of presenting ourselves to the world — to strangers — as we'd like to be seen? And the fact that this forces you to admit you want to know is kind of the most insidious part — and the part that makes it particularly, unironically well-suited to fashion events. It's admitting you care what two random, anonymous strangers think. Care a lot.

That said, while I admire the concept, I've never been "Bumby'd," as it's known. I saw them holding court at an event once and ran in the opposite direction — we're all judged enough without inviting it, was my thinking, I think, plus I probably looked crummy. That said, for some, maybe controlling the judgment is half the point? Maybe that's what they're really paying for.

Don't Judge Us, We'll Judge You [NY Times]
Vanity Fair [Time Out New York]