M: Anatomy of a Wardrobe

M's fashion director, Alex Badia, brings together five menswear luminaries to discuss the current sartorial moment.

Appeared In
Special Issue
Menswear issue M Fall 2013

DAO-YI CHOW: The intent was to make it feel masculine but still style-oriented and detail-oriented, taking risks stylistically. I think, traditionally, menswear has never been about emotion. Like Nick was saying, it served a purpose; it solved a problem: “This is where you go, this is how you dress. You work at a bank, this is what you wear—wear a navy suit with a white shirt.” So I think the emotion was taken out of that, and some people might confuse emotion with being feminine, but it’s not a feminine thing. That’s what we try to do: inject emotion and attitude into the collection. And men are reacting to that.

NICK WOOSTER: To me, it’s not masculine or feminine. It’s cool or not cool. I mean—you guys are totally cool. [He gestures toward Chow and Osborne of Public School.]

: Yeah! It’s a little annoying, by the way.


MICHAEL WILLIAMS: To go back to masculinity, I think straight people and gay people have come together to form this very similar group of people. It’s not about being straight or gay. Almost no one seems straight or gay anymore, because everyone wants the same things. We want a happy life, to look good, to have some money, to be able to send your kids to school. So I think everyone is getting to that point where it’s OK to take all of these costumes aside and join it all together.

KEN ARETSKY: By the way, you look fantastic, and if you guys came to my restaurant dressed like this, I’d be thrilled to have you! What’s really interesting is, Who can pull it off? The one thing I’ve learned over the years is what I can’t wear. Like, I would never wear shorts in New York City, because I don’t think shorts belong in New York City.

[Laughter and slight uneasiness around the table: Nick Wooster is wearing a suit that comes complete with tailored Bermuda shorts, which are unnoticeable to Aretsky.]

MICHAEL WILLIAMS: I think that’s true. If you’re going to wear a polo shirt, wear a polo shirt at the beach or when you’re playing tennis.

: I think Thom Browne is brilliant. I would have never had a thought like that in my entire head! But at the same time, you have to be the right kind of person to pull that off.

NICK WOOSTER: I feel like I owe everything to Thom Browne, in terms of style—like, a starting point, because I am wearing shorts today!

[More laughter.]

ALEX BADIA: Awk-ward.

NICK WOOSTER: But you’re a hundred percent right. Like in London, you don’t wear brown in the city. You wear black shoes. And, traditionally, you don’t wear shorts in New York. That’s been something I grew up with, but that’s why I do it—because you’re not supposed to!

ALEX BADIA: On the runways this season, I saw insane flower prints all over the place, and I wondered, Oh, my God, is that really going to translate? Do you know what I’m talking about? Are the designers aware of what’s happening?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS: I think the designers make people come to their houses as opposed to going over to other people’s houses.


ALEX BADIA: Oh, my God, that’s genius. [Addressing the Public School duo] I think that’s what you do. You make people go to your house!

DAO-YI CHOW: I wish!

ALEX BADIA: But there were florals in the street market long before there were florals in the design market. And now the street and the runway seem very much connected. Look at Jay Z doing his performance art at Pace Gallery. There is a marriage of these two worlds—a cross-pollination of ideas.

DAO-YI CHOW: I think it’s a case of the tail wagging the dog. The street’s going to survive, and high fashion is influenced by the street. You don’t know where it started or where it stops. So it’s really continuous, and I think now it’s probably just more accepted than ever. Jay Z talks about it in that video—in the prelude—about how the art world and hip-hop have always been coming up together. There are not walls set up to separate the two. And when you look at street versus high fashion, that wall doesn’t exist. Right?

NICK WOOSTER: What I see is that the influence is womenswear, more than high versus low. Prints have been driving the women’s business for years. You know, multicolored florals and animal prints. And what’s happening in womenswear is going to be happening in men’s.

ALEX BADIA: Absolutely.

NICK WOOSTER: It’s just a question of whether it’s one season, two, or three.

ALEX BADIA: You were talking about Freemans Sporting Club, and I think that has something to do with what happens in Brooklyn as well—the Brooklyn hipster. Do you think that’s still relevant, the hipster look? Is it only a New York-centric thing? In my mind, I hate it right now.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS: I think it’s funny, the way you describe it like a condition. You know, I think somewhere in Brooklyn, they’re talking about people like you, Alex! I’m interested to hear what Dao-Yi and Maxwell think. Correct me if I’m wrong—you both live in Brooklyn?

: The people who are in Brooklyn now, in Williamsburg—I knew it growing up in the South Side, and now it’s called Williamsburg. It was a totally different neighborhood. Now the whole “Brooklyn hipster” thing is kind of weird to me, because none of the people are really from New York. It’s mostly Ohio, and they created a community inside of New York, which became this hipster thing.

DAO-YI CHOW: We look at New York as a whole, and not maybe breaking down the boroughs independently. I went to school in the city, which were really my formative years, so I’ve always related to city style more than to how Brooklyn feels at this point. It’s not really what we do. It doesn’t relate to us, in a sense.

NICK WOOSTER: It’s very suburban. I mean, it’s Portland, it’s Austin.

ALEX BADIA: It’s like the cool kids from the Midwest got together.

MAXWELL OSBORNE: That’s what it feels like. They have a similar sensibility about coming to a big city from somewhere else, and then they created their own little community, which became the hipster community, or whatever it’s called.

ALEX BADIA: But it has had a huge fashion impact.


: My father is a mechanic, and when he hunts in Salina, Kansas, he wears chambray shirts, 501 jeans, Red Wing boots.

ALEX BADIA: Major. Major.

NICK WOOSTER: This is what I grew up with. It is. If you go hunting in Minnesota, it’s buffalo check.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS: Come on, no one hunts in buffalo check!

ALEX BADIA: Do you think it’s on the way out, that look? 

NICK WOOSTER: It’s an archetype.

: It’s going to stay. They’re just going to keep getting pushed out to another borough!

ALEX BADIA: Astoria is next. Everybody is moving to Astoria. I don’t know why. I have no idea if I should go.

: Public School makes everything in New York, and people think about “Made in America” as an archetype. But “Made in America” is not just this artisanal buffalo-check thing. It can be very progressive and modern.

ALEX BADIA: Thank God.

: “Made in America” is not all white people and buffalo plaid. You know what I mean? America is a very diverse place. The more people understand that, the better it is for everyone.

: When you break it down by category and look at denim, you think about “Made in America” denim—it’s always been this sort of Left Coast, San Francisco-L.A. thing. There’s a strong subculture around that. We wanted to do denim, but with a New York sensibility. Our version of “Made in America” is “Made in the Garment District.”

ALEX BADIA: And I think we are done. Thank you, everyone, for taking part.

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