Pesko (and His Cat) at Home: Talking GREATS and Wearing Nordstrom
Do you know Josh Peskowitz? He predates “influencer” as a term but that’s been his function for at least the last half of his 22 years in fashion magazines and the upper echelons of retail. At 38, he’s a deep industry insider and public fixture in the landscape along with guys like Nick Wooster, one of the most photographed people every fashion week.
It’s no wonder Peskowitz and Wooster are both brand ambassadors for GREATS shoes. The smart new sneaker company out of Brooklyn seems to be doing everything right.
Peskowitz was born in Brooklyn, just like GREATS, but now lives in California. On the occasion of Nordstrom launching GREATS online, we linked up for this story in Los Angeles in which he did some modeling, self-styled in clothes personally selected at Nordstrom The Grove in L.A., with GREATS shoes.
Between photos at his house, we chatted with Peskowitz about his time at FADER, Cargo, Esquire, the old Style.com (his video series “In the Closet” holds up), and generally his life in style going back to the ’90s. We also met his cat, Turkey, who was really sweet.
Check out his outfits and our conversation below.
You were born in Brooklyn and GREATS is a Brooklyn company. Does that have anything to do with your involvement?
No, but it doesn’t hurt. I mean, honestly I’m involved because the people who started it are people I believe in, like CEO Ryan Babenzien. It’s a really high-quality product. You get an amazing value out of it. The silhouettes are classics. Sometimes they’ll ask me my opinion, and I’ll give it. But mainly my affiliation with GREATS is one of admiration. Technically, I’m a brand ambassador. It’s not a household name but I think it will be, and Nordstrom is a big part of that.
What is this category of footwear and what occasions is it good for?
In this age, you don’t have to wear wingtips or brogues to work, and this luxury sneaker category has sprung up around that idea. GREATS is on the more understated side of that. The Royale that I’ve been wearing a lot is great for dressing up or dressing down. Some shoes eat your whole leg up, they’re so aggressively designed. GREATS are more like blank canvases. Particularly the Nordstrom selection is very versatile.
How did you get into fashion?
I started working at a clothing store when I was 16, because I wanted Polo Sport sweatpants but couldn’t afford them. And I had a knack for it. My mom was supportive but, more surprisingly, my dad—who’s a blue-collar guy in plumbing supplies, very well-respected in his field—would buy me fashion magazines: Nylon, The Face. He’d get them for me and bring them home.
Shirt by Stampd available in-store only
Your dad sounds cool.
Man, my dad…. When we first took the car without asking, when my brother Ben was 14 and I was 11, what was playing in the car stereo was the soundtrack to the movie Juice. So my dad was listening to [Eric B. & Rakim’s] “Know the Ledge” without us prompting him to do so. Very out of his generation. When I was ten, he bought me my first record, which was Brutal by Black Uhuru. Because I liked reggae, but I didn’t know much about it. He was like, “Bob Marley’s cool but listen to this.”
Who were your fashion heroes growing up?
Guys at my junior high or in high school that I wanted to dress like but couldn’t. This was the era of Polo Sport, and Tommy, and Nautica, and GUESS jeans. I would also be at the surplus store buying Carhartt, too. But where I grew up it had to be clean. You needed to be crisp. There was no grunge where I was. The music was around, but … nah.
For me it wasn’t about emulating people who were rich. It was the appropriation of what we imagined rich people wore, filtered through our own style. If you’re interested in the subject matter, check out the book Bury Me With the Lo On. Fashionwise, it was the same mentality.
How did your style evolve over time?
The more I learned about different styles of dress, or different designers and brands, I never lost my ’90s formation. Workwear, athletic wear, all that military stuff. My first major style shift was into suits, when I started at Esquire. I’d wear Wallabees with a suit, and people would be like, “What the f— are you doing?” And I was like, “It’s cool if you have the right suit, a tweed or corduroy suit.” People said I was crazy. But I looked good and I was doing it naturally.
The next big iteration was when I started working for Style.com and was introduced to high-end runway stuff. But then once you start paying attention on that level, you start to see stuff that’s actually influenced by that Army surplus store … you know what I mean? The differences are not that different. So I found myself doing what a lot of people do, which is that they buy stuff they were into when they were young, just a better version.
For me the wardrobe is a continuum. A lifelong process. It’s fun. It’s serious, but it shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s about how you put it together.
What led you to get involved in magazines, and what was that part of your professional life like?
I always liked knowing about things before other people did. I was lucky enough to be able to work in magazines when they had that function of putting people on. When I started at Fader at 2001, it was between us and Tokion and Nylon … and then Complex and obviously Vice, Mass Appeal, Juxtapoz. It felt like there was important stuff going on in downtown New York and we were documenting it. But it wasn’t just New York. It was London, it was Tokyo, it was Paris. It was Kingston, Jamaica; the favelas outside São Paolo; it was Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic. We would incorporate all that and it would melt in downtown New York. It was awesome.
I remember when Cargo closed [in 2006] I was like, “What the f— am I gonna do now?” But then Esquire came knocking. And I didn’t know anything about tailored clothing. I was the streetwear guy at Cargo. It was show and prove stuff. I got thrown into the production of Esquire’s Big Black Book, right into the eight-foot water.
I’ve met younger people who’ve gotten into this business and some have said, “We know who you are and what you’ve done, and we want to follow your career path.” And I’m like, “‘Career path?” I’ve just stumbled from one thing to the next. But always with the eye towards doing something that would help round out my skills and hopefully working with people I thought I could learn from.
SHOP: GREATS shoes
Do you still write? Do you see articles or fashion spreads in magazines and think, “I could have done that so much better”?
I still write. I write for GQ Style. The editor of that, Will Welch, and I worked at Fader together. Franchise, the new basketball magazine, wants me to write for them. The guy who started that magazine, Justin Montag, I also know from Fader.
I’m a riffer. I’m not a better-er-than-you-are guy. Last night we went to a birthday gathering, and a friend of ours was starting a kids’ line. She was like, “Here’s these two logos,” and I was like, “What you should do is a series of these logos, where they’re all a little different, and then you release them once a month or every other month. Do the logo in a different way every time, and then do socks that go with it.”
That’s what I love. Do I have ideas on my own? All the time. But when this really comes to life for me is when you’re shooting the s— with people and building together. That’s where the best stuff comes from.
Have you grown into a style uniform over the years?
When I find an idea I’m interested in, I tend to buy a lot of pieces that express that idea. Buy, or acquire, or design. And that becomes my uniform. I have no hard and fast rules to style, and I love to try new things. Right now I’m fascinated with pants. Wide-leg, tropical weight, triple-pleated pants. A lot of people start their decision about what they’re going to wear by what shoes they’re going to wear. Other people start with the occasion. Most of the time I start with pants.
It turns out that most of the time, and I guess this is why I do that job I do, when there’s something I’m fascinated with, it starts to appear more often in the world. If you call me an innovator, probably not. But I’m an early adopter at the very least. And that is where you want to be if you work in this business. You want to be interested in and excited about things that people will be caring about in six months.
SHOP: Acne Studios
How do you see guys getting into style these days?
It’s happening on the Internet. Self-radicalization. It’s the same with almost any other cultural phenomenon that ends up online. If you are slightly interested in it, you can go down the wormhole, and there’s tons of people you can nerd out with. And there’s the halo effect of guys who work together or are friends. One guy wears a certain pair of pants, and everyone notices that he starts getting a lot more attention, and everyone starts stepping up their game accordingly. Once it becomes acceptable in your social circle to care about looking good, we’re off to the races.
After having been in the men’s style game so long, what still excites you about it?
Idea-generation in menswear has hit a fever pace because so many more people are interested in it. Since I started, the amount of interested people has increased maybe fourfold. It’s always cool to see someone else hit that discovery point. It’s always cool to see new interpretations of old ideas, and young people coming up with new ideas. The day I’m bored is the day I retire, and that’s not happening any time soon.
Images: Molly Matalon
Art direction: Andrew Matson
Styling: Josh Peskowitz