Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, cool-under-pressure chef Shaun McCrain.
Every man should know his way around the kitchen: how to take over the tongs at a friend’s barbecue, pull off your grandma’s family-secret marinara, whip up a chivalrous morning-after omelette…you know—the basics.
Professional chefs like Shaun McCrain, on the other hand, can turn the simple act of eating food into a mind-altering experience. Visit McCrain’s Seattle restaurant, Book Bindery, and although the humble maestro insists his MO is simplicity, the five-way flavor combinations in his modern twists on comfort food are enough to induce a quadruple take—and general feelings of astonished well-being.
We spoke to chef McCrain about paying dues in Paris and New York, design principles as applied to plating, and real-life kitchen tips that every man can use.
FARM TO TABLE. “I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. We lived on a small farm, raised our own meat, had a lot of vegetables. I was always around food without realizing it. My dad doesn’t cook. He was like, ‘I’ll just let Shaun do it, and if he messes up, we have more we can go pick.'”
TRIAL & ERROR. “Book smarts help you understand what you’re doing. Street smarts get your hands and body moving in the right direction. It’s hard to be able to physically do what you’ve read. You’ve gotta burn some things before you figure out how to cook them right.”
AMERICAN IN PARIS. “I sent my résumé to what I thought were the top 20 restaurants in Paris and got four responses. Three of them being, ‘Sorry, we don’t have room,’ and one being, ‘Sure, show up, work for free.’ That was my foot in the door.”
LIVE AND LEARN. “I left Seattle thinking I knew everything. I was 19 or 20 years old. I went to a bigger city, a nicer restaurant, and realized how much I didn’t know. It was very humbling…but I decided that if I really want to progress and learn, that I need to constantly be humbled—so I can learn from the best.”
FIRST IMPRESSIONS. “Plating and presentation are important, because they’re the first thing a person sees. I like to do bright colors, clean lines, something that’s very appealing to the eye. And then, when you do take that first bite—it should taste even better than it looks.”
CONTRAST AND COMPLEMENT. “I think items should complement each other. It’s a lot about textures, so if you have one thing that’s soft, then I want something else that’s gonna bring some crunch…a little burst of pickled onion, or a crispy crouton.”
WHY I LOVE MY JOB. “The craziness of it. Every day is different. You don’t know if the truck carrying your lamb up from Oregon broke down, and you’re scrambling to find a replacement, or your dishwasher breaks, or you have a high-profile guest coming in who you know likes to eat certain things. So it sparks that fuel, that drive of always keeping busy, always trying to stay on top. It’s easy to fall behind in the kitchen unless you have that ‘stay on top of it’ kind of attitude.”
THE BEST THING I EVER ATE. “It was at a Japanese restaurant in New York, called Masa. Simple sushi rice, rolled in shaved Italian white truffle, with just a pinch of fresh-grated yuzu and a little salt. Just simplicity at its best, but the ingredients were prepared perfectly.”
MY MORNING ROUTINE. “A cup of coffee…and maybe a Pop-Tart. Strawberry. Frosted. I spend all day walking around tasting things; it kind of curbs your appetite. [The staff and I] don’t sit down and eat a family meal until about 4:00. So in the morning, I just need to put something in me, whether it’s sugar or coffee or whatnot.”
WHAT TO PACK FOR LUNCH. “When I think of lunch, I always think of sandwiches. They don’t need to be boring. Go to the store, and buy some great charcuterie and good bread. Most of the time, those items are sold in portions that are more than one sandwich worth, so you’ll have enough for a couple days—or a very large sandwich.”
THE SECRET TO A GOOD SANDWICH. “The bread. The crust…whether it’s more of a rustic style with pieces of grain, or if it’s just a nice, crisp baguette that kind of snaps in your mouth when you eat it.”
HOW TO IMPRESS A DINNER DATE. “First, find out what they like. Nowadays, there are so many dietary restrictions, food allergies. Subtly figure out. Ask questions. Have an idea, rather than going in like, ‘Hey, I like steak, so I’m gonna cook steak’—and then finding out she’s pescatarian. That’s a date that’s not gonna end well.”
AND IF YOU BLOW IT… “Part of learning and growing with someone is making those mistakes. It could be the best meal they’ve ever had, or it could be terrible—but the whole experience of going through the process of doing something for someone is what it should be about.”
— — —
Next time you’re in Seattle, be sure to sample Shaun’s work at Book Bindery.
(We recommend the steak. And the duck.
And definitely the Stumptown-coffee semifreddo.)
Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, our own Nordstrom Men’s Fashion Director, Jorge Valls.
The shelves at your local Nordstrom? And the stylish cyberspace on Nordstrom.com? They don’t stock themselves. Dozens of dedicated buyers hand-pick every piece—and one man sets the tone and coordinates all their efforts: Jorge Valls, the Nordstrom Men’s Shop Fashion Director.
We caught up with Jorge (it’s pronounced the same as “George,” by the way) recently, to learn a bit about his worldly background, hear which fall trends he’s looking forward to, and get a sense of what it’s like hopping from show to show during Fashion Week. Read our Q&A below—accompanied by some of Jorge’s own Instagram shots from the spring/summer ’14 shows in Milan and Paris this past summer.
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: What does your job as Men’s Fashion Director entail? JORGE VALLS, NORDSTROM MEN’S FASHION DIRECTOR: “It’s a mixture of things. I work with our product development team, as well as our merchant teams, to get everybody following the same vision. Working with the buyers involves deciding trend direction, color palettes, key items for upcoming seasons, and working with them at market, walking shows, and going to vendor appointments to see what kind of product is available that matches what we’re trying to say at Nordstrom.”
How did you get to this point in your career? What did you study in college?
“I had a double major in English and French literature, then I got a master’s in business after that. As far as favorite authors…I really like the old British classics—Thomas Hardy, but even Shakespeare. My favorite Shakespeare is probably one of the comedies, like Twelfth Night.”
How did you get started at Nordstrom?
“I started with Nordstrom as a temp, working odd jobs. I worked in the mailroom. I worked as a receptionist. Eventually, I worked in the PR department as the assistant; that was my first full-time role, and that opened the door for me to get into advertising and marketing…eventually, I became the men’s designer buyer, and now I have this job.”
What do you think Nordstrom Men’s Shop does better than anyone else?
“We have something for every customer out there, from traditional to more fashion-forward. We have in-house tailors, personal stylists, a lot of our stores have shoe-shines. We try to offer everything a man needs.”
What would you say to a guy who thinks our Personal Stylist service is not for him?
“A Nordstrom Personal Stylist is an expert on everything we have to offer. They’ll set up a room for you with everything you need. They make your life easy. And it’s free.”
We’re doing this Q&A, in part, to help kick off our Fall 2013 Men’s Catalog [hitting mailboxes and online soon]. What else is special about this year’s catalog? “We [compiled] Ten Essentials—classics that every man needs to have in his wardrobe, that’ll last forever. We also wanted to acknowledge some real men out there who are doing it right, and share their insights with our customers. And, we’ve touched on some trends that are of-the-moment, but at the same time, totally timeless.”
One of those timeless trends is “University.” Any insights?
“I associate the ‘University’ look with preppy styling, heritage, plaid shirts, navy blazers. Classic items every guy should have in his wardrobe, but updated and new.”
Another fall trend is “Moto.” Can guys who drive four wheels to work pull this off?
“The ‘moto’ trend is a classic, too. It’s a leather biker jacket, it’s denim, it’s T-shirts…It’s very James Dean, very Steve McQueen. It’s cool, it’s accessible, it’s very masculine.”
[L: Marais Arrondissement, Paris | R: Diesel Black Gold spring/summer ’14, Milan]
Your title being Fashion Director, what does the word “fashion” mean to you—especially in the context of menswear? “Fashion, or style, is how you present yourself to the outside world. I think men understand that now. They’re not afraid of it, and they want to express themselves. They want to look appropriate, but they also want to look like individuals.”
[Canali spring/summer ’14, Milan | R: Tables turned on the fashion-week photographers]
What are you seeing as a key color for this fall ’13?
“Grey. It’s a very masculine color, and also a neutral one, so you can wear it with black, with brown, with navy, with camel—any broad range of colors. So it’s a good basic. And with grey as a main color, it’s good to maybe have a pop of something a little bit bolder.”
[L: An ivy-covered building in Milan | R: Gucci spring/summer ’14, Milan]
You often attend fashion shows in Paris and Milan. What do you enjoy about Fashion Week? “The shows, the production, the vision of what the designers want to show you is all very exciting to experience in person. And now, the street scene is also a big thing. People really dress up. There’s a lot of people trying to express themselves and get photographed…It’s almost as big of a circus outside when you leave the show, as it is inside the show.”
[L: Cerruti spring/summer ’14, Milan | R: Walking into the Thom Browne show, Paris]
How often do you travel for work?
“Quite a bit. I’m home, I’d say, 50 percent of the time—maybe 60 percent, depending on the season. I spend a lot of time on the road.”
[L: Outside the Lanvin show, Paris | R: Givenchy spring/summer ’14, Paris]
You work at Nordstrom HQ in Seattle. Have you always lived around here? “I’ve lived all over the world. I was born in New Jersey. I moved to Portugal when I was two. Then I moved to Mexico, then Belgium, then Pennsylvania, then Spain, then back to Pennsylvania. Then, my family moved to Italy, and I went to graduate school in France. I moved to Seattle in 1991.”
[L: Dries Van Noten spring/summer ’14, Paris | R: Jean Paul Gaultier showroom]
Fashion shows, at times, can verge on the bizarre. How do you suggest the average guy interpret some of the things designers send down the runway? “Fashion Week is a show. I don’t want to say it’s theatre, but—it’s the purest expression of the designer’s vision, so sometimes there will be things that are, you know, hard to wear for the average guy. But those are the ideas that develop into a new proportion, or something being a bit shorter, or tighter, or looser. When you go to a showroom after a show, they have the runway collection, which is the ‘pure’ statement, but the rest of the showroom supports that—usually with more digestible ideas that the average guy can buy into, and maybe dip his toe into some of those [emerging] concepts.”
— — —
Read Jorge’s insights from the spring ’14 trade shows in Las Vegas here.
Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, Big-Apple BMX rider Nigel Sylvester.
Growing up in Jamaica, Queens—where dirt tracks are a rare sight, to say the least—a young Nigel Sylvester says few people supported his obsession with BMX bike riding. He doesn’t mind though, insisting it just gave him a thicker skin for criticism.
After getting his start pulling daredevil burnouts on Big Wheels, Sylvester soon graduated to two wheels—helped pioneer and popularize a unique East-Coast, in-city, free-form riding style that grinds on NYC concrete rather than launching off So-Cal clay—and despite (or perhaps because of) his alternative approach, has risen to the forefront of his sport.
We caught up with Sylvester to find out what every man can learn from a BMX master—like how to fail with dignity, sweat the small stuff, and follow your gut at all costs.
STICK WITH IT. “With BMX riding, you want to be the first one in your neighborhood, or even in the world, to land a trick. You’re going to fall down. It’s all about getting back up. I feel like those setbacks just help build character. If you’re determined enough, you’re going to get back up and do it again.”
LEARN NEW TRICKS. “I’m competitive by nature, mostly with myself. I always want to outdo myself and be better than yesterday. So I’m always looking at, how do I progress? How do I learn new tricks—on and off my bike? Be a better brother, better son, better person in general.”
KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL. “Being a pro BMX rider means that you ride on a professional level. You’re doing tricks on a professional level. And you conduct yourself in a professional manner off your bicycle, as well.”
VISUALIZE SUCCESS. “Bike riding, for me, is very mental. I like to think about what I’m doing, envision what I do before I do it. I want to make sure it looks good. Presentation is so important. The details are what separate the good from the great.”
MY TRAINING REGIMEN. “Riding is my training. I don’t go to the gym and life weights or whatever. I do some cardio, a bunch of stretching, push-ups, sit-ups, but mostly bike riding is the actual exercise and training. When I go out on a ride, let’s say I’m bunny-hopping. I’m lifting up my body weight, plus the weight of the bike—so that right there is 200-plus pounds every time—and I may do 100 bunny hops in a day.”
MIND & BODY. “Riding is a full-body exercise. You need your full body to go out and ride. As well as your mind—so it’s like [exercising] everything.”
FULL CIRCLE. “It was crazy for me, because the first time I saw the X Games on TV, Dave Mirra won. And I guess it kind of came full-circle for me when it was him who turned me professional. He signed me to his company at the age of 18. This is my childhood idol, and then he comes and starts off my professional bicycle career. I’ll never forget that.”
SEE WHAT HAPPENS. “The advice I give people is to follow your heart and do what you love. Don’t let anyone deter you from your dreams and your goals—because you already know what’s going to happen if you don’t do it. So you might as well find out what’s going to happen if you put your mind to it.”
GOING GLOBAL. “As professionals, we strive to be the best at what we do and to do things that stand the test of time. So if I do a trick here in New York that people in Japan or Beijing or Africa are going to go on YouTube, watch it, and then talk about it around the world, that’s an incredible feeling. There’s nothing better than going to a new country, and people are like, ‘I saw your video, and you did this trick, and it was awesome.’ You’re touching people all around the world.”
BLAZING A TRAIL. “Growing up in New York, we didn’t have many [BMX] competitions. New York City riders, our style is a little bit different. We’re more just about going out free-riding, filming video parts, and kind of just doing whatever feels right. That’s one of the best things about action sports—that you can be a contest rider or a video-part rider, and still be successful.”
IN THE ZONE. “I listen to music all the time. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, Lauryn Hill, Young Jeezy, Kanye West’s new album. Most of the time when I’m riding, I have my headphones in. Music helps me just zone in and block out all the other distractions around me—planes, ambulances driving by, people talking sh–. Music helps me just zone out and focus on the task at hand.”
NO PLACE LIKE HOME. “I wanted to do a video series that gave my fans a different perspective of my life. We did a series called Get Sylvester—we shot in Chicago, Barcelona, Dominican Republic…[But] there’s no feeling like coming back home. Go see my mom, see my friends, go hang out. It makes you appreciate the things that you have in life that you can’t buy.”
LIGHTS OUT. “One essential item, whether I’m riding, going out, or going to a meeting, is black jeans. I wear black jeans almost every day. They’re a definite staple in my closet.”
PROPER FOOTWEAR. “Sneakers—I got a lot of those. I probably have, in my house right now, maybe 300 pairs of sneakers. In New York, you pull up, one of the first things that a lady looks at is your sneakers. Yeah. Sneakers are important. Got to have a good sneaker game.”
MY MOST PRIZED POSSESSION. “My bicycle, first and foremost…I’m going to ride my bike until I can’t ride it any longer. BMX riding is such a big part of my life that I will never, ever take it for granted. I put my heart into it as much as I possibly can. I wake up thinking about it. I go to sleep thinking about it. It just makes me feel like nothing else on this earth can.”
Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Today, midwestern menswear engineer Todd Snyder.
If the phrase “fashion designer” sounds like someone you could never relate to—consider Todd Snyder. Born and raised in Iowa. Dropped out of architecture school (not enough girls in the class). Loves Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And one of the nicest guys you can ever hope to meet.
Having paid dues for 20 years at some of the best menswear powerhouses in the biz (Ralph Lauren, amongst other)—before quitting a plush job in order to start his own business, just in time for the recession to hit—we figured Snyder knows a thing or two about workplace decorum. In the video above, and the choice words of wisdom below, he delineates what to wear and how to act at the office—and why there are more important things in life than work.
ART x INDUSTRY.“My father was an engineer. My mother was an artist. So I always had this kind of push-pull on art and building things, and that was always the thing that I think really kind of helped me become who I am.”
MEN AT WORK. “My father had his own company. He was a civil engineer in Iowa. I worked summers on the survey crew, which would go out and do the layouts for bridges and roads. Then I moved into the office, where I started working as a draftsman. That’s where I really fell in love with the more technical aspects of building something.”
THE SCIENCE OF STYLE. “In college, I worked at this men’s shop called Badowers, in Des Moines. That’s where I learned how to sew and alter garments. I wanted to learn from the ground up how to make something—to understand the mechanics that go into it.”
HAND CRAFTED. “It’s rewarding to see something you did, and step back and say, ‘Wow, I did that.’ I used to build furniture sometimes…I did all of this molding in here [pointing to the office wall]…When I first moved here to New York, I was making all my own shirts.”
MADE IN THE USA. “For our new line of Todd Snyder suiting, we collaborated with Southwick, a factory in Massachusetts. They’ve been in the business over 100 years. They traditionally made jackets my father or grandfather would wear. Now, you’re starting to see a younger generation of guys wanting to know about it, wanting to dress like gentlemen—which is kind of rebellious in a way.”
THE FIRST THING YOU NEED. “A perfect-fitting navy suit. You can wear it with jeans on a date. Wear it as a suit to a wedding. You can wear a dark tie and be very sophisticated at night. Make sure the sleeves aren’t too long, so you can see a little bit of cuff. Those little details make a huge difference.”
FROM THE GROUND UP. “Buy good shoes. Look at them as an investment. Get yourself a great pair of wingtips, desert boots, and sneakers, and you can wear them with anything.”
BUILDING A WARDROBE. “I’ve always looked at fashion similar to architecture, and it always starts with a great foundation—great jeans, great chinos, a great suit, great oxford, sweatshirt, and so on. As long as you have those pieces, it’s really easy to make outfits.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY. “I talk to a lot of students, and they always ask me, “What’s your advice?” And I’ve always said, “Work hard and be nice.” It’s two simple things. But you’d be amazed at how many people screw that up.”
WORK/LIFE BALANCE. “I have two daughters. Some might disagree, but having kids kind of keeps me sane. Going home and just seeing them changes my whole [perspective]. If I had a long day, going home, seeing their faces, you forget about it instantly.”
Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Today, the men behind acclaimed style, life, and travel website Street Etiquette.
Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs are a lot of things: stylists, models, photographers, expert thrift-shoppers, music lovers, cultural ambassadors, historical preservationists—and proof of the power of the internet.
High-school friends from the Bronx, the two started a blog—called Street Etiquette—to document their growing interest in refined personal style. Their early work followed a successful blueprint: Build a dapper outfit based on a classic menswear item, and explore said item’s significance by delving into historical photos. Think ’60s biker gangs giving context to leather jackets, and Pat Boone rocking suede bucks. The next thing they knew, Kissi and Gumbs were gracing the pages of GQ and The New York Times at the ripe old age of 22.
Two years later, they’re designing their own clothes, producing short films, and generally proving that the universe is kind to those with passion, curiosity, and a willingness to work hard. We caught up with the guys in NYC this summer—to take some photos, shoot a video, and better understand their continual quest to learn and be inspired. Read the full Q&A below.
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: What does the phrase “Street Etiquette” mean to you guys? JOSHUA KISSI OF STREET ETIQUETTE: For us, it’s more than a website. It’s more than the clothing. It’s like a lifestyle that we’ve built, just on inspirations around us. It’s not all about Travis and myself—it’s bigger than that. It’s what we’re inspired by, whether it’s traveling, clothing—just everything that encompasses life for us, is classified as Street Etiquette. So it’s more than a website. The site is like the platform where we put ideas that we have and what we’re inspired by. It’s just the portfolio.
What was Black Ivy? TRAVIS GUMBS OF STREET ETIQUETTE:Black Ivy was a photo editorial that we did about three years ago. We got a whole bunch of our friends [together]. We were paying homage to the old HBCs, and Ivy style. We shot it at 145th and City College. The response was a lot bigger than we ever anticipated.
What is an HBC? Travis:Historically black colleges. We found a whole bunch of old photos, like from Howard, and these guys were super dressed-up, and the style was amazing. And we were like, “We can do this.” At the time, it was a style that we were [already] venturing into. So we were like, “You know what, why don’t we just come together and just shoot this, and see how it comes out.” And it just worked.
[The Blacky Ivy, by Street Etiquette.]
What are some of the things guys were wearing in the historical photos you mentioned? Travis: Definitely like the typical prep stuff, like tweed jackets, shorts, loafers with socks, ties— Joshua: …Suspenders, oxfords, paperboy hats… Travis: …And just wearing it your own way. So we had guys that were super prepped-up, and then we had guys that were a little bit more lax—a little bit more like the bad-boy style, but it was still the same Ivy, prep style. The same clothes, but it’s about how you wear it. That’s what was really cool about it—we would see these photos, and see all these different types of guys, but they were all dressed up in their own way. So we really wanted to show that with Black Ivy, and I think we were able to do it.
You said it got a larger response than you anticipated? Joshua: It was just one of those things where people kept talking about it. Travis: I think it challenged a lot of social issues, in a sense, like masculinity, black masculinity, perception of style and who you are—so it touched on a lot of social topics that people didn’t necessarily want to talk about until they saw the editorial, and it was like, “OK, let’s talk about this stuff.”
Tell us about some of your recent travels. Travis: We did this cool project in Angola this past summer. And that was great, because it was my first time in Africa. Josh, he’s been to Africa before. But we really got to soak up the culture and photograph stuff we never got to photograph before. And then, in a couple weeks, we’re actually going to Thailand to do the same thing.
[Excerpts from Street Etiquette’s Travel Etiquette series.]
What do you enjoy about traveling? Joshua: I think traveling is one of the best educations you can get. Exposing yourself out there kind of reveals who you are as a person, how people see you, as you cross each continent and each country. It’s super interesting, waking up and just walking around the street. It’s definitely fun. We have this thing called Travel Etiquette—it’s basically our series of traveling around the world with style and character, through the lens of Travis and myself.
To decide the destination of your recent trip to southeast Asia, you guys conducted an online poll amongst your readers. Joshua: The poll was interesting. There were a lot of votes from Vietnam, and Thailand, and Hong Kong. People were really repping for their cities. Travis: A lot of people were voting from those places. It’s crazy, because you can see the votes; you can see where they’re coming from. A lot of people voted from Asia—I feel like more than the United States.
What kinds of things are you looking forward to seeing? Joshua: Just the fashion—see what the fashion is like there, even if it’s just regular, everyday people. I’m not saying like runways—just how people live and do their style every day. That’s important.
You’ve mentioned in the past, Joshua, that the streets are like the new runways. Could you elaborate on that? Joshua: What I meant when I said that, is that style and fashion are not just encapsulated for one week in February or one week in September—it happens every day. And it’s not just downtown. It’s not just uptown. It’s not just Brooklyn. It’s all over the place. [Getting] inspiration from people on the street…is one of the biggest things for us. Especially right now—everybody has a camera. There’s an overload of information for people to go out there and explore.
It’s interesting to delve into your guys’ Tumblr page and see the wide range of art, culture, and history that you reference. What do you think inspires you the most, in life and in your work? Joshua: My inspiration comes from a plethora of eras, like 1950s, ’60s…1980s hip-hop, punk rock— Travis: Reggae. Joshua: …Reggae, exactly. Reggae culture. Skinhead, mod—the U.K. had a big influence on us, too. [But] to be honest, I think a lot of our inspiration comes out of jazz.
What are some of your favorite jazz musicians? Joshua: Coltrane, Miles Davis, Mingus, Max Roach was an amazing drummer. Thelonius Monk. There are a lot of good guys. Chet Baker.
Favorite albums? Travis: Well, of course Bitches Brew [1970, by Miles Davis], because that’s a little bit different from anything else. I mean it’s a little bit redundant at this point—to say Miles Davis is kind of like saying Michael Jackson. It’s true, though, you know? It’s not overrated; it’s justified.
[Behind the scenes at Street Etiquette’s Sewn From The Soul
project, which honored Black History Month.]
Do you prefer late-era Miles, then? Travis: I like it all, because for the era that he was in, he was pushing the boundaries. So each era was good for what he was doing. It wasn’t just like, Miles Davis of the ’80s, more experimental than Miles Davis of the ’60s—that wasn’t really the case. [In each era], he was perfecting a certain sound and a certain taste level that he wanted to do. And he did it. He was able to switch his sound for every decade that he did music. It’s very few artists that did the same. Joshua: The funny thing is, I have no vinyls. It’s all off the Internet. Kind of Blue is great. Even though in his later times, people consider that he got a little bit too weird—in the way he dressed, or his music—I think that as an artist, it’s kind of like your obligation.
When did you guys first get into jazz? Travis: I didn’t listen to jazz growing up at all. [In] my household…we listened to more soul stuff, reggae, hip-hop in later years—but it wasn’t until maybe a few years ago that I started getting into jazz. Honestly, it was more the style thing, because we were doing research on different styles. And then you see the style, and you get into the music, and you see why the style was so refined for the music. When you start listening to it and developing that taste, it’s phenomenal. It’s one of those things. I listen to jazz at least two, three times a week.
Joshua: [Jazz music] calms you. It’s not as, like, rambunctious and lyrics-driven as [most of] today’s music—but there’s still a message. Travis: There’s a lot more emotion. Joshua: You feel that message according to your ears and what you want to hear. And that’s one of the most important things. But for me, I play the drums—so growing up with jazz is kind of essential, just for that beat.
So it sounds like together, the two of you really delved into jazz based on how the musicians dressed. Joshua: We love the way that the jazz musicians dressed. They kind of represented the first type of “cool” in America, you know? A lot of kids—I mean, the original term “hipster” meant going away and trying to be a jazz musician on the road, and traveling, and just, like, doing your hitchhiking thing. So it’s like they were the original cool. Travis: And then, when you go back and listen to it, you see how many hip-hop artists sampled from jazz musicians. So it was interesting to see that. Hip-hop is a form of jazz; it evolved from jazz. Joshua: It’s all related, really.
[Promotional posters for Street Etiquette’s new short film, Slumflower.]
Tell us about the project you’re debuting [this Saturday, 9/7] during New York Fashion Week this season. Travis: It’s called Slumflower, and it’s a photo editorial and a short film. It was, like, 17 of our friends all suited up in tailored suits. We shot it in the projects. Joshua: …In public housing, which isn’t far from here [Ed. note: we were filming at Milk Studios in NYC]. It’s like 16th and 9th or something like that. The short film just came from an idea we had and wanted to present. [It’s about] a kid living in the projects, dressing a certain way, and he’s kind of defying social inequalities. There’s a message behind it, but it’s represented through style.
You guys have made videos of your travels and whatnot before, but this is your first official “film.” How did production go? Joshua: We did the whole routine, as far as storyboarding, location-scouting, budgets. It’s going good. We’re just trying to define the meaning of having a blog—or a website, or a brand, whatever the case may be.
That raises a good question: What do you say your job title is, when you meet someone? Joshua: Funny thing about job titles, especially living in New York—it’s like a constant conversation starter. “Hey, what do you do?” Travis: The number-one question…If I’m not really feeling like [explaining], I’m like, “You know what? I’m a blogger.” Joshua: It’s bigger than that, though. Travis: The term “blog” seems too amateur for some reason. I mean, we’ve been “blogging” for five years now. But it’s like, what’s the next level of— Joshua: …Yeah, that’s the next question. Everybody is like, “What’s next? What’s after ‘blogging’?” Travis: Are you a “professional blogger”? Joshua: [In the end], you just want to keep pushing out good work. [These days], everybody is kind of a Jack-of-all-trades—a Renaissance man. So somebody asks you…but there’s no job title. And that’s the best thing about it: you kind of get to diversify, rather than just be in a box. Travis: Yeah, the title thing is weird. If I could just not have a title, that would be cool. Then, I could just do whatever I want. I could do stuff outside of what my title would be.
How did you two first meet? Joshua: We met in Iceland. No, I’m playing. We met at high school in the Bronx. Straight up. Travis: There’s no cool story behind it, though. Joshua: It was like, biology class. Travis: We were both into style at the time. That’s how we connected. We would both post on online forums, like Hypebeast and Superfuture, and got a lot of followers on there. That’s how we got a lot of traction when we started Street Etiquette [in college].
So did you guys have different tastes than most of your classmates in high school? Joshua: Yeah, definitely. We saw a bigger picture in a sense, than our high-school peers. You get ridiculed for dressing different, because high school is all about fitting in. Travis: We were just curious to know what else was out there, outside of our borough. So, we started coming downtown—because no one came downtown, man. [When you live] in the Bronx and whatnot, you don’t come to the city at all. You stay up there. You come to the city once in a while, you do a little shopping, and you head back up. We would actually come down here and— Joshua: Hang out. Travis: That’s how we connected with a lot of our friends from Brooklyn, and Harlem and whatnot. We were amongst all these other—a lot of these guys were actually older than us, too, so they knew a lot more. And they kind of helped us craft our taste level.
What do you guys love about New York City, and how does living here inspire you? Joshua: New York City is the best city in the world, as far as I know. Just the energy. It’s a melting pot. You can see every type of ethnic group, every culture. You’re exposed to so much here. Growing up in the Bronx…you got the Spanish cats, Jamaicans, West Indians, Africans—all in one. All those cultures are vastly different, and you have friends from each one. Travis: You know, like, sometimes you go to your friend’s house and you’re eating Spanish food—or you eat Jamaican, or Indian, or whatever—so it molds you as a person, to always be open. Joshua: There are very few places in the world that you can do that, from what I’ve seen. It’s such a big melting pot; that’s what I love most about it. And that’s what inspired us to travel so much—because we see all these people from different parts of the world, and you talk to them, and they tell you about their country, and you just want to go and experience it firsthand.
— — —
Watch for new Fashion Week coverage from Street Etiquette coming to
Men’s Shop Daily soon—and catch up on their dispatches from last season here.
And, if you’re in the NYC area this Saturday, September 7, stop by
Street Etiquette’s Slumflower gallery show at TEMP Art Space in TriBeCa.