There was a story on GQ.com today about the potential resurrection of #menswear. Cam Wolf wrote this piece about what we are likely to see following COVID-19 and the economic catastrophe that we are collectively navigating. We spoke on the phone earlier this week for the story and he kindly included me throughout. Cam told me that it was cool to see me dust off the WordPress and blog again. More precisely he said that I, “got my jersey down from the rafters.” It was nice to hear that from him, but it was also nice for me to have the actual inspiration to write something again.
It was interesting to think back to 2008/2009 when the world quasi-imploded and we all felt the effects of a recession. It was following this time that ACL came into its own. A lot of stuff that I was into at that moment happened to fit with the collective feeling and trends of the time. Things just took off. I was probably as surprised as anyone.
ACL became an unlikely force in the menswear revolution that was taking shape. I worked in PR and my inspiration was always the journalists across the aisle from magazines like GQ, Esquire, Details, The New York Times and many more that have since closed. I attempted to be positive in my stories (but obviously not the comments) and tried to be as fair and transparent as I could. ACL became a source of income for me eventually and it was commercial, but it was never my primary source of money. I wanted it to be real and wanted to cover brands and people who inspired me. It was never about advertisers or affiliate or press trips. Though I was pulled into all of that to one degree or another and some of it I regret participating in. I can’t blame people for wanting to take advantage of opportunities like press trips and free shit. It’s hard to go from being in debt from a recession to being offered a luxury trip and not just going for it. I suppose you live and you learn.
At a point later in 2014 I had contributors carrying the weight of the site. I think that I had spent long enough celebrating some product launch or looking for stories and I was just tired of doing it. The contributors were a good bridge but eventually I just decided to go on hiatus. The site felt like a job and that I had to post regardless if I was inspired or not. Things were happening in menswear that were either anti to my personal taste or just boring to me. None of those things helped me keep writing.
In 2016 I moved from New York to Los Angeles. My life had changed a lot which factored into the desire to get out of NYC. I was married, we wanted to have children and I was not interested in living in a New York suburb or raising a city kid. California seemed like a dream to me. I just felt like there’s a better lifestyle in the west. (Little did I know that California social distanced long before COVID.) New York had started to feel like an airline loyalty program. I could work hard to get status which would make my experience less painful, but there’s always going to be some degree of discomfort involved.
More and more I was just not inspired. Part of that was being in L.A. and being out of the mix. Part of it was what was happening on Instagram and in fashion in general. Pitti got fucking weird. Instagram makes me more depressed than happy. Streetwear is not it for me. Not participating was my form of protest.
Before social media the way people discovered things was slightly challenged. People needed help from editors and bloggers to filter and find things. Now people just use Instagram. It seems like now the only way people know anything is because they found it on Instagram. My favorite hotel in Ischia was straight-up ruined by Instagram (to which I am partially to blame). Tom Kalenderian from Barneys told me to go there and for the first 5 years I almost never met another American in Ischia. Now it’s blowing up Instagram every summer — filled with New Yorkers and now I can’t bear to go back. I recognize that I am part of the same problem I am complaining about. But the pace of these things is amplified by Instagram in a way that is just too much for me. By the way, Tom is a genius and I’m lucky to know him and have learned a lot from him. There aren’t many smarter or kinder in menswear than Tom.
While I strongly dislike streetwear and a lot of popular fashion now, I realize that everyone goes through a process of figuring out what their style really is. Me not liking it doesn’t really mean anything and shouldn’t. If something makes you happy then you should absolutely go for it. I’m a strong believer that people should wear and do what makes them happy and I don’t want to stand in the way of that. I feel like this pandemic is going to change all of that though — and that’s what Cam was saying too.
It’s been a lot to process exactly what is happening to the world, but priorities become clearer every day. I’m surrounded by a lot of my possessions — almost being strangled by them. They are inescapable for us at this point. Why do I have so much shit? So many shoes. So many bags. So many sets of golf clubs. Boredom probably? Or maybe it’s compulsion gone awry. If I’ve learned anything during COVID-19 its that I don’t need all of this shit. This isn’t me starring into a recession thinking I need to cut back on my shopping, this is more about feeling weighed down by all of this stuff. It barely made me happy when I acquired it and it’s making me unhappy now. It’s time to move on from consumption as I knew it.
I’m still inspired by small companies, by craftspeople and old things that have survived for a long time. When you confront a generational event like this pandemic, you start to better understand what it might have been like to live through WWII or the Great Depression. It’s hard for businesses to navigate these events and we should better appreciate the things that have. They deserve a sort of preferential treatment from us. That’s why it’s worth spending the money to buy a pair of Crockett & Jones shoes or support a small tailor like J. Meuser — who was also quoted in Cam’s story. Jake said something poignant in the story. “You can be spending the same amount on a bespoke suit—but it’s from a small tailor. It’s not just me, it’s any kind of independent brand where you just feel like, ‘Okay, this is like a place where I want my money to be.’’’
While I’m feeling a bit hoarders-adjacent as I shelter at home — Jake said it better. If you are going to buy something, why not support something you want to exist in the future? A small tailor, a restaurant you love or a brand you know could use the help. If there’s any silver lining in things maybe it will be that the re-mapping of our consumer brain will hopefully have an impact on the looming disaster of climate change.
Maybe it will also wake people up to the fact that while there are many amazing aspects of globalization, offshoring and consolidated manufacturing — it often comes at a high price.
In this moment of reflection it occurs to me that we can’t keep going down the road we have been. While I don’t think I will ever be pulled back into ACL in the same way that I once was, I’m invigorated with the idea that we are going to see a bit of a reset in fashion and in social media. I’m excited at the possibility for all of us to appreciate things in a different and real way.