On an early fall day in October, it's raining outside the offices of Complex Media, the home of a consortium of media sites targeted to men. But in a room used as a studio for Complex.com's "Fashion Bros" series, the sun shines on a backdrop of the New York City skyline set where hosts Lawrence Schlossman, editor-in-chief of Four Pins, and James Harris, style editor of Complex.com, are filming an interview with Ronnie Fieg, the mastermind behind Kith NYC.
The banter is near endless; the two are practically tripping over one another to crack middle-school-boy style jokes about horse glue, bodily functions and small dicks – oh god, so, so many dick jokes. You almost feel sorry for the person in charge of editing the footage down into a YouTube-digestible package. It's the type of interview one can't really imagine taking place in a womenswear format; not that we don't love "The Look," but it's hard to imagine Laura Brown advising Karl Lagerfeld to collaborate with Trojan condoms.
But somewhere between asking Fieg which shoes he lost his virginity in (Timberlands) and how he feels about his "fuccboi/virgin/loser" customers, Schlossman and Harris get some serious questions about the sneaker industry and Fieg's design background answered. The resulting video is as interesting as it is hilarious (provided you're into a slightly more, erm, juvenile sense of humor, which I am).
"Fashion Bros" is the brainchild of the two, who banter like that off camera as well. Friends for about five years, Complex had been investing in more video content and was looking to do a menswear show with Schlossman, but stalled out because there wasn't anyone who could match up with his self-professed "extremely aggro [aggressive] and intense personality." Then Harris joined the team, and the pieces fell into place.
The guest list isn't too shabby either: In addition to Fieg, the likes of Nick Wooster, Tommy Ton and A$AP Ferg have also sat through a "Fashion Bros" interview. While Harris jokes that they've landed their guests through "various trickery," the reality is that the show's format presents them with a unique opportunity.
"You can’t really separate rappers from the way they dress now and the hope is that we give a platform for these guys to showcase their expertise or lack thereof," Harris explains during a filming break. "I mean, everyone’s claiming to be a fashion killa, but let’s see if they really are and at the same time have fun and not ask corny questions like, ‘What inspires you? What’s this song about?' etc."
"Any time we have any celebrity — whether they be an insular fashion person or a more well-known pop artist — come on the show, we’re going to provide a different type of interview that’s entertaining but still focused on fashion," Schlossman says. "I feel like we could have the type of interviews that other people wouldn’t even think of, to ask those types of questions."
Obviously, "Fashion Bros" is something of an exception — just a guess, but we doubt you'll be seeing an editorial about how it "ain't nothin' to stunt" in GQ anytime soon — but that spirit certainly seems to permeate the menswear industry. Sitting front row at Todd Snyder's first runway show in September, I couldn't help but notice that the mood was distinctly lighter than at the women's shows. People were chatting excitedly, laughing, even smiling as looks came down the runway — it was a refreshing change.
Part of this has to do with the fact that the menswear calendar is significantly less packed than its womenswear counterpart, allowing editors to enjoy the events they're attending. "New York [menswear] takes such a backseat to the women’s stuff; it just looks so stressful to do September and February every year," Harris says. "It’s about seeing people you would only see maybe twice a year three times a year at various events."
John Jannuzzi, senior digital editor at GQ.com, theorizes that the menswear shows benefit from being removed from the street style circus, and the seat-stealing, celebrity-gawking, power-politics vibes that surround the tents every season. "All that craziness that happens at women’s shows get’s totally cut out when you’re working in the menswear world," he says. "It’s smaller, easier to manage."
"I think if someone followed around a young menswear guy that was going to a bunch of shows at New York Fashion Week, it would just reinforce the point that they are having fun because it is this tight-knit, smaller group," Schlossman says.
It's a phenomenon that led New York Times writer Jon Caramanica to dub this group of menswear editors, who started either as commenters or bloggers circa 2008 and have since begun working in menswear professionally, the "the rising Internet men’s wear illuminati" in a recent article. "They knew each other before they were editors because they found each other on the web and it became this shared interest," Jannuzzi explains. "I think one thing you see in menswear is that it’s not easy to break into, but it’s not hard to find that group of people that are interested in it."
Of course, it's a good time to be in menswear in general, with sales of men's apparel outpacing women's last year, and brands like Public School and Hood by Air grabbing attention from the fashion community at large. As the options in menswear continue to diversify, so does the audience.
"I think menswear has blown up in the past five years and come more to the forefront," Schlossman says. "I feel like there’s more straight, bro-type guys — for lack of better word, to just stereotype a little — that now feel a little bit more comfortable with dipping their foot in the pool, or maybe they’ve cared about it for a long time and they feel like they can now come out — no pun intended — and talk about it."
And with the conversation comes their own insider lingo. One recent term taking over Twitter with origins in the menswear community: "Alphet," (or, even better, "fire alphet") started as an inside joke about a French Montana tweet, which means "outfit."
"What's funny about menswear is all the things men are talking about while they’re talking about menswear; I think you see that a lot on Twitter with memes and slang and it’s definitely something we try to do every day on sites like Four Pins and Complex Style," Schlossman explains. "We’re talking about memes, we’re talking about rap, we’re talking about lifestyle stuff. That’s all the context around it and it’s just because menswear is inherently smaller."
But even once you've learned the new phrases and hashtags, it feels like they're constantly changing and mutating — so keeping up becomes a badge of honor in the menswear world. "It makes it a lot more fun because we’re like a crew and we have this internal language we can speak to each other," GQ style writer Jake Woolf says of the camaraderie. ("It’s insane and I don’t recommend getting involved in it," he adds jokingly. "It’s like a tower of Babel at this point and we’re just adding on — we don't even know, we’re so far gone.")
Being interested in fashion as a man is unexpected, which is why so many have come up with a unique way of speaking about it. "If you’re a dude who’s obsessed with fashion, you’re like a dork to a certain extent," says Schlossman. "Women can be nerds, but I feel like there’s not that stigma attached to it because women are supposed to care about fashion."
"I think in the most recent wave of men caring about fashion, there’s some insecurity in that, like with guys who aren’t 100 percent devoting their lives to fashion" Harris adds. "So the way guy deal with insecurities and internal issues is just making fun of themselves and just having fun."
The stakes are also undeniably different. The fashion industry has become a behemoth of a financial machine, with companies like LVMH and Kering investing millions in young womenswear designers. It's yet to trickle down into the menswear market. "With womenswear, there’s so much more at stake, money-wise," Schlossman says. "And even though menswear’s grown, it’s not the kind of business that womenswear is."
Which brings a downside to working in menswear. That money behind the product fuels some of the most fun parts of working in fashion – namely, the over-the-top fashion shows, parties and dinners. "Something like the Chanel show seems like a lot of fun — to be grocery shopping at a fashion show, amazing — but that would never happen in menswear because there’s less money backing it," Woolf says. "The incentive to put on a spectacle like that doesn’t exist."
And sometimes, even the product itself just isn't as fun. Despite increasingly diverse offerings in the field, the fact remains that women just have more options in stores. "It’s like giving an artist a paper and three crayons instead of giving someone a canvas and all the paint and watercolors in the world," Jannuzzi says.
"If you’re just looking at shoes you have your classics like Manolo Blahnik, but then you’ve got Charlotte Olympia who's like, 'Oh my god, there’s live spiders crawling around in my shoes!'" he continues. "That stuff is really fun to look at and write about and examine from a creative perspective, and in menswear oftentimes if those things come around they don’t get taken as seriously, especially if they’re at that level of wack-a-doo-ness."
So if women have all the resources and freedom of expression, but men have the benefit of a pressure-free environment, who is really having more fun? It's a complicated answer, but there's certainly a tip to be picked up for fashion editors across the board.
"It’s funny because having worked on both sides, I don’t know if you you can necessarily say one sides having more fun than the other," Jannuzzi says. "I think it’s about the people that happen to surround certain sides — menswear people genuinely care about the clothing, they’re excited to be there."
Or, put more succinctly: "I’m having a great fucking time," Schlossman says. "I can say that for a fact."