Besides the whole web street style demi-god thing, Nick Wooster is just like you and me: he orders from Fresh Direct, looks up to his dad and occasionally drops a curse word. His eponymous Tumblr, like much of whatever Mister Wooster touches, has well, blown up. So we had to ask him about it for this segment. But because we like to go a little deeper here at The GQ Eye, we also picked his brain about hot button philosophical issues like stair porn… Intrigued?
The GQ Eye: Can you tell us a little about the Tumblr, when you started it and what kind of purpose it serves for you, creatively?
Nick Wooster: It was a snowy day in February and it sort of came on me in a flash. I realized I was on [the platform] a lot and I still really didn’t know what it was. I had an ex-boyfriend who always said, “you really need to start a blog” and I’d always say, well, I don’t really take pictures and I don’t write. And then I sort of figured out that Tumblr is like this instantaneous way to telegraph what’s on your mind. I’m absolutely obsessed with it now. The whole reblog feature is so counterintuitive to copyright laws, in fact it’s basically the opposite and the minute something becomes the opposite, I’m into it. [Laughs.] If someone tells me I can’t wear something, that’s the moment when I want to wear it. The stories people are able to tell with these images are so inspiring and that’s what I’m really drawn to; whether it be architecture, fashion, art, people. It becomes this stream of consciousness. Another thing that shocked the heck out of me was that at the end of my first day, I had something like 1000 followers… which was like, wow! I still find it fascinating that there’s interest in me, because I can, like, dress myself… I don’t think that’s a remarkable skill. I do have opinions and I have been around a while, but what really keeps me coming back to Tumblr is that there are always people interested in those running “conversations” - topics they’re passionate about. It’s instantaneous and beautiful and becomes this billboard of a person’s psyche. I’m just happy to be a part of it.
GQ: Do you remember a specific moment where you had some sort of reaction (either being slightly weirded out or flattered or both) when you started seeing yourself popping up all over the web?
Wooster: Yes. It’s a daily thing. [Laughs.] Now there’s a hater site, which I’m always on. It’s only a natural thing that when people are being positive about something, there will be that contrarian point of view as well and I get that; I’m neither surprised nor offended. It’s part of the conversation. I get it. It’s funny, I’d meet customers in the past and they’d ask me, “is what you’re wearing the style?” Well, no, I’d say, it’s a style. There are no absolutes. I understand I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I certainly don’t want everyone to look like me. I really only dress for myself. But, it is always flattering, I don’t take that for granted. First I was amused, now I’m kind of amazed just at the fact that people follow me, or what have you. And it’s not the people I thought it might be! It’s these young, straight guys and I think it’s fantastic. I’m 51 years old and I think a lot of guys my age define success by being able to wear jeans to work or not having to wear a suit. I remember at age 34 or 35 not having to wear a suit to work for the first time and it threw me for a loop. I think the guys my age who are maybe looking to wear a pair of jeans or chinos - they may not be the best dressed lot. But their sons, in their mid-twenties, they all want to dress like their grandfathers. There’s this renewed interest in tailored clothing and they’re, of course, going to wear it in a different way. It’s really good for all of us in the menswear industry: magazines, on a retail level… and if I’ve played any role in sort of promoting that, then it’s something I’m proud of and happy to do. But I am still am shocked people care. [Smiles.]
GQ: Can you tell us a little about your role with Gilt, how it came about and what you’ll be working on with them…
Wooster: The introduction was made through GQ, which was very nice. Having spent a large chunk of my career working in retail, I certainly believe in the role of [brick and mortar] stores, but I also know the world is changing and the way people are shopping is changing. I mean, I don’t buy groceries in the grocery store, I order Fresh Direct. I think many men are either time poor or have little interest in going to stores. I love stores. Having the ability to do research and find things on your own schedules, that’s a great thing for guys - we like to be masters of our own destiny. Online shopping is convienient and immediate; you can get it overnight. So when Gilt was kind enough to see me, they immediately asked me to come work with them and I think the role is going to continue to develop. But as much of my previous experience lies in product development and design and of course, having that a retailer’s opinion, I think they found that appealing. So I’ll be with both Park & Bond and Gilt MAN: they’ve asked me to have a little hand in the editorial and we’ve already done a few videos. We have such great people there and some really exciting stuff on the horizon. With all the information out there now, guys are coming into stores armed with knowledge they may not have had five or ten years ago and ultimately, it’s going to lead to better sartorial decisions. Most guys shop for problem solving, while women shop for sport. I mean, I shop for sport. [Laughs.] But, the majority of guys are looking more for advice on how to wear either what they currently own or being guided on future purchases. I think both Gilt and Park and Bond is going to fill that role that used to be occupied by a man’s go-to salesperson. My grandfather had a guy he used to go to and so did my father…
GQ: Sounds like you have some distinct style memories from growing up…
Wooster: My dad was a mechanic and I have great style memories of him. He wore, every single day: a blue chambray shirt, Levi’s 501s and Red Wing boots. And that certainly wasn’t fashionable at the time; it was basically the opposite. And he wore these horn rim glasses that were very Sol Moscot. He dressed like Japanese guys do now, which is crazy to think about. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a stockbroker. He was a very dressed up guy. And I made a lot of my decisions based on the premise that my dad went to work and got his hands dirty and my grandfather didn’t have to and got dressed up - so I wanted that. My grandfather always wore a hat and I never saw him without a tie. Always immaculate. That was my aspiration. In fact, I started working in a clothing store when I was 15, the best clothing store in my hometown of Selina, Kansas. It was a very conscious thing. I loved clothes from an early age and I thought, hey, if I’m going to work, I want it to be around the things I love.
GQ: Let’s talk tattoos…
Wooster: Well, there’s no such thing as one tattoo. A tattoo is the gateway drug to sleeves. I got my first in 1994 in Miami and it’s a classic cliche tattoo story. I had some Dries Van Noten sailor pants and I decided I needed a sailor tattoo to match; Aye yi yi. Five years later, I had a Japanese guy do some of the art that now makes up one of my sleeves. I think Japanese art is just beautiful. I really had no idea what I’d end up doing, but I got the other arm done in Los Angeles by an American guy several years ago and my only requirements were an eagle and flowers. There’s no sense in me art directing my own tattoos. It’s one of those situations where I’d still be trying to figure it out. I then started foolishly on my “socks.” No one told me getting a tattoo was exponentially more painful anywhere on your leg than it is on your arm…
GQ: Do you go numb during a serious session like that?
Wooster: I wish. [Laughs.] It hurts badly. Some people tell me they really get into the pain, but not me. I suppose it’s like giving birth though, because it’s fantastic afterwards.
GQ: Back to clothing. This fall, is there anything out there you absolutely want and need?
Wooster: I am obsessed with Visvim. One thing I’m really proud of with Bergdorfs is that we were able to get the collection in there for fall. I think [creative director] Hiroki Nakamura is amazing. His ability to sort of see everything and then reinterpret it in a way that is modern without being too heritage, that’s what I really lust for. I’m a huge fan of Burberry Prorsum and you can never have too much outerwear, as far as I’m concerned. There’s a Visvim boot I have to have. It’s like a hiking boot, but it’s unique, like a Red Wing boot/hiking boot hybrid. I’m going to have to mortgage the rest of my life to afford them, but… I’m always on the lookout for a great suit, a tweed sportcoat. Balmain has the sickest shearling I’ve ever seen in my life. It has this gigantic collar. I think Bergdorfs bought one. It’ll be interesting to see who gets it. I mean, it’s $10,000. Not in my future, but amazing.
GQ: Lastly, you seem to do a lot on your Tumblr with these beautiful home inspirations, library porn, loft porn…
Wooster: And stair porn, I’m really into stair porn…
GQ: So what’s your home like?
Wooster: Nothing like what you see there. [Laughs.] But I do have a lot of books. Fortunately for me, I live in a great building, but I’m in the smallest line in the building. If they ever decide to do an episode of ‘Fashion Hoarders,’ I’ll be on it, because I basically live in a closet… it’s bad. I love my apartment, it’s tiny, but I have some things I really enjoy looking at. I mean, we’re all in the curation business and we all make choices every day. I like to think I make ones that work for me and I also like the challenge of working within a confined space where a little more emphasis is placed on the selections. All that said, I like to dream and I think that’s what the Tumblr reflects. If money or anything else weren’t an issue, it’s fun to play with that idea. It’s kind of like getting a tattoo, though, I mean if I could have any house I wanted, I’d probably spend the rest of my life looking for it. The minute I get something, I want to change it. I’m drawn to super modern stuff, lots of glass, lots of light. But at the same time, there’s nothing like Paris and that classic sense of architecture. So that’s what it is, basically. It’s all beautiful, it’s all fantasy, it’s all porn. And I never get tired of that. I sort of start to see my own threads in what I’m posting: some days it’s about cute guys, some days it’s about beautiful clothes. There was something I posted the first day and it had a photo of Coco Chanel side-by-side with one of Michele Lamy (Rick Owens’ wife) and they were practically separated at birth. I like the small stuff like that, little discoveries. Who knows. More will be revealed I guess…
I feel like the oversized sweater look is something both guys like to see on girls, and girls like to wear, win-win?
Definitely. It’s the cool cross between sexy and comfy.
We’ve had a lot of girls in this series admit they often shop the men’s section, you too?
Hell yeah. Urban Outfitters men’s section is the best! I also love men’s skater-style shirts.
What’s something about being in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that you’d never know without actually being in it?
It takes a lot of preparation! Besides the hours that go into the actual show, and the garments, all the models have to get to the show seven hours before to get organized and made-up. Then a rehearsal takes place the day before, and then the usual fittings and castings…
We heard you met some famous rappers backstage?
Yes I met Jay-Z and Kanye [West]! I’m not one to be star-struck, but I was amazed how humble and personable they were. They both shook hands with me, and even though I blabbed on to Kanye about his grill he stood there and tolerated my childish mumbling. Very cool guys.
What do you like to see dudes wear?
I’m a Kiwi girl, so stubbies and gumboots [laughs]. Nah, casual jeans and a flannel shirt are the way to go.
What should a guy absolutely never wear?
What are some of your hobbies?
I sketch in my spare time, and play guitar. I used to be sports-crazy, but since my sport is not played here in America (netball), I have taken up running, and I go to the gym a bit.
What’s something we could never guess by looking at you?
My mother is Maori (the native people of New Zealand) so my mother and brother are very dark… Not so obvious when looking at me because I am the definition of white [laughs].
Jessica’s sweaters (solid) are by Saturdays NYC, and her fair isle is GANT Rugger.