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Shopping in L.A. with Jesse Thorn

8/14/13 1:51 PM

his associate, the jacket looks great. To Thorn's eyes, it likely contains some slight but superficially imperceptible flaw. Maybe therein lies his authority. His show Put This On, a web series about "dressing like a grownup," positions Thorn as a navigator for a mostly byzantine topic that continues to intimidate and embarrass most men—the way they look, and what that says about them. Episodes are focused—shoes, grooming, or work attire—it's less about peacocking and more about practical flair. What Thorn offers is a measure of practicality and instruction, and allows the average man, without stylist or sponsor, to develop a responsibility for his appearance. He doesn't consider himself an authority—more like an advocate. "I'm a curious host, a clear writer with a unique perspective, and not a dick about the whole thing. That's what I bring to the table, really," he says. Put This On eschews logos, distinctive patterns, and trends for an emphasis on fine craftsmanship and an understanding of what works for the individual, not the fashionista. When Thorn vouches for an expensive item, he means it as an investment. If it's not clear by now, dressing up is more than a business, it's an art. In a recent interview, designer Tom Ford described "dressing well [as] good manners, inflicting yourself on the public in the same way as a piece of furniture...part of someone's view, part of that world." For Thorn, this is especially true. He laments the rise of the "skateboard clown" look, a species native to Southern California. Ironically, he believes bad taste can itself be self-centered, an "antiaesthetic" in a world that seems to think "merit is exclusive from social relationships, and social codes are inherently superficial." Men's fashion has taken on a more earnest and classic approach, largely thanks to a curious generational nostalgia. Mad Men is an easy arbiter to point to—it's what GQ's The Style Guy and TSOYA guest Glenn O'Brien calls "a yen for innocent modernism." Perhaps a middling economy combined with perceived threats on the American male account for some of it. Or maybe it's just a collective disgust about Ed Hardy. But it's unmistakable: Dudes have learned how to dress. There's a fine line between vainglorious preening and the more noble pursuit of aesthetic refinement, and Thorn aims to prove that his interests fall squarely on the latter. Earlier this year, the ever-provocative veteran musician and engineer Steve Albini told GQ "fashion is repulsive. The whole idea that someone else can make clothing that is supposed to be in style and make other people look good is ridiculous." He later went on to say he wished for GQ's demise, and praised the usefulness of pornography. Thorn, who's had Albini on "The Sound of Young America," thinks the "brilliant and funny" musician "gets a kick out saying something a little true and ridiculous while coming up with a good justification for it." He's not in complete disagreement with him, though he draws a distinction between fashion and style. "Fashion has figured out how to manipulate people's sense of their own social standing better than any other industry. Even cars," he says. "It works by making people feel lousy about themselves." Where Albini gets it wrong, according to Thorn, is when he ignores the importance of clothing as a social vehicle. "You are communicating information about yourself through your dress, and about your relationship to the world and the people around you," he says. Even Albini is "making fashion (and social) choices by wearing plain sneakers, blue jeans, and a solidcolored T-shirt just as much as The Situation is by bedazzling a picture of his abs onto his T-shirt." In some instances, dressing well has communicated precisely the wrong message. During the Q&A portion of Thorn's motivational "Make Your Thing" talk, a female audience member mistook his appearance, and his subsequent advice, for entitlement. "She said, 'It's not that easy for all of us to just quit our jobs and do whatever we want.' And at first, I was stunned, but later file:///Users/issuu/Desktop/Shopping%20in%20L.A.%20with%20Jesse%20Thorn.webarchive

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Shopping in L.A. With Jesse Thorn  
Shopping in L.A. With Jesse Thorn