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Shopping in L.A. with Jesse Thorn

8/14/13 1:51 PM

on my wife pointed out that it was probably because of the way I was dressed! This woman just assumed I came from privilege." There's some grit in the oyster. Thorn grew up lower-middle class, wearing handmade clothes crafted by his mother, and cites her attention to detail in informing his own. But growing up in predominantly Latino and black neighborhoods, Thorn stuck out from the beginning. He recalls one particularly hairy incident in which mother and son were "walking on the sidewalk and some guys started throwing double C batteries out the window from a building, and we had to hide behind a car." Sometimes his appreciation for clothing was taken the wrong way: "I was wearing this 49ers sweatshirt when I was 11, and I remember seeing these teenagers approaching. One of them had on the same sweater and I said, 'Hey, nice sweatshirt.' And the guy punched me in the face."

I was wearing this 49ers sweatshirt when I was 11, and I remember seeing these teenagers approaching. One of them had on the same sweater and I said, 'Hey, nice sweatshirt.' And the guy punched me in the face."

Such experiences give Thorn perspective. As a result, Put This On makes no assumptions, most of all about the prosperity of its audience. There's a sense of community that pervades. If a highend retailer is having a sale, the site notifies readers weeks in advance. Online promotional codes make appearances, and a weekly eBay roundup helps readers dress well on a budget. Considering Thorn "barely made more than $15,000 until two years ago," resourcefulness is everything.

And then there's his other love—rap music. His tastes veer towards the unexpected. Previous guests on "The Sound of Young America" have included UGK's Bun B, Mobb Deep's Prodigy and former Roc-a-Fella artist Peedi Peedi, among others. A genuine love of the music and a natural curiosity endeared him to a category of musicians who might otherwise have cause for wariness. But the guy knows his shit, and occasionally goes to amusing lengths to prove it. "In 'Big Pimpin'. Bun B's verse contains a line 'We big pimpin' on B.L.A.D.'s, and I had to ask, 'Um, Bun, what are 'blads'?" he says, laughing. "Bun just said, 'I think if we started pointing out the grammatical errors in rap, we wouldn't get anything accomplished." Our next stop is Don Ville's Shoes on La Brea. The proprietor of Don Ville, Raúl Ojeda, greets Thorn like family. Ojeda is a former apprentice of Willie's Shoe Service, one of the only handmade shoemakers in the West Coast. His own story is remarkable—after countless attempts to convince Willebaldo Rivera, the now 93-year-old shoe impresario, to allow him to work for free, a mutual connection brought them together. Both Ojeda and Rivera's families hailed from the Mexican state of Puebla. Ojeda interned for nearly two years and made ends meet by shining shoes outside a Los Angeles police station. In July, he'd raised enough money to start his own business.

Dress shoes, both of the conservative and slightly unorthodox variety, tastefully adorn the store. A gold wingtip sits next to a cracked leather loafer. A large inviting showroom faces the busy La Brea street and passersby stop and gawk at the display. Ojeda examines my burgundy Weejuns while we exchange pleasantries and asks, with what seems more like a plea than an invitation, to shine my shoes. I sheepishly lift my soles to reveal a well-worn heel. An audible groan reverberates through the room, and Ojeda pats me on the back. After exchanging ideas, Ojeda begins to draft sizings. Tracing the outline of Thorn's feet, he says he considered using a transparent glass shoe to get a better sense of his clients—a Cinderella slipper of sorts that transmits their movements, their weight, the lineaments of their being. These unassuming tradesmen seem to be in the business of intimacies. 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  

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