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Look Like a Rock Star

Taking time out from working on his fall 2004 menswear collection, John Varvatos talked to rocker Pete Yorn—who will be on tour with R.E.M. in October—about the elements of men’s style. Mike Steele listened in.

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New York: So what makes a man stylish?

John Varvatos: It starts with simplicity, not being overstyled or complicated. And with things that feel like they have a bit of a heritage, even though they may not, but there’s a sense about them that they have a life span and it’s not just for the moment. It’s also the way you carry yourself. We start off sometimes like we’re designing this for an artist—whether it’s a painter, photographer, musician, or whatever—someone who’s creative, because creative people are generally more comfortable with themselves, and they also tend to be more eclectic in the way they put themselves together.

Pete Yorn: I don’t have that much stuff. It’s important for me to have a couple of jackets. As long as I have two or three jackets that I like, then it’s like a new outfit. Or “I changed today!” Plus I’m always in a different city, so I can get away with wearing the same thing two days in a row and no one knows except the band.

JV: They don’t care.

PY: Some of these guys are wearing the same shirt for four days. It’s like, “Come on, guys!”

NY: John, how did you get into fashion?

JV: It was kind of through music. When I was in high school, I really wanted to look cool, so I was always trying to dress like a rock star. Then at the end of my high-school days, I started working at a cool men’s store. And I worked my way through college selling clothes.

NY: Your clothes tend to have a mix-and-match eclecticism.

JV: I don’t like things that are so uniform. I like people who mix things and come up with their own sense of style. That’s always been my thing. I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing everything so perfectly thought-out. Even though oftentimes you do, you don’t want to have it come across like you thought it out so much.

PY: That’s exactly it.

JV: You want it to look like you just threw it together, but the whole thrown-together thing looks amazing.

PY: I wasn’t sure how the shoot was going to work, but we just mixed it. I’d say, “I like that piece,” and just throw it on with what I was already wearing. And I’m always wearing old T-shirts and jeans and stuff like that. But it felt natural.

JV: Those are the ones that I like the best. The ones that feel like it just came together. Especially with what you do, you don’t want to look like a fashion model. You want to look like a rock star. Right? You want it to look like you kind of just threw it together.

PY: I’m the worst about wearing the same three stupid T-shirts for like two years.

JV: But there’s something about those T-shirts that you like. Either the fit or the wash or whatever it is. You wouldn’t wear any T-shirt, so you wear those three. Because they’re amazing T-shirts. That’s why I still have those pieces in my wardrobe—because I can’t give them up.

NY: Such as?

JV: A lot of vintage jeans and jackets and leather motorcycle jackets. Things that I wear more than anything because they just feel comfortable. I also like the attitude. I’ll throw them on with something dressy, and they kind of bring it down to a point that is more my sense of style.

NY: So, Pete, what got you interested in music in the first place?

PY: I have two older brothers, and they were always in bands, and they were always practicing in my basement. I would just sit down there and watch them play.

JV: What kind of music?

PY: Early on, it was Judas Priest covers. I was really into Iron Maiden and Judas Priest from a young age, but for some reason they never really inspired me—until I started listening to the Smiths, and all of a sudden I became very connected to the whole look of the thing and the way the music made me feel.

JV: A little different songwriting style, too.

PY: Yeah, very different. But because I was growing up in suburban New Jersey, it seemed really exotic. I wanted to dress like a little Morrissey with the hair and the glasses and the whole deal. I even would try to sing English-sounding when I was a teenager. Then I discovered other things, like R.E.M.

JV: Must be cool to tour with them.


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