If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hairspray and the electric toothbrush. We asked 99% Invisible podcast host and producer Roman Mars — whose book, co-authored with Kurt Kohlstedt, The 99% Invisible City, debuts today — about the pocket squares, headphones, and popcorn he can’t live without.
I listen to podcasts all day long, so I need headphones that I don’t have to think about. I’ve tried lots of other headphones, and it just so happens that this wired pair from Apple fits me the best. With AirPods, I have to think about them: I have to charge them, I have to put them away. I wouldn’t say that these are perfectly made for everybody, but they’re perfectly made for me. It makes me think that Steve Jobs and I have the exact same size ears.
Even if you have a vice — maybe you drink a lot or smoke a lot — you usually know there’s somebody that does it worse than you. When it comes to Coke Zero, it’s possible that person is me. I think I have the worst Coke Zero habit in the world. It has the right combination of being sweet and acidic, and I just drink so much of it. Conservatively, eight a day. The first one is at 8 a.m. — it’s coffee. I don’t normally eat breakfast, but I’ll have two Coke Zeros before lunch.
I’ve worn some variety of boots, like Dr. Martens and combat boots, since I was 14 years old. These are the adult version of such boots. I wear them every day with jeans, but I also wear them with fancy clothes. I always wear boots with a suit. I don’t feel comfortable in a loafer. When you’ve worn lace-up boots your entire life, it feels really weird to wear shoes that don’t have structure. My brain is always on guard — What if there’s a fight? What if I have to run some place? — and these boots help me be alert.
It wasn’t until I was about 40 that they started making stretchy men’s jeans that are cut like women’s jeans. I was delighted by this, so when I found these Paige Jeans — which feel good and fit my body — I got multiples of them. I’m not a Zuckerberg “wear the same thing every day because I don’t like to think” kind of person. But when I find something I like, I’m all-in. I have at least two pairs of these Paige Jeans; I’m wearing one of them now. I’ve been getting fully dressed during quarantine — it’s very rare for me not to. I won’t go quite as far as putting shoes on if I’m at home, but I do wear these jeans and a belt and a shirt.
Sol Food is this Puerto Rican restaurant in the Bay Area, and everything on the menu is fantastic. I usually just get chicken with rice, but I cover the plate in this hot sauce to the point that it’s basically like soup. I buy the hot sauce by the bottle and bring it home. For me, it’s the MVP of quarantine — it has made my home cooking so much better. I cook and eat a lot of rice, and I can just pour this hot sauce on rice and that’s a meal. But I put it on everything that isn’t sweet, basically. It’s light and vinegary and not too hot. I promise you’ll be satisfied, because it tastes that good.
It’s such a good snack. There’s a dusting of corn kernels all over my office, and I have to vacuum it all the time, but I will eat this to the point of making myself sick. These days, I usually put it in a bowl because otherwise I will eat the entire bag.
I’m extremely opposed to wearing shorts. I just don’t like to expose my legs and feet; it’s not my thing. So I always wear these when I run. In the Bay Area, you can get away with wearing pants most of the time — but I actually wear these on really hot days too. People find it confusing, but I think they’re still comfortable.
Many years ago, my friend Jesse Thorn, a radio producer who I’ve known for well over a decade, started reporting about men’s style for what’s now become his e-commerce website Put This On. I paid attention to his work and started to find things I like for expressing my style. I fell in love with pocket squares. I like to look eclectic, which allows for variety in pocket squares and for them to be loud and strange. My collection numbers about 30 or 40. I always travel with more than I need because when I’m hosting an event I like to pick out the perfect one in the moment. Jesse sells these packs of pocket squares on his site, so I just send him money and they’ll handpick some for me.