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What Podcaster Roman Mars Can’t Live Without

Photo: Bert Johnson

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.

One of my problems as a human is that I have so much work to do that I’m not very good about being idle. Watching Netflix makes me itchy because I feel like I have other stuff to do. But for some reason, the New York Times crossword puzzle is just enough of a task that it fools my lizard brain into thinking I’m working even though I’m having a good time. I do the Sunday puzzle every week with my girlfriend, Joy; it’s part of our ritual on those days. It’s not the hardest puzzle of the week, but it’s particularly great because it usually has a puzzle within a puzzle. I don’t have any illusions about what it does for me, though, and I don’t think completing it makes me a better person. It just makes me happy.

I have a lot of Article furniture. The brand is a 99% Invisible sponsor, but I’m not just showing blind support for it — there are versions of its furniture that I do and don’t like. This is the perfect dining-room chair. I literally sit in it all day long now that I’m working from home. When people used to come over, these were the furniture they’d marvel at. The chairs are simple and sturdy and match my home. My overall design is mid-century modern; I’d say I’m pretty typical that way.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Podcaster Roman Mars Can’t Live Without