Glenn O’Brien’s Jacket

When I started getting into clothes I became obsessed with Glenn O’Brien. He seemed to epitomize the sort of coolness that I wanted to have – this metropolitan, confident vibe, always at ease, running around with fascinating people, and always surrounded by great art and great music. For an awkward kid growing up in a small Oregon town, this urban, intellectual, rock n’roll aura was hard to conceptualize but I knew it was something I wanted. O’Brien’s column in GQ was like a window into this world, and so I read it religiously in the hopes that it would help me become more like him.

Through those articles (and others like them) my interest in style became more tangible. I wandered on to online forums and blogs, places where people discussed the minutae of dressing well down to exact right shade of navy and the perfect size for lapels. I loved absorbing all these tiny details, but I often came back to O’Brien’s grounded sense of style. In his column, style is more than the sum of its parts; it’s more than just what you’re wearing but how you carry yourself.

I’ve always loved this short story (shown below, from GQ January 2013) about O’Brien’s well-worn Schott Perfecto jacket. The jacket was painted on by the renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was a close friend of O’Brien’s. He recalls how the customized jacket made him “feel like a king” on the dangerous streets on New York. I think many of us that are into style have felt that feeling of invincibility, and likely have become addicted to it. Chasing those moments has always been the drive behind my interest in clothing – to me, few things are better than walking down a busy street in your favorite clothes, feeling like you run the world. In those moments I know exactly how O’Brien felt in his jacket.

Glenn O’Brien passed away at 70 today. I know I’m not alone when I say that he was a large influence on my interest in clothing as well as my interest in writing about it. He helped inspire many men to lead more interesting, stylish lives, and for that I’m very thankful.