Menswear Forums to GQ Editor feat. Jian DeLeon

March 14th, 2014

If you’re an avid reader of GQ.com, you’ve probably run across Jian DeLeon‘s byline. What you probably don’t know is how he got there by gradually climbing through the ranks of internet menswear enthusiasts and forum posters. This young man is a student of the game in the truest sense of the words. Accordingly, he’s also one of the most well versed guys around on the history of streetwear and it’s influence on mainstream fashion and culture.

These days he earns his keep talking sneakers with A$AP Rocky and Jeremy Scott, or musing on the current state of menswear blogging. And he does it all with a trademark voice and a journalistic integrity that shows he’s really got his finger on the pulse, a skill he owes entirely to Internet forums.

“I started on the forums, Styleforum and Superfuture mostly. That’s really where I developed my clothing nerdiness. Before Reddit’s MFA and long before menswear blogs popped off, these spots were a solid place to learn about clothes if you knew how to shut up and lurk first. There’s a huge repository of knowledge on how a suit should fit to how to break in denim that still exists on these sites, it just takes dedication to read all of it. Then you found out what all the NYC and Tokyo cool guys were wearing, or what brands they were into. Tumblr and Instagram really made that stuff much more accessible.”

Originally from Washington, DC, Jian got his start freelancing for Valetmag.com, where he became the Shopping Editor and helped expand their publication. The section’s success got his name out there and led to a position at Complex Media, where he eventually became editor of Complex’s Style section, and was one of the first contributors to Four Pins.

“I’m far from a street style sort of guy—I’m like 5’8, don’t have high cheekbones, and not in shape. But I do put a lot of thought into why I wear what I do, and I geek out about everything from sneakers to double-knee pants.”

Here Jian gives us a taste of his day-to-day personal style, and naturally, a rich history to go along with the pieces that he diligently selects.

1. Fashion is Culture

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“Ever since Aaron Levine took the menswear reins at Club Monaco it’s become one of the best labels a dude can find at his local mall. Not many people realize the brand is owned by Ralph Lauren, and their latest collections have really delivered a mix of accessible American sportswear (ironic, since they’re originally Canadian) with bells and whistles clothing nerds can appreciate. Levine’s resume includes the brand hickey, which was way ahead of its time. One of my favorite pieces from them was a blackwatch waxed toggle coat. This British Millerain Parka is its spiritual successor. That’s actually one of my favorite things about Club Monaco, there’s nice little references to Levine’s past menswear hits in the clothes.

I did an oral history on Stussy that became my personal crash course in the history of streetwear. I talked to a lot of the old-school guys that paved the way for that movement and gained a new sense of appreciation for James Jebbia, the founder of Supreme in the process. This denim jacket is from Supreme’s F/W 2012 collaboration with Levi’s. It’s got a leopard print pile lining that’s really warm, but I think my favorite part is the fact that the buttons even say “Supreme x Levi’s.”

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“I have a thing for patterned shirts. Andrew from 3sixteen is one of the first guys I really befriended in the industry, and I’m glad to see how far they’ve come as a brand. I’ve also just been really feeling the “air tie” as of late. Beyond David Lynch, the guys behind Fantastic Man actually compiled a cool book documenting its origins in East London subculture and prevalence in the post-punk scene.

I got these jeans because I liked the way they fit, but also because to me they’ve got a huge cultural significance. I think the same way people track down Raf Simons bomber jackets they’re gonna treasure the jeans from Kanye’s first A.P.C. collaboration. Based on a pair of Dior 17cm jeans West used to own, they’re super skinny at the leg and really wide at the waist. I need a belt to wear them, but I wear them a ton. I could probably write an essay on how and why they represent such a seminal moment not just in men’s fashion, but pop culture as a whole.”

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“Chances are if you’re Filipino and you grew up in America, the Nike Dunk and Jordan 1 are up there in your favorite sneakers. When I worked with Russ Bengtson it was like going to sneaker boot camp, learning the significance of each silhouette and its place in sports, pop culture, and the sneaker mythos. I personally love the Jordan 1s because they were the original Nike SB—skaters used to cop them because they provided more support than say Vans or Chuck Taylors. There’s an amazing photo of the Bones Brigade skating them in the ’90s.”

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2.  Engineered Style

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“Engineered Garments is hands-down one of my favorite brands on the planet. Daiki Suzuki knows how to push the envelope just enough while keeping everything grounded in the current world of menswear. The jackets are all unstructured and super comfortable. This suit actually started out as separates. I had the jacket than later found the double-knee pants at a sample sale and they originally were cut huge, so I had my tailor turn them into a more traditional trouser.”

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“En Noir is an LA-brand that we got the scoop on during my Complex days. They’re most famous for the leather sweatpants that Kanye West sported in the 2 Chainz video for “Birthday Song”, but they’ve since evolved into one of the best new American labels. It’s easy to typecast them as the “all-leather everything” guys but that’s a disservice to designer Rob Garcia. This trucker jacket is actually reversible, one side’s leather and the other is an olive green bonded neoprene. Honestly it’s probably one of the select En Noir pieces I’m confident I could pull off.”

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“These sneakers speak to longtime fans of Engineered Garments—and probably were one of the most affordable items they’ve ever made. Both shoes utilize leather and suede on the upper, but it’s flipped on either side. It’s a call out to Suzuki’s wabi-sabi design philosophy. The first time I saw that was on a pair of Tricker’s brogues from Fall-Winter 2010 (as featured here) – one shoe was a wingtip and the other was a cap toe, but they were meant to be worn together. I could never afford those, but Vans? Shut up and take my money.”

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3. Utilitarian Luxury

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“Sean Brown is a young Canadian designer with a label called NEEDS&WANTS. He makes varsity jackets and this varsity peacoat with a lone contrast sleeve, and I really liked the elongated look, it’s sporty but refined, and it works over a suit.”

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“I sold an old Margiela cardigan and a Patrik Ervell sweatshirt on eBay just to buy this sweatshirt. The leather patches are what sold me, and it fits great. I think of Margiela the same way I think of the iPhone. It’s utilitarian luxury, designed so that you kind of just forget about it and take it for granted.

That’s actually the same way I feel about A.P.C. These double-knee pants are from A.P.C.’s last collaboration with Carhartt Work In Progress. I knew I needed them as soon as I saw the lookbook. A lot of people sleep on Carhartt Work In Progress, but creative director Arnaud Faeh knows what’s up. Whether you’re an average dude or Internet menswear nerd, there’s always a few things that catch your eye. It’s not exactly heritage, not exactly workwear, but it’s super masculine, vaguely street, and very, very wearable.”

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“Nike’s got a strong history of great designers, and Nathan Van Hook carries that torch well. I’ve never owned a pair of Bean Boots, but the LunarTerra Arktos I can’t speak highly enough of. They’re comfortable like sneakers but make me feel like Robocop in the best way possible. They’re like what Marty McFly would wear in 2015 if the polar vortex hit Hill Valley. It’s a great combination of functional design, technological innovation, and again—the kind of style you don’t really have to put much thought into.”

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Thanks for reading, and special thanks to Jian for participating!

Yours in style,

Articles of Style

 

Photography by Alex Crawford