Fashion Magazine

Glenn O’Brien’s Style

By Dieworkwear @dieworkwear
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Sad to learn this morning that Glenn O’Brien just passed away. Glenn was not only the writer behind GQ’s “Style Guy” column, which ran for sixteen years, he was also a cultural pioneer. In the 1970s, he worked for Andy Warhol and hosted a public access TV show called “TV Party,” which he co-founded with Chris Stein from the band Blondie. Guests included nearly every “who’s who” figure at the time – Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Clash, David Byrne, Klaus Nomi, and Fab 5 Freddy. His music column in Interview magazine was also considered a touchstone for music criticism, particularly in how it covered the 1980s NYC punk scene. And Glenn would later go on to be an editor and writer at publications such as Rolling Stone, High Times, Artforum, and elsewhere. 

In a few of his interviews, Glenn cited Fred Hughes as his biggest style influence. The two met when they worked together for Warhol. Hughes was a Texan with an eclectic sense of dress – he mixed Savile Row bespoke tailoring with trim jeans, and liked to wear his watch on the outside of his shirt cuff (like Gianni Agnelli, before this became a meme on the internet). 

This might explain some of Glenn’s own sense of style. He wore everything from black Schott double riders to Supreme t-shirts to Hermes sweaters. His suits and sport coats were tailored for him in London by John Pearse and Anderson & Sheppard (one of my tailors, Steed, also made him a cream, double breasted dinner jacket with a dashing shawl collar). He favored Hermes Rocabar and Santa Maria Novella Melograno for his fragrances, and he wasn’t afraid to wear creative, non-traditional ties (in David Coggin’s book, Men and Style, Glenn said he owns 180). In the same free spirit, Glenn loved his Belgian loafers. He reportedly had fifteen pairs, which I assume covers most of the line.  

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For a guy who wrote a column advising men on how to dress, Glenn’s perspective was refreshingly grounded. On the subject of rules, he once said: “The number one rule is, there are no rules. I mean, there are rules that come from common sense. And those are the only rules. Everything else, if you have real style, you can transcend the rules – you make your own rules. And that’s why artists are often the greatest role models.” Amen. 

I don’t have any cool, personal Glenn O’Brien stories to share, but I admired his writing and sense of dress from afar. Glenn epitomized a sort of downtown NYC sense of bohemian cool. I liked that he stood counter to the sort of cultural cluelessness that sometimes defines fashion. Glenn’s style was about a lot more than clothes, which is what made it so great,. 

The one thing I have to offer: In October of 2014, I emailed Glenn to ask him if he could answer a question for a magazine article I was writing at the time. The question was, “what’s your style resolution for 2015?” (The article was to be published in January of the following year). Glenn’s answer, in full:

Resolutions?  Next year I will wear my orange galoshes more over my good shoes when it’s sloppy out. I will always be warm enough and not too hot if I can help it. (Hell with what anybody says, I say Bermudas in the city if it’s 90 out). I will wear a scarf, even when it’s only a little bit cool and look a little more Parisian devil-may-care. I will think twice about wearing a tie to a meeting where everyone else will be wearing a tie (creative dept. has to look creative). I will try to be less lazy and wear French cuffs and links with some regularity. I will take my fedoras to get them blocked and wear them more often. I will wear colors outside the usual gray, blue, black, brown, blah blah blah. Not just shirts and socks, but suits too. I will not bore anyone.

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