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Kanye West: Man of Style?

The latest in an ongoing series in which the editors of Gilt MAN debate current topics in men’s style with an intensity that is—we'll be the first to admit—a little out of proportion to the actual significance of the issue at hand.

Photo:  Anna Carnochan/Retna Ltd./CorbisOn Dec 21, 2010, at 2:23 PM, Tyler Thoreson wrote:
The man who introduced “I’ma let you finish!” and “#Mypresenceisapresentkissmyass best hash tag ever!!” into the popular lexicon may not be much of a role model when it comes to gentlemanly behavior, but the guy does have a passion for dressing well. The question, of course, is how well he translates that passion into execution. As recently as a few months ago, I would’ve put Mr. West solidly in the ” ‘A’ for Effort” category, but these days, when I see his mug next to yet another year-end top 10 list, I can’t help but think to myself: dude looks sharp. What do you guys think? We all know that Yeezy loves fashion. Has he finally mastered the more elusive art of style?

On Dec 21, 2010, at 3:18 PM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
While I would have once only grudgingly admitted to liking Kanye’s wears (those would be the years between my jealousy of his collection of Polo Bear merchandise and puzzlement at his Theo Huxtable-like mullet cut at the shows a few seasons back), these days I am regularly impressed. Maybe it’s that whole ‘Rosewood’ thing he keeps going on about, but his suiting choices, footwear, and haircuts have all been rather well-fitting and consistently good. Now, this refers to Kanye off-duty. On-stage my man has still had some spectacular missteps—and I don’t mean Anubis chains and day-glo suits, but rather his latter day Fred Flintstone impression at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But at least his haircut has been tight and unlined. I think his experimental phase is tamping down, and off-stage there’s a lot to be admired (and even some to emulate) about his clothes, but style might be the wrong word for what he has. Swagger, sure, but style is more personal. More consistent. He’s getting there, but the road is long.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 4:11 PM, Andy Comer wrote:
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a firm believer that men of style (good style, I mean, in both an aesthetic and a moral sense) are obliged to honor some standard of gentlemanly behavior; and that basic etiquette is one key factor that separates the “stylish” from the “well-dressed.” Now, I’m not saying that Mr. West isn’t a gentleman, or necessarily lacking in decorum, but how could certain very public and very boorish displays, however long ago and however atoned for, not stick in one’s head? Okay, so you can poke a million holes in that argument, and come up with tons of men whose sartorial legacies fly in the face of it. But basically I’m echoing what Josh just said: The road is long.

Photo:  Dennis Van Tine/Retna Ltd./Corbis

The offending ensemble: Kanye on Thanksgiving Day.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 4:28 PM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
Andy makes a really good point about the line between “well-dressed” and “stylish,” but I wouldn’t necessarily call Kanye well-dressed, would you? I mean, I hate to keep harping on the floor-length-fur-vest-and-leather-pants getup from Turkey Day, but that is not exactly well-dressed, nor stylish. But he does take risks, which puts him more in the stylish camp (on-stage, on-float) than the well-dressed one. But when he’s well-dressed, he’s elegant and, of late, understated, which are things that we associate with being stylish. Now I’m running in circles, but basically I guess I’m trying to say he’s having a very good year, but the label stylish requires a consistency he has yet to demonstrate.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 4:35 PM, Jared Flint wrote:
Saying Kanye West is well-dressed is like saying parrots have a mastery of language… and I kind of mean that in a good way. We rip on dudes all the time for not caring about the way they dress and for looking like slobs and here’s a fella who takes a huge interest, not only in what he personally wears, but in fashion as a whole. Right around the time of his Daft Punk sampling, his blog (does he still do that?) was an electric, robotic, futuristic, Japanese version of Wallpaper. I’m pretty sure were he to re-do his style blogging it would be nothing but taxidermy and Kodachromes. Point being, I think a lot of Kanye’s schtick is overly derived from other people, places, and things. Just like his music. ‘Runaway’? Pretty beautiful, pretty melodic, pretty introspective. Yet, any chorus, whether in jest or not, that raises a toast to douchebags needed a second opinion. Now, are any of us free from outside influences? Absolutely not. We also don’t rush on stage and steal microphones from Taylor Swift. Kind of opens up the critical flood gates.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 4:46 PM, Tyler Thoreson wrote:
Kanye’s got all the time and access and money in the world these days, but you could argue that he actually dressed better back when he was still a fledgling producer. The pastel-prep thing he was known for back then was pretty radical—especially for someone working in early-2000s hip hop. Makes me wonder if all that aforementioned lucre is what threw him off his game. If he’s found his stylistic footing over the past year or so—and I would contend that he has—it may well be due to the re-imposition of some sartorial limits (not that he doesn’t still veer off-course on occasion, as Pesko points out).

On Dec 21, 2010, at 4:50 PM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
It was radical in the sense that it was a throwback to the Polo-heavy early-90′s style of dress, not the oversized jersey thing his peers were doing, which mirrored his sound as a producer. And oddly, as his sound has gone back to the production values of those producers he idolized (Pete Rock, Large Professor, Diamond D) his style has been on sounder footing.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 4:52 PM, Andy Comer wrote:
So what are the sartorial limits he’s imposed, or re-imposed? No more wacky Venetian-blind shades?

Photo: Justin Lane/epa/Corbis

Mr. West in more linear times.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 4:58 PM, Tyler Thoreson wrote:
Pretty sure he woke up one morning last winter and said to himself: More handmade dinner jackets, fewer designer hoodies. But not until you’ve had your bottom front teeth replaced with diamonds.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 5:02 PM, Josh Peskowitz wrote:
Even that diamond teeth shit is someone else’s schtick. But mixing Paul Wall with Phillip Lim is something new.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 5:18 PM, Jared Flint wrote:
One point about being on-stage (which I believe we also gave Jake Davis a pass for)… there’s a bit more leniency. It’s a production, not a dinner party. Would I necessarily think checkered Vans, skinny black jeans, a white tee, White Sox cap, Ray-Bans, and a wallet chain a good look outside of an Orange County high school? No. But Lil Wayne pulled it off on SNL last week. Also, being one of the greatest rappers of all time helps. On a previous note, I also missed the Louis-backpacked-producer/first-album Kanye. Would he admit to mispronouncing Versace now?

On Dec 21, 2010, at 5:21 PM, Andy Comer wrote:
To be continued—or not—tomorrow at 1:00pm ET, when we’ll be crashing Mr. Peskowitz’s inaugural Gilt MAN Facebook chat to get some clarity on that “mixing Paul Wall with Phillip Lim” point.

Hungry for more of our hand-wringing over matters of men’s style? Don’t miss the first two installments of Reply-All, in which the editors of Gilt MAN tackle modern headgear etiquette and a certain boot-wearing trend currently sweeping the streets of Manhattan.

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  1. Emerson says:

    Actually, Kanye’s fashion expert was a classmate of mine at Phillips Andover; Cassius Clay ’09. They ran into eachother one day while shopping at Barney’s. Kanye admired his shoes and they hit it off.

  2. Matthew says:

    “Point being, I think a lot of Kanye’s schtick is overly derived from other people, places, and things” – I’d say this is the key to understanding and dichotomizing any part of Kanye’s persona. The fact that he has enough of a finger on the pulse (read: is watching/stealing from the right people) to move just ever so slightly ahead of trends is not a hinderance to calling him a #ManofStyle. But his complete lack of humility is. I present this lyric from a KW verse on ‘Gifted’: “And as usual, my pants tight-threaded/ It seem like everybody dress tight now/ And I just want my credit.” What credit? This song came out in ’09 – skinny/slim pants/jeans were a mainstream trend on the coasts by 06/7 – latest. Cite your sources – and we all good, Kanye.

  3. Jeremy+ says:

    Actually he says it first in the song “It aint a Scene Its a Arms Race” Remix. Why does Humility have to go against Style?.. It takes a lot of effort and balls for some of these artist to step out of the norm. Who would question Elton with his Starry Sun Glasses or Liberace with his rhinestone Suit.. If Not, Who are the best dressed men?

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