Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs, co-founders of the exceptionally stylish and avidly-followed blog Street Etiquette, are among the sharpest dressed gentlemen we know. It’s a fact owing in part to their prowess as educated, eagle-eyed vintage and thrift store shoppers, a talent on display in the thoughtful, well-styled photo editorials they consistently turn out—and, we’re thrilled to announce, in the Gilt MAN Finds sale of one-of-a-kind clothes they’ve curated for us today. We sat down with Joshua to get the duo’s complete backstory, and to preview the clothes they tracked down for us.
How, and when, did Street Etiquette come about?
We launched in 2008. We were college freshmen at Westchester College, and started it as a hobby. At first, we just covered product, items we liked mixed with lifestyle stuff. We had a basic SLR camera, so we shot a few things around the city. Travis came up with the name Street Etiquette. It was from a Nas song, and we just thought it sounded cool. At the time, we were transitioning from the streetwear scene into a more tailored form of menswear.
So you and Travis were always into clothes?
Yeah, but streetwear at first: Jordans, and Nike, and then Vans. Then we transitioned into A.P.C.—a more fitted look. Streetwear and specifically the sneaker scene is where we learned about color—those are the same color schemes we play with today. And that all freed us up to play with texture, and shades, and now it’s a whole different ballgame.
What inspired your move into a more tailored look?
Being based in New York City, and watching what was going on online, and just watching all the change and the individualism that started emerging around how people were dressing… At first it just seemed cool, but then it grew into something more than that, to really become a part of yourself. That was a great transition. It was the culture around us. And just growing up, being in college, you want to experience more things in life. It inspires you to change your views—opening yourself up to new music, for example. I mean, we listened to hip-hop for so long, and went to a school that was predominantly African-American and Hispanic, and we started moving out of the norms of that and traveling a little bit… and the internet played such a big role in that. There are so many different worlds accessible, and so many different realities you can take on, with each site you go to. We incorporated that into everything we did. It inspired the way we dressed. We didn’t feel like we were getting enough of a balance, in terms of information, and were hungry for more of it.
You started the site in college, and one thread that really emerges from your work is the historical perspective you bring to clothes, like the letterman jacket, and all the archival research you do…
There’s definitely a thirst for knowledge.
And the other collegiate thread is the impact of midcentury American college style, right?
It was one small part. But it was more the jazz era that was inspiring us. That’s what made us want to clean up our attire. And as time went on, an introduction to Ivy League style through scans from the Ivy Style book. I mean, Ivy style is aspirational for many people, but we were far removed from the real traditional roots of what Ivy League means. We came up with the project “Black Ivy” to kind of commemorate that, but at the same to give people a sense of individualism within it—to be who you are, rather than to follow norms. And the term Black Ivy…it wasn’t just about being African-American or being of African ancestry, it was more black as in lacking attention, and Ivy as in upward mobility or progression, whether it’s style or whatever you want to do in life.
“Black Ivy,” of course, is one of the fashion editorial-style projects you’ve done. You and Travis have put together some great-looking, very well thought out features. Do you see yourselves as editors?
I do. Some may argue differently. I see ourselves as editors, photographers, historians. We want people to refer back to our posts twenty or thirty years from now.
You’re very attuned to styling…
Art and design rules the world, for us. Everything, in some capacity, involves it, whether it’s the chair I’m sitting in or my laptop… That all inspires us. And it translates to our site.
So a big question people have when they check out Street Etiquette is: Where do these guys shop?
[Laughs.] Everybody asks that. The emails are always flowing in. I mean, when we first started to blog we began with basics from Uniqlo and things that were affordable, and as time went on we started investing in thrifting, because we like the element of getting items that weren’t mass-produced but where the quality was so great, and where it was affordable. But you have to sacrifice some time and patience to find it. And we just try to make everything work by incorporating lots of influences… We love to mix things up. Everything we’re inspired by goes into the outfit. People might have the same clothes as us, but they wouldn’t dress the same way as us.
You’d probably agree with us that the key is fit, right?
So how much time and money are you guys spending at your tailor’s?
Oh, man… [laughs] I’m working through a whole pile of clothing that needs tailoring right now, lots of spring and summer stuff. We bring it in bulk. We want this seam taken in, and this cropped… Just getting everything situated. A great tailor is essential for every man; and every man should have a tailor behind him.
So who’s yours?
Man, people always ask me that, and then they’re driving his price up. [laughs] Inflation! I’ll just throw this out there and say Pablo [Vargas], at Stanton Tailor Shop on the Lower East Side. The quality’s great, the price point is great, and he’s sticking to that because of the neighborhood’s roots, and how long he’s been there. I’d recommend that everyone go there. There’s another secret fellow, but we’ll keep him undisclosed in this interview… [laughs]