Beers with Ben: Hooman Majd
Beers with Ben | Hooman Majd, Iranian-American journalist and author sits down to discuss style and the art of living.
Beers with Ben is a series in which Ben Levy talks to some of the more interesting men of style about the art of living - while sipping his signature Campari soda.
This week’s Beers with Ben features Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd, favorite of GQ style and writer-scholar whose works can be found here.
What's the first piece of clothing you really remember caring about?
I think the first piece of clothing I really cared about probably was my Army khakis - which, I used to go to an Army Navy store when I was in college - I’m talking about the 70s so it was still the Vietnam era, and you could actually get a pair of khakis. If I remember correctly, they were around $5 - Army surplus.
I love Levi’s too, but at the time, I felt like being unique and different. I was one of the few people who wore khakis when no one else did. It wasn’t part of the uniform, and it wasn’t even part of the preppy uniform.
Preppy hadn’t quite started until the early 70s. So I was kind of different in that regard, and I cared about them. I cared about what that projected. I was like 'I'm not going to be like everyone else.'
How do you think your career has affected your style and how you dress?
Same as college.
There’s a long lineage of well-dressed writers and authors.
Moreso, I feel like than a lot of other creative professions.
Yes, I think they do [have style], but there’s not a long tradition of well-dressed journalists. So in the world of journalism, it’s sort of like college. I stand out if I wear something that is in my mind, nice.
So, you know, I like the idea of being different. Stylish.
Stylish is a word that’s a little overused, but I definitely don’t want to say fashionable because I've never been fashionable. What I’m wearing today is not fashionable.
I feel there is a big difference, for sure.
There is a huge difference. When I say stylish, I just mean something that makes you feel good, and makes other people notice that you’re feeling good.
I feel that style is so much more about personality than it is about actual physical articles of clothing.
Absolutely. That’s why, you know you see on the best dressed list, sometimes someone like my friend Eric Hood, who just wears jeans and t-shirts. That’s all he wears.
But the way he wears it - it works. That’s his style, it works.
Or you know, you see people like Julian Schnabell famous for wearing dresses or wraps, as in sarongs, but it works for him. Somehow, for that personality, it works. You can’t say it’s fashionable.
This suit is a good color for a rainy day.
It was rainy, so I was going to go grey monotone.
What do you think it is about a suit that it remains so timeless for you at least?
It’s a uniform; it’s easy, you don’t have to think. My dad was always like that. He was always: I’ll only have grey or navy suits, only white and blue shirts. And towards the end of his life it wasn’t even white shirts, just blue, because, 'I don’t have to think and I'm always going to look great.'
I think the suit endures because first of all, it’s a uniform. It reminds people of uniforms and men like uniforms - from the minute we go to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Army, G.I. Joe. Men like uniforms. So you get that uniform.
There’s a moment when we rebel and we don’t like that uniform. Even if you think about it, when we’re wearing Levi's and 501s, it’s still a uniform. This is a uniform that works for work.
Suits can actually, if they’re well-made, they can be comfortable. A suit for me can actually be more comfortable than jeans.
Well, that’s the appeal of the suit. In a sense, it’s like it’s own anti-style garment that you can put style into it in and of itself.
No, there’s nothing particularly stylish about a suit unless you go crazy - well unless you go to extremes - like Comme des Garçons and make suits that aren’t even practical or comfortable. They look good on the runway, and are works of art.
I’m not fussy about rules either. If you’re wearing a suit like this - this would be considered a relatively formal suit.
A bit of a pad to the shoulder, pleated trousers.
Yeah, it’s a pretty formal suit, not formal formal, relatively formal. You normally wouldn’t wear this with a polo shirt. This is more of a 60s style polo shirt, and if anything this is a 30s suit, but it works. Well, for me it does. I feel comfortable. So if it works, it works. So that’s my point about style.
How do you consume style, where do you find your influence?
I am so arrogant as to not feel that I can be influenced, but I also won’t deny that I will. I’ll look at magazines and the New York Times style section. I don’t subscribe to all of them, but nowadays online it’s easy to get access to all that so I see a lot. I don’t deny that I see a lot.
But I’m again arrogant enough to think that I’m not influenced, although I probably am. I think there are subtle influences and it’s impossible not to be influenced.
What about people you know personally that you see around the city, that you run into and you think, 'Wow this guy looks really good?'
Well, I mean among my friends I have a few I think - but they’re in the business.
I think Michael Hainey at Esquire has good style. He has always had that great style when he was at GQ. I’m always impressed by his style when I see him. He always looks comfortable.
Glenn O’Brian was one of my best friends and he passed away this year. I always thought that he had the ultimate style because he wasn't just one thing, but he was everything.
I feel like Glenn really kind of embodied the New York look, no matter what he had on.
And you know anything from a white dinner jacket to jeans to Supreme clothes that he wore, stuff like that - he just pulled it off with ease - that it was clear that he was a supremely stylish person.
Well, and it all comes back to what we were talking about comfort. Glenn never looked uncomfortable.
He refused to be uncomfortable, so he would not put up with discomfort. He had beautiful suits and he could wear them with a tie. And he also had great casual clothes - he had truly good style.
Hooman Majd is an Iranian-American author and journalist based out of Brooklyn, New York whos writing focuses on Iranian relations.