502 Lawrence Schlossman Interview

Interview: Harry Roberts
Photography: provided by Lawrence Schlossman

I remember buying Fuck Yeah Menswear when I was in highschool, it was a how-to guide on not dressing like shit, bespoke knowledge for the crispy gentleman. I don't think I really knew what that meant at the time, but I knew I wanted to be one anyway. See you needed to figure it out for yourself, that was the whole point of it. Were you putting your raw denim in the freezer, or washing them in the ocean? Co-author of the cult publication, and podcast industry heavyweight Lawrence Schlossman, has been educating us on these things for over a decade now. A steady contributor to the fashion and menswear communities, his career trajectory has been anything but ordinary. From Four Pins to Grailed, and now co-host of the formidable Throwing Fits podcast, we caught up with him to chat betting on yourself, some of his favourite guests on the podcast, soft shouldered Italian tailoring and if you can ever have too much lapel.

HR: We read that you studied economics and were heading towards a career in finance, but decided to pursue fashion full time instead. Where does the obsession with clothing come from?

The only reason I majored in economics was because I felt too stupid to go to business school where I went to college. I thought being an economics major would be way easier, so I could just continue partying and not study. My love of clothing is essentially something that I remember starting pretty young. I have memories of doing what is now in America considered like a joke or a meme, being that kid who would lay out his outfit for school. I remember finding a pair of Adidas trainers at the time and wearing them with a Unionbay sweater vest over a white t-shirt, thinking it was gonna look spectacular. I'm sure my parents have a photo of this somewhere, because I fucking loved that vest, I almost looked exactly like that American cartoon dog from Nickelodeon, Doug Funny

In terms of where it comes from, as I grew up and got into hobbies that a young person would get into. Whether that was things like soccer, skateboarding and even the post hardcore, pop punk scene that was happening in the Tri-state area at the time. I remember being acutely aware of what people were wearing: what's the right skateboard, the right pro shoe, what’s the right album to like to show that you weren’t a poser? All these communities are like tiered, you have the older guys who like fucking get it, the guys that are accepted and then the groms. I’m an older brother, so for me it was just trying to learn from the older kids that I looked up to. Outside of the foundational elements of these things, it was like the skaters or the bands themselves. Being interested in subcultures, and paying very close attention to what those people are wearing and why they're wearing them, that’s something that fascinated me. 

HR: What was your best trick in skateboarding? 

I think I heel flipped a three stair once, I don't think there’s any footage of it, but it definitely happened. It was on an Ali Boulala Flip board, and I was wearing the eS Reynolds that had the gum sole and were all white. That’s an all time classic right there, you couldn't even track those down anymore.  

HR: Betting on yourself takes a hefty amount of resolve, were there any standout moments that made you think “thank fuck I listened to my gut”? 

There’s been a lot of those moments and I think it takes a lot of hindsight to be like ‘phew’ thankfully that worked out, you go on your gut because it feels right at the time. Throughout college I had been blogging and writing as a fan and enthusiast. I was getting a little bit of an audience, this was back when people were doing Blogspots, even before Tumblr had popped off. I really loved doing it, so it was a muscle I enjoyed using.

My first job out of college was kind of your standard white collar gig, I was making pretty good money and I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the time I was trying to get transferred back home to New Jersey, so I could be in closer proximity to New York City and pursue something on the side. I would take vacation days from my job and fly to Jersey, just so I could attend these big menswear trade shows, which ended up being an amazing networking opportunity for me.

Through these Menswear nerd business trips, that I would pay for off my own dime, I was offered an entry level PR job at a showroom in New York.

It was half of what I was currently making. I remember trying to explain to my parents that this was an actual step forward in my career, not 10 steps fucking backwards. But that first job was where I met James around 2011, who was interning at the time trying to figure out his life. That was definitely a big one, taking a gamble on what I thought was a skillset, that was huge.

I think another stand out moment was going to Complex to launch a site called Four Pins, where  I was effectively going to be an editor-in-chief, despite having no editorial background whatsoever, I was like 

what the fuck does an editor-in-chief even do?

By that point I had written a book called Fuck Yeah Menswear with my buddy, but that was just for fun. The only reason I got the job offer was because the first guy took it and then kind of walked away, I imagine they must have been like I guess we’ll hire this Lawrence guy then. I remember having a conversation with my wife about imposter syndrome at the time, and her giving me the confidence to go and actually do it, that was a risk.

Even when James and I decided to start the podcast and leave our full time jobs, me as the brand director of Grailed and him at Def Jam, we were unsure if an audience would even have our back and support us. I’ve been lucky that most things have worked out, 

the joke I use is that I’m proof positive that good things can happen to bad people.

But it’s hard to pick just one, because all of these moments feels like a 12 year journey, and there's been a huge level of doubt, but I believed in myself, trusted my gut and my skill set. 

HR: You kind of alluded to the book you wrote Fuck Yeah Menswear and Four Pins, which both had huge cult followings. Is it weird looking back now and knowing people grew up on these? 

Yeah it is, because at the time I was like who the fuck is reading these things, what is the point of all this? When I talk to people and they say that it was a formative part of their journey into clothing, or like they grew up on it, it’s always amazing to hear. I think the website especially kind of changed the discourse about men’s fashion, and how it kind of pushed the point of view. We had such amazing writers there and Complex really just let us do whatever we wanted. There were communities back then that were very active and intense in how they spoke about fashion, in like a shorthand snappy way, and I feel that Four Pins and FYMW took that ethos and brought it to the person that probably didn't feel welcome in those places. So for me, I love hearing it anecdotally from people, because at the time I really felt like it was going out into the ether. There’s definitely a whole new generation of podcasters and substackers who are widening the funnel and making this kind of esoteric world of personal style, making it more accessible to people and delivering it with humour and being insightful and helpful. 

HR: Do you think that was like foundational and that we’re coming back to that kind of  newsletter culture? 

The recommendation is coming from a  real person, not a fucking media entity or someone who is being paid by a sponsor or brand to promote something and create some type of list.

It's like what it was 10ish years ago, what you would see on someone's WordPress or Blogspot, now you’re seeing it through a newsletter  format through Substack. I think that's why certain podcasts are able to succeed, because there’s no agenda, this is how a person really feels. And if you respect that person, whether it is their point of view, their voice, it feels more genuine. It’s also a rejection of influencer culture. 

HR: We’ve come a long way from the goth ninjas and streetwear fuckboys, are you surprised at the resurgence of #menswear and its staying power? 

 If you think about when #menswear was happening you’re in that sweet spot when people talk about trends recycling and combing back, so I'm not necessarily surprised. Something that's interesting to me, which has been brought up on our show by people who are a lot smarter than me, mainly Jon Caramonica at The New York Times and Jacob Gallagher at The Wall Street Journal. Is that what you’re seeing right now, isn't a dominant archetype, there's a wide variety and spectrum of looks. People are picking a spot on that spectrum and they’re going deeper and I think you're going to get some interesting looks out of that. There’s a wide swath of guys that are settling back into a uniform, from like 10 years ago, and a lot of that stuff is classic shit from heritage brands. I’m not afraid of trends, if anything I support them and sometimes participate in them, because that's what excites me. 

HR: Yeah, what do you do with all your old stuff? I’ve got four or five blazers I just never wear. Do you have a secret hole in the ground somewhere with all this incredible shit?

It’s not a secret hole, I have two suit closets and one closet is really just the suits that I would wear today if I were going to a nice dinner or something. Then I have another, which is kind of like my relics, it's like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they put the Ark in Area 51. Not that I'm a hoarder, but I keep it even if I don't wear it anymore. I'm sure my wife and people in my personal life might disagree though. I remember when I went on my honeymoon, I broke out a lot of my old soft shouldered italian tailoring brands like Isaia and Brunello Cuccinelli and ironically was able to wear it in Italy on my honeymoon. 

For the most part though I sell stuff or like to give it away, but when I was buying these things at the time I was pretty broke, and my interest in italian neapolitan tailoring was at an all time fever pitch, so I was really hunting down crazy deals, whether it was online through eBay or going to sample sales in New York. I was lucky enough to have friends who worked at Isaia, so I would go to the sample sale every season, and that was huge for me; I would spend all my disposable income on a suit or two sport coats. So a lot of that stuff, whether it fits me now or not, there’s an emotional connection because of all the hoops I jumped through to get it, and the food I couldn’t eat. I'm lucky though, my interest in tailoring hasn’t really changed that much over time, I still love a double breasted sports coat or suit jacket, I love big lapels.

HR: Do you ever think you can have too much lapel?

I mean you can see the guys at Pitti Uomo, where their shit literally goes above the shoulder,  that’s a bit much, but I do like a big sleazy lapel flapping in the wind. I think you can have too much of a good thing, lapel included. But a lot of that stuff might get worn, but I'm shackled by nostalgia. 

HR: Have you had any guests on the show, where you’ve gone away and gone ‘fuck that was incredible’ ?

Yeah for sure, a lot of these moments happen with our friends. It's always the people I've known the longest, whether it was a mentor like Aaron Levine or Josh Paskowitz. Or a contemporary like Brandon Mahler who used to work at Drake’s, and is now the global merchandising manager for Aime Leon Dore, that’s a homie, I love that dude and we hang out all the time. Getting to platform someone like him and giving him an opportunity to talk his shit, spit his bars and have a good time is great. The way I want the podcast to be is like entertaining first and foremost, and then after that, I hope we do a good job of combining humor and entertainment with insight and thoughtfulness. 

If you asked me though I would rather be funny and entertaining, because that's the type of podcast I listen to. I think menswear podcasting is a pretty empty land, besides like us and my good friend Jeremy Kirkland at Blamo!, what he does there is fantastic - I always tell him he’s like Terry Gross of menswear. But I think I always wanted Failing Upwards, and now Throwing Fits to just be what it is. If I walk away and I'm like damn I had a great time, then I’m happy. It doesn't always have to be fashion people either, we’ve had rappers on and all types of people, obviously we’ve pegged ourselves as that because we start with the fit check and there are fashion segments. But as you can tell, i'm a loquacious guy and i’ll talk to fucking anybody.

HR: As in dating, some say it's all about the chase and we know jawns are no different. What’s the best jawn cop of your life so far and why? 

Shit, it's actually funny but I hate the chase, I want that shit to be as easy as possible. There was definitely a time where I had to dig because financially I couldn't afford to have shit curated, priced at a premium and then presented to me. I’ve never enjoyed that, I always wanted to  fucking stumble on deals. Even though I don't like the chase, there’s always stuff I'm trying to acquire. One piece that is like a forever one for me, I bought just like any other person, no special perks or VIP privileges is the Supreme Barbour jacket in leopard print. I remember I had a friend working at Grailed, who left to work at Supreme. And I remember asking about the quantities because I was worried it was going to sell out, because they really didn’t make many of them. So being able to get one of those in my size was great, because lord knows what I would’ve paid, I just needed to have that. That one is a grail and a forever jacket, I wear it all the time. But another, more recent one I got through a friend from Los Angeles who is like an archivist and has impeccable taste, is an early 90s Giorgio Armani sports coat. It was made for Saks, and is just gorgeous and fits me perfectly. Vintage Armani stuff is having a little crazy moment, and I think it’s become a little mini obsession for me where I was collecting a bunch of shirts and tailoring from around the 80s and 90s era. So that was an amazing acquisition for me.

HR: Lastly, now that you’re an established industry figure. Do you think you have the power to bring back Nike Roshe Runs, and should you?

Well with great power comes great responsibility, Spiderman’s dead uncle said that. No, I don't think so, there’s like a photo on my instagram from way back of me wearing them and when I mention it on the podcast people will like to dig it up, comment and like it to clown me. The only scenario which I would attempt probably unsuccessfully to bring them back is if Nike paid me,  and then 100% id perform that fruitless errand.