Michael Williams, the East Coast half of the bi-coastal PR firm Paul+Williams, started his men’s style blog A Continuous Lean less than a year ago, and it’s already gained a tremendous following in the apparel trade. His blog is a part of a new wave of sites on the Web that have a masculine and unashamed devotion to style. We asked him some questions about his blog, shopping in New York and style.
Do you think men like to shop for clothes more today than they did ten years ago?
Absolutely. I think it is becoming more normal for your average guy to know about what brands are cool and how things should fit. I think magazines like GQ, Details, Men’s Vogue have all found a comfortable balance with normal guys. If you think back to when the magazine world was polarized with lad mags and fashion magazines, regular guys didn’t know where to fall. These days that sort of divide is gone and guys feel more comfortable with fashion.
You and I first corresponded after our friend Ray Smith wrote about the demise of the MDFA in the Wall Street Journal and met for the first time at an event for Engineered Garments, a very contemporary line that paradoxically includes ties. What do you think the future of ties is?
I think the future is this: There are two types of tie wearers. The guys that have to wear ties and hate it (read: wears ugly ties) and the guy who doesn’t need to wear a tie and celebrates it. The way I see it, accessories for guys are few and far between. The tie is a perfect way to make a statement without coming off as if you are trying too hard.
Why did you start A Continuous Lean?
I started ACL because I was looking for a blog that better matched my personal style / interests and couldn’t find it. I was looking for something that mixed fashion, design, shopping, food, Americana, with lots of service. I’m not trying to reinvent the internet or anything, I just feel like there are a lot of guys out there that share my interests that didn’t have a destination on the web other than something like Men.Style.com.
Who are your readers?
The ACL reader is sort of all over the place. Obviously I’m not conducting formal research into my demographics so I don’t really know, but I feel like I have a fairly diverse audience. I would venture to say the core-reader is a 27-year-old guy that lives on the East or West Coast and is interested in fashion and design. There is also a solid contingency of older (older than me anyway) gentlemen (in their 40s / 50s) that enjoy the more traditional style coverage that I do. I should also say that, interestingly, there seems to be a good following of women that read the blog. I can’t really explain why, but they comment and e-mail me, so I know they are there. ACL is a very inclusive space, the tone is extremely positive and I think people are drawn to that.
What other style sites do you read?
I have an insane appetite for media. My favorite sites at the moment are:
What I Learned Today (whatilearnd.com)
Reference Library (www.referencelibrary.blogspot.com)
Do you watch “Gossip Girl”? I ask because two of the brands you’ve represented – J.Press and Antonio Azzuolo’s a.a. – have been mentioned in the New York Times fashion blog “The Moment” in conjunction with the show.
I have been known to watch a few episodes of “Gossip Girl.” We have had some of our clients on the show and it has been great in terms of exposure. While I think Chuck Bass is amazing, he is no Don Draper.
Left: Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass on the CW’s Gossip Girl, wearing a scarf by J.Press. Right: Jon Hamm as Don Draper on AMC’s Mad Men.
Do you see bow ties coming back as more than a fashion novelty? Do you own any?
I think bow ties are very popular now. The whole return of American style in the sixties has helped to perpetuate the look, in a good way. I love the strange glances I get on the subway when I wear bow ties. Since the accessories designer Alexander Olch is a client of mine I tend to only wear Olch ties. There is a gray Olch Alpaca knit bow tie that just came out that is going to be my go-to this fall.
What’s your take on Fashion Week? It’s great fun for those of us who can make the shows, but is it anything more than pageantry for insiders?
I think Fashion Week serves a purpose for those that it is their business (buyers, editors, etc.) to attend the shows. There is no better way for a brand to convey the vision and spirit of its collection. To that end I think Fashion Week is great. I don’t however, enjoy all of the random people—the ones who have no business being at shows—who use Fashion Week to parade themselves around and try to get photographed. Having worked on a million shows, they give me severe anxiety and I try to avoid them (and the previously mentioned random hangers-on) at all costs.
Which men’s stores in the City do you like to browse/shop?
Too many to list. People always ask me this so I created a Google map with my favorites. You can see it here: Men’s Shopping in New York City by ACL or click on the map below.
We’re over the preppy ’80s, arguably the last golden age of men’s tailored clothing, and the grunge era is long behind us. We had a brief moment wherein men’s renewed interest in shopping and clothes was mocked as “metrosexual,” but now we seem to be normalizing a masculine interest in style. Can this last?
I definitely think it can last. As guys get more comfortable with shopping and retailers get smarter about catering to guys, I can only see the men’s business growing. This is something that Mickey Drexler understands at J. Crew. Look at what they are doing with the TriBeCa men’s store. Guys don’t want to walk through a women’s floor to get to product. It is really crucial for them to feel comfortable in a retail environment.
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