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Style Icons: Men with Hats

Beautiful Losers mastermind Aaron Rose picks his style icons through the ages.

Aaron Rose’s resume reads like a primer of how to merge underground with above-ground tastefully: He’s a curator (of now-defunct NYC gallery Alleged, the traveling Beautiful Losers exhibit, and a Nike/UNDFTD billboard in L.A.), a writer (he edits ANP Quarterly), and a guitarist/vocalist (for The Sads), not to mention a tireless supporter of emergent subcultures.

Rose, 39, didn’t become a style arbiter overnight–he’s always been one. Growing up in the ranch-filled L.A. suburb of Calabasas, he was obsessed with Vivienne Westwood and The Face magazine. At age 15, he wore three-button mod suits–ordered from London’s Carnaby Street–to school every day (and got baloney sandwiches thrown at him). A few years later, he evolved a signature look–pork-pie hat, Dickies, plaid shirt–that’s carried him stylishly through the decades.

“My look grew out of a fusion between my mod stuff and a kind of cholo-punk thing that was going on in L.A.,” explains Rose on the phone from Silver Lake. “People always say I dress like an old man, but there’s elements of my style that definitely make it contemporary. I mean, there’s nights where I’m at The Smell when I look around and everybody is in painted-on jeans and pajama-print hoodies that I go, ‘What is up?!’ At the same time I don’t feel out of place there, because I feel like the way I dress is part of a long legacy of outsiders. My [clothes] don’t really define my outsider status, it’s more like an attitude.”

On the occasion of the release of the inspirational Beautiful Losers documentary, we asked Rose to break down the components of his style.

Terry Hall of The Specials
The Specials were a two-tone ska band from England. Terry Hall only wore black and white. He wore black suits with skinny ties and high-water pants with white socks and big, clunky old-man shoes. He had a flat top and suspenders. He was an amazing dancer, a great singer, a great frontman. For my 14th or 15th birthday, my mom got me a checkerboard cake that said “Happy Birthday Terry” on it. That’s, like, how into this dude I was.

Perry Farrell
This is so embarrassing but I got really into Jane’s Addiction. I don’t think I ever tried to dress like [Perry Farrell] but I admired his style and the whole thing that Jane’s was, which was druggie, magical, ‘fuck authority.’ My favorite Jane’s song is “Classic Girl.”

Tom Waits
He had a cool look. He still does. At that time, I was into that beatnik, kind of dirty suit thing. I had just discovered him and was just totally blown away by the music he made and his whole persona and the way he performed. [His music] was very Americana-based but with such a weird edge to it all. I just liked his whole trip. I liked the fact that he was a junkie who lived in a motel. He wasn’t some rock star guy. He was down and dirty and hanging out with homeless people.

Robert Crumb
Another guy with a hat! I have a picture of Robert Crumb over my mirror, and Salvador Dali when he was young. I like how [Crumb’s] whole trip was such an all-encompassing package. I mean, his whole life is like art. He dresses like the 1920s with a sort of counter-culture edge; all his artwork is done in a classic comic style but it’s underground; he’s into ’20s ragtime music and plays in a band that plays that kind of music. I’m into people who very naturally create their whole world. I mean, that’s what I try to do in my own weird way.

William S. Burroughs
This is a really hard one because I think I stopped having dressing idols by this point. I was pretty much set into who I am and stopped really looking at it like, “Oh, that guy looks cool, I’m gonna dress like him.” I’ve always had pictures of Burroughs around, but especially during this time. [The junkie thing] is a total myth. A lot of kids died behind that guy... and adults, but he still looks cool.

Interview: Aaron Rose

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