The Man Behind NYC’s Best New Men’s Label Names His 7 Essentials

The way New York used to be? CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, punks, poets, grit, etc.?

We miss it.

But spankin’ new men’s label Willem New York is aiming to revive the era with a new collection that mixes old-school essentials with some offbeat statement pieces.

“I was once told that during the rise of punk there was a period where they would wear very casual clothes (‘dress not to attract attention’), so I thought that would be a good starting point,” says founder and creative director, Sean McDonagh.

Each garment features one of six unique illustrated labels that depict the scene at Max’s — which shuttered in 1981 — and the influential people who were regulars at the bar. “It was a little rabbit hole that we had a lot of fun with,” says McDonagh. “We plan to produce an installation-like experience around every collection so the history isn’t lost.”

King of cool that he is, we hit up McDonagh for his take on the seven essentials every gentleman needs — along with the seven things that should go out the window, stat.

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THE ESSENTIALS

A Meaningful Watch: “Watches don’t just tell time, they are a reminder of the value of time. I think it is really cool to buy a watch when something major happens in your life. I have a vintage Rolex Submariner that was made the year that I was born and I never take it off. It is now a part of me and it has the scars and scrapes to prove it.”

A High-Quality Wallet: “Although it only comes out when you pay for something, investing in wallet that will last you a long time is one of the most important things for a man to have. There is nothing worse than taking out your wallet to pay the check and it looks like you are still in middle school.”

A Layering Hoodie: “I’m a big hoodie person. I think it has come a long way from what it used to mean. We make a wool/cashmere layering hoodie that I wear all the time, whether it’s under a jacket or a blazer, on a Sunday with a pair of sweatpants, or even under a flannel buttoned up.”

A Pair Of White Leather Sneakers: “I have the Common Projects sneaker and I love them, but there are some other great ones out there. Just keep ‘em clean.”

A Modern Sportswear Jacket: “Believe it or not but a lot of fashion takes some nods from classic sportswear. We produced an Italian-made Norman Varsity Jacket that is my go to, especially in black. It’s versatile; perfect for dates, a night out, or just throwing it on running errands.”

A Tuxedo: “This one has been said many times but I still run into friends that rent a tuxedo whenever they go to a black tie event. There is no greater feeling than putting on a tuxedo that is tailored to you and fits perfectly when you are attending a special occasion. Keep it simple, the whole point of a tuxedo is to make your date stand out.”

Art: “I love searching for art and collecting art. I think it can change the mood of a room in an instant and it is also a fun journey to buy a piece or a print from an artist and watch them progress and change over time.”

TOSS ‘EM

Over the Ear Headphones: “There are only two places for these: one, on an airplane to drown out the screaming and loud noises, or two, in a recording studio. Those who wear them on the street or at the gym are no friend of mine.”

A Cracked iPhone: “We use our phones so much that getting your screen fixed is worth it. Once in a while I see someone pull out cracked phones in a business meeting. It isn’t a good look for adult men who want to be taken seriously.”

Tech-y Backpacks: “I am not a fan of sporty, nylon, techy, performance-looking backpacks or messenger bags for daily use. I’d trade it for a simple, high-quality, subtle bag.”

Bad Dress Shoes: “We are always told that you can tell a lot about someone by their shoes. I used to design shoes so maybe I have a sharper eye, but I can immediately tell when someone is wearing bad dress shoes. Get a great pair of leather lace-ups that will last you years, and it’ll be worth the investment. And only wear boat shoes if you are going sailing with the Kennedy’s after lunch.”

Tall tees: “Not sure how or when these tees became a thing, but they really do not look good on anyone in my opinion. They are a very strong no for me, especially with really tight jeans.”

Zip-Up Fleece Vests: “Put some sleeves on it and I am okay with it.”

Old Socks and Underwear: “Restock both of these quarterly it will make a big difference in the way you feel.”

Images via Willem