Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo Is a Secret Style God
On the enduring power of the simple striped T-shirt
I’m obsessed with this Instagram account called @scenebetween. Picture after picture of style inspiration from unknown 1960s garage rock bands, shoegaze bands, ’80s indie-pop bands, hardcore bands … and Jesus and Mary Chain — lots of Jesus and Mary Chain. It’s basically a guided tour of how right underground music has gotten style over the last 50 or so years.
One band I have not seen pop up on the account is Yo La Tengo. The New Jersey trio has flown right up against the radar for over thirty years now, putting out some of the best American music during that time. It takes a little adjustment to understand their genius, but once you get it, it all makes sense: They’ve been consistently great despite sounding so unassuming.
But as one user on Twitter noted, what we’ve all been overlooking the is band’s contribution to the indie style canon, specifically guitarist, piano player and primary singer Ira Kaplan’s almost uniform taste in a specific style of T-shirt.
We went through the archives and, yes, for at least the last 15 years Kaplan’s main look has been the slightly baggy striped T-shirt, usually paired with some jeans and canvas sneakers. Every now and then he’ll toss on a button up shirt, but for the most part, he has a look and he sticks to it. It’s very much the ’90s indie slacker all grown up look, but it works really well. Ira Kaplan has turned into an accidental style god.
The striped shirt isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off unless you want to look like somebody who swabs the deck on a pirate ship. You think maybe you look like you’re in a French new wave film, but the truth is you look like Bluto from Popeye. Kaplan’s choice to go a little baggy helps remedy that.
We’re getting baggier as a culture: the tight jeans of yesterday are going back to the roominess of the classic Levi’s 501s, the sneakers are getting chunkier and we’re moving further away from that constrictive “hipster” look of the aughts. Embrace that silhouette, baby! Ira, who’s a pretty slender guy, shows that sizing up a little looks cool. A pair of jeans and maybe some canvas Vans and voila — you’ve got an outfit to wear on stage at your drone-rock band’s show or, at the very least, to Whole Foods to pick up ingredients for a killer salad. Want to get one (or a few)? We’ve got you covered.