Clothes & Personal: Kyle Ng

A few lessons on the art of dressing sharp and living well

By The Editors
September 7, 2017 9:00 am

This is Clothes and Personal, in which we sit down with one of the brightest names in menswear to talk about the articles every man should have in his closet.

They say the clothes make the man.

But today, it’s the man who makes the clothes … literally.

Kyle Ng is the man behind streetwear label Brain Dead and Social Fabric, a new series on Red Bull TV in which he rounds the globe learning the origin stories of menswear staples (cowboy boots, leather jackets, the T-shirt, etc.).

We recently caught up with Ng for some insights on everything from plaid shirts, to the problem with tight pants, to what it means to dress punk in 2017.

Oh, and Kelly Ripa. Specifically, a young Kelly Ripa.

InsideHook: Tell us what your new show is all about.
Kyle Ng: The show documents items of clothing that you probably didn’t know too much about. We go through different things — cowboy boots, leather jackets, jewelry, the T-shirt — and basically [just go] over the history of it, where it’s going, and then who wears it, and what’s the culture around it. For us, it’s about seeing the social element to the clothing, rather than just the clothing itself.

IH: You got your start in the world of streetwear, at a time before Supreme and HUF weren’t household names. That’s changed. How do you explain the massive influx of street style into everyday wear now?
KN: Streetwear has been around since the ’80s. Since hip-hop, since punk, since people were wearing clothes out on the streets that weren’t suits. And as more subcultural things like hip-hop and punk and rock have gone mainstream, so have the brands those people have worn. To me, brands are tribes. Stussy was originally called The Tribe. And people who wore it were part of a community. Then that grew into A$AP Rocky wearing it. Or Kanye West. The tribe grows bigger with their audience. It becomes more of a large market, rather than just a small subculture. I think clothing will always have that element of a tribal mentality.

IH: There seems to be so much crossover between those tribes these days. Do you think subcultures still exist in the world of menswear?
KN: The context has changed with technology. Instagram has — I won’t say it negatively — but it has definitely affected the way subculture and streetwear is at the moment. Nowadays, the idea of authenticity has been totally rearranged and reappropriated, where someone like Kylie Jenner can wear a Metallica shirt. Is she a metalhead? Probably not. But does Metallica really stand for a subculture anymore? Probably not. I think people are looking for the more obscure things, [the things that] were subcultural. What we try to do with Brain Dead is find stuff that goes a little deeper. We research harder. We want to make stuff that challenges us, rather than just hits it right on the nose.

IH: What does it mean to dress punk in 2017? Does it even exist?
KN: I would say the most punk thing you can do is make stuff without caring about the dollar amount. I think the capitalistic [mentality] of clothing has affected style as a whole. You think about it — the H&M, and Zara, and everything — it’s really just about dollars. The way we’ve marketed culture has really hurt the idea of real culture. It’s made it bland and banal. The most punk thing to me is doing something with the idea of actually trying to disrupt the status quo.

IH: What’s a trend in menswear that needs to go?
KN: The idea of inauthenticity within one’s own style. Almost replicating something you see on Instagram. I think that’s the main thing: keeping true to people’s identities.

IH: Do you have a style mantra?
KN: I wouldn’t say I have a style mantra, exactly. I would say that I dress the way I feel.

IH: How you feeling today?
KN: Feeling easy. I like casual. I’m from California.

IH: What’s a style mistake most men make?
KN: I think the style mistake most men make is wearing too tight of pants. I think that’s always been a thing of trying to look like you have style, but then it really makes you look less like you have style.

IH: Finish these sentences. A man should always …
KN: Feel confident in what he wears.

IH: A man should never …
KN: Not feel confident. (Laughs.)

IH: Sneakers are …
KN: Things to put on your feet.

IH: My guilty pleasure is …
KN: Eating too much.

IH: A man should invest in …
KN: Underwear.

IH: The last song I listened to was …
KN:Orchestre Poly-Rythmo.”

IH: The last thing I Google’d was …
KN: Oh God. The last thing I Google’d was “Kelly Ripa young.”

IH: The worst airport in the world is …
KN: Botswana.

IH: The best hotel in the world is …
KN: The Cerulean Tower in Japan.

IH: What’s one place that inspires you?
KN: Los Angeles, because it’s the land of the best weather, or no weather, and it’s freedom.

IH: What’s one book that inspires you?
KN: Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America.

IH: And, finally, who’s one person that inspires you?
KN: Kelly Ripa.

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