Michael Hainey, GQ Editor-At-Large and star of our latest campaign, The Well-Dressed Rebel, gives us his perspective on the suit and why you shouldn’t be afraid to “f*ck it up.”
On a cold and dark Tuesday morning in November, Michael Hainey walks into PREMIUM by JACK & JONES HQ. The tall figure, in his trademark spectacles and single-breasted suit, greets everyone with a firm handshake and a slight dip of the head.
We’re introduced. I generally don’t do prejudice, but in this situation, it’s hard to avoid. I know that he’s at the helm of arguably the most revered men’s periodical in print, Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ to you and me.) I’m also well aware that he’s a celebrated journalist in his own right; an exhibited artist, New York Times bestselling author and a style icon to boot.
He then starts a conversation, and I realise he’s also a gentleman who is incredibly down to earth. (Cancel that order of Alaskan glacier water!) But why was the man of style here?
Michael stars in our latest video, print and window campaign, The Well-Dressed Rebel. You could call it another stop on his two-decade-long campaign trail: his mission to help men discover their own, individual, well-dressed style.
In our series of four videos, he demystifies the suit. Not just for the office or wedding, he shows us how we can tweak, or break it apart; making your suit work for all occasions – your go-to, everyday essential.
As his week-long filming visit came to a close, Michael spoke to us about Paris, sleeping in corduroy suits and wanting to interview Kanye.
As GQ’s Editor-At-Large, you’re seen as an authority on men’s style. In fact, many have called you a style icon. Does the tag sit well with you?
I’m just happy if I can inspire men to improve themselves — not just in how they dress, but in how they live their lives; how they think about themselves and what they aspire to be and become. Style is not just what is on the surface; it is what’s inside you. Style is more than how you dress. Style is how you live — and what you give out to the world in the actions you take.
In the campaign you speak of the suit as the most rebellious item in a man’s wardrobe. Please break that down for us.
It’s no accident that guys from David Bowie to David Beckham look their most bad-ass, cool selves when you see them in a suit. The suit has a power to it. Most guys get psyched out by suits because they’ve allowed themselves to think of suits as those things worn by losers who go to the office and sit at a desk. Wrong! The suit is not for business. The suit lets the world know you mean business. The suit is the weapon-of-choice for rebels who know it is the fastest way to stand out in a crowd — whether it’s a crowded club on Friday night, or a pitch-meeting on Monday morning. The trick is this: don’t let the suit wear you; you have to wear the suit. Don’t be afraid to f*ck it up. Make it your own.
I’ve read that you wrote your bestselling memoir, After Visiting Friends, in early 4:30am sessions. Some clever people say that we should dress for the office when working from home – it’s supposed to improve productivity. Did you ‘suit up’?
Believe it or not, I do! Right down to putting on a tie and lacing up my shoes. I’m a firm believer that if you are going to “do” the work — and that is whatever you define your work as, whatever gives you joy and gets you amped-up to kick ass — then you have to respect the work and the job. So, a man needs to suit up for his work, no matter the hour or the place. You have to make the commitment. Work is a competitive sport. And just like an athlete would not wear practice gear to a big game, neither would you. So, suit up!
I imagine you’ve witnessed quite a few suiting trends during your nearly-two-decade stint at GQ. What are you hoping will never return?
The ‘leisure’ suit.
Your job allows you to visit many parts of the world. What’s your favourite style destination?
Paris. I could walk the streets all day, my eye feasting on the style of people there. The Parisians, no matter their age, have a great ability to articulate their individual style, without shouting or being trendy. They balance elegance and sophistication with innovation and modernity. I never cease to be inspired in Paris.
The list of people you’ve interviewed is long and enviable. If you could interview only one other person, dead or alive, who would it be?
I don’t know if I could get it down to one person! Some gentlemen that are out there right now who I would be grateful to sit down with and hear their wisdom about life include: Barack Obama; Pope Francis; Kanye West.
What do you remember of the first suit you bought with your own hard-earned cash?
It was corduroy. Tan. Three-piece. I was in high school. I loved it. In order to break it in, I slept in it.
What advice would you give to a guy who’s about to invest in his first?
Think about getting something that gives you versatility. That’s why PREMIUM by JACK & JONES is so good for you: you can find a suit that you can get a lot of wear out of; you can break it into pieces: wear the pants with a sweater; or the suit coat with jeans.
In one of the campaign’s videos you mention Keith Richards; a reoccurring name in most style icon lists. Are there any newcomers in today’s crop of celebrities that you’d tip to someday reach McQueen, Bowie or Richards status?
Ryan Gosling has the potential. David Beckham. And Brad Pitt, too.
What would you say is the biggest misconception people have of you?
That I sleep in my suits.
What’s your definition of true style?
Being kind to others.