Imagine a teenaged boy with long hair, sheepskin lined black ankle boots and ethnic printed clothes somewhere in the countryside of England. It looks like an interesting contrast. “I remember wearing really awful outfits as a kid,” says men’s style expert Dan Jones, “I don’t know what I was thinking!” Even though he did not grow up in a family where fashion was important, he is now a guy where other men look at for style guidance.
Dan Jones – described by i-D magazine as “one of the nicest fellas in the fashion bizz” – is a writer through and through. Mostly you will find him on a men’s style editorial team, but this guy is like a chameleon when it comes to finding niches and topics to write about. Most recently he published a book on male grooming: Man Made – The Art of Male Grooming. But he has also made a book about cocktails, has worked as a journalist for various publications and has written for different brands.
Growing up in a countryside town as a kid that was interested in fashion, he was lucky to have an accepting a supporting family. His mom would accompany him when he went on the hunt for interesting outfits. Because Dan did not have a lot of house rules or restrictions during his upbringing, and therefore had not a lot to rebel against, he used clothes as a way to create his identity. Unfortunately there where also people who did not understand his way of dressing. “Sometimes I would get bullied a bit about my outfits. They weren’t particularly crazy, but in a kind of conservative little countryside town wearing un-conservative clothes something did not go down very well.”
Back then he was already influenced by London, the city that has his heart and that he is very passionate about. “I was very interested in London culture, but I was just so nervous about ever going. So I had this whole fantasy world of ‘oh wow, living in the big city.’” This fantasy image of London was created with help of one of his future employers: Time Out magazine. “I would read all the club listings and I would imagine going to these incredible clubs. And I would look at photos of people who lived there and I thought it was all really amazing.”
Now he lives in London himself while leaving his mark on the way men dress and shave. Although telling people what they must do is not what he wants. Talking about his book Man Made he says, “in the book I don’t say ‘guys must do this’ or ‘you are not a real guy if you don’t do that.’ I did not want to include lots of luxury things in it and put like a kind of list of rules, even though it is kind of prescriptive in some aspects. It is addressed to an average man and has to feel accessible for everyone.” This also means that he tried to soften the edge of the gendered aspect of guys grooming. According to Dan men’s magazines and men’s media need to catch up with the current culture when it comes to gender issues. Guys are easily being put in a box like ‘metro’ or ‘nineties,’ while the have moved on quite a lot. “At least, in the urban areas,” he adds.
That is why celebrities like David Beckham, Ryan Gosling and Pharell Williams are seen as style icons, they are all breaking the metro rules in some way, while weirdly still being quite metro. “They are all really confident with their own style, they look fit and healthy and they are not worried about gender and how they are being perceived.” This makes them good markers for a new way of looking at masculinity.
Wisdoms like these you will learn with experience, because different jobs will all give you a different perspective on things. And Dan is never done learning. He got his first real job at iconic i-D magazine. The magazine is now part of the Vice family. Which, according to Dan, has a positive as well as a negative side to it. i-D was really late to the online game. It had not capitalized on its online presence at all. Joining a multi channel broadcaster like Vice will probably be good for increasing the numbers of viewers, but it might also mean some loss of the brand. “A lot of it has to be click based stuff. So the content will probably change and it will potentially be a bit fluffy.”
But even though he loved working at i-D, he has always had a huge soft spot for Time Out magazine, which had taught him all about the mysterious big city of London as a teenager. “I would always be much more jealous of the Time Out kids when I was at this great cool supposedly amazing fashion and style magazine.” So when he got a job there as men’s style editor it was kind of like a childhood dream come true. Working at Time Out organized his thoughts and feelings about London, because he realized how rich the city was of people who where trying to do interesting and amazing things.
“Men’s fashion can be boring and it can be really hard to write about. I find the focus on luxury difficult to work with. I mean, I can’t afford most of the featured looks and I don’t know anyone who can.” That is why working as editor-in-chief at the biannual magazine of high street brand Top Man feels like a breath of fresh air. “They mix the affordable stuff with the more high end things and they are more democratic in their audience targeting. The guy that goes into Top Man goes from super young to much older. There is a lot of creative freedom.”
This guy is never done with exploring his creative abilities, at the moment he is writing on his first novel. He got selected to take part in a course at an academy through a literary agency and is now almost done with his manuscript. “It has been so weird to write fiction. It is as if I have never written before. But I have always wanted to do it, turns out I really enjoy it.” A huge benefit to writing fiction for him is that all other writing, even the really boring stuff, feels more exciting now.
To the next generation of journalists he has to say: “be creative, be consistent, seek to make connection that other people haven’t made, be confident, and keep writing.”