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Michael Bastian on JFK Jr. and Smoking in Hotel Rooms

Michael Bastian

Michael Bastian knows menswear. Between his years at Bergdorf and Ralph Lauren and his current post overseeing two of the best-loved lines in menswear, he feels the ebbs and flows of style better than nearly anyone—which makes him the perfect guide for the whirlwind of Fashion Week. We caught up with him a few hours before his Gant show yesterday to talk about his favorite icons, going gray and the genius of American style.

Michael Bastian

Where do you see menswear going in the next year?

It’s definitely getting dressier. Young guys are really getting inspired by the idea of a suit again. The cool new way to wear a suit. It’s gotta be slim, a cool fabric, and do its job. They’re interested in DB for the first time in ages.

Is there anyone you think of as an underrated style icon?

Well, unfortunately, he’s dead, but JFK Jr. was so good at what he did, how he put himself together. [ed. We’re fans too.] Everyone references his father, but I think he was the epitome of this American ideal of not thinking too much about it, you know, just putting together good elements in your own personal way and just running out the front door. That’s the American gift. Even if you did obsess about how you look that day, you leave your apartment looking like you didn’t think about it at all.

Michael Bastian

So in terms of your personal style, what do you find yourself wearing?

It’s what I’m wearing now, and it hasn’t really changed since high school. Five-pocket cords, button-down shirt, a v-neck, a crew neck, parka, sunglasses. It doesn’t ever change.

Is there anything you love seeing on other people but you don’t feel like you can pull off yourself? I feel like most people in fashion have one or two pieces like that. Mine’s the double-breasted suit. I love them, but I don’t have the torso for it.

You know, there’s very little I see that I don’t try. If I like it, I’ll try it. It’s all in picking the one that’s right for you. So a double-breasted jacket, you could find a good navy one that’s slim enough, that fit your body perfectly, and you’ll love it again. That’s the fun of it, using fashion to suit yourself in a slightly different way. I always love it when people attempt that. Even if they make a mistake, at least they had fun with it.

Michael Bastian

Have you ever done anything illegal?

Yeah, smoking in hotel rooms. I got a big fine around Christmastime in Sweden for smoking in the room. I was doing my high school tricks like smoking in the bathroom, thinking I was being all tricky, and then I got this note on my bed, “we’re so sorry, but it’s really obvious you’ve been smoking in this room, and we have to fine you this many hundreds of thousands of Swedish krona. But, you know, really sorry.” It was just like being in high school again.

So, you’re a young guy, but you’ve got the famous salt-and-pepper hair. Was there a moment you decided to keep it natural?

It started happening in my late 30s. You get a few, and you pull them out. And then you get a few hundred, and you can’t pull them out. I obsessed about it for probably a good year, and then I was just like, “I can’t, whatever, let’s just roll with it.” It’s funny, now it’s getting its own attention and I’m kind of happy about it. I didn’t pick it, but I can’t fight it.