For his series Mel’s Corner, 032c fashion director and stylist Mel Ottenberg shares his favorite things from around the world, dispatching real-time wisdom to our office in Berlin.
In this edition of the series, Mel discusses Seinfeld Chic, life in the wake of president-elect Donald Trump, and working with Gosha Rubchinskiy on their 24-page story in 032c issue #31.
THOM BETTRIDGE: Since the subject of our talk is “Seinfeld Chic,” I feel like I must ask: Is Seinfeld chic?
MEL OTTENBERG: Seinfeld can be chic, but more to the point, Seinfeld is I don’t give a fuck. He’s always been one of my fashion idols for that reason. The shoes! The jeans! The proportion!
And there’s so many ties.
032c did something on Jerry’s stand up ties once. It was the first issue where I was fashion director, and I was so psyched on it. That little piece turned me out.
Why did you decide to approach the Seinfeld look full-on for your editorial with Gosha Rubchinskiy in this issue?
When I was thinking about this issue and what I wanted to say, I wanted to talk about America. And this fall, the glory days of Clinton 90s were really on my mind for obvious reasons. RIP. Like, what the fuck is up with anti-Semitism in 2016? We Jews are awesome. Jerry is a mega Jew, it’s really in your face, and I truly appreciate that. I was thinking after the election that I should make a Carhartt yarmulke to start wearing with my look. To show solidarity with the immigrants and the groups who are most threatened by Trump. I am still so so so so mad that we are where we currently are in this country. But anyways, back to Seinfeld.
How did you feel when you found out that Steve Bannon makes his money from Seinfeld royalties?
Steven Bannon appears to be a white nationalist and an anti-semite. The fact that the champion of the Alt-Right Movement is making over $31 million on Seinfeld syndication must really piss Jerry off. And Larry. And Rob Reiner, and all the other Seinfeld guys. Bannon seems to have been a silent partner in funding the show with some business guys, and made a fortune on re-runs for many years after making the investment. Fuck Steve Bannon. And fuck 2016.
Thinking back to the 90s, Seinfeld is very much a symbol of this moment of optimism that seems very far away now.
I agree! It’s about nothing. It’s not fashion. It’s so basic. Yet you can take inspiration from the damnedest places. Fashion can get so complicated these days. And men’s fashion can be so OMG. It can get very pas possible for me.
Is the Seinfeld look about not caring? Or is it deeper than that?
It’s an alternative. Its a funny weird alternate way of dressing. It’s about paying attention to that specific proportion that’s fun to do. I met this bar staffer that was pouring champagne backstage at Adam Selman’s fashion show that I GAGGED for. He was wearing a white button-down shirt tucked into an extremely that mid-color, lightly stone-washed, high-waisted Dad-jean with a super simple black belt. He was the only person I gagged for at any of the shows in NYC or Paris. His look was just so different. I thanked him for the beautiful outfit. He really got it. He said he found the jeans in a bargain basement at a K-Mart in Queens, which I found electric. The proportion was so strong. The simplicity. You really had to be in the know to understand that this kid was advanced. There’s nothing out there like this is Dazed or i-D telling you that’s cool.
That’s the strength of the Seinfeld look. It’s anti-fashion and it’s anti-downtown.
Uptown is a gorgeous look.
What was it like doing the Americana thing with Gosha? Did they have Seinfeld in Moscow when he was growing up?
I never asked! But he nailed it. Gosha was actually the perfect person to do this with. The boy we got was the opposite of Jerry, this super blonde Eastern European. And then the girl…Well that day I went in to do Elaine, but we did Miranda from Sex & the City instead. I was watching that show recently, and Miranda was waxing poetic about sex and the modern girl after brunch with the ladies trying to hail a cab in front of my building on Fifth Avenue. I love her too.
Let’s break down the look. Obviously, you start with the jean.
The jean is pretty high-waisted. It’s pegged. It’s not too long in the inseam. Wranglers are good. We bought them at K-Mart. They really are gorgeous. Then there’s the tucked in button-down. The perfect belt, which is my favorite Carhartt belt we used in all the looks. Then it’s a sneaker or a boot. These sneakers were actually totally inspired by Larry David and how he dresses on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And then the brushed back hair. The hair is important. His hair is so UWS.
The hat is also key.
The hat, of course. It’s just like the 032c pyrate hat. This vintage, curved-brim look. This whole look is something that gets crushed onto your brain forever.