It’s kind when people say my career has been illustrious but really it is a polite way of saying I’m old. I’ve had lots of different jobs – the thing I’m most proud of is just surviving. I started off in newspapers and launching the Sunday Times Style mag was my first big job – and one of my favourite jobs ever. I went briefly to Nova, then edited the Life & Style pages at the Evening Standard, then I went to Wallpaper* magazine – which was bonkers – then to Esquire, and finally was asked to launch Mr Porter. As horrible and clichéd as it is, I really do believe in positive visualisation, and when it was announced that Mr Porter was launching I was just desperate for the job. Lo and behold Natalie Massenet (founder of NET-A-PORTER) got in touch – that book about manifestation ended up being really worth the couple of quid I paid.
When you’ve worked your whole life for well-known titles, it’s quite a weird thing to build a brand from scratch. Without wishing to namedrop, Graham Norton told me I would find it hard to go and work somewhere no one has heard of. He was right – it was strange explaining to people what my job was when I wasn’t used to that. Luckily the men’s fashion world exploded, and it was amazing to be on the frontline watching men’s style change unrecognisably over the course of the decade.
Men have ridiculously fragile egos and we’re terrified of getting it wrong, but equally we’re not sensible and don’t ask each other for help or advice, or comment on each other’s clothes in the way women do. So, apart from our dads who tend to dress quite badly, there was never really a way to learn how to dress properly. The internet enabled men to do research: you could search how to wear a navy tux or what to wear with chinos if you’re wearing white sneakers, etc. In the old days on NET-A-PORTER you could say, ‘This Celine handbag is the bag of the season’ and it would sell out straight away. Men take a bit more explaining – they need to understand why something is worth the price tag.
It’s great trends aren’t that relevant these days. You can wear what you want, how you want. But good style is what makes you comfortable – it’s feeling you’ve got what’s right for you. A pair of chinos, a sweatshirt and a pair of white sneakers is one of the nicest things a man can wear. Off-duty is what men in this country have always struggled with, but that formula really works.
Shoes are still the biggest mistake so many British men make. When I moved out of London and started commuting on trains more, I could see quite how wrong so many men get their shoes – oh, and backpacks. I love a good backpack, but so many commuters look like they’re about to climb Everest instead of the escalators at King’s Cross. Shoes are so important because they’re the first thing anyone notices. A pair of good white sneakers makes any outfit look good. I wrote that in The Times recently and in the comments section someone said how boring and how chavvy – but I stand by it. Also, a good brogue or a derby may not be the height of fashion right now, but they really can make any outfit.
Despite the last year I still think the one of the best things a man can invest in is a great blue blazer. It doesn’t have to be tailored; a soft, structured style also works. Even if you’re just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, throw on a blazer and you’re ready for lunch. It will give you a bit of a shoulder, a bit of a waist, and can hide a messily tucked-in shirt or a hangover, or the fact you just had your vaccine. It’s a cure-all piece of clothing.
I’m trying to divorce sweatpants so at the moment I’m living in a drawstring trouser. Really, it’s a slightly tailored trouser with an elasticated waist, but drawstring sounds nicer. They’re the perfect halfway house between home and office or work and play, and you can eat tonnes of snacks and still be comfortable. They’re not too formal for the pub, and there are so many good versions on the high street – I particularly like Cos, Arket and M&S. The Mr P own-brand are my favourite – and I can say that because I don’t work for them anymore.
I probably have enough clothes to last me a lifetime but I do still buy those drawstring trousers. I bought a tweed pair last season. And I do update my white sneakers. I hate a t-shirt that looks as if it’s been washed too often so I do frequently buy fresh navy and white tees – I like Sunspel and CDLP. I’m also a sucker for a good mock-neck. If I’m feeling very indulgent, The Row is my favourite.
The person whose clothes I secretly always quite like is Scott Disick. There are aspects of him that perhaps aren’t all that wonderful, but he does that sweatpants, sweatshirt, hoodie vibe so well. When he’s not dressing up and calling himself a lord, he looks great. A lot of those guys on the West Coast do – LA is one of the best dressed places in the world. That’s partly because that dressed-down look is so fashionable right now, but they also do colour so well – brands like The Elder Statesman and James Perse just feel so right. Unfortunately for us over here, sun does just make clothes look so much better.
Grooming is very personal. Some people can do nothing and look brilliant. For me, grooming is tidying – scrubbing up is in the same genre as hoovering and emptying the bins. I use a vitamin C brightening serum every day to perk things up a little bit, and SPF 50 every day I remember. If I’m a bit knackered I’ll use a touch of under-eye concealer, but not much more. I’ve always spent a lot of money on night-time serums and moisturisers. Obviously I love Dr David Jack’s, and also the Ole Henriksen range – mostly because they smell so nice. Murad is a recent discovery for me and I rate its products.
There are so many things you can do to make yourself look a little better for a little longer if you want to. Because I’m gay and have worked in the fashion industry for a long time, men who would never have asked another man about a hair transplant or eyebrow tinting pull me aside at dinner parties and ask me these big questions. You can of course Google these things, but there are so many different answers, so I really wanted to write a book that would answer all these questions. It contains all the tips and tricks I’ve learnt from many years of being absurdly vain, whether it’s trimming your body or ear hair or advice like put on a pressed blue shirt and you’ll look 10x healthier. Some are so easy – they don’t all involve going to see a doctor on Harley Street. A Tom Ford eyebrow comb that puts a tiny bit of gel in your brows and makes them a touch darker can make such a difference to how you look.
My favourite procedures are Botox, which relaxes your face without freezing anything, Profilo, which gives you that glowy look you cannot get however well you sleep, and Morpheus 8, where they put lots of hot needles into your face. It slightly damages the skin but then it very quickly repairs itself and the collagen rejuvenates.
The best thing I’ve had done is a hair transplant. I went to interview a specialist for the Times and I said, ‘I don’t know much about this because I’m very lucky my hair’s fine.’ There was a very awkward moment of silence, then he showed me where he could bring my ever-so-slightly-receded hairline to – as soon as someone shows you what you could have, you want it. So I did it, and the thing I liked about it most is that I’ve been able to show so many men who have worried about their hairline that you can fix it – and it’s not as bad or as painful as you think. Two friends of mine have had it done as a result and both have said it has changed their lives. Some men look brilliant bald but some don’t, and if it’s making you really unhappy and there’s a fix for it – why not? Being sniffy about cosmetic procedures is a bit like saying ‘I can’t believe you have a mobile phone, I still use one plugged in at home.’ It’s 2021 and we have this modern science at our disposal, so why not make the most of it? People have got to get over it.
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at [email protected].