As a 14 year old struggling for a small slice of social acceptance I used to flip through the pages of GQ magazine. Mostly I would just look at ads in search of the perfect haircut thinking that if I could get my own just right, maybe I could one day be as cool as these guys looked. No. That isn’t quite true. I was mostly just hoping to get just a little bit closer to cool but I knew I would never really get there. So I just flipped through the pages looking not reading.
Except for this one column, “The Style Guy”.
I grew up in a world where people were very much judged by what they were wearing, but almost no one knew a thing about style. It was just her skirt is too short, His pants are too saggy, and what brand is that? I was aware enough to know I was clueless and too ignorant to really know where to look for guidance. My father could tell me exactly what someone might have been wearing in 1825 Wyoming, or the importance of socks while hiking, but would then communicate that thinking about clothes at school was too trivial to be concerned with. Mom could point out a Mondrian or a Rembrandt but had no interest in either Coco or Chanel.
My only hope was Matt Hilbig.
Matt lived around the corner and taught me that you could buy boat shoes at Payless and no one would ever know they weren’t Bass. He also taught me that you could find everything from GQ ads in Nordstrom, but that my money was probably more in line with J. Riggins. Matt was the source of all of my practical and tactical sartorial lessons- but he was also 14.
Then I discovered the Style Guy.
As I got older it was The Style Guy that answered questions I never knew I should ask, and that even if I knew to ask, I had no one around who could answer. He explained to me the difference between a barrel and a French cuff, which one might assume everyone would know but I didn’t. He taught me what a contrast collar is and helped me understand that they probably aren’t for me. Above all he taught me that I could think about this kind of stuff without just trying to imitate some external norm or marching in some sort of conformist regimental order… and how to do so without being an idiot.
I had been reading the Style Guy for quite some time before I learned that he was that one grown up who used to show up on MTV talking about news. It was long after that when I learned this guy grew out of the Andy Warhol Basquiat punk rock New York and into the suit wearing wingtip world of GQ, without doing some sort of image dance that wasn’t really him. This man was amazing.
I have to say was because yesterday he passed away and I have lost the best teacher I ever had in how to be less of a dork, while still being me. He was the best.
Matt, you were second best. Just sayin.