Assuming you still have space on your Christmas list, seminal menswear gawd Glenn O'Brien just edited a new book called The Cool School. Even if books aren't your thing because you're a cultural leech, this readable coffee table decoration features essays and stories from some of the most important people that were involved in the formation of New York City (and subsequently, American) culture during the mid to late 20th century. So, if you're someone who fancies themselves "hip" or "cool" in 2013, then, basically, you have this group of people to thank. And, as a result, you might just find it interesting to hear about their enviable experiences. Or maybe you don't and are totally blowing it. Either way, when Glenn O'Brien puts his stamp of approval on something, you should probably pay attention. This is the guy who influenced Andy Warhol into wearing New Balances and walked arm in arm through a function with Madonna. Below, we discuss Glenn's new project and get his take on the best books, films, albums and fashions of 2013.
Can you just talk about The Cool School and how you got involved?
It was Library Of America's idea. I'm a huge Library Of America fan. If you look at the works they've published it's a lot of Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Jefferson and such. They're really a treasure of a publication and they're basically non-profit. They're basically dedicated to keeping great American writing in print and they do these great anthologies. They had done a humor anthology that I thought was really great, so it just seemed like a good idea. But it took a long time because I had to re-immerse myself in this material and read a huge amount of stuff.
How did you go about finding the various works included in the anthology?
It was kind of a collaboration. I think they felt that a lot of young people today don't know the history of The Beats and the people that inspired them. The other thing was that we wanted to have a pretty broad scope of people included, not just poets and authors. Really anyone who helped take the language in a new direction. So there's comedians in there too. I probably made a really long list, maybe 100 people, and then I would meet with them and they would give suggestions. Actually, we hammered out a long, working list and I made the final picks. The only other part of the process was that the writings were controlled by these estates. And for some of them, the estate wanted an amount that was disproportionate to their contribution to the book so it didn't make sense. I wanted to include a work from Allen Ginsberg, but for reason his estate wanted a lot of money.
Were there any particular pieces of work that you were particularly glad you got to share?
Yeah, there were a lot of works that I included that greatly affected me. For instance, Norman Mailer's "The White Negro". I think that was something that affected a lot of people's thinking and sort of created the whole "hipster" idea. He defined how white people are inspired by blacks. This was almost simultaneous with Elvis.
Do you think what he discussed is still going on today? For instance with, say, Miley Cyrus?
I don't think Miley Cyrus is hip. I think what she's doing is so late in the game. When I was her age, there were white British Musicians singing Delta Blues. But now everything's so mixed together. Hip-hop is so mixed in with fashion and other things, but I think Eminem is a more appropriate example of what Mailer was talking about. But, generally, I think white kids talking and dressing "black" is something that is in its 5th generation now.
Favorite album of 2013? Have you listened to anything on Rolling Stone's "Top 50 Albums Of 2013" list?
Oh, I never look at Rolling Stone, so I have no idea what's on that list. This is hard. Oh, I love the new David Bowie album [The Next Day]. I also like The National [Trouble Will Find Me].
Favorite movie of 2013? How about one that just was memorable?
The new Woody Allen movie with Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. But there were way more than that.
Did you see any blockbusters? How about Pacific Rim?
No. I deliberately didn't see that.
Favorite book of 2013?
Oh, I read so many books this year. I read four books by Dale Pendell who is sort of like an ethno-botanist poet. He wrote this trilogy on plants being turned into drugs. He also wrote a book called The Great Bay that I really liked. I also read a book by Albert Brooks.
Yeah, called 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America. I also read a book called The First Rasta about this guy named Leonard Howell who sort of pulled the whole movement together.
Favorite piece of clothing you bought in 2013?
I bought a pair of Edward Green monk straps that were the most expensive pair of shoes I've ever bought. I bought them at Brooks Brothers. I tend to wear them with suits, but they go with anything.
Favorite designer of the year?
I think Fausto Puglisi is kind of the next big thing. He mixes these influences from his native Sicily to the Roman Empire with black leather jackets. It's a crazy mix, but he puts it all together in a way that is fantastic and sexy. Everything he does is just hot. For men, I gotta say I think what J.Crew has done for suits is really commendable.
You mean, in the way they've been able to deliver a classic and well-fitting suit to the masses?
Yeah, and with great fabrics and competent workmanship at an affordable price.
Finally, what are you looking forward to in 2014?
Does hoping the Jets draft some good wide receivers count?