He’s becoming increasingly well known for his Instagram photos rather than for his words but, with his book Men and Style, journalist and author David Coggins proves that he is as much of a skilled wordsmith as he is a style icon. Plaza Uomo met up with h
Plaza Uomo pay a visit to the writer and leading menswear icon David Coggins,
WITH ITS collection of small rooms, worn leather sofas, chipped window frames and book shelves filled with first-edition modernist novels, David Coggins’s apartment is typical of the old fashioned New York style. It is a home that wouldn’t look out of place in Rear Window, Breakfast at Tiffany’s or any other post-war classic. It is easy to imagine a woman in a pretty dress, sitting in the window and smoking a cigarette.
A moleskin notebook sits next to a cup of fountain pens on an old desk; the walls are decorated with watercolour landscape paintings. The familiar tones of Bonnie Prince Billy’s music stream from a distant speaker.
Renowned for the way he pays homage to the classic look, David Coggins frequently appears on lists ranking New York’s best dressed. The style icon and writer Glenn O’Brien once said of Coggins that, before you notice the small details, it is easy to mistake him for a conservative. Released last year, the introduction of his first book Men and Style reads: ‘Menswear is not complex. The things that have worked for the last 80 years still do, with some variation.’
“I think I apply the same concept to my home as I do to my closet. I like things that feel lived-in, that have a history. I usually describe my interior style as an English gentlemen’s club where the members have stopped paying their fees,” Coggins says.
A sign declaring the owner of the apartment block, Gatsby, is situated outside the building. The realtors are among thousands of American firms named after the character in F Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel.
“When people recognise me I assume they’ve read my work, but they’ve seen me on Instagram.”
Coggins thinks the cult around Jay Gatsby, a desperate criminal who is miserable for most of the book, tends to be a bit shallow.
“Most people don’t even recall how it ends,” he says. “Or any other part of the book for that matter.”
Last year, Coggins published his first book, Men and Style, which revolves around a dozen interviews with men whose style Coggins admires, from Gay Talese, Jay McInerney, Guy Trebay, the film director Whit Stillman, restaurateur Taavo Somer to style icons such as Nick Wooster, Glenn O’Brien and Poggy from Japan. In a series of self-revealing dialogues, the subjects share their views on personal style, identity and confidence.
The advice moves between a playful dandyism and more classically American, masculine style. Tips of the kind you might have read in Esquire half a decade ago: “Wear a sport jacket to the 21 Club, bring cash to Peter Luger and never order a pink cocktail.” It’s all about following rules and then breaking them – it’s up to the individual to find the balance. At its core the book reflects a fairly democratic attitude towards style and design, with examples including Coggins description of how as a young man living in Tokyo he used to spend many an afternoon in an upscale department store where he’d be drooling over suits he wasn’t yet able to afford. Coggins favours “expensive champagne and cheap beer”, a lifestyle that is characterised by elegance, very rarely elitism.
These days Coggins is an established and influential author and journalist who writes about men’s clothing, design, style and travelling. He’s an entertaining conversationalist with an intense mindset that is rather typical of people who have lived in New York for some time. In spite of several books and collaborations with prestigious institutions such as Drake’s of London, or Freeman’s here in New York, it is his Instagram account that has made him a recognisable face. “People often come up to me abroad and say, ‘I recognise you from somewhere’. And I assume that maybe they’ve read my work but most of the time it turns out that they’re referring to my Instagram account.”
HIS REVERENCE for traditional style and the construction process of men’s clothing made him an obvious choice for collaboration with Drake’s, an English company run by British gentlemen who, according to Coggins, are obsessed with Italy.
Together with Drake’s creative direc-
David Coggins photographed in the trattoria Via Carota, David’s favourite restaurant in the West Village, Manhattan.
Interior details in Coggins’ apartment. David Coggins in his favourite bookshop Three Lives & Company in the West Village in Manhattan.