Exploring lessons learned, mistakes made and understanding your place in the world.
It’s a sunny November morning as we arrive at the West Village pied-à-terre of David Coggins to discuss his new book, Men and Style: Essays, Interviews, and Considerations.
Much like his home, Coggins is a bright, unassuming compendium of wisdom and oddities, garnered from a life spent exploring the meaning of personal style and the choices each man makes to find their own.
“Dressing well comes from the knowledge of what suits your temperament, and where you see yourself in the world.”
“One of the reasons the book came to be was that I always said I wanted to write one when I was 40, it just seemed like something to do. At first it was going to be a modest collection of a few interviews, then it grew—and every step of the way it continued to grow. In the end, the book is so much bigger than the words I’ve written. It’s a celebration of these men, and their wisdom.”
“While in some sense it’s about clothes, it’s really about men who know themselves. A lot of guys get caught up in brands and trends, or something like Don Draper wearing a skinny lapel and a fine tie—but why are we deciding what to do based on a TV Show? Dressing well comes from the knowledge of what suits your temperament, and where you see yourself in the world. It’s so much more important than the clothes.”
“Too many men are encouraged to spend their money on an item that communicates how much they’ve spent.”
“When I see a well-dressed man, whether it’s in Milan or London or New York, I feel like it’s a sign of respect for civilization in some very small sense—like they’re trying to make the world a little more of what they wish it was. Too many men are encouraged to spend their money on an item that communicates how much they’ve spent. But there’s an important distinction between this sort of trophy and something that’s actually a deep, personal reflection of who that man really is and what he stands for.”
“I was always fascinated by my dad shaving. I admired him, he was very serious about it, very careful. I had a little razor about the size of the one Cary Grant uses in North by Northwest, of course there was no blade in mine. I had no idea. I didn’t really understand what we were doing, I just remember the smell of the shaving cream and look of the badger brush.”
“Grooming is a ritual, of course. The routine should be comfortable and make sense for you.”
“Men should take the time to figure out what works best for them. Grooming is a ritual, of course. The routine should be comfortable and make sense for you. We have a very strong reaction to those things we do every day. Like dressing, once you get to a certain point, you don’t have to think about it. It becomes second nature. So much of the book has to do with arriving at the point where all the lessons you’ve learned come together in such a way that you can forget about them.”
“As I get older, and it’s true for a lot of my friends too, we look at our fathers differently. We sympathize with them more, we recognize more of their humanity—less as a father, more as a man.”
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
David walks to his bookshelf and fingers out a thick, green, leatherbound binding—a first edition of The Great Gatsby from 1925, a graduation gift from his father back when he was just 21.
“When he gave it to me he asked, ‘Do you remember the opening line?’ I answered with the quote…My father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my head ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had. In that moment, receiving this incredible gift, I was really able to appreciate that.”
“Some people have to work hard to learn things. Others are lucky and they grow up and it’s second nature to them. What’s important is, no matter which side of that divide you’re on, understanding that it exists.”
Men and Style: Essays, Interviews and Considerations is available on Amazon and other fine book retailers now.