Forget everything that comes to mind when you think of electro-pop and consider Dave 1, half of the boogie-down duo Chromeo, and former VICE magazine contributor. After 3 albums, collaborations with everyone from Hall and Oates to design firm Surface to Air, and an MTV music video award nomination, the Montreal native's mastered the tricky balance between downtown design fan and that I just tossed this together on the fly Euro-cool. On a break from his other day job—a French lit Ph.D candidate and teacher at New York's Columbia University—he gave us his short list.
1. Maison Martin Margiela Blazer
My boy JJJJound said that every man should have a good, well-structured blazer and he's right. When I say "well structured," I mean that after you put it in your suitcase or garment bag, it still looks intact when you get off a plane. I bought this Margiela one in Paris last summer and it just came back from SXSW. It's still crisp.
2. YSL Chelsea Eton Zip-Up Boots
I've spent years looking for the perfect pair of zip-up boots and they're always either too retro or too pimp-ish looking. All you want is something that Serge Gainsbourg would have worn. I tried for years and bought some whack pairs, but now I can confidently say that these boots are killing it. They're the only shoes I need.
3. Supermarket Soaps from France
Chromeo did a Yo Gabba Gabba episode a while back and we performed a song about washing your hands. Little did I know that it was going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I've become a soap Nazi. I buy a ton of these every time I'm in France and I take them everywhere with me. They smell great. They're Marseille olive-oil based soaps, and they're not overly perfumed, fruity, or like strawberry-extract scented. The best part is you can get them for one-euro at any supermarket.
4. Burberry Spring 2011 Leather Jacket
This season, Christopher Bailey came through with the realness. It's halfway between a motorcycle jacket—in French we call it a perfecto—and a DB. I always have my eye out for the perfect leather jacket and, to me, this is the best one I've seen since the 2007 F/W four-pocket Dior one. Christopher Bailey, you're dope.
5. J.Crew Messenger Bag
Everyone on the L train's got those twee-ish Scandinavian ones. I wanted something that was a little more timeless. I found it at J. Crew. I take it to school with me, on tour, and it's beaten up nicely.
Proust is one of the only authors I read for pleasure. I'm reading Sodom and Gomorrah now, and the opening passage on the homosexual mating ritual is some of the greatest stuff I've ever read. It's hysterical! That's the thing, a lot of people don't see the humor in Proust. Especially English speakers, because they read it in the English translation. In English, Proust becomes very serious and philosophical but in French, it's very Woody Allen-esque, it's total Jewish humor, it's Larry David, it's neurotic, it's Freudian, it's angst-ridden. So when I read it, I just laugh.
7. Halls Cough Drops
Speaking of Jewish neurosis: Ever since—and this is not a joke—ever since 8th grade, I have had Halls everyday in my pocket. Since 8th grade. I'm 32 now. Sore throat or not, I have them everyday. I know everything about every flavor and I would love, one day, to have my own flavor of Halls: green apple.
8. '70s Omega Constellation
In the '60s and '70s, Omega was pushing hard toward 'futuristic' designs. It's one of the first watches designed with a continuous bezel and wristband. What's funny is that the square face of it was supposed to replicate the TV. So that was the watch of the future in the '70s.
9. Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro, Goldtop
This is not some crazy vintage find, it's actually a newer model. I love it because the body is full, not swiss-cheesed out (they didn't carve any holes in it to make it lighter). It has an extremely comfortable slim '60s neck, and I can switch the pickups to single coil to play all the little funk licks or punch them back to humbucker for the mucho macho solos.
10. Homemade Dictionary
I started this dictionary when I started college. I wanted to keep a list of fancy French words, or really useful terms that I could use in papers. So I bought an address book, that's arranged by the alphabet, and I just put all my favorite words in there. Whenever I come across a word I don't know, or a word that I think I might want to use more, it goes in my dictionary. When I was an undergrad, I would go through it a little bit to 'fancify my lexicon'. Now I just keep it for myself, and it's become one of my most prized possessions. I'm starting one for English. It's my second language so there are a lot more words in this language I don't know.
Fool’s Gold’s literal big brother in the game has always been Dave 1 of the duo Chromeo. A funkateer and a scholar, Dave has an opinion on everything and is unafraid to share ’em, so we thought it’d be only natural to get his take on fashion. Just look at the guy.
Frank151: Growing up, what defined your sense of style?
Dave 1: You know, if you’re my age, you went through a bunch of phases growing up, so obviously we had the Beastie-Boys-meets-skater phase. I remember for instance when the “So What’Cha Want?” video came out, all my group of friends, that’s how we dressed. The original “phat” pants, the lumberjack shirt, the skullies and the Pumas. Pre-Internet, Montreal was kinda remote. They didn’t make reissue Pumas back then, we had to go to the old-people stores and get deadstock models and stuff. It was dope ’cause the sole was yellow and shit.
I guess the Beasties were my port of entry into hip-hop. So by the mid-’90s—this was like ’92—I was a straight “White hip-hop poser,” basically [laughs], as we all were. The flyest dude back then was Grand Puba. We were just rocking the Nautica and the Hilfiger. My shit was Helly Hansen—the yellow Helly Hansen shells and stuff. I couldn’t afford a lot of that, though. My mom could only afford to get me Chaps. Not even Polo. You know what I look like now, so you can imagine how ridiculous I looked back then.
F151: We’ve all been through those phases.
D1: But on me, it looked completely ridiculous. I rocked that for years. Even later on. Towards ’97 it was more Ecko and army fatigues. More of a Boot Camp Clik vibe, which looked even more ridiculous on me when you think about it. I should’ve just stayed with the Beastie Boys shit.
F151: Are there any other fashion accessories or that one item that you grew up coveting, that everyone
on the block wanted to get their hands on?
D1: Yeah, I had the Tommy Hilfiger chinos. That was a big thing. We would wear those with hiking boots. Not Timberland, but actual hiking boots that we would go down to New York and get from Transit on Broadway, downstairs. That’s what everybody did. I feel like I’m telling the story of a whole generation of cats. By the time I turned like 22, I was with a girlfriend for a long time. She would make fun of me, like, “You look crazy with your baggy pants all rolled up,” like, “What are you doing? Are you going bicycling?” And she was like, “Yo, you’re swimming in those clothes,” ’cause I was always real skinny. She was like, “It would look better on you if you had tighter pants.” Gradually, as I grew older and started graduate school, doing a Master’s degree, I couldn’t walk around with camo pants [laughs]. You gradually switch to other shit.
F151: Are there any current trends that you think should go away?
D1: What I talked about in my adolescence were great looks; they were not ridiculous at all. I think it was amazing. I just think on me they were ridiculous. I still think the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head era was the coolest thing on the planet. They basically gave White people a chance to be cool. We owe them a huge “Thank you!” You know [laughs]?
D1: So you’re asking if there’s stuff I don’t like now?
F151: Yeah, if you see any trends that you shake your head at.
D1: There’s a bunch, but now you can just go to any blog that makes fun of people. I think it’s like anything, when one trend becomes saturated it becomes a caricature of itself. But I could name a few who know what they’re doing.
F151: Who are some inspirations?
D1: The All-Time Fly Dude award would go to Springsteen, Dylan, and Serge Gainsbourg, of course. Those are the classics, the icons, the old school.
F151: Do you remember when you got your first suit?
D1: Yeah, I do, although I didn’t pay for it. My girl at the time had to front me the money and she had to pay for it on three different credit cards, and it wasn’t that expensive either! It was a houndstooth Ralph Lauren suit. I wore it with a skinny tie and white Repetto shoes, the Gainsbourg ones that I always wear. That was the first suit, and it was a huge deal. And then I remember I got a YSL one and started getting into it.
Now, I just bought one two days ago, and I got more than I can count. I mean...I don’t have a million. I have maybe fifteen.
F151: Do you have a favorite out of your collection?
D1: I just bought a Margiela one for the summer. And that one’s good.
The thing is, as a dude, you have to be careful. Now, fashion blogs have made it acceptable for men to discuss fashion way more than they should. I don’t think it’s very classy as men to discuss brands you wear. When you see old-school, really distinguished gentleman like Gainsbourg, you know that dude was suited up, but he never talked about what he wore. He had very specific taste and he had the stuff that he liked, but he never flaunted it or talked about it in interviews, and I think it takes the mystique away a little bit.
The majority of dudes out there look like schlumps—and I do want you to write “schlump.” So when you’ve got the dude who knows what he’s doing, it’s cool. You’ve got the mystery, like, “What is he doing?” Sometimes when I see people around me talk about, “I just got these mad Gucci loafers,” I’m like, “You’re ridiculous. No one talks like that. You’re corny. So corny.” It’s not fly to talk about that. As a gentleman, it’s not gentlemanly at all.
F151: That said, are there any specific designers that you feel really fit you well? Any brands or designers that you tend to look for, in terms of quality?
D1: Obviously me and my brother are into the Dior shit heavy.
F151: Any stores that you make sure to check out in specific cities?
D1: Yeah, you know, Barney’s. I’ll go to the Dior store or Margiela. I’m a big Margiela fan. I go there all the time. I’ve got a lot of stuff from there. Dries Van Noten, he’s really good. By all accounts he had the best show at Fashion Week for menswear. I’ve got a couple of suits from him. YSL, of course. Oh, and then the secret weapon is Balmain.
F151: I don’t know what that is.
D1: Balmain? Yeah, see, that’s ’cause it’s the secret weapon. But that, you gotta really get your money up. Again, I don’t want to sound like a dude who brags about, “Oh I wear expensive stuff,” ’cause there are dudes that rock all the vintage shit and it looks incredible on them as well. So it’s about knowing what works for you.
F151: What’s your take on vintage? Is it something that you incorporate into your style?
D1: I used to a little bit, but now not that much. Maybe one or two things. Maybe a leather jacket. But I’m also 32, and first of all, I don’t have time to go digging that much. Secondly, I would have to go to the tailor and get everything altered 17 times. And then thirdly, it’s cool in your 20s, but when you’re 30 it’s time to step it up a little bit. It depends also on what you’re going for. You gotta know what works for you. I got mad respect for it. Someone like my boy Gaspard from Justice, he murders the vintage shit. I don’t think anyone really can fuck with him. But I can’t walk around with a Judas Priest t-shirt and my glasses and shit. It’s not gonna work.
F151: If you’re going to a more formal function and you gotta go black tie, do you have any tuxedo tips? Do you own a tuxedo?
D1: Yeah. I got a Dior tuxedo.
F151: There you go.
D1: That’s the one I wore on Letterman when the other guest was President Clinton. So you know I had to get a tux for that.
F151: Do you have any tips for someone out there looking for a tuxedo, whether they’re renting or buying?
D1: I’m not a tuxedo connoisseur. I know there are very specific rules for tuxedos, and you’re better off reading Esquire magazine than asking me.
D1: No but seriously! They have really comprehensive guides and stuff. I own one, and my brother owns one, and they’re kinda subverted takes on tuxedos. I think the rule is the same as a suit; it’s really all about the fit. In fact, same goes for a leather jacket. If it’s too boxy you just look like a cheesy undercover cop, or a cheesy security guard, and if the fit is perfect and it’s really slim, you look like the Beatles in the ’60s, which is great! Or if it’s a leather jacket you look like the Rolling Stones in the ’70s, which is even greater [laughs].
F151: Let’s say you and P-Thugg were headed to the Grammys and you had an unlimited budget to put together any outfit you could imagine. What would the dream Chromeo outfit be?
D1: We already rock that. There’s nothing that I’m like, “I wish I could get that.” It’s more about being tasteful. So me and Pee would probably just find a cool way to put something together funny and fly at the same time, and then everyone’s happy. Pee’s got an amazing sense of style as well. We compliment each other, and we both have stuff that works for each of us. Don’t get me wrong though, we shop together. He comes with me and he “gets” what I buy, and the same with him; I “get” what he likes.
F151: Do you guys try to complement each other’s looks when you’re putting together your wardrobe for a show?
D1: Yeah. If you look at the latest press shot I’m wearing the white suit and he’s wearing the crazy black wraparound thing, which is incredible. And he was the first one to bring that back, the Afrika Bambaataa with the fucking Golden Child beret and leather, you know? And trust me man, his next shit is actually more next-level. He’s about to bring back the ’90s Steve Harvey shit, with the chain over the turtleneck. Shit that gospel musicians actually still wear. He’s just so next-level with it.
F151: P-Thugg’s had a lot of different looks over the years. Do you have one that stands out as your favorite?
D1: For me, the two dopest looks Pee ever had were when we first, first, first came to New York, and we played our first show for Vice. This was in 2002 at the Bowery Ballroom. Pee had—and this was before anyone did this—Pee had the 2-Pac airbrushed t-shirt, but this was before hipsters. And on Pee it looked believable, you know what I mean? It didn’t look ironic; it looked dope. He cut off the sleeves and he had the leather Yankees hat and the gold tooth and the fucking…the Prince…you know that Egyptian cross? I forget what it’s called.
F151: The Ankh?
D1: Yeah, the earring that dangles.
F151: Oh wow.
D1: So that to me was one, and the other one is the new Afrika Bambaataa / Peter Tosh / Jamaican-Militant-Army-Guy [laughs]. I think they’re incredible. Also when he first pulled out the Kente prints at Coachella with no shirt underneath. It was just ridiculous. That’s why he kills it.
F151: You and your brother also perform as The Brothers Macklovitch. When you guys put those shows together do you do the same thing and coordinate your looks?
D1: We both have fun with it. I got my brother into suits, and I like finding stuff that’s gonna look really good on him. So we are like, “Alright, which one are you rocking, which one am I rocking?” And I think he looks really good. I can say that about my little brother.
F151: What’s the best fashion tip you’ve given him?
D1: “Let me choose” [laughs]. That’s the best tip I’ve ever given him. And he’ll laugh but he’ll say the same thing.
F151: Has he ever given you advice?
D1: My brother gives me advice on everything in my life. Usually he’ll say, “This looks good on you, this looks bad on you.” Or, “This is kind of weird.” But my brother—trust me man—my brother gives me advice on everything. Maybe not my dissertation, but everything else my brother has a say in. So it’s not like I’m out there telling him what to do.
F151: When you’re on campus at Columbia, teaching or working on your PhD, do you find that you have to adapt your style, or is it pretty much the same?
D1: I won’t wear my sunglasses when I’m teaching, and I might not wear a biker jacket, but everything else stays the same.
F151: Coming from Montreal to New York, do you see a big difference in the way people dress between those two cities?
D1: Yeah. People know how to dress here.
F151: [Laughs] You think it’s better in New York?
D1: [Scoffs] Come on, man. I mean it’s like…New York, London, Paris. For me, Paris especially.
F151: Paris is the best?
D1: I think if you’re into more of a heritage, Americana, Brooks Brothers by way of beat-up wingtips and rolled-up jeans from the 1940s, then New York is where it’s at. And if you’re into more of a tight pants and boots and a leather jacket, maybe Paris is where it’s at. And if you’re more into whatever next-level shit is happening in the East End, then London [laughs]! Depends what you like. London’s got Central Saint Martins [College of Art & Design]. They’re the breeding ground for all things fashion. As long as you never go to LA or Miami, you’ll be alright! Or Vegas. That’s not even…I can’t....
F151: Speaking of, you have a recurring style feature on Twitter.
D1: #airportstyle? Yeah.
F151: Do you find there’s a certain airport where you guys really hit the gold mine?
D1: Oh my god. San Diego. Crazy. The Hawaiian shirts were out of control. The thing about the airport stuff is, I’m not making fun. This is stuff we like. We don’t wear it, but this summer Pee was rocking the Tommy Bahama shirts hard [laughs]. We love it because it’s something that’s quintessentially American, like the phone on the belt and the tucked-in Polo with the fucking palm trees on it. I just love that. It’s straight up.
F151: Have you seen any recent rapper attempts at high fashion that have been particularly embarrassing?
D1: I think the worst-dressed rapper and the guy who fails miserably with every single outfit is Jay-Z. Everything he tries to wear looks horrible. He’s a schlump. He’s the king of schlump, because he’s around Kanye and Kanye’s so dope. And Kanye’s basically just a vector that schooled everyone in that world. And so Jay is the first to pick up on it ’cause he’s so close to Kanye, but with Jay it’s just like, “Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail.”
I would say that in terms of rappers, when you look back, obviously Kanye did so many good things just to bridge the gap between hip-hop and fashion. Kanye wears it on his sleeve. But I think the one rapper that’s got flyness without really talking about it too much is Nas. He doesn’t wear anything too crazy; it’s just the army fatigues are always on point. If he’s doing something else, it’s always on point. Nas, to me, is a real fly dude. He’s had his mishaps with the shiny suits and stuff, but overall whenever I see him, I’m like, “Man!” Plus he still looks like he’s 21. There’s something cool about him. But Jay-Z…it’s tough, ’cause he’s the greatest dude ever, and you see what he’s trying to do, but it’s…ay yi yi.
F151: Is there a certain style that you like to see on ladies?
D1: I like what Margiela does for women. Phoebe Philo is great. She does Céline as you know. Riccardo Tisci is great. He does Givenchy. He’s been the most critically acclaimed. And Balmain for women. I’m not giving you any original answers, but by all accounts the most stylish woman is Emmanuel Alt, who just got made Editor In Chief of French Vogue, now that homegirl [Carine Roitfeld] left a couple of weeks ago. She kills it. She used to be the Fashion Director, and now she’s the Editor. This is the high-fashion stuff. But for any girl who knows how to put it together, you can spend $50 at Topshop or Forever 21 or the vintage store and if you know what you’re doing, it’s gonna be great. It’s not like guys where it’s mostly just horrible. The average is pretty good for chicks.
F151: Looking back on Chromeo’s style history, do you have any regrets?
D1: Many regrets, man. We’re still learning. If you look at half the old pictures, we look horrible. Half of the old pictures, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.
F151: Any specific outfits?
D1: Pretty much anything prior to 2008 is a disaster. We were learning as we went along. It’s not like Springsteen where everything you look at you’re like, “Whoa.” No, we can’t. Dude, there’s a million ones of us where it’s like, “Oh boy.”
F151: Do you guys style yourselves, or do you have stylists that help you out on certain things?
D1: Nah, ourselves. It wouldn’t be fun otherwise.
The only thing we didn’t mention is the elephant in the room, and it’s Hedi Slimane himself. We said it when we talked about the Dior stuff, but I think he deserves a mention for men’s fashion as the guy who really revolutionized it in the last few years. I think it was Armani in the ’80s and then Hedi Slimane in terms of people who really “saved” men’s fashion. But again, it’s all about the old dude on the corner who doesn’t even know who these people are, and who’s been killing it. I could only wish that I had that, you know?
F151: It takes a lifetime.
D1: Yeah it does! It does, man.
F151: Anything else you want to add?
D1: Nah we pretty much covered everything. Again, this is more than I would normally talk about it. For instance, I never saw an interview of The Strokes talking about how they dress and yet when they came out, that was the second thing that people talked about, apart from the greatest rock album of the last 25 years. But The Strokes never talked about it, which was something I always really admired, so it really takes a Fool’s Gold project to get me to talk about this stuff this much.