Interview: David Coggins
David Coggins is a writer and editor whose ease of dressing has inspired sartorial greatness from many who have crossed his path. He’s contributed to a few of our favorite weekly reads including GQ, Conde Nast Traveler, and Esquire. A quick scroll of his Instagram shows he enjoys world travel and fly-fishing in his off-time. All in all, a guy we wouldn't mind grabbing a drink with. We had the pleasure of having a conversation with Coggins about his recent release Men and Style: Essays, Interviews and Considerations and how he got to where he is today. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? I always was interested in writing and art. I read a lot as a boy and I studied literature and art all through school and college. Then I wrote a lot about art for magazines like Art in America and Modern Painters. That was really satisfying and I enjoyed it a lot. Finally I decided I wanted to write about other things that were important to me: travel, design, fly fishing, restaurants, whisky and, of course, tailoring and clothes. I had to step back a little bit to establish myself in those subjects. But ultimately I’m really glad I did that. Writing about things you care about is always going to be more rewarding. Winter is upon us. What are three essentials a man should have in his cold-weather arsenal? Oh, definitely a good overcoat. Men look so dapper in a strong overcoat, but too often get something fairly straightforward. A grey flannel suit is ideal in the winter. And I think a good tweed jacket that you can wear on a regular basis. What is a common mistake that men make when dressing for the office? Great question. I think you want to dress appropriately, but in a way that suits your personality. I also think you can wear a good sport coat and grey trousers and look really smart. It doesn’t always have to be a suit. If it is going to be suit, get ambitious and get the best blue or grey suit you can afford. You want to be the man other people come up to and ask who his tailor is.
We read that you admire the way older Italian men dress. What could American men learn from them in terms of style?
It’s true. I love how older Italian men dress. They have a way with texture, pattern and color. They’re classicists by nature, but they can’t help but being expressive. Every time I go to Italy I learn something from the men there, even if it’s just watching a man in a Loden coat bicycle down the streets of Florence smoking a Tuscan cigar. Amazing!
You're quite the world traveler. Traveling and tailored clothing can seem incongruous. How do you keep your clothes fresh when living out of a suitcase? Any travel essentials?
I admire men, like Gay Talese, who aspire to be the best-dressed man on the plane. I also believe in traveling very light—you’ll be surprised by how little you need. I like a dark sport coat that’s sturdy enough not to wrinkle. Trousers like corduroys that don’t need a sharp crease. Then, just some good dress shirts and a pair of Belgian shoes. Knit ties and pocket squares for interest and you’re ready to go.
In your book, Men and Style: Essays, Interviews, and Considerations, you tell the story of men's style through personal anecdotes and storytelling. How do you get guys to open up? What interview left a lasting impression on you?
In interviews I always think it helps if you are direct and engaging. That’s true for conversations in general, but particularly true if you’re getting people on the record. In the case of Men and Style it was interesting since you’re getting very dapper, successful men to talk about some of their lesser moments. I was really happy with how much they opened up. They were absolutely terrific.
I remember sitting with Jay Fielden, now the editor at Esquire, at the time the editor of Town & Country. I knew him, but not well, and he just opened up about his childhood in San Antonio and going to Kiss concerts and working at the Polo store and covering himself in cologne. Here’s this dapper man who I totally admire and he completely opened up. I thought: This book might be better than I thought.