An Interview with Benton Nilson

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June 1, 2020 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

BN: 29 years old, I work in marketing.

VR: Your educational background?

BN: I studied cinema in college.

 

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style obsession)?

BN: nope, single.

VR: …how about your parents’ and siblings’ reactions when your style interest began?

BN: My father’s style influenced my own and we would watch old movies together, which also fueled my interest in tailored clothes and vintage styles. In that way, I think they could appreciate my interest, maybe if not to the degree to which I became interested (obsessed).

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

BN: I love films and sports. I’ll watch almost any sport and talk about it with anyone interested. I’m fascinated by the culture that surrounds sports in almost all countries. Basketball is my favorite sport to watch and play, but I think baseball is an aesthetically beautiful game with a fascinating history.

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards the tailored look?

BN: I was heavily influenced by the movies I watched and I was, naturally, drawn to the older films and the clothes in them. My earliest memory of being consciously aware of the clothes and starting to ask questions about what people were wearing was when I watched Brian de Palma’s Untouchables. The fedoras, the double-breasted suits, the overcoats, and the heavy tweed jackets were all new to me and so different from what I saw in regular life. 

Like many kids, I also remember my parents would buy button-down shirts for me to wear on special occasions, but I think unlike a lot of kids, I really enjoyed how special they felt. They were comfortable to wear and just felt “right.”

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

BN: A lot of knowledge about the details in menswear came from books and online forums. But oftentimes, things wouldn’t click for me until I saw it in person. Like the old Brooks Brothers shirts. I read about them, saw them on stylish men like Miles Davis, but when I finally got my hands on a shirt for myself, I finally understood why they were so special.

VR: How would you describe your style?

BN: The easiest way is probably Ivy style, but I really enjoy the entire spectrum of American styles. I love how sporty the American style can be, with button-down shirts, sweaters and sneakers, but also how rugged and practical it can be, with jeans and workshirts. I don’t think you have to be some tough guy on a motorcycle to appreciate a good leather jacket and you don’t have to be a pipe-smoking professor type to enjoy tweed jackets. It might be aspiration in that sense; the idea of being an interesting enough person to match interesting clothes that let you go from an outdoor adventure to a nice dinner without skipping a beat. 

The sweater is a great example; for most people I think it brings up images of Thanksgiving or Christmas, as something you wear for more domestic occasions. But the history of sweaters show that they were first created as very practical and hard-wearing garments, meant for people who needed protection against the harsh elements they faced. In my mind, the sweater is a closer kin to a tough leather jacket than some people think and I love them both. 

VR: Your profile mentions that you’re very much into vintage clothing. What era or style bent do you enjoy the most?

BN: I’m not sure I can pinpoint an era, that’s part of what I like about the Ivy style, there’s a continuation of ideas. I do, however, enjoy post-war era styles, where I find the lifestyles relatable and before clothing became more synthetic.

VR: Who or what inspires you?

BN: I don’t want to repeat myself, but movies and sports. They show the clothes in the context of the times, in the context of the character’s lifestyle and personality. A lot of times they wear great clothes without any apparent self-consciousness. For me, I prefer them to fashion photography because I like to see how the clothes add depth to a person’s presence and spark my imagination about what kind of life they lead. Of course, that perceived image of that person could be true or it could be false. I think that’s the beauty of it.

VR: What’s your definition of style?

BN: If someone notices your clothes, but it’s not all they notice, I think that’s style. 

VR: Finally, what are your tips for finding the gems among flea market rags?

BN: Know what you’re looking for. Don’t try to dig through everything, it’s just too exhausting and there’s too much junk anyway. Know what you’re looking for and be patient. Know what you’re looking for and know what you’re willing to pay. I’ve walked away from items that I loved because I thought it was too much money. I admit I still think about those items sometimes. If you stay truly focused on what you like, you’ll end up buying less anyway. 

https://www.instagram.com/benton.down/

Photos: the Nilson archives


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Only a beautiful life is worth living.


"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell