5 Questions with...Jesse Thorn, creator of 'Put This On'

November 3, 2009

thornJesse Thorn is best known as the host of the podcast/public radio program The Sound of Young America. He's made a name for himself by interviewing everyone from Bob Edwards to Bill Withers in his apartment in Los Angeles. But instead of conforming to the stereotypical podcasting look (i.e. pajamas), Thorn is notorious for his fastidious fashion sense. His sartorial notoriety has spread so far, that he and Adam Lisagor (of the podcast You Look Nice Today) have launched a new web video project called Put This On. The Kickstarter-funded project officially launched yesterday. We asked Thorn five questions via email... AG: What's the idea behind Put This On? Are you trying to sell me clothes? Is this a pyramid scheme?!?!
I'm not here to lie to you - Adam and I have been using an amazing new product called Herbalife, and we just want a few minutes of your time to explain it. In all sincerity, the idea, put simply, is a show for men who want to dress like grownups. Both of us are out of the Seth Rogen period of our life, and we know a lot of other men who are, too. Men who need a little bit of guidance so they're not dressing like a child - and so that they don't become a dress-up doll for their wives or partners. My friend Xeni Jardin called it "straight eye for the straight guy." We like to think we're for more than just straight guys, but I like the sentiment.
AG: What makes you and Adam qualified to dispense fashion advice?
I actually came to this subject because people were emailing me about it. I give out my email address on my radio show, and people who'd seen me wearing grown-up clothes, at live tapings, for example, were filling my inbox with questions - often questions about really important stuff, like what they should wear in their wedding. I started a thread on my message board called "Ask Jesse How To Dress Yourself," and it's pretty much the most popular thread in my message board's history. The demand came to us.
AG: How do you afford a fashionable wardrobe as a public radio host who works out of his living room?
I think you could ask this question about anything that a middle-class guy spends his money on. One of my best pals is an avowed miser, but has literally every current video game system. I make presenting myself well a priority. I think it's important, because it says to the people you interact with: "I care. I wanted to look my best because I respect you." I'm also careful about how I spend my money. I almost never pay retail, I buy at least half of my clothes second-hand, and I'm mindful of what I buy. I bought the suit I wore in my wedding at a thrift store -- it was bespoke, but for someone else. Our blog, I think, has reflected those values -- I've been linking to used and vintage clothes on Ebay a lot, for example. Most people in America spend a lot more money on clothes than they need to, and look pretty lousy after all that spending. Dressing well is about technique, not budget. Of course, having a big-ass budget helps.
AG: Is there any journalistic element to what you're doing with Put This On? i.e. will the audience know when/if interview subjects have given you free clothes?
This is really important to us. I think fashion "journalism" too often blurs the line between advertising and content in a way that I find very distasteful. I'm not against getting free clothes any more than I'm against getting free books for The Sound of Young America, but we will disclose any product we review or feature which has been given to us for free. We've actually got "Clothing Credits" for our first episode, that list everything Adam and I wear, and included in that list is the fact that we got a free pair of jeans from 4Stroke and free boots from Timberland Boot Company. (Shout out to 4Stroke and Timberland Boot Company.)
AG: If you have any extra free clothes can you send them to me? Thanks.
Did I mention that when I'm bored with clothes I sell them? That's another good way to save money on clothes - sell them for more than what you bought them for.