“There’s one item that I’ve kept with me for a long time: a set of blue-and-white striped Brooks Brothers pajamas that I got when I went to college, in Wisconsin. I not only wore them in my dorm room, I often wore them underneath my clothes because it was so cold.”
Despite the fact that Jed Weisman cites the 1980s as his most influential period of men’s fashion—“I find myself dressing in that style in both the best and the worst examples of the time”—the producer of a late-night television show is a man who is defined by a classic sense of style. Even with his recent, grand move from New York to Los Angeles, where he’s discovered that fashion is decidedly less buttoned-up, he has retained his lifelong fondness for formalwear and reliable, well-tailored staples.
Vanity Fair Studios: You clearly like dressing up.
“I do. I’ve always liked to dress up. There’s one photo of me as an infant and I’m wearing a tuxedo onesie. So clearly formalwear was an early priority. Also, when I was about five years old I would wear one outfit around the house that I thought was really sharp: a blue blazer with gold buttons, bicycle shorts, no shirt, and that’s it. It was a good look.”
That’s quite an ensemble. Did you have any other style—we’ll call them “eccentricities”—as a kid?
“I had a child-size dresser where the top drawer was filled with bowties. That was my thing when I was a kid: I was always wearing a bowtie and I had bowties and suspenders on in all my school pictures. And when I was about seven, I remember my mom taking me to rent a tuxedo and it was a thrill when I realized I got to choose my own bowtie. To my mom’s credit, she let me go with a loud, hot-pink bowtie and cummerbund combo. I thought it gave me a certain something. And it did look great in the pictures.”
Fast-forward several years and presumably a couple hundred bowties. How would you describe your style today?
“I can’t get away with the bowties now, but as a child it was pretty sharp. Today, I would say my personal style is unadventurous but consistent. It’s not so much about following trends; I like classic pieces and monochromatic colors. Ultimately, I dress in ways that I know will let me be comfortable because I’m moving around all day. I can still look sharp and be active.”
You just lived through a classic T.V. “life transition” trope by moving from New York to L.A. What has that experience been like?
“I was in New York for 11 years [when] I got a job offer. I was ready for a change, so I moved to L.A. about six months ago. I think the biggest change for me is adjusting to dressing for work differently. In New York, I never would’ve worn sneakers to the office, but casual wear is much more acceptable in an L.A. office environment. Sometimes I’ll get dressed up and catch a glimpse of myself and [feel like] I need to un-tuck my shirt.”
It does always seem as if, in TV and movies, everyone in California is perpetually in beachwear. What’s the deal with that?
“I’m definitely not perpetually in beachwear, I can tell you that. I probably dress a little bit too formally at the beach. But it’s definitely so much more relaxed, I think, because you spend so much time in your car that you end putting all the clothes you might possibly need in any scenario in the backseat.”
Are you checking out other people’s cars? Or are you now traveling with a mini closet in your car?
“No, not in a weird way. But, yeah, if it’s a weekend, I’ll take a jacket for nighttime, a swimsuit if I go to the beach, hiking shoes if that’s where the day takes me … you kind of have to be prepared for anything.”
What is it about dressing up that has, and continues to, appeal to you so much?
“I think when you can show that you’ve thought about what you’re wearing and have a sense of what looks good on you, people respond to that.”
And Brooks Brothers gives you the sartorial tools you need to look sharp—and with your high standards, that’s not an easy task.
“Brooks Brothers to me is classic, American style. It has reliable basics that are very handsome and have a distinguished quality about them. They’re professional. The most iconic piece is probably the two-button, blue cotton blazer that I’ve had several of over the years. It’s a closet staple and you can wear it with a t-shirt or with a tie or an open-collar shirt. It goes with everything.”
And at one point, Brooks Brothers was your literal port in the storm.
“Yes. Really awful clichés are going through my head right now, like, ‘Brooks Brothers came to the rescue!’
But you also enjoy the cozier side of Brooks Brothers, no? An experience perhaps that you are not fully copping to right now?
“Yeah, I know what you’re getting at.
Do you have a fashion credo that’s guided the way you dress through the years?
My dad used to say, “Son, that shirt is wearing you.” I think the key is to [project] that sense of being sharp and put together and stylish without being a fashion victim.
After the Gold Rush: Ready-Made Suits
Pioneers of the California Gold Rush, unable to wait for a custom suits as they headed West to make their fortunes, flock to Brooks Brothers to pick up ready-made clothing—an innovation the company introduces in 1849 in response to the ’49ers hasty migration to the Golden State.