Rock stars weren’t meant to stick around. They ignite, burn, and burn out. Rock music as a genre is reaching the age of its retirement (2018-1954=64), and rock itself has retreated from the charts and popular consciousness. We’ve been making “lol they’re old” jokes about Mick and Keith since the 1990s; now the first generation college rockers of the 1980s are getting there.
I write all of this in order to say: REM’s Michael Stipe looks cooler than ever. If we’re in a time of style eclecticism, when you can wear traditional menswear with thrift store stuff (is thrift store clothing now traditional menswear? A question for another day) and designer clothing, Stipe has been setting that trend for years. He told Men’s Health in 2011:
I started dressing myself out of The Potter’s House [an Athens, Georgia thrift store], and that evolved into the look I had through the ’80s and into the ’90s. Even what I wear now is an extension of that, but as an adult, not a teenager.
In the years since REM disbanded (in 2011), Stipe has mostly been making non-music art–he also produced the new album from art-dance-pop group Fischerspooner. He’s also produced a tremendous beard. Always willing to take chances with his stage wear (Free Tibet Concert-era patterns, air ties, that blue face stripe), offstage Stipe today seems to favor dramatic outerwear, colorful scarves, and thick rimmed glasses, mixing a lot of textures–refined suit fabrics, fuzzy collars, silk scarves, woolly caps. In interviews going back a decade he’s mentioned favoring brands like Patrik Ervell (he’s friends with the designer), Steven Alan, Hedi Slimane-era Dior Homme, and vintage Helmut Lang. He often carries a clutch rather than wearing a backpack or carrying a case.
A few years back, Stipe told The Cut:
Once you’re no longer 27 years old, it’s hard to find really good menswear. It’s really limited. It’s really hard to find inventive, cool, well-cut, affordable clothing if you’re a guy.
Stipe also claimed he’s now more confident.
Fashion is even more fun for me now than when I was younger. I’ve gained confidence in how I put myself together. I like taking chances. Basically, I dress myself to be confident and to feel good. Doing that really changes how you move through your day. It’s not the only factor, but it’s important to move through your day in a way that’s pleasing or satisfying or even triumphant.
This post was inspired by the ongoing album-by-album REM podcast “R U Talkin’ REM RE: ME,” with Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman.