Ask Esquire: How Do I Know If I Have Good Taste?

You do you.
IMAGE Unsplash/ Mean Shadows/ Corey Motta

Hello, Esquire:

I look up to Justin Theroux. But that’s not my problem.

He's a really a cool guy. He was in Charlie's Angels, the second one, Mulholland Drive, and American Psycho. And for a while, he was married to Jennifer Aniston of Friends. See? Cool. 

But Esquire recently described him as part of this new tribe of men who dress like they just rolled out of bed during an earthquake and had absolutely no choice but to put on the first three things they can grab, and these usually are: basketball shorts, a cut-off tee, and something weird like very wispy facial hair. 

Yet, even if he looked like Captain Sleaze from the Tribe Sleazecore, my hero Theroux has been declared as impossibly cool. 

So. I. Don't. Know. Now. I don't know if I am on the right track? Esquire, if I kind of like this new smelly chic look, do I have good taste?  


Tasteful Fan

Hello, Tasteful Fan:

We are closely monitoring this situation happening across the sea to see if this Sleazecore Storm will hit our fair shores. But knowing how we're always eager to try anything from the land of Big Macs and Cardi B, we’re sure to see a few youths (thank you, youths) taking on this fashion challenge by rolling out of bed as if there was an emergency.  

What Is Happening?!

Do you know this saying? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; third time's the charm.

That’s not right. Or is it? 

The mish-mash of things is the essence of Sleazecore. It is how we got here. As Esquire US describes, the glut of fashion pieces, the wear-whatever-you-want mood, and, if we may add, a general boredom about everything have lead to Justin Bieber wearing a hoodie in the middle of a New York summer and then later on crying. 

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(We also cried because we still believe in Jelena.)

You can call him Patient Three, The Charmed One, because there are many men who have dressed in this unforgivable fashion before him. See normcore Shia LaBeouf and unexpected style hero Jonah Hill. Our favorite look from Shia is cutoff sweats plus bright blue Birkenstocks and from Jonah this tan top coat over a pair of shorts.

When Bieber, Surfer Hair Edition, walked down the sunny streets of NYC dressed like he was on his way to an important parking lot, it just coalesced the look in the hearts of style watchers. Enter Sleazecore and its baggy basketball shorts, filthy tracksuits, chest-baring shirts, greasy grease, and overall drug lord glam. This is bubbling up.  

What The Fashion Folk Say

Some people actually like this.

One man will die at the thought of wearing a light blue Oxford shirt with perfectly slim trousers, while another will consider the rig as a no-fail standard. 


If you consider what’s happening in fashion, you’ll know that we’re living in the midst of an ugly-chic revolution. Strict lines have given way to exaggerated fits. Precious items are exchanged for mundane things. The dress code is dad dressing. Fanny packs happened. Things look awry and upside-down, but in their wrong-ness, there is that feeling of newness. 

The Sleazecore phenomenon takes all of these trends to another level, because it puts everything into a Vitamix, blasts them on high, and then lights the trend-shake on fire. Now, what do you do when you see a fire? 

What Our Mom Says

Good taste you can't learn. (Thanks, Mom.) 

Well, actually, we can let you know what has always worked (the suit, a cap-toe leather lace-up shoe in dead-black, a bomber jacket), and, if you commit all the good advice to heart, you can imbibe good taste, which really, in our opinion, is classic taste—with a side of weird.


But maybe Mom is talking about style. Now, the quality of being stylish is more difficult to pin down. This is the reason why some guys dressed in a  plain white T-shirt and jeans look awesome, while you in the same outfit look like a paper bag.

Or think of that boho-dream-girl-earth-mother-flower-crown-woman whose existence can be only described as series of perfect scenes floating in memory. She’s usually in a flowy gossamer creation that just makes her even more fairy-like, intelligent, and charming. In this unfair world, there are creatures who just lend whatever they wear a feeling of elan and not the other way around.

This explains why Mr. Theoroux looks enviable even in his greasewear. He has the stuff (also, he is a famous actor), and that’s what makes Sleazecore work for him. Do you have the stuff?  

What You Should Do

We are going to borrow wisdom from the great designer Yves Saint Laurent, who famously observed that fashion is fleeting, while style is eternal

What is fashionable is what is popular. What looks cool is what you see in culture and on idols right now, and this can be JB in sweats or Justin Theroux in a cut-off tee hanging out in New York this month. 

What is stylish are the things that look good on you regardless of what’s happening on the scene or what time it is on the fashion calendar. These are pieces of clothing that are built to last, designed not to shout, and constructed with a purpose. These are things that go well with each other as if they were life-long friends.


These are not the things you see on the soon-to-be-married Justin B.

Now, is it wrong to think that you are attracted to this sweaty-dirty look? Eh, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. You’ve been dazzled by its outrageousness and tricked into thinking that it is cool. In this sense, Sleazecore is doing its job as a nugget of pop culture. 

Maybe it will catch on. Maybe you should try it (for fun). Maybe you should wear a cut-off T-shirt with shorts, pink socks, Birkenstocks, and a gold watch. Just don’t expect to be entertained in places where sleeves are expected.


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Clifford Olanday
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