Celebrities Demo Four Types of Sleaze Fashion

Here's how looking like a teenage weed dealer became a whole thing.

Justin Bieber is an internationally renowned pop star. He’s rich, he famous, and he’s recently engaged to model Hailey Baldwin. He is, by many measures, a successful adult human male. He also dresses like a teenager who’s about to sell you some shitty weed in the parking lot of a Circle K. What gives? 

It isn’t just Bieber. Right now, celebrities from the worlds of music, film, television, and just about any other medium you can think of are looking more and more like the kind of guys who spend their time perfecting shoplifting techniques or creeping everyone out at the bowling alley bar. Athletic shorts, baggy tracksuits, and questionable graphic tees are becoming hot-ticket items. Hell, even actual bowling shirts are back. It’s like some cabal of low-key fashion influencers—Jonah Hill, Pete Davidson, Wiz Khalifa, Shia LaBeouf, and Bella Thorne among them—got together and decided, screw it, we’re all going to dress like various iterations of “scumbag” now.


Welcome to the Season of Sleaze. Suddenly the coolest guys and girls in the room are dressing like the guys and girls who would’ve been booted out of the whole damn building for not meeting the dress code a few years ago. So what, exactly, is sleazecore? There are key elements, of course. You should be on the lookout for nylon shorts, track pants, oversized hoodies, and washed-out logo tees. Greasy hair, all the shades of hair dye, and a wispy mustache might make an appearance, too. 

But that's not all there is to being sleazy. In 2018, sleaze is all of us. Sleazecore is a lifestyle. Like pornography, you’ll know it when you see it. And considering the dog days of August are upon us, you’re gonna be seeing a whole lot more of it real soon. 

When this happens, you might find yourself with questions. Why is this happening? What does it mean? Are normal guys suddenly going to start wearing oversized basketball shorts and metal tees to the office now?

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To answer those inquiries right off the bat: It’s complicated, I’m not sure, and probably not. But to better understand the first issue of why—why?!—celebrities are getting sleazier, you’ve got to consider the fashion landscape right now. Because right now, anything goes. It’s a goddamn Wonderland of options, with everything from athletic influences to ‘90s nostalgia to workwear, hippie gear, and high fashion showing up in one form or another. It can be a little overwhelming! 

For a lot of celebrity types, that means pulling in a new element or two and rooting the rest of the look in the classics. (For a bevy of examples, just look to the Famous Chrises: Evans, Hemsworth, Pine, and Pratt.) But for our Scum Chic elite, it’s not about sampling from the smorgasbord. It’s about shoving everything together at once and, through the fine art of fashion alchemy, turning all those disparate elements into something cohesively sleazy. The Season of Sleaze is happening in 2018 because the foundational elements of this look—whether baggy, bowling-inspired, or just made of velour—are so readily available. 

It’s likely the designers on the supply side didn’t intend for them to all mingle. But that’s another part of the magic here: The folks who embody the Season of Sleaze are doin’ it for themselves. Jonah Hill doesn’t have a stylist, he just dresses in gear that he loves. It helps that he knows what he’s doing, especially when it comes to streetwear, but it’s even more important that he doesn’t have a prescriptive version of “star style” foisted upon him by a professional. Ditto that for Pete Davidson, who earned a style intervention from Queer Eye’s Tan France, and Shia, who’s definitely picking out his own Patagonia gear. 


Even people like Bella Thorne—who does indeed have a stylist helping craft her looks—are clearly not trying to fit into the traditional celebrity fashion mold. Wiz Khalifa’s look was similarly helped along by a stylist, but even a suit won’t cover up a bloom of tattoos covering your neck and creeping onto your cheeks and forehead. The look is avowedly, intentionally anti-cookie cutter celeb. Which, of course, is the whole point. 

Because, when you get right down to it, a big part of dressing as a celebrity in recent years has been looking nice; looking professional, pulled-together, presentable—even to the point of looking interchangeable (how many people do you know who can’t keep their Chrises straight?). When that’s not the intention—think Kanye West looking fancy gothic in custom Margiela, or Jared Leto looking like an acid trip in Gucci—the whole affair is wrapped-up high fashion, giving it an impenetrable veneer of, if not niceness, richness. 


The Season of Sleaze is about raising a middle finger to all of that, while simultaneously stealing a bottle from your parents’ liquor cabinet. Even when the clothes are expensive—and make no mistake, many of them are very expensive—they’re designed to obscure that fact from the untrained eye. The Season of Sleaze isn’t about looking nice or looking rich, it’s about looking like a complete scuzball because you can get away with it.


And when you think about the state of things in 2018, there’s a lot of room to get away with things in the sartorial sense. The world is on fire. Literally, in the case of California, where the state’s largest-ever wildfire raged recently. Figuratively, in the case of crushing heat waves across America, Europe, and even portions of the Arctic Circle. And figuratively in the political world, which seems ready to erupt into…something bad. With those kind of stakes—and that kind of heat—who’s going to bother faulting you for wearing oversized shorts instead of a suit? Who’s got the energy? And really, who cares anyways? 

Then there’s the proliferation of sleaze throughout other parts of culture. Post Malone is headlining seemingly every single music festival this summer. Post Malone also looks, for lack of a better descriptor, sticky. He’s Peak Sleaze, from an aesthetic standpoint. And he’s everywhere, helping normalize the look for men and women who keep abreast of the music scene, if not the fashion world.

Post Malone + Justin Bieber = Very Sleazy. IMAGE: Gallery Stock/ Christopher Polk

Musicians like 6ix9ine and the late XXXTentacion also look (or looked) the part. One is accused of a sex crime, the other of brutally beating his pregnant ex-girlfriend. That’s not sleazy—it’s downright awful. But the two do illuminate one crucial aspect of the Season of Sleaze: The whole thing hinges on aesthetics, sure, but also on behavior. There’s nothing clever about dressing the part of a sleazeball if you actually are one. That’s just being a bad human and looking it, too. 

Sleazecore is steeped in a sense of rebellion, yes, but also irony. It’s the loud, brash, perhaps-inevitable successor of normcore, which also almost-annoyingly subverted expectations (look at the fashion people dressing non-fashion!), but also became a viable look in its own right.

So, will sleazecore follow suit? Maybe. It’s a little early to be sure of these things, and with any trend there exists the very real possibility that it’ll flame out instead of trickling down from the influencer set to the masses. But when even relatively conservatively dressed guys are reaching for sleazy staples like loudly printed camp-collar shirts and track pants, it’s worth asking yourself how the look can make its way into your own wardrobe.  


And the answer there is that it probably already has. Camp-collar shirts have been inescapable for two summers now. Track pants have been proliferating for even longer. And even guys who can’t hoop to save their lives probably have a pair of basketball shorts lying around. Slides, graphic tees, hoodies—they’re already in your arsenal. The thing about going Full Sleazy is putting everything together, throwing caution to the wind, and stepping out in all your mismatched, over-the-top glory. (And maybe not washing your hair. Like, ever.) 

Should you do it? Honestly, probably not. Maybe on Saturday. (It helps if you have a hangover and a flop sweat.) But in day-to-day life, this works for guys who were already sitting pretty at the top of their own little style tribe. Also, people who are rich and famous and didn’t have to play by society’s rules even before they started dressing like low-level suburban weed dealers. Probably, the smart thing to do is just skip the experiment entirely. 


But, hell. It’s the Season of Sleaze. So fuck it. Go for it. You do you. 

Design by Mike Kim

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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About The Author
Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Evans is the style director of Esquire, covering all things fashion, grooming, accessories, and, of course, sneakers. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. You can follow him at @MrJonathanEvans on Twitter and Instagram.
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