Ian Connor lives in the Valley. For the self-proclaimed “King of the Youth,” a flashy mantle earned by bedding porn stars, antagonizing deli owners, and counting fat stacks of hundred-dollar bills while hanging with A$AP Mob and Virgil Abloh, this uncool address seems inconsistent. But then again, Connor is also the dude who broke bread with Kanye West and Paris Fashion Week’s judgiest cognoscenti in Skechers sneakers.
It’s the most shopworn, self-congratulatory trope in personal style to loudly mix highbrow with low but Connor’s among the best to do it. In certain corners of the Internet—namely Instagram and Tumblr—Connor’s worshipped for unimpeachable taste and dauntless cheek. Once, in Paris, he hurled free designer clothing out his hotel window to the clamoring kids below. Another time, he offered untold dollars to a stranger in a vintage Raf Simons tee to buy it off his back. Connor openly worships the Belgian designer, calling him “God,” and collects his most esoteric design motifs as tattoos on his chest. It’s an act of hyper-Stanism that warrants awe or side-eye.
Connor’s not one for moderation. Nor specialization. Right now, he’s styling for Wiz Khalifa, collaborating with Edison Chen’s Emotionally Unavailable, consulting for Guillermo Andrade’s FourTwoFour boutique on Fairfax, merchandising a new store, Shalon & Rogers, in Houston, and designing a few SKUs for Pink Dolphin. His label allegiances are manifold, having modeled for BAPE, Astrid Andersen, and Shane Gonzales’ MIDNIGHT STUDIOS, for which he also handles light PR. But most people recognize him as the short kid with bleached dreads standing stone-faced for Rihanna and Anna Wintour as a model for Kanye West’s “Yeezy Season” at New York Fashion Week. He was the one who kept checking his phone.
A photo of Connor’s grinning mug became the all-over print on a Wil Fry jersey that’s been modeled by Left Brain and worn by Trinidad James as well as certified Cool Teen™ Mike the Ruler (for those of you interested, there are also matching shorts). And on social media, Connor’s thousand-yard stare greets you in London, Tokyo, Paris, and New York with a frequency reminiscent of the Travelocity gnome.
All of this vaunts him further in the eyes of his kingdom. Many of the 175,000-plus kids who follow him on Instagram call him “dad,” to signal their fealty and admiration. What began as a curiosity follow for me graduated to a hate-follow and then quickly escalated to a low-grade obsession with two or three accidental deep likes.
Because here’s the thing: The more you get to know about Ian Connor, the more you give a shit. His jolie-laide features make him ceaselessly interesting to look at and, despite his reckless and sometimes sexist persona, when he anoints something as cool, he’s rarely wrong.
When the slight 22-year-old meets me in the glass lobby of his sprawling apartment complex, he’s shirtless, wearing navy Dickies work pants cinched high-and-tight at the waist with a nondescript brown belt. And Vans. He’s also chain-smoking Marlboro 100s and FaceTiming with his friend Aday, gossiping about which girls did and did not curve various members of A$AP Mob.
His bright, one-bedroom apartment is an explosion of the most covetable Supreme clothes and accessories. A cursory glance clocks two colorways of the Supreme x North Face checkerboard pullover with their matching caps, three framed Supreme posters, a Supreme bedspread, a Supreme thermos, a Supreme espresso cup, and a miniature rubber Supreme football. Supreme tees are rolled into Supreme bags nestled within larger Supreme duffels. Only a box logo bootlegger could rival his collection. It’s a Hypebeast paradise scored by a surprising playlist—Gorilla Biscuits, the Descendents, and Morrissey. For the record, his favorite Morrissey song is “Piccadilly Palare.”
The overwhelming aesthetic could accurately be described as dorm-room chic. But things in Ian Connor’s world are evolving. Next month he’s taking over A$AP Rocky’s multilevel Hollywood house. Pretty Flacko’s getting something fancier, so Ian’s moving up. Along with his assistant, business school student Leontae Thomas, Leontae’s friend Kenny, a Korean kid from Guam who smokes an impressive amount of weed, and Connor’s newest protégée, Atlanta rapper Playboi Carti. “Being in Los Angeles is like being in Paris to the little nigga,” says Connor, lighting another cigarette and laughing. But with his ever-expanding list of responsibilities, at what point is Ian Connor too grown to lead the youth?
There’s a ton of speculation about what you’re like but not a whole lot of concrete information. Where did you grow up?
New York ’til I was 9, then Atlanta, and then New York again when I was 18. So what made me who I am is Atlanta.
What do your parents do?
I don’t know my father. My mom is pretty straight. We get along but I don’t talk to her. I love my mother and my mom loves me. We’re just different. She doesn’t understand, so I don’t try to force it. We’re cool.
There’s a woman on Instagram claiming to be your mother and trying hard to get your attention.
Yeah, that’s my mom.
Is that uncomfortable for you?
It’s just weird. At first I was mad, but I have to realize she’s my mom and I don’t talk to her that much and that’s her outlet. It’s the image of me in her head, it’s a lot of baby pictures. It’s her personal thing.
“I’m forever the underdog. I don’t care what I accomplish. I’m always going to be underestimated based off my size or the way I look or the way I talk sometimes.”
You’re surprisingly reclusive given your persona.
I stay away from large crowds. If you look at Angelo from Supreme or Eddie Cruz from Undefeated, they’re extremely low-key even though they’ve had this huge impact and have helped the people they’ve selected to help. So, instead of having to be around a shit-load of people I’d rather just find everybody over time.
You also don’t get fucked up.
I don’t smoke weed or pop pills. I only smoke cigarettes and just started getting on my drunk shit maybe eight months ago. I drink twice a month, if that.
You’ve mentioned on Twitter that drugs would be a suicide mission. Why?
My mind is already crazy. I’d just become less perceptive. I’d overthink shit and my mind would just be on hyperdrive. I’d get paranoid. I do know the power that I have and just going into a room high I’d be thinking about who’s this person and that person and thinking too hard on it, because a lot of people who do not matter to me are in my life. I don’t need that.
Are you still as tight with A$AP Mob since you moved here?
Those are all my brothers. I talk to them every day, like Nast, Illz. Rocky’s my manager, so if I’m not literally with him, I’m talking to him every day. We’re all focusing on our own shit but when we come together we come together.
When’s the first time you met them?
I don’t even exactly remember. I looked up to A$AP Bari to where I just understood what he was about. Bari was that fashion nigga. I knew he wasn’t rich but he had rich clothes. He was a true, I-don’t-give-a-fuck-type nigga, and I was like that too. Even if I didn’t have a home, I was sleeping on the floor, I always made sure I had my clothes.
But how’d you insert yourself into the crew?
I chased behind Bari like a fucking dog, like, “Hey, what’s up, Bari?” All the time. I’d be like, “When we hanging?” And he’d be like, “I’m not hanging out with you today, little nigga.” I’d be like, “Aw, fuck you!” But still follow him around. I’d take pictures of him as he was walking away. I looked up to Bari so much until we were inseparable. We practically lived together. We traveled every state together ’cause we understood each other. That was the lifestyle. We got money. I could have five racks in my pocket and sleep on the floor; I could have zero money and finesse a young kid to book my hotel for a week straight. I just live how I want to live, no boundaries.
Part of your appeal is that you’re the underdog. Is that going to change with success?
I’m forever the underdog. I don’t care what I accomplish. I’m always going to be underestimated based off my size or the way I look or the way I talk sometimes.
You talk about this a lot but do you genuinely believe yourself to be ugly?
I know I’m not attractive. I have scars. Maybe if I was clean-cut I would be cute or whatever but I have so many cons. I’m short. Sometimes my teeth won’t be looking so cute. There are just different things that fall in the category of me being ugly and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m still better than most. I’m going to always out-style you. My mind is more advanced than yours.
None of that seems to have deterred you when it comes to women.
If there’s a bitch with like 50K on Instagram and she’s feeling herself and everybody’s commenting like she’s the baddest, I make it my point to infiltrate her mind to fuck her. And I know if I wasn’t who I am she wouldn’t be fucking me at all.
How many women have you slept with?
I don’t know.
Well over 300 but I don’t do that anymore. I chilled. Make sure you put that in there, that I’ve been chilling lately.
Is that because you’ve got a girlfriend now?
Actually, we’re done. We just separated. It was fast. We didn’t get into an argument or anything like that. I feel it when I’m around her but I don’t feel it when I’m not.
“Who influenced Travi$? Who’s the father? Rocky. A$AP Mob. Nast. Ian Connor. Illz. Bari.”
You were similarly enamored with Skechers at one point. Was that just on some fashion-troll-stunt-shit?
That was a realization. I was thinking about how everything I own is name brand. It’s not supposed to be about that. It’s about style. Everyone called the Raf [sneakers] ugly at first. They were all like, “Ew, what are those?” But then when they saw that I was wearing them and that Rocky was wearing them, or Bari, then they weren’t ugly anymore. I thought about how people talk down on Skechers when they fucking look the same as Rafs. They’re so similar. They’re the same idea. They’re just different colors.
So it’s performance art?
I don’t wear them anymore but I felt it when I did. I wanted to make a point. I wore these most of the time in Paris. I ate dinner with Kanye West in fucking Skechers. He commented on them but he actually got it. The next week, we were at the A.P.C. party and I had on my Rafs and he goes, “I see you’ve got on your Rafs today. I guess they’re the same as Skechers.”
What was it like meeting Raf?
Meeting Raf was legit crazy. I actually didn’t know that I’d meet him that day, I just had this sense of hope ’cause it was the day of his show. After the show, everyone wants to be on you and take a picture, and Rocky’s like, “We out if there’s a crowd.” He feels the same way about Raf as I do but he knows that if he doesn’t say what’s up he can still catch him for dinner, since they have a personal relationship. Rocky always talks to Raf about my tattoos. When I met him, I lifted up my shirt and he was like, “Oh, you’re Ian. I’ve heard so much about you. You and Rocky and I should get dinner when I get back to New York.” It was so fire because I know Raf stays to himself. He feels the same pressure I do being around a lot of people, but it’s 10 times worse for him. He’s so shy and he’s not going to give you a serious convo unless he knows what you’re about or unless you deserve that. With everyone around him he just feels like they don’t really care or get it, so he stays to himself. Getting those words from him with his smile was so genuine. I was like, fuck yeah. It was right.
You just got new Raf ink on your chest. Is he still your favorite designer?
It’s not Raf anymore. One of my favorite designers right now is Shane Gonzales from MIDNIGHT. Shane is just ill. He gets it.
Aren’t you biased, though, since you work with Shane?
I would’ve said Raf but even Raf is over fashion.
Right. He said in a recent Elle interview that there’s a lack of mystique.
These designers are trying to be pop stars. Riccardo [Tisci] is more focused on taking a selfie with Kim K.
But don’t you hate-follow Riccardo on Instagram like everyone else?
I’ve never followed him. I just have a picture with him. Bari took it. It was so sus. He had his arm around my waist.
According to your social media, Complex is sus as well.
I hate Complex Media. I feel like they just run to shit. Who the fuck writes an article about me taking a hat? Complex UK did that. Understand who I am but leave that. You have to report on little shit? Guess who tripped and fell. Why would you write a whole article on someone tripping and falling on the curb, two, three paragraphs? TMZ-of-the-youth shit. Give me a compilation of falls of the week. Make it a gallery. They go off. It’s just so necessary. I definitely respect the magazine. It’s cool. Rocky does it a lot and I know he doesn’t deal with bullshit, so it’s cool enough for me.
And did you actually steal the kid’s hat?
I didn’t steal that kid’s hat. It was my Palace hat. I’m not even sucking myself off but that kid was a fan. There are some fans who are cool and then it’s kids who go crazy, like the fans who want to stand out so bad by being mean or trolling you. It wasn’t like that.
You also had some hostility recently regarding Complex’s “25 Under 25: The New Young Leaders of Style” list.
Me and Bari made it again from last time, so that goes to show you. But it was inaccurate. OK, it’s not “best dressed” and it’s “style leaders,” but you still fucked up. Why is Travi$ [Scott] No. 1? Who influenced Travi$? Who’s the father? Rocky. A$AP Mob. Nast. Ian Connor. Illz. Bari. What’s that shit when all those people signed off on the…thing?
The Declaration of Independence?
Yeah. We’re those niggas.
For some people, the first time they took notice of you was during the Kanye show. How’d that come about?
Virgil hit me with the text. I’ve been working with Virgil since I was 19, so it wasn’t such a surprise, but it was cool that they thought of me.
You looked sort of miserable.
I was so uncomfortable. I had my cigarettes in my pocket. We were supposed to stand still and whatever but I still had my phone in my hand. I was texting. Just standing there was too weird. I started feeling like, “What the fuck? They’re judging me.”
“Yeezy Season” demands a certain amount of scrutiny.
Yeah. Seriously. I don’t even know how long it went on for. It could’ve been 20 minutes or six hours. It felt like what I think acid’s like, at least from what people have told me.
You’d probably bug the fuck out on acid. When are you going to make your own clothing line?
I don’t want that pressure. I don’t want to be goofing off when I have responsibilities, because I still know I’m childish. I can be focused at times but it’s not sustained. That’s why I do collabs rather than my own thing. Right now I’m not mentally focused enough to do designs.
You assert that you became King of the Youth because you were tired of these companies capitalizing off the youth without the youth getting paid. You’re getting paid lately, though, aren’t you?
Well, take a Been Trill. I was outspoken about my feelings on Twitter and everybody was hyped on that. I was like, “Yo, fuck Been Trill.” You got to understand, I was the first Been Trill model. I was the first Pyrex model. But they weren’t cutting checks. It’s like, nigga, I had a part of making this brand. Why don’t I have a cut of this or that? You can be on some Nike shit and say it’s the exposure, but I don’t need exposure. You’re getting sales and recognition but we’re not catching checks.
Is that why you’re being managed by Rocky and his manager, Chace?
Yeah, that’s when Rocky came in like, “Yo, you’re not about to try my little brother, you’re not about to do that.” So, now I’m catching checks.
You mention Pyrex. What are your feelings towards Virgil?
I publicize how much I love Virgil. If it wasn’t for Virgil I wouldn’t know what a creative director was. All I knew was that I was a creative kid who looked at things differently and he was the one who taught me that there was not only a term for things but that that’s what he did and what that meant. Wherever I go—London, Paris, Tokyo—Virgil always shows me something new. Even L.A. or New York. Virgil is always opening up my mind to different things. That’s why I’ll always be devoted to him, because he always stood by me.
You’re the King of the Youth, but you’re 22 now.
I know, I’m old as shit.
So what’s next?
I’m not trying to be part of the 27 club or nothing but I don’t want to make it to 50 or even 40. I’m trying to die like the young legends. I want to be young forever.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Tyler the Creator wore the Wil Fry Ian Connor jersey, and that Ian Connor moved to Atlanta when he was 8-years-old.