First things first, Glenn O'Brien is a menswear OG. Not only was he the originator and writer of GQ's famous "Style Guy" column for the past 15 years, he also has been an icon of fashion and culture since the days of David Bowie with his show "TV Party." Earlier in the year, O'Brien was suddenly removed the column he founded, recently replaced by GQ editor Mark Anthony Green.
From there, the story goes relatively quiet—until now. Our friends over at Four-Pins were able to sit down with O'Brien, getting the inside story on O'Brien's departure from GQ, and—more importantly—what he thinks of his "Style Guy" replacement. (Note: Shots fired)
While most menswear nerds (or casual GQ readers) think the "Style Guy" is something that GQ invented, O'Brien insists that the idea that someone could carry on the column (no matter who replaced him) wouldn't make sense. As O'Brien sees it, it's his column and moniker—if he's not writing it, then it's not written by "The Style Guy." O'Brien remarks,
"It's not like "managing editor" or "film critic." Their proprietary attitude toward what I've done is not only insulting, but really unoriginal. They could have at least called their replacement the "Style Intern."
In regards to how he was let go, O'Brien claims the process was sudden. It began when he noticed there wouldn't be a "Style Guy" column in the February issue. When his contract was up in June, instead of opting to renew, the magazine cut O'Brien loose. O'Brien also notes that an internal disagreement—centered on a feature the O'Brien refused to write for GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson—wasn't helping relations between him and magazine staff either.
But perhaps the final nail in the coffin, was a failed TV show concept for Condé Nast Entertainment. The plan was bring the "Style Guy" to life, with an animated Glenn O'Brien. Due to mishaps behind the scenes, the show and its concept never took off.
"One year ago, because of my popularity, they wanted me to do the Style Guy as an animated series on TV for Condé Nast Entertainment, but their TV people were so out of touch and their execution so embarrassing that I refused. The animator made me look like a leprechaun in lipstick."
The current "Style Guy" has made sure to let readers know that the column will be integrating new technology—like Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram—into how it delivers style advice and answers readers' questions. For O'Brien, this isn't a 21st century improvement on the formula he started, but rather, GQ's way of finally "allowing a writer to have his own voice."
"I saw an announcement on Twitter that linked to a column online and I didn't notice anything particularly futuristic or on-point about 'Style Guy 2.0.' I think that what made my column a success was that it was a rare instance of a magazine allowing a writer to have his own voice...I think that any magazine that sacrifices the voice of individual writers for a house style is going to be corny and out-of-it."
In regards to his replacement, O'Brien was rather blunt:
"I don't think he's my spiritual successor. I don't know Mark Anthony Green at all and I don't want to comment on him after reading one rather brief column."
But perhaps the most incendiary remarks were saved for GQ itself, who hardly acknowledge O'Brien's departure publicly, instead tying it into the announcement of Mark Anthony Green as their new "Style Guy".
"Obviously GQ had to say something about why I'm not there anymore. Snapchat? Why not? It sounds better than saying that they're struggling financially, or that when people heard GQ they thought of me and not Jim Nelson. By the way, isn't he getting a little old to be editor of GQ?"
It's refreshing to see someone be so unflinchingly honest in fashion today.
Head over to Four-Pins to read the whole interview (and GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson's response).