When I talk to Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr., he’s motioning at ladies walking by, winking often and kissing cheeks. It’s as hard to separate his persona from his music, when he operates with the same libidinous swagger in song on his sophomore album Confess, as it is to untangle his music from his biker-redux style. All three are inextricably linked, and all nod blatantly to Marlon Brando’s character in The Wild One. Lewis welcomes comparisons, whether as the daredevil motorcyclist video for “Five Seconds,” Confess‘ artwork (coiffed and shirtless beneath a studded bruised-leather jacket) or by unabashedly airing his real-life transgressions in interviews. If anything though, his bad boy image has earned him intrigue and recognition in the fashion world, where controversy makes for a compelling aesthetic (see: fellow retrophile Lana Del Rey). He scored the fall 2012 campaign film for purveyors of downtown chic Public School and has upcoming plans to work with another trendy new brand BLK DNM. Here, Lewis unpacks his on-stage look, shares on learning to dress from his dad and the conditions under which he’d design his own line.
Tell me about your look today.
I painted my pants and my jacket. I was inspired by Alexander McQueen — he used a lot of paint on his stuff, before he killed himself — and it took me a couple of hours. I paint but my artwork isn’t public so no one would know.
I always wear a mesh tank top. I started wearing them probably when I was five years old. I’ve always enjoyed mesh.
When did you start putting thought into what you wear?
My whole life. I used to get dressed up for church and take it really seriously. But not that seriously — I’d be in the fashion world if I really cared about it that much.
You kind of are — you did the soundtrack for Public School’s fall ad and appeared in it.
I dabble. Music is much more important to me.
Do you see any similarities between your music and personal style?
I see my style as an extension of myself, but I don’t think about it that much. My style is effortless. If I put more effort into it, believe me, you’d know. I don’t think I’m that wild with my fashion; I’m conservatively wild.
I’ll just look at something and say, “Oh, that’s interesting; that’s different,” and put it on and go outside. I don’t just dress this way to go on stage. I don’t look down on people who are really about putting on something crazy or putting on an act when they go on stage. But for me, I just wake up and go. I don’t think men need to put that much thought into what they wear: it’s just a desire to look a little bit different from anybody else so people can pick you out.
Where do you find inspiration for how you put your clothing together?
The movies, music, just walking around; being in Europe and seeing how men dress there. I’ve seen how men dress in Scandinavia. I always have my eyes open. I just watched Chinatown and there’s tons of style in that movie. Everybody in that movie is styled in all of these nice linen suits. There’s so many movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s that have tons of style — and obviously lots of French films, like [Jean-Luc] Godard’s movies, have amazing style. The whole French New Wave style is really elegant. [But] I wouldn’t say I dress like that. People give me things and I just like to rock it and find what it looks good with.
What’s the most important garment in your tour wardrobe?
My keyboard player’s father’s leather jacket which also appears on the cover of Confess. I used to wear it a lot but we don’t use it much anymore because it’s gotten beat up.
What sartorial cues have you taken from your dad?
He used to make sure that I had really nice clothes for church and taught me how to tie a tie early on. I always travel with my father’s ring. He’s come to one of my shows when we played in the Dominican Republic, where he lives.
When’s the last time you were in a suit?
Two days ago in Vegas when we had a show. It was a double-breasted suit by BLK DNM. The last thing I purchased was a Dolce & Gabbana black floral dinner jacket. I think I lost it actually, which kind of bums me out.
Would you ever design your own line of clothing?
If the right money was in it, maybe.