I’m so late to this, but hey, whatcha gonna do?
I went through 25 years of life without ever watching Seinfeld. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up during the era of streaming and my parents cut the cord fairly early on, which mean that I never got it in syndication. And during the days where we didn’t have cable or satellite, I would watch the DVDs of Friends, Scrubs, and HIMYM. Seinfeld was a show that my family wasn’t into, at least one that they didn’t feel the need to physically own. It wasn’t on streaming either, so when Hulu and Netflix became more of my life, I replaced the previous shows with VEEP, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Parks & Rec, The Office, and Brooklyn99. Seinfeld was never on the list.
Perhaps that’s why the show was a bit of a legend to me. It was a show about nothing, featuring four 30-somethings living a funny life in NYC. That premise isn’t anything new (if anything, it’s probably unfunny), but it was outside of the realm of what I normally watched which typically was more absurd and had a sillier setting. Despite that, I couldn’t escape Seinfeld’s clutches. Countless inspo albums have outfits from the main cast, whether it was Jerry’s normcore, Kramer’s hepcat/rockabilly vintage, Elaine’s dresses, or George’s mixture of trad and rugged ivy. My white friends would talk about the show constantly, referencing specific jokes or posting photos of the cast on their zood board. It was a show that defined an era of comedy and fashion; the fact that it was about nothing only cemented its status as a cultural icon. Just not to me.
In fact the very idea of getting inspiration from a TV show, let alone a sitcom, was baffling to me. By the time I started dressing up, I was looking at old photographs and illustrations. Occasionally some period films would be thrown into the mix. TV was current and I didn’t want to dress current. I wanted something pointed in an aesthetic (whatever that means) and the shows I watched didn’t provide that for me (I realize there is period TV but I don’t really watch dramas). Even when I liked characters on TV, I didn’t feel the need to dress like exactly them, especially as I started to get more into menswear. There was no need to wear ginghams and slim tiesBen Wyatt or blazers and repp ties like George Michael Bluth. Frasier would probably be the closest character I admired, but outside of Halloween I still didn’t lift up his fits. The “character” I would step into would simply get inspiration from other places like Esquire Man or doing a more straight forward ivy-trad.
Of course, this approach has changed in recent years. With the pandemic furthering a combination of sportswear and menswear, things didn’t have to be as black and white anymore. A desired aesthetic or a POV is still in play, but it doesn’t have to come from a traditional source. You can wear a western shirt or a workshirt, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to subvert the vibes or play into them. In that vein, I was able to learn you can get inspired from current media; you can appreciate the mindset of the character or simply enjoy the individual pieces and apply them to your style in a way that makes sense for you. Cinematic Dressing and all that.
I kept that in mind when I finally decided to watch Seinfeld. I’m not entirely sure what spurred it on; perhaps curiosity got the best of me and I needed to fill time at night when I edit photos. Hulu was the platform I used initially, but the ads prevented me from binging it properly. I got to season 5 (or 6?) when it was taken off that platform, which put me on a hiatus until it was taken by Netflix in late 2021. It wasn’t the best way to watch a show, but I did it. I watched Seinfeld.
And it was okay.
I didn’t find myself laughing terribly often. I think that Curb, the spiritual successor to Seinfeld, is much better and benefits from taking the silly sitcom plots into a medium that is “not TV”. It wasn’t a chore to watch Seinfeld, but it certainly was something new for me to consume. Don’t get me wrong; it was interesting to see Jerry’s neatfreak-ness compromise his dating life, Elaine’s mishaps at work, George’s profound ability to get people pissed off at him, and Kramer’s wacky schemes. The iconic episodes are iconic for a reason! But the real reason that got me to keep watching and not give up on it was, you guessed it, the clothes.
To me, the appeal of Seinfeld is that a show that displays a plethora of 90s style variations across a myriad of characters in NYC. I’m not even talking about the main cast; there are plenty of times when you see just regular people (recurring or extras) rocking some pretty great fits. Seinfeld has become something similar to all the movies I cover for the pod with one key difference: it’s not a period piece. The show and it’s fashion were modern when it was made but has become dated, which turns it into a time capsule of sorts. It’s a look into what “regular” people were wearing in a fictional NYC universe from 1989-1998, using different sitcom situations to show off different aspects of their very full wardrobes. It’s quite fascinating as a case study!
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who got the Seinfeld bug as our friend Yung Chomksy also decided to watch the series this year. Our paths were similar, as he had never fully seen the show until recently. YC is a jawnz enthusiast like us, so he was also intrigued by the clothes, taking note of the different variations in all the character’s “uniforms” and how it changes through the different antics the gang goes through. At first, YC would share photos of select fits in our group chat and his IG story. This would later evolved into launching the Jawnfeld account, where he posts ten of his favorite fits from every episode. I loved and followed immediately, as it seemed that he and I were on the same wavelength on what we found interesting or perhaps even inspiring.
I won’t spoil the podcast discussion with him (which you can listen to above), but Seinfeld as a source of menswear inspo is truly interesting. Despite it being dated and before my time (I was born in 1995), it felt quite familiar to me. After all, I have a slightly anachronistic way of dressing and many of tenets of my style like thin belts, pleated trousers, and big shirts/jackets all were being worn on screen. I make the point of saying that that era of fashion was truly the last time when sportswear and menswear mixed organically. Plenty of characters wear western belts with jeans, but make the point of wearing a sportcoat and tie. Truckers and knitwear are done together. Big coats and hoodies are not an odd sight to see. It’s only in the present that we start to ascribe aesthetic codification to the attire on Seinfeld, with Jerry’s normcore, Kramer’s hepcat/ 50s hipster-chic, and George’s slippages between 90s trad and Heavy Duty Ivy. It’s easy to see what we can pick and glean onto our own style today.
The show even has something for the sartorially inclined. While George seems to be the true menswear mood for most with his tweed jackets and foulard ties, I actually found myself enjoying the more “corporate” looks most of all. NBC executives with navy and grey suits and geometric foulards come to mind, though most “suit background characters” would also apply. Jerry’s standup and date looks were also oddly appealing to me, with his bold patterns, use of DBs, and very-abstract ties echoing what I liked from Esquire Man and Going Out Attire. I’m obviously not going to trade my 3-roll-2 jackets and spearpoints for bulky 90s alternatives, but the styling is something I can use to inspire some outfits. After all, I have no dress code, so it’s up to me to provide myself a framework to go off of.
What I came to realize is that Seinfeld is truly is a great case study for Cinematic Dressing. You can see how one character might approach casual style in one episode and then have to dress up for work in another, with recurring thematic character choices showing through in the outfits. Sometimes you might see a repeat in a specific piece like a sportcoat, a shirt, or a pair of pants, but it still feels “fresh” from episode to episode. It’s quite envious!
There’s also that concept of “cinematic crossover”, where 3PC suits with collar bars and 70s leisure suits are seen alongside varsity jackets and true vintage rayon shirts, all appropriately found in such a silly show. It’s hard to imagine this now (at least in a positive fashion), where most of tailored menswear would be against many of the choices in the show, let alone be in the same company as casual attire (okay I’m generalizing). Jawnfeld captures it all, curating the myriad of fashion on Seinfeld and presenting it for us on Instagram. YC is still going through the series (at the time of writing, he is almost through the 6th season) so for me, it’s almost like I get to rewatch the show— just ten fits at a time. I am glad that he still sends me the suit ones if they didn’t happen to make the cut for the main post.
The Jawnfeld account came at a time when we have such rampant nostalgia guiding the vibes of fashion. Everyone is looking to old TV shows and magazines for inspiration and mood to provide ideas on how to make outfits or even what clothes to buy. After a decade of optimizing outfits with a STEM mindset and trying to keep formality alive, it seems that some facets of menswear are embracing slouch and fun in a Seinfeldian way. There’s just so many outfits that you see on the show that most guys would avoid, yet they seem great from a fashion point of view. There’s a playfulness involved that seems lost today, where everything feels so social media and trend focused. Hell, the idea that I’m talking abut Seinfeld as an aesthetic is counterintuitive to the inspiration I’m trying to glean from the show.
To be clear, I don’t think that ALD , Noah, and the explore page/FYP on Tiktok/IG are dressing inherently like Seinfeld characters, but I think that those in the know are clearly onto something here that connects with the fashion physiognomy of the show. Whether that’s Seinfeld or the 90s in general, I’m not entirely sure but whatever it is, I like it. It feels familiar and natural for my existing style even if the show and its aesthetic is technically new to my eyes. It’s all about combining pieces that can seem boring or schlubby or perhaps don’t always make sense but kinda do; it’s all about considering the “character” you are dressing as.
As brand lookbooks and IG gets too similar (or even dispassionate), it just makes sense to look for alternative inspiration. But maybe after Esquire Man and old 60s photos there’s only one place to look: a show about nothing. Maybe it’ll inspire you to get a thin belt, embrace a geometric tie, or to try sportshirts and white socks. Or better yet, it’ll reinforce the taste you already have (like it did for me).
More in-depth discussion on the show, it’s effect on current menswear, and Yung Chomsky’s vision for Jawnfeld can be found in the podcast proper below. Be sure to listen as I really didn’t know what else to add in this essay other than my own curation of Jawnfeld’s images. They are presented here in chronological order, from season one all the way to wherever YC left us. I’ve also included a few photos from my outfit archive and my inspiration collection, which actually has a lot in common with Seinfeld despite being decades removed from both ends.
It all feels so new and familiar, all at the same time!
- Put This On: Is ALD just George Costanza?
- GQ on Seinfeld (in 2014)
- The Guardian on Seinfeld and Menswear
- Trevor wrote an a piece for Inside Hook!
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