The Shock Jocks of Menswear
June 15, 2020
After the coronavirus pandemic precipitated a “fashion apocalypse,” the hosts of the irreverent podcast “Throwing Fits” are reassessing the hype economy and their roles in it.Photograph by Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
hen I first met Lawrence Schlossman and James Harris, better known as Larry and Jimmy of the fashion podcast “Throwing Fits,” they were leaving their jobs to focus on the show full time, which is to say, to talk about clothes, music, and memes; to mock each other’s appearance; and to pry into their guests’ finances and sex lives. We shook hands on a wet day in early March in the lobby of an office building in downtown Manhattan, before the covid-19
lockdowns or the murder of George Floyd
. The podcasters were on top of the world then, heading into an appointment with a representative from Diemme, an Italian luxury-shoe manufacturer. They were taking the first step toward opening “new revenue streams” by designing a pair of boots.
While we waited for the elevator, we did a “fit check,” a what-are-you-wearing rundown that the hosts do at the start of each episode. Schlossman, who is thirty-three, had on black Blundstone Chelsea boots, black Supreme jeans, a Rancid T-shirt, and a vintage green Patagonia fleece that, combined with his beard and slight hunch, made him look like Oscar the Grouch. Harris, also thirty-three, shorter, with thick black hair, was wearing beater New Balances, Our Legacy jeans, and a cropped charcoal puffer coat, with a zipper that extended to the top of the hood.
A security guard interrupted us to explain that the elevator we were waiting for was, in fact, a stairwell.
“Have some fucking respect for the process,” Schlossman said to himself.
At first glance, “Throwing Fits” and its creators seem absurd. The show is an audio-only experience devoted to a visual and tactile medium, helmed by two average-looking dudes who have never sewn a garment or walked a runway—whose chief fashion expertise comes from obsessing over clothes. The pair are what Schlossman calls “jawnz” enthusiasts, a subculture of men whose primary passion is clothes—researching, buying, and discussing them online, and photographing themselves wearing their duds with friends.
“This is some late-stage-capitalism fuck shit,” Schlossman told me via FaceTime. “A jawnz enthusiast lives and dies by copping stuff. That’s just what fucking moves their dick. That’s what fucking releases the serotonin in the brain,” he said. On the other hand, jawnz enthusiasts are not “blindly being slaves to consumerism, without having any kind of discerning taste of their own.” They can be motivated by something more individual and quixotic, and it is the job of “Throwing Fits” to help fans along their style journeys. “It sounds like a Sisyphusean fucking task—a jawnz enthusiast’s work is never done, like, he’s gonna be copping till he dies, but I’d like to think that it’s for the right reasons—this idea of the pursuit of personal style, the pursuit of knowing thyself.” The podcast has been downloaded millions of times since it started four years ago, and almost three thousand people pay Schlossman and Harris on Patreon for extra content and perks. These fans form a devoted community around “Throwing Fits” called the Throw Gang, which the hosts jokingly describe as “fourteen-year-old virgins with Mom’s credit card.”
Beyond eager teen-agers seeking jawnz advice, “Throwing Fits” has developed a following among media insiders and a certain kind of fashion-conscious celebrity. Guests have included Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig; Nylon’s
editorial director, Alyssa Vingan Klein; and the actor and director Jonah Hill
, whose voice introduces each episode with the phrase “You’re listening to the only podcast that matters.” In the show’s description on iTunes, Harris and Schlossman bill themselves as “two grown dirtbags just tryna navigate the millennial male zeitgeist,” but in May they signed a representation deal with W.M.E. and are planning to embark on a national tour of live shows, when it’s safe to travel again. Four years, one name change, and more than a hundred and fifty episodes later, they have gone from navigating the Zeitgeist to defining it.
Neither host ever expected to find himself in such an influential position in the fashion world. Schlossman is a self-described “enlightened bro” from North Jersey. He was attracted to fashion through the Jersey post-punk and skate scenes but had little aptitude for either. However, he always had a way with words; an eighth-grade Latin teacher diagnosed him with “diarrhea of the mouth.” He cruised through an economics degree at Wake Forest and planned to work in finance but was derailed by the 2008 financial crisis. While supposedly working at his first job out of college (a managerial training program at a for-profit university), he started a blog about men’s fashion, called Sartorially Inclined, and amassed a following by writing in a breezy, relatable voice. By 2011, he had decided to move to New York and try to make it in the fashion industry.
Harris, the straight man of the duo, grew up in Manhattan, in Peter Cooper Village, and is the son of a Japanese mother and an American father. He attended Stuyvesant High School, where he was well-liked but adrift and unmotivated. “I was too Asian for the white kids; I was too white for the Asian kids,” he said. He went to college at Vassar, where he majored in geography, because it “didn’t require a thesis.” “That kind of sounds horrible,” he said, “but I guess it’s how I lived my life.”
Harris and Schlossman met in 2011 as gofers at the fashion P.R.-and-event-planning agency B.P.M.W. (Brand Pimps Media Whores). Both were barely scraping by, Harris remembered. “Go to Subway—get a five-dollar footlong. Eat half for lunch. Save half for dinner.” They got their big breaks with jobs at Complex Media, in 2012, and, from there, worked their way up in the industry. Their podcast began in 2016, as a side project recorded in the offices of Grailed, a menswear-resale Web site where Schlossman was working as brand director. The show was originally called “Failing Upwards”; Schlossman lays out his reasoning for the title in the first episode, reflecting on how the pair had managed, despite their apparent lack of professionalism or work ethic, to “fuck up enough in the right way” and become moderate successes.
From these early recordings of two friends telling stories about almost meeting Kanye or losing their virginity, the podcast has transformed into a cross between “The Howard Stern Show” and “Bodega Boys”—foulmouthed and myopically self-referential but guided, above all, by the dynamic between the hosts. Before they begin recording, Harris cracks open a twenty-ounce Diet Pepsi and Schlossman usually chugs a sugar-free Red Bull. An average studio session lasts four hours and is broken into two episodes. Harris starts by reading a baroque list of epithets to introduce the guest. On a recent episode with Sean Evans, the host of the YouTube wing-eating show “Hot Ones
,” Harris introduces him as “the ruiner of rectums, the sultan of spice, the annihilator of assholes, the diarrhea Don Dada, the prince of peppers, the baron of bubble guts, the beautiful bald bitch himself.” After the introduction comes a fit check and segments called “Fuck With/Not Fuck With (Working Title)” and “Last Jawn/Next Jawn,” in which guests discuss brands, films, clothing, and music that they like and dislike, ostensibly to educate listeners about the finer things in life. “What makes your Pringle tingle?” Harris likes to ask.
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A pair of Nike Air Tech Challenge II sneakers, as worn by Andre Agassi? “Hot lava,” Schlossman says.
Allbirds, the formless wool sneakers ubiquitous in Silicon Valley? “A plague,” Harris says.
From jawnz, the conversation can move in surprisingly personal directions. Although Harris and Schlossman feign stupidity, they lead guests to discuss serious topics, from sexism in the sneaker world to cancer and body dysmorphia. In a recent episode, the writer Chris Black reflected on his struggles with addiction. The hosts were talking about what topics draw an audience to the show:
“They all like clothes, and they like hip-hop, and they like what we like.” Schlossman said. “And they like ‘Vanderpump Rules,’ too.”
“It’s the high-low,” Harris added.
“My highs are a lot higher,” Black said.
“But your lows are a lot lower,” Harris replied.
“A lot lower,” Black said.
This exchange led to a discussion of Black’s attempted memoir. Harris asked whether Black could remember the years he’d spent addicted to opioids. There were many blanks, but Black did recall one particularly bad night at Dimes, a restaurant on the Lower East Side.
“I went to sign the receipt; I was, like, so fucked that I was basically having a seizure. My hand was shaking so badly I couldn’t sign the paper.” Black was there with a friend, who worried that he might need to go to the hospital, but Black brushed it off. “He was, like, ‘Bro, did you just die?’
“I’m not making light of this,” Black said. “But it’s funny.”
Occasionally, interviews are punctuated by questions from the podcast’s producer, Shyam Mervana, or non sequiturs from the hosts’ assistant, Kharloz (Chuck) Franco, whom Schlossman describes as “God’s perfect angel.” Franco is an earnest, slightly chubby, and often stoned young man who was an early listener of the podcast. Symbolically, he is the fan avatar, proof for members of the Throw Gang that they, too, can make it in New York—but, in dramatic terms, he is a whipping boy. “If an episode is ever getting boring or starts to kind of go off the rails, they always have me to kind of, like, playfully pick on or whatever,” Franco told me via Zoom. “Lawrence and James are heavy on the roast button.”
Attracted in part by their willingness to roast all comers, the sports and pop-culture media company Barstool Sports signed Harris and Schlossman to its podcast network in 2017. The show’s popularity mushroomed, but the hosts never felt that their podcast fit in with the jock culture of “Fore Play” or “Spittin’ Chiclets.” This friction was one of the pleasures of early episodes, in which the pair would churlishly embellish ad reads for Dollar Shave Club and Roman Swipes (a premature-ejaculation product) and mock their bosses as “evil overlords.” But they went too far when they discussed ongoing exit negotiations and joked on mike about stealing recording equipment. Mervana forgot to cut these remarks before releasing the episode, and, as a result, they had to abandon the name “Failing Upwards” (which is still owned by Barstool) and rebrand as “Throwing Fits.” Barstool, which is currently embroiled in a similar controversy
, with the hosts of the podcast “Call Her Daddy,” declined to comment on this incident.
At the March meeting with Diemme, Harris and Schlossman were having creative differences. The problem was that they couldn’t agree on a design. One idea was to do a “murdered out” style, i.e., all black, but they nixed that for looking too similar to a recent Prada boot. They considered an olive-green-and-black combination, but Diemme was creating a similar style for Saks Fifth Avenue, so that was out. Finally, there was an issue with the boot itself, which Schlossman felt wasn’t snug enough. He walked around the conference room, wincing, and then asked me to try on the sample as an unbiased observer. I agreed that my foot slipped.
“I’m saying, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise because of the fucking slippage,” Schlossman said.
“Your feet are the fucked-up feet,” Harris replied.
“You know what I’m talking about,” Schlossman said, pointing to me. “You experienced the slippage firsthand—back me up here, bro!”
Harris cut in, eager to move things along. “I did, too, but, like—”
“No, you didn’t. You clearly don’t get it. You’re not a product guy—”
“My heel comes out of the heel cup, yes,” Harris admitted.
“I’m a designer, I used to design, so he doesn’t get it,” Schlossman said.
“When did you design?” Nick Lewis, the representative from Diemme, asked.
“I had a failed brand called Run of the Mill that I did with two of my buddies. We made shoes and shirts,” Schlossman said.
“Very shiny denim shirts,” Harris added.
“They weren’t shiny! I’m a swatch god, bro!”
Since that design meeting in March, the guys have had to rethink their strategy. To keep fans tuning in during the pandemic, they’re recording the show via Zoom, and doing what they call “side missions”: movie reviews, Instagram Live parties, and live events for Patreon subscribers called “Jüicy Zöömys.” But they’ve also had some time to reflect.
Both men recognize that at bottom, their need for jawnz stems from deep, unshakable insecurities that they’ve grappled with throughout their lives. Schlossman frequently jokes on the podcast about his weight and thinning hair, and he described himself to me as “a poser.” When I met up with Harris in May at McGolrick Park, in Greenpoint, he wondered aloud whether buying clothes had become a kind of coping mechanism that didn’t make sense in our current moment. We were wearing face masks and sitting on opposite benches, Harris dressed in orthopedic-looking Our Legacy sneakers, a pair of black velour track pants, and a burgundy waxed jacket. Oversized sunglasses obscured his eyes. “I’m afraid of being a man in boys’ clothes. I’m thirty-three; I don’t know what a Roth I.R.A. is, but I can tell you when the Ssense sale is,” he said. “I’m insecure about the idea that jawnz is my whole personality—like, I’m insecure about the thing I use to compensate for my insecurities.”
Despite their best efforts, Schlossman and Harris admit that aspects of the show seem even more “frivolous” than they normally would. A tenet of the podcast is “support the homies,” a maxim that Harris and Schlossman use when plugging the projects of friends. Lately, they’ve adopted a new catchphrase, “Cop jawnz, save the world,” to encourage listeners to buy clothes from small local brands instead of big chains. But, after three months of lockdown, with so many people sick or out of work, this conscientious but still conspicuous consumption is becoming harder to justify.
“Yeah, bigger fish to fry, believe me,” Schlossman said, “especially in the fucking apocalyptic hellscape that we’re living in now.”
With the U.S. embroiled in nationwide protests against police brutality and racism, Harris and Schlossman have had to pivot yet again, finding ways to use their platform to connect their jawnz enthusiasts with anti-racist initiatives. “I think there’s a huge conversation about the responsibility within streetwear to acknowledge the contributions from brown and black people,” Schlossman said. Beyond talking about the racial politics of fashion, the hosts are planning on holding a weekly series of “Throwing Fits” charity raffles for their most coveted items, such as some Air Jordans designed by the store Union, which frequently top a thousand dollars on sneaker resale sites—with proceeds going to Black Lives Matter
affiliates and other anti-racist organizations.
“No bozo behavior,” Harris said.
Although fund-raising may be a good use of their podcast for the time being, they both recognize the limits of the hype economy and their roles in it. Harris took part in a protest in SoHo and saw firsthand the wreckage of looted luxury stores
. Supreme, the venerable streetwear brand whose flagship is located at 190 Bowery, was hollowed out and boarded up. The graffiti that had once given the Beaux Arts façade a hip edge has taken on a more urgent character. “We don’t weep any tears for the Carlyle Group, dog,” Schlossman said, referring to the shadowy private-equity company
that purchased a fifty-per-cent stake in Supreme in 2017. “You told these kids that these items were more valuable than anything else, so don’t be surprised when the reckoning comes.”
is a member of The New Yorker’s editorial staff.
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