Hail to the King: What Stephen King Teaches Us About Simplicity and Being Afraid of the Dark | Style Stories
Horror writing, and horror films to a large extent, owe just about everything to Stephen King. The man is the undisputed champion of fear, and has been for well north of 40 years or so now. With the release of Carrie in 1974, King’s career exploded, and it continued on an upward trend with the release of his subsequent novels.
King is synonymous with many of our greatest fears, from rabid dogs to clowns to spiders and even incarceration, and yet something the man has never been known for is his sense of style - and there’s a good reason for that. King, historically, has never been one to go out of his way to appear actively style-conscious or fashion forward. In fact, his looks have always been rather tame, and I think there’s a much more significant, philosophical kind of motivation for that.
Many writers, as this series will highlight, have often turned their wardrobes into a symbol for the kind of writing they’re most apt to be doing. Hunter Thompson is a prime example of that, with his often highly avante garde way of dressing. But for someone like King to do something like that would likely involve at least one machete, a pair of clown shoes, and possibly a tricycle (featuring a clone of himself riding shotgun). Point being, it makes sense for King to dress pretty conservatively by comparison, but just how conservatively requires a bit of further explanation.
Okay, so we won’t talk about King during his years in college because, quite frankly, he looks like Charles Manson’s crazier older brother. But what we will do is dive into the era, because after college, and a couple of years teaching and barely scraping by in a double-wide trailer with his wife and kids, King hit his big break with the purchase of Carrie by Simon & Schuster. After a while, and some more great luck, King’s financial situation became more stable, and his wardrobe finally caught up to the late 1970s.
This look is perfectly representative of what it looked like to be a “professional” in the 70s. From the wide lapel to the gigantic belt buckle and light, possibly white or cream colored windowpane patterned blazer, King was very much with the times. Just as he proceeded to be in the 80s. And the 90s. And even now. So what does he wear now?
As you can see, the way King dresses now is appropriately nondescript for the era we live in. Casual is the name of the game, especially in creative circles nowadays, and it also makes sense that someone as high profile as King wouldn’t want to dress in a way that helps them stand out in a crowd (I mean, he’s Stephen Effing King - he kinda stands out anyway). I call this aesthetic “Hank Moody Casual,” which is to say - denim, a dark t-shirt or casual button up, and sneakers or boots.
It’s a classic look, one that I myself have made a bit of a uniform over the years. It’s also a true sign of someone who doesn’t care all that much about their sense of style and how it’s perceived. That’s the twist of this article, geeks - it isn’t really about the clothes King wears, because you could replicate his look at Walmart for $40. It’s about the attitude, the sense that your work will speak for itself, and that you want people to pay the most attention to who you are as a person.
That being said, I want to offer a way to subtly elevate the look with some higher quality, better fitting options, very much in the same vein of simplicity, but with an overall lower cost-per-wear than, say, $15 Walmart jeans that only last 6 months.
The Levi’s 511 is a classic men’s jean, and one of my prefered cuts (I like the 510 a bit better for a slimmer leg), and is very much ingrained in the American fabric, much the same way King is. Frankly, it wouldn’t shock me if King’s denim brand of choice was also Levi’s, and I think that the 511 Slim Fit in Selvedge offers the perfect blend of premium quality and effortless durability, exactly the kind of subtle but heightened vibe that takes King’s classic style up a notch without having to try too hard. They can be had for $128.
When it comes to t-shirts, you have a ton of options that are pretty obvious and straightforward from everyone from Hanes to John Varvatos, but I wanted something that was equal parts light-hearted and also in the pseudo-horror vein as a slight tribute to the King, so I went with this option from Neighborhood. It features a rib cage that’s got the branding weaved through it in red. It’s sharp in the way it pops, and vaguely graphic, but not to the point that it’s inappropriate. Sure, it’s $85 for a t-shirt, but if you know Neighborhood as a brand, then you know the quality level we’re talking about here.
King’s sneaker of choice in recent years has been the Adidas Ultraboost, specifically in Core Black with the Cloud White souls from the look of things. These sneakers are designed with activity in mind, as many Adidas shoes are, and yet are sleek and subdued enough to be worn in most casual situations as well. As a result, I won’t bother recommending any other sneaker options because I really do think that these cut the mustard. While I can’t be 100% sure of the exact model King wears, I’ve found these Ultraboosts in black for $180 that, if not the exact same shoe, certainly accomplish the same goal.
Alright, geeks, I think that about wraps up this look at Stephen King’s wardrobe, and how his philosophy of simplicity can help to change the way you view your own personal style. Keep your eyes peeled for the next edition of Style Stories and, until then, keep it classy.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon - A novel that is somewhat different from the traditional Stephen King fare, but it definitely works in the story’s favor. It’s hard to explain beyond that without spoiling some things, so just check it out for yourself.
Carrie - King’s first novel is one of his best, in part because of the story surrounding its creation and the almost desperate bid to finally write his way out of poverty, and in part because of just how terrifying it gets.
The Dark Tower- King’s absolute magnum opus, The Dark Tower series is as epic as epic gets, and may yet find itself the recipient of a proper, worthy film or television adaptation one day.