IN THE NEW ISSUE OF GQ, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson, 24, brags that his style resembles “how I dressed when I was, like, 10.” And boy, does it. The accompanying photo shoot shows the comedian outfitted like a fourth grader on a sugar high. In one image, he stands there in baggy, cornflower-blue track pants with mismatched sneakers and an unzipped cycling jersey. Another depicts him clutching a Juul, the millennial e-cig of choice. In a third, he’s shirtless, showing off a tattoo that reads: “Jokes come and go, but swagger is forever.” On Instagram, where GQ reposted some of the photos, the comments range from “None of that looks wearable” to “This isn’t GQ.”
Mr. Davidson’s looks may not express the refined GQ aesthetic that readers know, but his giddily juvenile style is increasingly what we’ve come to expect from male celebrities. Stars like Jonah Hill, Shia LaBeouf, Post Malone, Wiz Khalifa and Justin Bieber dress like dorm-room slackers, supercharged with AmEx black cards. Esquire went so far as to proclaim this “the Summer of Sleaze,” pointing to celebs dressing like “high-school drug dealers.” Harsh but fair. Mr. Bieber’s saggy sweatshirts and stringy blonde hair suggest he’s the lost long son of Jeff Spicoli, the surfing stoner in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Mr. Hill achieves slightly more polish overall, but his tie-dye T-shirts and short board shorts place him squarely in the slobcore category. And Mr. LaBeouf belongs in a loutish league of his own, wearing hot-pink running tights underneath tattered denim cutoffs, ripped-collared hoodies and Uggs. As Grant Williamson, 25, a Knoxville, Tenn. law student and admirer of these stars’ style admitted, “It’s kind of sloppy.”
In truth, much of men’s fashion today occupies that intersection between sloppy and sleazy. On the Paris runways, labels like Balenciaga and Acne Studios show gangly sweaters with drooping sleeves and haphazard necklines, while Margiela is peddling distressed sneakers that appear to have been run over by a truck and glued back together. At the same time, gaudy silk shirts from Versace and Gucci are staging a comeback, as is just about anything in leopard print. Right now, men’s fashion is Rico Suave crossbred with Ratso Rizzo.
It’s against this backdrop that the slob-ebrity icon has emerged. When imperfection (to put it mildly) is what’s in, these less-than-pristine stars get attention. In gear from skateboard brands like London’s Palace and Lotties Skate Shop in Los Angeles, the 34-year-old Mr. Hill is the poster-child for aging skateboarders everywhere. Mr. LaBeouf’s endearingly oddball style has long set him apart in Hollywood (those Uggs have been in rotation for over four years). In a recent Esquire interview he talked of his love for “blue collar” clothes and how he’s even allowed Kanye West, arguably America’s most closely-watched style icon, to borrow from his collection of beat-up work pants and denim shirts. Fans of Mr. LaBeouf like to refer to him as “the source,” as in the source of all trends. And then there’s Mr. Davidson, who has leaned way into his status as SNL’s resident youth by perfecting dressing as an act of regression.
Are the resulting outfits ugly? They certainly can be. But they’re also relateable in way that appeals to at least some men. Mssrs. Bieber, Davidson and Hill wear “things that I could put together in my own ways,” said Mr. Williamson.
It is worth noting that these celebrities are not chisel-jawed models or traditional Hollywood hunks. They have a “stars are just like us” quality that’s only reinforced by outfits that don’t feel painstakingly put-together and clothes that even average guys could possibly afford.
Mr. Hill and Mr. LaBeouf inspire men who “don’t look like movie stars to get into their own fashion and make it their own,” said Kyle Dinkjian, 27, an associate at a hedge fund in New York City who, on the side, operates @JonahFits, an Instagram account that catalogs Mr. Hill’s various outfits. With each photo that Mr. Dinkjian posts of the actor, some of his roughly 5,000 followers can be counted on to call out the Wacko Maria button-up shirts ($380) or pairs of Patagonia shorts ($35) that Mr. Hill wears, making it all the easier to ape his style.
For Elliott Papineau, 33, there are limits when it comes to emulating slovenliness. “I would not take the full style of any of those people, but if I saw something that I thought was interesting I would put that in my wardrobe,” said Mr. Papineau, a quantitative analyst and part-time farmer in Chicago who follows Mr. Dinkjian’s Instagram and also tracks photos of the aforementioned celebs on sites like Daily Mail Online. For his part, Mr. Dinkjian takes umbrage at the notion that his beloved Mr. Hill may not be the ideal role model. “Yeah, of course, I think he’s well dressed,” he said. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.