Jonah Hill: An unexpected menswear folk hero
Is Jonah Hill a style god?
Words— Marc Richardson
Remember Jonah Hill? Of course, you do. While he appeared in well-known comedies like Evan Almighty, Knocked Up, and Click, Jonah Hill became a bona fide comedic star in 2007 with Superbad. In 2011, he showed off his more serious acting chops in Moneyball. He has since managed to pull of the impressive feat of starring in comedies — 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, This Is the End — and Oscar contenders like The Wolf of Wall Street.
If you remember the Jonah Hill of yore, it might surprise you to learn that he’s become something of a fashion idol in menswear circles — well, #menswear circles online, at least.
Crazy, right? It’s one of those Remember Jonah Hill? Well, this is him now. How old do you feel?-type of moments.
A quick search of the internet reveals the following headlines from some pretty revered publications:
- GQ proclaimed “Jonah Hill Is Our New Style Savior” in April, 2017
- Esquire argued that “Jonah Hill Has the Perfect Approach to Street Style” in July, 2018;
- DAZED tried to “[Pinpoint] the exact moment Jonah Hill became a fashion icon” in March, 2018
- Highsnobiety called Jonah Hill “the Legit Ambassador of Streetwear” in July, 2017
- Fashionbeans looked at “How Jonah Hill Became a Style Icon”
The list goes on.
Few have been as vocal about Jonah Hill’s style as Lawrence Schlossman and James Harris, industry veterans and co-hosts of Failing Upwards, a fashion podcast — though, they’ll have you know that the medium doesn’t lend itself to fashion. Men’s fashion website turned twitter account Four Pins, which Schlossman also runs, was doing “Jonah Hill Fit Watch” back in 2016, a movement that continues today on Failing Upwards social media platforms. FU is also behind Jonah Hill Day, a “bad excuse for a day party” that became a thing when Jonah actual Hill showed up this year, freaked it… and then talked about it on Jimmy Kimmel.
Schlossman, who is the brand director for Grailed in addition to co-hosting Failing Upwards, described Jonah’s style as “where Palace meets Prada” and it’s that mix of fashion and streetwear that has endeared him to the online menswear community.
By his own admission on Kimmel, though, Jonah doesn’t fashion himself as part of the fashion cognoscenti — he just wears dope stuff from his friends’ brands. Palace, for example, is a brand he wears regularly and has starred in campaigns for.
His reluctance to assume the fashionable label gives credence to the hypotheses put forth by some other publications, who anointed Jonah Hill an influential force in the realm of menswear, but were less forthcoming with the superlatives being bandied around — like, you know, “icon” and “saviour”.
The Wall Street Journal cited Jonah Hill, alongside Pete Davidson, as an example of “male celebrities dressing like […] slobs.” It was part of a larger trend, which they may very well have kick-started, but in the WSJ’s eyes, it didn’t make Jonah the contemporary equivalent of Steve McQueen. British Vogue, for its part, proclaimed that such slobbish dressing was a relief and that “Bad Taste Is The Best Thing To Happen To Fashion.” An example they cite? Jonah Hill.
There are two distinct camps when it comes to Jonah Hill’s style. One is deeply passionate in its advocacy, while the other simply throws its hands in the air and sees Jonah Hill as unwittingly typifying the anti-fashion movement. So, who’s right? Is Jonah Hill a deity of men’s style? Or are we just going through a period of confusion when it comes to menswear?
The short answer is neither.
The comparison to John Mayer isn’t exactly fair to John Mayer, a man who has been a trailblazer of sorts in many areas, including menswear. His style is emulated by many. Jonah Hill seems instead to be emulating others’ style and I, for one, can’t really think of anything he’s worn or done befitting of icon status. Despite the fact that legions of fans scrutinize his every fit through “Jonah Hill Fit Watch”, he doesn’t exactly introduce them to new brands, nor does he stray too far from the beaten path in terms of trends. Instead, we like Jonah’s style because he dresses like one of us might.
Even Schlossman — the closest thing to a Jonah Hill style expert if ever such a thing existed — baulks at calling Jonah an icon. “A budding icon, maybe,” he says. Instead, Schlossman used the term avatar when talking to us: “He isn’t overtly trendy […] he’s an interesting avatar in that it’s aspirational and attainable at the same time.”
Really, that might be the best way to describe his sartorial inclinations: He’s like many of us who nerd out on sneakers and streetwear and he probably walks into a store and says “wow, that’s dope!” in the exact voice you just imagined Jonah Hill saying “wow that’s dope!” in. He dresses like a guy who likes clothes and, like the rest of us, is sometimes so committed to getting a fit off that he doesn’t recognize when too much is too much.
"Perhaps he’s more of a folk hero than an icon — someone we’re happy to have on our team as guys who like clothes, but not necessarily someone we want to dress like."
Of course, Jonah Hill also has the benefit of the relative wealth — relative to most of us, at least — that comes with being Jonah Hill and he has a bit more leeway when it comes to copping jawnz, as his fans are wont to say. Again, though, he’s not necessarily dripping in designer wares, he just has the ability to pick up the pieces he likes and he does, in fact, mix high and low rather well.
He wears Palace and adidas x Raf Simons, vintage basketball jerseys, bowling shirts and tie-dyed Lithuanian basketball team T-shirts — Schlossman told us that the Lithuanian T-shirt, adidas Samba and pink hair combination was probably his favourite Jonah Hill outfit because it typified what he called “Jonah 3.0”. But he doesn’t wear them a year or so ahead of anybody else, he wears them when the rest of us are wearing them.
The fact that he wears what he wants to wear, without caring about what a stylist thinks — if he has a stylist, they deserve a raise for making it look like he doesn’t have a stylist — when he could definitely afford one endears him to us non-celebrity folk. He’s one of us.
So, no, Jonah Hill isn’t a style god, he’s just a dude who dresses like the rest of us. People relate to him more than they necessarily want to be like him. They relate to him finding his comfort zone and coming out of his sartorial shell. I mean, don’t we all wish we could dye our hair pink for a week and walk around wearing tie-dye T-shirts and neon coloured shorts?
Perhaps he’s more of a folk hero than an icon — someone we’re happy to have on our team as guys who like clothes, but not necessarily someone we want to dress like.
Marc Richardson is a writer based in Montreal. He has written for Grailed, the Montreal Gazette, and others. Check out more articles by Marc (How Kanye West surpassed Michael Jordan & How hiking has scaled the fashion pyramid.) He is also on Twitter.