Style Talks: Haley Nahman, Deputy Editor at Man Repeller
Tell me a bit about yourself: where you’re from, how old you are, and what you currently do for a living?
I grew up in Mountain View, California, a suburb about 40 miles south of San Francisco. I’m about to turn 30 and feel two parts fine about it and one part stressed I need to plan a party (which is not my strongest suit). I’m currently the Deputy Editor at Man Repeller.
I know you worked in a different field before Man Repeller, so can you tell me about your trajectory from college up through Man Repeller?
I didn’t go to school for English or Journalism, I studied Business Administration (I was an anxious teen who just wanted to secure a job). So after graduation, I moved to San Francisco and worked as an executive assistant, then an office manager, then a human resources coordinator, and finally an HR business partner, all the while blogging and amateur-designing in my free time. When I started doing HR at a design firm, I had to face my envy of full-time creative work up close. It was around then that I started taking my side projects more seriously.
I spent the next couple years working on longer-form writing (and other creative skills, because I didn’t fully believe I could be a writer) and applying to creative jobs while climbing the corporate ladder, but nothing stuck until I got the opportunity at Man Repeller—which I immediately quit my job and moved to New York for. Looking back, it makes sense that it took awhile to make the jump to media—because it took awhile for my writing and point of view to develop, too. I’m thankful to my former self for seasoning my ennui with a little patience. And I still feel lucky I got to make the jump at all.
Did you always have an interest in fashion or was this something you arrived at later in life?
I didn’t spend my childhood poring over fashion magazines or anything, but I’ve always been interested in style—in putting outfits together and trying to say something about who I am in the process. But my taste was never particularly sophisticated or unique (I was a trend-driven fast-fashion shopper for years), and although I have a more distinct point of view these days, I think I’ll always feel a little outside of the classic fashion-girl prototype for that reason if such a thing exists. But I’m okay with that, because even though I love and appreciate the power of clothes (on others, in movies, on days I get it right), they aren’t my preferred medium. That will always be language.
Do you have any major style influences? How have you arrived at your style as it currently stands? Does your job affect the way you dress?
Being at Man Repeller and working around a group of stylistically adventurous people has really helped me home in on my taste, which is boyish, simple, and primarily concerned with cut and fabric. I’m super inspired by Japanese shapes and materials—heavier, structured, less fitted stuff. Certain vintage qualities will always get me, too, like the thick starchiness of old crewneck sweatshirts or the simple graphics on old T-shirts. I typically don’t go for anything wispy or flouncy; I prefer things that are sturdy and protective—that’s when I feel best and most like myself.
Your writing tackles ideas of self-image, vanity and other bits of style and fashion, often with some form of a philosophical slant. Talk to me a bit about the mindset you think might be necessary for someone to balance a serious interest in something as fleeting as capital-f Fashion and its (somewhat insignificant) place in the intricacies of life at large.
Walking that line thoughtfully has always been a priority of mine—and I still fail all the time. Because fashion is, by definition, concerned with aesthetics, and for that reason, it’s hard to unlink it from some of the more nefarious societal forces we’re all dealing with, like narrow beauty standards, comparison culture, and objectification. There are also sustainability and consumption concerns, class and size implications, and so many other considerations. It’s a complex industry and art form. Which is why it takes a lot of energy for me to maintain an interest in fashion that feels truly restorative, self-expressive, and healthy. But what I’ve found helpful is to remember that style is something lived, not bought; that my chosen art form (writing) doesn’t care what I look like; that my deep-seated appreciation for style—not Fashion—is joyful and unconcerned with status; and that people won’t remember what I wore, but how I made them feel.
You’ve also worked on an illuminating series called “Men Share Their Abortion Stories.” How do you feel about the women’s fashion editorial landscape at large? Do you think publications are doing enough work to tackle serious issues and make their voices known (outside of their perspectives on fashion)?
I think there’s a promising evolution happening in women’s media in regards to incorporating more progressive ideals, but there is still such a long way to go. And I do worry at times that modern modes of communication—the internet, of course, and social media, primarily—have enabled a lot of people and brands to co-opt the pursuit of equality as a branding exercise. To state the obvious, posting an activism meme or token casting or covering a certain topic just to cover your ass isn’t enough. It could even be a distraction from the real work that needs to be done. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way! Being white and cis means that half of the work I’ve needed to do is simply read, listen, and become more aware of intricate strains of privilege. I find that the more I do that, the more likely I am to incorporate genuinely progressive values in my work and actions, and hopefully that shines through without my having to perform my beliefs for the sake of internet cache.
This is a long way of saying I think the WHY is just as important as the WHAT when it comes to doing the right thing (covering certain topics, hiring certain people, changing certain practices)—and the most productive forms of progress, in my view, include a healthy dose of both.
Do you have any style dos and don’ts?
Do: Iterate your style by remembering what you feel best in, considering what you’re consistently drawn to in others, and experimenting with weird combinations in your closet.
Don’t: Buy something because you like how it looks on someone else in a particular photo, but know deep down it has never worked on you or made you feel good. This is the biggest distraction when it comes to honing your personal style.
Do you have a favorite item in your closet? How about a piece you’re most attached to?
Since my style is more about putting basic things together in a certain way than finding really unique pieces, my favorite items are hard-working staples: my white Nylon Tibi skirt, my white men’s Uniqlo T-shirts, a pair of Rodebjer coated black pants, a pair of Eve blue jeans, and my white Hoka sneakers. I’m definitely most attached to my old T-shirts, especially the vintage ones that are thick but broken in at the same time.
What’s your morning routine like (Beauty, dressing, working out, etc)?
My morning routine is very minimal and therefore perhaps uninspiring (?): I sleep until around 7:30 a.m., and then the first thing I do is check the weather and start mulling over what to wear. Then my boyfriend Avi asks me what I want for breakfast and I tell him, “ Nothing, thanks.” (He knows I’m a breakfast-skipper but always asks anyway.)
Then I get dressed: Typically pants first, then top, then shoes, then outerwear. This is definitely the longest part of my routine—sometimes it takes two minutes but sometimes it takes 20 (if I’m in a weird mood).
Next up is skincare: I start with a Vitamin C serum (currently using Drunk Elephant C-Firma), then add hyaluronic acid (currently: Glossier Super Bounce), then finish with moisturizer (currently: Sisley Infusion Cream) and sunscreen (currently: Glossier Invisible Shield).
I don’t wear makeup or do anything to my hair (I shower at night and wash my hair twice a week) unless it needs dry-shampoo or oil—in which case I use bumble&bumble Prêt-à-Powder or Verb Ghost Oil. Then I pack up my bag and head out.
What are you currently reading? What’s your favorite thing you’ve read this year? How about all-time (could be an article, an essay, a book, etc)?
I’m currently reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith. My favorite books I’ve read this year are Normal People by Sally Rooney, No Time to Spare by Ursula Le Guin, and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. My favorite article I’ve read this year is probably “Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston,” by Jia Tolentino for The New Yorker (which is actually an excerpt from her new book of essays, Trick Mirror, which I can’t wait to read).
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
Weekends always sneak up on me, which is why I have a reminder in my phone for every Wednesday afternoon to “make weekend plans.” If I succeed in doing that, I like to have at least two social plans per weekend (something with a group—even if that group is just my family!—and something one-on-one).
I also spend a lot of time with my boyfriend on the weekends: cleaning the house, wandering around New York, doing the crossword. We’ve recently been getting into tennis; there’s a decrepit court across the street from our apartment that’s almost always empty, so we finally bought cheap rackets online and started playing (poorly). It’s really fun.
I almost always have a pocket of time on the weekend during which I plan to do a little work (whether for my actual job, which I try to avoid, or for personal projects), and I stick to that about half the time. And then most Sunday nights, Avi, my brother, and I go to dinner at my sister and brother-in-law’s house, where we tickle their twin babies and lounge around on their couch to put off the Sunday Scaries.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in the city? How about a favorite shop?
My favorite restaurant is probably Long Island Bar in Brooklyn Heights. It’s a little divey but they have a great burger and martini and it just feels good to be in there. My brother introduced it to me a few years ago and it’s become our unofficial celebration spot (for promotions, for hitting goals, for good nights of sleep).
What does the rest of 2019 look like for you (trips, work, general things), and Man Repeller?
I have four more weddings to attend (making six for the year, more than I’ve ever attended in my whole life!), so most of my travel is centered around that—they are in Oregon, California, Colorado, and Upstate New York. I also have a small T-shirt collaboration coming up, out end-of-summer, that I’m excited to share (no spoilers). Otherwise I’ll just be hanging around New York, hopefully writing for my job as much as for myself, and continuing to meet the people that make this city interesting.