Contrary to appearances, the man sitting across the café table is neither a supporting character in Bohemian Rhapsody nor Billy Crudup in one of his Almost Famous getups. In fact it’s Ben Cobb, a British magazine editor known for his decade-long tenure at Another Man, drinking tea with a splash of skimmed milk in a corner of Maison Assouline, a bookstore and café on Piccadilly. It’s the bitter end of a drizzling Friday afternoon; outside, the masses bow their heads and trudge forth into the autumnal wind.
But here, perched on a burgundy midcentury chair, is a warm and lovely man in a double-breasted Givenchy blazer, unbuttoned-down-to-there white Edward Sexton shirt, and dark denim Gucci flares. His mustache has been painstakingly groomed; his rakish haircut is the handiwork of a certain Fabio Nogueira. Cobb’s 70s-esque ensembles are so reminiscent of a much more swinging era that the mere act of admiring his clothes feels like a party. “I’ve refined it, definitely,” says Cobb, who has been dressing in a similar fashion since he was a teenager growing up in London in the 90s. “I’m lucky that fashion’s a cyclical thing…. I’m a big believer in you do you, and it comes around again.”
“I’m lucky that fashion’s a cyclical thing.… It comes around again.”
At the fashion shows in London, Milan, and Paris, which he attends twice a year, a swarm of street-style photographers have made photographing Cobb something of a cottage industry. “It’s a strange thing when people come up to you and they know things about you,” says Cobb, whose soft-spokenness exists in direct contrast to his rather loud attire. “As a journalist, you’re so used to being on the other side of that.” Several weeks ago, Cobb announced his resignation from Another Man, the fun and funky biannual that Jefferson Hack launched in 2005; Cobb evolved it into a vehicle of discussion on what it means, exactly, to be a man these days. (Its Web site has three sections: Style & Grooming, Life & Culture, and Library.) “Ten years is a good, round number,” says Cobb. “There’s no massive master plan. I want to take my time and feel out the landscape. Print has always been a huge love of mine, and I’m sure it will always play a part, but I’m curious about other ways of storytelling.”
Cobb has been surrounded by the creative set from his early days. His father was a graphic designer, and his mother studied fashion at Central Saint Martins. Cobb’s older sister, a stylist and editor named Grace Cobb, also attended the school alongside Katie Grand, the editor of Love magazine. After college, Cobb began writing film criticism for The Face. “I’m just interested in people, whether they make a film, record a record, or design a collection,” he says. “But that [film] background gave me a different viewpoint, which I found very helpful. It gives me a very specific slant on fashion and the world of style.”
An Eccentric, Nostalgic Approach
In his work for Another Man, Cobb took on the culture of style with an eccentric, nostalgic approach. “Because it’s biannual, each issue is a big deal,” he says. Over the past few years, he has adopted what he calls a more “curatorial approach, giving [subjects] space and room” to contribute to their own narrative. For a 2017 cover story on Harry Styles, he and Styles settled on Paul McCartney and Chelsea Handler to handle the interview, while photographers Alasdair McLellan, Ryan McGinley, and Willy Vanderperre channeled the subversive heartthrob’s more boyish side in a Fair Isle turtleneck and a floral velvet suit, among many other colorful outfits.
Cobb has helped propel many new talents to prominence, including the designers Harris Reed, whose gender-fluid blouses and dresses are the toast of MatchesFashion.com, and Grace Wales Bonner, who juxtaposes traditional British tailoring with interesting sportswear and the occasional high-concept reference from academia. Earlier this year, an Another Man fashion spread featured a twentysomething South African portrait artist named Christopher Smith styled cinematically in flowing, bejeweled gowns by Gucci.
“I love to be completely, creatively free, and at Another Man that’s been an amazing luxury,” says Cobb. “But it’s a business. And I’ve always enjoyed how that ties in with brands, and working on the money side of it…. There’s so much you can take from that and plug into all these different worlds.”
“Aesthetics … Kind of Everything”
Accordingly, Cobb was recently enlisted to consult on Givenchy’s men’s-wear collection by Clare Waight Keller, the brand’s talented artistic director. (She became something of a household name when she designed Meghan Markle’s wedding gown.) “Clare wanted a male point of view and a male voice in the conversation,” he explains. And this past summer, he teamed up with YouTube and Love magazine to debut The Ben Cobb Show, a fictional vintage-style talk show whose guests have included Rami Malek and Felicity Jones. Future episodes are in the works.
When he seeks a respite from all this fashionable activity, Cobb sequesters himself in his meticulously decorated apartment in Maida Vale, the residential neighborhood in West London. He shares the quarters with his wife, the fashion publicist Anna-Marie Cobb; the two were married last December in a candlelit ceremony at a home outside of London. (She wore a black Peter Dundas caftan, while Cobb wore a bespoke three-piece suit from Edward Sexton.) “Aesthetics, for me, are kind of everything, and luckily Anna-Marie and I have a very similar aesthetic,” he says. “We could really deal with more room, but I love the area we live in. Storage is a problem for everyone.”
Ashley Baker is the Style Editor for AIR MAIL