It’s 8 a.m. during New York Fashion Week outside the Ralph Lauren show, and Mordechai Rubinstein, the 36-year-old men’s fashion blogger behind Mister Mort (mistermort.com), is stalking stylish prey. “I’m not hunting, sniper-style,” he laughs, dashing toward an older gentleman in a navy double-breasted suit, gray pajama shirt with pink piping, a disheveled wool hat and round horn-rim glasses. “I hunt, and then I chill with my prey.”
In the blogosphere, Rubinstein is not the first cool guy with a camera dedicated to tracking the well-dressed (that distinction goes to Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist or Tommy Ton of Jak & Jil), and with a seemingly endless groundswell of new mediaphiles, he won’t be the last. But what sets him apart in this world of ego projection is that you believe him. Like the others, Mister Mort is a visual experience: photos with little-to-no written explanation. But there’s also no magazine gloss (the goal of many blogs)—which comes off contrived for a medium meant to feel freewheeling and democratic—and zero advertising. It’s clear he knows the fashion-world players, but he’s less interested in the game. It’s about the clothes, and the outfits speak for themselves.
Rubinstein grew up mostly in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community—where a man’s hat and overcoat signify a great deal. But it was “very restrictive in terms of what you wore,” he says. “I guess I live to shock people.” Which explains today’s outfit: a flat-brim baseball cap (a yarmulke hides beneath) and a black leather motorcycle jacket over what otherwise looks like a prep-school uniform.
In the 1990s he dropped out of rabbinical school in Israel, snuck back to Brooklyn and enrolled at FIT. He got a retail job at New Republic Clothiers and soon met fashion wunderkinds like Thom Oatman (who, Rubinstein feels, taught him more about menswear than anyone in school) as well as Kate and Andy Spade (who eventually hired him to do PR for Jack Spade). He launched Mister Mort in 2008 after working as a market editor for Men’s Vogue. It began as a place to upload photos of clothes he loved but would probably never end up in a mainstream fashion magazine. Nowadays, he takes the subway from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, snapping all the way. He is as inspired by downtown graffiti culture as he is by uptown refinement. “Money stinks, and my camera loves the way it smells,” he says, “but money can’t buy style.” And his innate sense of this intangible, amorphous thing called style is what makes his blog a go-to reference for designers, buyers and editors alike, who use it as a pro-bono trend forecaster. As much as Rubinstein would like to cash in on his efforts—it’s already helped him land a consulting gig for Levi’s—his motivation is not commercial. He takes the time to photograph these men because they take the time to get dressed: “It shows how you’re feeling—shows your colors, shows your stripes,” he says, gaining momentum. “It’s about having fun,” he says, “taking chances and being comfortable with yourself.”
Ask the Expert: Mordechai Rubinstein, Fashion Blogger
Q: What’s the key to men’s style?
A: “You have to know the rules to break them.”
Blogs to Watch
Acontinuouslean.com: The blog responsible for the American heritage craze—think handcrafted work boots and cuffed selvage jeans.
Thebengalstripe.com: A visual stream of consciousness that connects street fashion and product stills with all manner of cultural ephemera.
Theimpossiblecool.tumblr.com: The site features black-and-white archival shots of icons who’ve lived up to the blog’s title—whether it be Paul Newman or Mick Jagger.
Wecouldgrowuptogether.blogspot.com: The musings of a globe-trotting men’s fashion photographer who posts his avant-garde editorials and stylish scenes from his life.
Theselvedgeyard.wordpress.com: If you fancy yourself a modern-day Steve McQueen, this is the blog for you.