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Todd Snyder Knows His Strong Suit

For the last three decades, the New York fashion designer has helped American men get dressed, providing cleverly understated clothes and youthful takes on classics.



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THERE IS NOTHING flashy about the menswear designer Todd Snyder’s studio. Spread across three floors in an unassuming building on the outer edges of Manhattan’s Garment District, the studio is piled to its ceilings with binders of fabric swatches and pant samples. Overstuffed racks of vintage clothing jut from all angles. Snyder’s stand-up working table is swimming in reference materials. The only decorative flourish is an old Iowa State University sweatshirt — Snyder’s alma mater — tacked in a frame and hung in the modest kitchenette.

This tracks. Snyder himself is not a flashy guy. Self-effacing and even-keeled, with a footballer’s jaw and the politesse of a Midwest tourism office, it would be hard to peg him as one of American menswear’s elder statesmen, which he is, even if he won’t cop to it.

Snyder is a fashion lifer. Since the early ’90s, he has moved through Polo Ralph Lauren, the Gap, Old Navy, and J. Crew (twice) — the big pillars of retail — which means he has had a say in how men in this country have dressed for the last three decades. Snyder has done more for advancing interest and connoisseurship in clothing among American men than anyone since Lauren or Mickey Drexler, both of whom employed Snyder (also twice). “I always tell students never, ever burn a bridge, and I’m a good example,” Snyder says.



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That longevity is internalized in his eponymous brand, which he launched in 2011. Since then, it has provided safe harbor for men who wish to dress sanely in a style tide pool that often encourages the opposite. Snyder’s clothes evince a sort of international put-togetherness: Japanese selvedge jeans, Italian linen suiting, and knit polos with a midcentury cut — things that can be classified as “classics” but with enough verve to stand out, youthful without looking like you’re about to roll away on a skateboard.

Tobacco Linen Wythe Suit

Soft-tailored suiting — seen here in a relaxed, ’80s-inspired silhouette — captures refined Italian sprezzatura.

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During his second tour at J. Crew, as its director of menswear, Snyder was responsible for many of the innovations that defined the brand’s success in the mid-aughts: sourcing textiles from heritage European mills; the era-defining, slim-cut silhouette of the Ludlow suit; the curated constellation of third-party collaborations — Alden wingtips and Timex watches — that enhanced the total-lifestyle vision Snyder recognized as essential to telling a compelling story. With his own brand, Snyder doubled down on the idea of bringing maison upscaling to a midpoint label.

“I’ve always tried to approach design in a practical, pragmatic way,” Snyder says. “I want to make beautiful things, but I don’t want to charge an arm and a leg for it. I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, that shirt is $400. That’s crazy.’ That always used to frustrate me when I would go shopping: ‘Does that shirt really need to be $400? It’s a cotton oxford.’”

Snyder grew up admiring the titans of what used to be called “sportswear”: Lauren, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, designers who made their names when the options were far narrower. Snyder’s design philosophy is resolutely American. His clothes fold in vintage military, Ivy League, western denim, and sartorial cues — a jumble of influences that shouldn’t work together, but somehow does. “It’s almost a way of breaking rules, taking what I love and interpreting them,” he says. “I’m putting all those bits in there.”

Olive Herringbone Tailored Chore Coat

This elevated, easy-to-wear layer is rustic enough to wear on a farm, yet slick enough to pass for a dinner jacket.

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Snyder has just returned from a week in Prato, Italy, where he visited Lyria, the storied textile mill that supplies luxury houses such as Prada, Gucci, and Celine. He pulls out his phone to show me a picture of himself standing alone among endless bolts of fabric, grinning ear-to-ear, the way other people pose in front of the Duomo holding a gelato. It’s the face of someone who can’t quite believe his luck.

“I remember when I used to go to [the trade shows] Milano Unica or Première Vision when I first started. They wouldn’t let me in. I didn’t have any credit. And I still think of myself like that. I keep my head down and don’t think about it. When someone says, ‘Congrats,’ I’m like, ‘For what? Oh, yeah.’ Sometimes I really have to pinch myself.”

American menswear is also in a different place from where it was when Snyder was starting out — more fragmented, more noise than ever, all shouting over one another to be heard. “You’ve got kind of a new guard of menswear that’s different from what it was 10 years ago,” Snyder says. “It’s a scrappy group. There’s no, like, ‘Oh, I’m in my place in the Hamptons, and I’m being helicoptered in.’ That used to be the old story about how American designers were, whether it was Halston or Calvin [Klein], it was always this very glamorous thing, and I think a lot of that has been stripped down. I think people are wanting things that are a bit more real and have a real story. And that’s how I try to present myself. I’m from Iowa. I’m not trying to change my accent and sound like I’m from the Mid-Atlantic. I have three kids. I love sports. I am who I am.”

Vertical Stripe Crochet Sweater Polo in Black

Vintage inspired and perfectly tailored, Todd’s sweater polos are a staff favorite. They channel the timeless elegance of Steve McQueen at the Monaco Grand Prix.

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Our Contributors

Max Lakin Writer

Max Lakin is a writer based in Manhattan. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York magazine, GQ, and Vanity Fair.

Jung Kim Photographer

Jung Kim is a photographer, documentarian, photo editor and producer based in Brooklyn. She previously worked at Vogue, Teen Vogue, Elle, Town & Country and Airbnb Magazine. She has published two photo books from her decade-long collaboration with the legendary musician and artist Daniel Johnston.


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