It was somewhere after his fifth or sixth conventionally charming Manhattan studio that Nick Wooster decided it was time for a change. Swimming in a trove of covetable men’s clothing and accessories, he knew that, in addition to a seasonal storage unit, he needed a proper home.
“Living here is maybe not everyone else’s dream of living in New York, but it’s like the New York that didn’t exist,” he explains, sitting in his new living room. “Because, listen, I’ve lived in more studios than I care to remember, and there’s something about a walk-up and a studio and just that struggle that most New Yorkers go through. I did it, but it’s nice to not have to do that now.”
Perched 30 stories above the ever-evolving Hudson Yards development, the space is drenched in sunlight thanks to its western exposure and offers a sweeping view of the Hudson River. “It’s just a nice way to be,” Wooster adds, turning to look at the view. Upon first inspection of chez Wooster, it might be easy to make a quick study of the lauded menswear fixture, who now boasts nearly 800,000 loyal Instagram followers. There are many tightly curated stacks of books and magazines, most of which include lengthy odes to his sartorial prowess. A guest bathroom is covered papered in portraits made by fans from around the globe. One is covered in Japanese characters, and when teased about being “big in Japan,” he shoots back with a smile, “I’m actually much bigger in Korea and China than I am in Japan.”
Of the apartment’s two bedrooms, the master has been converted into a double-height closet space, and while it may strike most as an unconventional setup, Wooster sleeps in the adjacent guest bedroom. “It’s the ultimate luxury,” he explains of the master bedroom–turned–closet. “You can also see the skyline better when you’re lying in the guest bedroom.”
All of this is to say that Wooster is indeed the stylish clotheshorse, devoted so much to his art of dressing that dozens of brands, from Thom Browne to Paul & Shark to Calvin Klein to Ralph Lauren—the list goes on and on—are eager to collaborate with him season after season. It’s not only his pedigree as a seasoned buyer for venerable department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and the late, great Barneys New York that makes him attractive to them, but his certain inexplicable panache that is only complemented by his silver hair and devil-may-care attitude. But if you can look past the several hundred pairs of shoes, over a hundred pairs of sunglasses, and that blown-up cover of GQ Taiwan, there are many hidden gems that lead a visitor to quickly discover much more about this self-proclaimed “free agent” of menswear.
Small bits of elevated erotica can be found dotted throughout the apartment, from a shirtless portrait of a buff, ginger-haired man from an exhibition by Thomas Knight called “Red Hot” to a coffee-table book simply titled BUTTS. There’s even a small print of a writhing gladiator type of a man affixed to the refrigerator like a proud homework assignment. He wears an orange mesh jockstrap. “I’m just a pervy old man—what can I say?” Wooster confesses with a laugh. “I think that maybe for most of my life, being a gay kid in Kansas in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I did everything in my power to not broadcast anything sexual. It was like, ‘Oh, just be quiet,’ and that’s one of the amazing things about where we are culturally is that we don’t have to worry about that sort of thing.”
Born in Salina, Kansas, Wooster is the antithesis of a town known best for its domestic manufacturing, but there are small hints of this culture throughout the home. In the entryway is a schematic drawing of a Volkswagen, a nod to his father, who was a Volkswagen mechanic, and in a corner sits a handful of framed high school graduation photos. “They were taken in the fall of 1977. That is so fucking long ago,” he jokes. And while he admits that his family “has absolutely no comprehension” of his life, he has always maintained a firm stance in his styling.
“I insisted on dressing myself,” he says matter-of-factly. “My mom could not buy me clothes or tell me what to wear, ever.” Little did he know this would pay off for him starting in kindergarten. “I heard this story, so it’s third-hand, but I had a kindergarten teacher named Mrs. Voss, who died recently, who I never had contact with after elementary school,” Wooster recalls. “She told a friend of my dad’s that she always remembered me and said, ‘He was the best-dressed student I ever had.’ She taught at the same elementary school for her entire career and must’ve been there for 40 or 50 years, but how is that possible in kindergarten? I don’t even think she had any idea of this life that people know me for.”
Tales like this make his undeniable success that much more inevitable. It appears it was fate that led Nick Wooster to become who he is, a universally sought after bellwether of good taste, evidenced not only in his wardrobe but his home too. However, no one seems more surprised by all this than Wooster himself. “Maybe Ms. Voss could have predicted it,” he says. “But I certainly didn’t.”