Style According to Nate Erickson, Music Guy Turned Writer Turned “Rookie Restaurant Owner”

Nate Erickson’s Instagram bio describes him as a “recovering magazine editor.” He’s an alumni of Bon Appétit, GQ, Vanity Fair, and most recently, Esquire. His first job out of college involved writing lyrics (and tweets) for Wyclef Jean — a gig he landed because of Twitter. And now? This moment in time? Erickson, who continues to write, is currently gearing up to open a restaurant with friends in Williamsburg. It’s exciting, and he’s learning along the way, but it also means he’s floating in that ambiguous space of not having a tidy elevator-pitch answer to everyone’s favorite question, “What do you do?”

How about, “writer and idiot,” he offers. I had suggested “writer and restaurateur” because it sounded fancy; he thought it sounded over-blown. We settle on a compromise, so, below: Nate Erickson, writer and rookie restaurant co-owner, on how Rick Ross, Leonardo DiCaprio, Graydon Carter, skateboard culture, and growing up on a blueberry farm influenced his style.

Bonobos: You showed up on set in a henley tee, athletic joggers, boots, and a gold chain. With the boots, it’s like advanced “athleisure.” Can you walk me through your look?

Erickson: Trying to be as weird as possible. All my friends make fun of me because I tend to wear the same exact thing every day. One of the things that’s good about our industry is that we can dress like adult babies every single day of our lives. I think it’s just being comfortable, that’s the goal.

Given your background at Esquire, GQ, Vanity Fair, do you feel like you have pressure among non-industry friends to dress a certain way?

Yes and no. It’s one of those games where the only way to win is to not play. So just find the stuff that you like and wear that, and don’t dress for anyone but yourself.

What are your staples, your go-to’s?

White t-shirts, black t-shirts. Everything simple. Unless it’s cold outside and then…just layer it and I don’t have to suck my gut in. That’s the key: just covering that up at all times.

Not to be creepy, but to be creepy, I saw on Instagram that you do have some colorful items in your repertoire. You have this one red short sleeve button down with a cool pattern on it…

Yeah, I feel like that…[m]ade a few appearances. One of the first times I noticed style was in Romeo+Juliet, the Baz Luhrmann movie. That was the first time I was like, “Oh shit.” 

I had a wedding in Oaxaca, Mexico last summer, and the theme was “resort chic,” “or desert chic,” or one of those [themes where] no one really knows what to do. So I figured I would just bite Leo’s [Leonardo DiCaprio’s] look from that movie and make it work, and it did.

What else influenced your style growing up?

I grew up in west Michigan, pretty much on a blueberry farm. It was a beach town in the woods with fruit farms all around us. It was a very different experience than you might have here in New York in terms of relation to style. Expressing myself has always been through whatever way I could, whether that was reading skateboarding magazines, watching movies, listening to hip hop, playing video games. Like you just look for other things that you can borrow from, because it doesn’t really exist in your world.

In many ways, my style is influenced by being around so many stylish people all throughout my career: Wyclef [Jean], Jim Moore, Graydon Carter, Adam Rapoport, Will Welch. I’ve had no shortage of extremely stylish people in my life who have taught me a lot, even just by what they wore in front of me without saying anything.

You used to work at Bon Appétit, and you’re opening a restaurant this month. What’s your relationship with food and that whole world? (And can you tell me more about the restaurant?)

I just kind of fell in love with it in the last few years. As a piece of garbage, I’m used to eating three delivery meals every single day, or just not making good choices whatsoever. But in the past few years, I fell completely in love with cooking, doing it for myself. It’s one of those nice things that you can control, and if you’re touching meat or washing dishes or whatever, you can’t be on your phone, so it’s a nice escape from the glowing rectangle. 

This summer I am opening a restaurant with some friends in Williamsburg. It’s called Barranquito (128 Metropolitan, in the former Havana Social spot), and it’s tentatively opening this summer. It’s a bunch of local neighborhood kids — Puerto Rican and Domincan kids — in a neighborhood that has changed a lot over the past couple decades, who are bringing something very much in line with their own style and background right in the heart of where they grew up.

It will be a Peruvian-slash-Mediterranean restaurant and sort of Latin dance, reggaeton experience. There will be a ceviche bar, rooftop, cocktails. It’ll be a lot of fun.

I love working and writing in the magazine industry, and I’ve been telling so many other people’s stories, but with food, it’s cool to be able to create something for somebody and say, “Hey I made this for you,” and share that.  

Telling people’s stories, but with food?

It’s hard to talk about a hamburger just for the way it tastes without thinking about the person who made it, who is working in the kitchen. One of my favorite things we were able to do at Esquire and at Bon Appétit was focus on stories of the people who make the food, not just: this is a juicy burger.

I really found people who I idolize in that space, and I feel like that’s what driven me toward it, too: people like José Andrés [who started ThinkFoodGroup], Cristina Martinez [who advocates for undocumented workers in the food industry] — people who are using their voice, using their almost celebrity status to speak out about things that matter to them. 

Do you always wear that chain?

Fun story: I went on a press trip to Miami for a big Atlantic Records party at Rick Ross’s house a few years back. It was called MMG weekend. And at some point, I fell asleep on his couch. When I woke up, [Rick Ross] and his friends were standing in the kitchen.

So I’m drinking Diet Coke in the kitchen with Rick Ross and we started talking about watches and he’s like, “Are you a watch guy or a chain guy?” His friends decided I needed a chain. “I think you need a cubano.” So I texted my friend Mike Camargo, Upscale Vandal, here in New York and I was like, “Hey, I need your advice on Cuban links,” and he said, “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this text.”

It’s either the best decision or the worst decision I’ve ever made, but it’s become a part of me now.

Follow Nate Erickson on Instagram, @nately. Barranquito (128 Metropolitan, Brooklyn, NY), will tentatively open this summer. Check here for updates

Amelia Diamond is a writer and creative consultant. Follow her on Instagram, @amilli0naire.