Seth wore a lot of Paul Frank, a quirky local Huntington Beach brand with a monkey for a mascot that eventually went global and made $ 100 million in sales before falling back to earth. (Costa Mesa was lousy with Paul Frank’s sample sales at the time.) Ultimately, his t-shirts would inspire a whole generation of pun-saturated t-shirts available on Threadless.com and the Urban auction corner. Outfitters. (The semi-ironic, ugly Christmas sweater thing he started with Chrismukkah is worth his own blog post, actually.)
But his pants were a real game-changer, at least for me: thin brown corduroys with tiny galls; proto-skinny jeans, back in the days when the only slim option available for men were Andrew Reynolds’ tight-fitting signatures of skate brand KR3W. (Of which I would end up owning three pairs of, all with huge crotch tears.) And then Levi joined the party. “Levi’s was starting to introduce, you know, one or two cuts that were skinny,” Welker says. “There is now a Levi’s fit called Slim Straight, which actually got thinner after the introduction of 511 skinnies. But the thin straights, which were 512 when they first came out, were a bit thinner. And I like to find them and I went, ‘Ah-ha!’ Welker also occasionally outfitted Brody in the 517s, which were a “retro skinny” with “a bit of a boot cut.” And then we just took the boot off because we liked the way it fitted over the top.
Costuming means telling a story in miniature – who a character is and what their motivations are, all communicated in the blink of an eye. Welker (whose other style credits include American pie and Joe dirt) saw Seth Cohen as an opportunity to zag. “Seth’s father was a middle class lawyer who marries in terms of economic social strata,” she says, “[so I imagined Sandy] would be in favor of being her own man as an only child. I just thought it was the kid who would jump on his skateboard and go to the record store and look for some obscure vinyl. And then right next to the record store was like the cool thrift store run by the lady from Pretty in pink. “
I had imagined that most of the shopping for the show took place at real Orange County staples: the Lab Anti-Mall (which had the only Urban Outfitters, at least at the time), Buffalo Exchange, the Salvation Army. Except CO was mostly shot in a studio closer to Manhattan Beach, so most of the savings were in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and sometimes in my hometown of Long Beach, namely in a “big thrift store” called Meow, on 4th street.
Right now we’re in the middle of a lot of casualness in menswear, which is cool. And necessary. But Seth Cohen, for a few brief years, made dressing like a sensitive critic of Pitchfork something to aspire to, especially in the yawning, styleless void of Orange County in the mid-2000s. My Seth Outfit Favorite is one I would spend a decade looking for: a blue button and beige quilted waistcoat with a contrasting orange yoke, plus skinny jeans. (“Quintessential Seth,” Welker adds.) (I never found the right vest.)
Welker’s favorite look was a simple brown Paul Frank t-shirt with a graphic of three guitar chords – A, D, and G – and the words “now start a band”. She lived in New York before CO and had a lot of friends in the independent scene. She knew it was a perfect solution for Seth as soon as she laid eyes on it. “Oh my God, yeah,” Welker said, laughing. “I grabbed it right away. And honestly, I have one for myself.
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