Though Brian Thomas likes to go through crates and crates of music before a gig, editing his choices down until minutes before leaving the house, he takes the opposite approach to style. In what he describes as “grayscale with hits of color,” personal style for Butter is a casual endeavor. He gets his inspiration from a variety of sources, one of them being the city itself. Having transitioned from LA to NYC, a great sartorial shift, he found a little more freedom and lot more space for exploration, finally settling on something that felt just right. But in the vein of Brian, who prefers to let his music speak for him, it’s time to let the photos tell his story as we Get Ready With Butter:
What do you typically wear on a night out when you’re DJing?
It’s not that different than what I wear any other night that I go out. It’s usually just something quite simple because I tend to dance and get hot. I move around a lot. The more that I wear, the more that it can interfere. But in general, I don’t wear anything that specific. I tend not to look at my night of DJing as if I am the star of the show because I think it’s more about the music being played than about who I am and people looking at me. I just try to blend in with my own little style as much as I can.
How would your characterize your style?
I would say it’s usually fairly “grayscale” with bright hits of color. The shoes I am wearing today are a perfect example.
Do you intend to rely on the accessories for your hints of color or is it sometimes a more central item?
They’re usually clothing pieces. I don’t wear too many accessories except for my handy dandy watch. [laughs]
Speaking of your watch, where is it from?
I bought it online. It started with a friend of mine, this guy named Bill McMullen, who made a golden MPC ring. An MPC is a piece of audio equipment for sampling. While I was searching online for that, I found other rings that were turntables, and then I found watches that were turntables, so I bought one! They’re really inexpensive. They’re by a company here in New York called Flud. I bought one from them, then I broke it. So I bought another one.
Every now and then, I’ll see someone with one on. For example, I was at a Red Bulls game three weeks ago and I saw this girl that looked nothing like a DJ—if that means anything [laughs] –wearing one. The company is not really doing anything else. They seem to have a pretty limited capacity. Since I love this watch so much, I might just go buy another 4 or 5 just in case they ever break! [laughs] They are not the best design functionally-speaking. I mean, it functions as a watch, but structurally, not so much. For example, on the other one, I broke the face, but on this one, a pin randomly fell out, and I just ended up replacing the parts with the ones from the old one.
Do you wear that when you’re playing?
When you’re getting ready to go out, what is your routine like? Any specific order? Special rituals?
Yes. When I’m just getting ready to go out, there’s nothing really special that happens. But when I am getting ready pre-DJ, it’s not really that different in terms of the actions I do before I make it out the door. BUT it’s a lot more influenced by music. So on the music side, the majority of the time, I listen to stuff that I might play. Basically, I’ll have this large crate of stuff that I might play and just listen to that. I hang out and dance while I’m getting ready.
When I am just going out, I am not as specific about what I listen to. I think the mentality behind it is that if I am going out to hear music, I just want to be immersed in the music of whomever I am going to hear play, so I usually don’t listen to anything unless it’s specific to them. For instance, the most recent time that I remember was when I was getting ready to go hear Theo Parrish, this DJ from Detroit. I spent the whole day, not necessarily just the night of, listening to some of his stuff. But it isn’t nearly as focused. The process of getting ready before I go DJ consists of my filtering through songs, so I’ll put something on, then go back to the turntable and put a new record on, finish getting ready, then go back and forth. Sometimes, if I’m at home, I might even get stuck from what I am playing and start DJing. [laughs] It’s this weird mix of getting ready and DJing at the same time.
Does that slow you down a lot when that happens?
Yeah, but usually I spend quite a bit of time before leaving devoted to that process. I guess it’s the excitement? I don’t know. If I plan to leave the house at 11, I might spend from 8 to 11 getting ready.
What about during the day? You are a graphic designer, but I am not sure what your office environment is like. Is there a big difference in your work attire vs. what you go out or DJ in?
There’s not really a difference. I work in a studio, but it’s more chill than any other place I could imagine. I can wear pretty much whatever I want –within reason, of course. Whatever I wear on the street or out at night, I could wear at work. I think because I am just going to work and it’s this routine thing, and I’m just throwing on something in the morning, it takes 20 minutes to get ready, whereas in going somewhere else, there might be a more concentrated process and it might take a little longer.
Do you have any style icons or people you look to for inspiration?
Not really, although I tend to be inspired and intrigued by a lot of Sartorialist and GQ style, I don’t necessarily wear all of that all the time, but the majority of it I like. I think my lifestyle is a lot more casual, so I don’t end up pursuing that kind of route in a fashion sense. I do pull things from there and bring them into my casual style.
Do you think your style has changed in the past few years?
Yeah. When I was younger, I think I was a little more concerned with fashion. Not that I don’t care now, but I think I was a little more focused and had a little more drive in that area. I think that was part of a learning experience as well in finding out what I like and what I don’t like, things like that. And now I’ve just found what I like, and I’m quite comfortable with it. I think now it’s a bit like I’m in cruise control. I know what I like and how I like it, so I just kind of go with that.
Considering you’ve lived in several placed in California and now live in New York, in your opinion, what are some of the big differences, stylistically-speaking, between the two places?
I lived in Los Angeles County for 6 years. Most recently, I lived in Pasadena, the San Fernando Valley, and LA closer to the downtown/Hollywood area. I think Los Angeles is a lot different. I think that goes a bit with what I was saying earlier in that there is a lot more concern placed in what one is wearing there. Not that here [in NYC] there isn’t, but I think people are a little more casual and willing to just take risks. It’s like, “Oh, I wanna wear this with that.” They’re not as concerned with something being one color or another or one brand or another. They’re willing to take these risks and wear really random things or things that other people won’t wear. Of course, it’s a general assumption, but besides the winter, when everyone is wearing black here [laughs], everyone seems to wear different things and do their own thing. Over there, it was more like wearing what everyone else is wearing.
What is your perception of that aesthetic? How would you characterize the LA style? What was everyone wearing the same of?
At the time, I think it was a lot of overdone things. For example, it would involve a lot of overdone graphic things like Ed Hardy or something. And then on the other hand, there were jeans that were ripped and torn—just destroyed to shreds. Once I came to New York, there were elements of those things, but in much more of a controlled, relaxed, casual way. I think in LA, it was a bit more extreme.
What inspired your look today and made you choose the items you did?
I just wanted to find something that summed up what I wear normally. I think I would wear this while DJing or anywhere else. I didn’t want to wear anything that was over-the-top and “special” for DJing because I don’t normally do that. As I said, I usually wear grayscale with hits of color, so I made a point to pick that out, instead of just bringing the yellow shirt, which would have gone outside of what I just described.
I really like your tattoos. What was the intention behind the design, the location, etc?
It was purposefully done there, but not for a clothing thing. I didn’t even think about the placement of the tattoos in terms of a relationship to clothing pieces. I did think about their location in terms of a job or workplace, but I think now it’s fairly silly—at least in the design industry—to be worried about having visible tattoos. I’ve been in meetings with clients and seen tattoos, even some people with [full] sleeves, and it’s not a big deal.
The meaning behind the tattoos have a bit to do with where they are. I think I put them here because of their proximity to my veins. Normally, my veins stick out a lot, especially here [points to forearm]. As you can tell, I’m just infatuated with music. All the time, I am listening to music. I wanted [the tattoos] to be shown and wanted to be able to see them every day. I didn’t want a cheesy band up here [points to upper arm].
They’re my equivalent to “Mom” and “Dad” tattoos. So I picked songs that are nostalgic to each of my parents. The left side is [some of the notes to] “Dear Mama” by Tupac and the right side is a song called “Be Thankful” by William DeVaughn.
- Retail DJ