I do most of my interviews in a coffee shop near Union Square. I get there early, set up, sound-check my voice recorder and wait. When my interviewees arrive, I treat them to a drink -- coffee, green tea, soy cappuccino, whatever. I try to read people by their drinks of choice. I met Karl-Edwin Guerre of street-style blog Guerreisms (formerly Swagger 360) on a Sunday morning at Joe the Art of Coffee. He arrived as dapper as anticipated -- a man who has probably been the subject of as many photographs as he has taken. We did the smile and handshake, and I offered my usual beverage treat. "Tea, please," he said with a humbled smile. "What kind of tea?" I asked. "Your choice," he responded. I was thrown -- too many options to process on my feet: black, herbal, green... milk, honey, size?! Moreover, how was I supposed to pass proper judgment on him? I decided to go with chamomile. He seemed pleased -- or at the very least, gracious -- because he drank it.
Karl-Edwin Guerre wears many hats. Metaphorically, but also quite literally. That is to say, this gentleman owns a lot of beautiful hats. Fedoras, newsboy caps, boaters, you name it. Figuratively, Guerre is a modern renaissance man. "I've been called a blogger, a photographer, a writer, I've directed a short film -- I've been called a couple of different things, I leave that up to the public to decide what they want to call me," Guerre says evenly. "I don't want to insult a photographer or the craft of photography by calling myself a photographer -- I don't know the technical side of photography." Hm. Interesting -- considering that his work has been featured by the likes of Vogue Italy, Essence, Details, The Fashion Spot and more.
Regardless of title, Guerre's artistic focus lies in the depiction of style and the stories behind his subjects. His blogging began as a platform to honor great style in both men and women, but it evolved after some time. "Now my niche is men. I used to photograph both men and women, but people would comment -- saying things like 'wow your men are fantastic -- your women are just ok.' My ego wanted to keep doing women, but a point came where I checked my ego and decided to do what the public told me I was better at."
So what makes Guerreisms different from other street-style blogs?
"[All bloggers] have their own personalities in what they do, and that in itself makes us different from one another. I live what I have on my site. It's more than just images -- to me it's a lifestyle. There are styles that I'm not necessarily crazy about, but I post them because I respect style. Style is style -- if you got it, you got it."
Of course, we both agreed, it's not always about style. There's also the omnipresent issue of making a living and paying the bills (yes, bloggers have bills too!). Though he was shy to delve into his personal life, Guerre disclosed that he isn't only looking after himself -- he is a proud family man with a wife and a 7-month-old.
"I believe there are 3 types of people in the world. You have your true artists who are focused only on art - the reward of the art is the creation of the art itself. Then you have the rational people, maybe the ones who work the 9-5's, and that's their main focus. Then there's the third group, and there are few of them, who walk the fine line and live in both worlds... that's who I am."
Guerre was reluctant to talk about the elusive day job, but I pried for details anyway. "I just don't identify myself with what I do. For artists, the 9-5 isn't who you are it's what you do. I identify myself with my passion, not my job."
But yeah, ok, most of the time it is about style. A few months ago Guerre returned from Paris where, twice-annually, he takes to the streets to capture the Fashion Week crowds. What differentiates Paris style from NYC?
"I think it has to do with lines. Paris, being an older more classic place, is reflected in peoples' style. It's about the texture and the cut -- which is very important. New York is more fun... more colors, more playful. The style isn't restricted in terms of lines."
While Guerre is no stranger to color in his personal style, he certainly pays close attention to, prioritizes and indulges in quality. What are some of his indulgences that don't have to do with style? "What doesn't have to do with style?! [Laughs]. I collect pens... but that's style! Chocolate -- I'm on a new thing now that I like to melt chocolate down myself and drink it." I suggested to Guerre that he try the disgustingly decadent hot chocolate from City Bakery in Manhattan and he seemed amenable to the idea. Maybe I found a drink of choice to judge him on after all...