The first time I met SAINt JHN in 2019, he sauntered into the GQ offices and cleared his throat.
“People of GQ!” he bellowed into our library-quiet, open-concept workspace. “My name is SAINt JHN. You might not know who I am just yet, but remember this moment, because you will.”
When I catch up with JHN again in June and tell him that story, he flashes his million-watt incisors. “I was like Babe Ruth when he pointed the bat,” he tells me over Zoom, from behind the wheel of a drop-top Porsche. “I called my shot at GQ.”
He really did. After a decade of careful plotting—writing for Usher and dropping verses on Beyonce singles—the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Guyana-raised rapper’s stock skyrocketed last year on the strength of “Roses (Imanbek Remix),” one of 2020’s biggest, catchiest, most inescapable hits.
“You know when you’re about to go out, and you look in the mirror and change your outfit 30 times? I did that,” he says of his pre-fame days. “Then last year, I walked through the door and everybody told me I was beautiful. But I’d been getting dressed for a long time.”
Now that he’s arrived, he’s making the most of it. There’s new music on the way, big plans for his Not A Cult clothing line, maybe even a big screen appearance or two in the works—and SAINt JHN’s bringing no shortage of confidence to all of it.
“I’m certain of the human being I am, and I would’ve applied that to any profession,” he says. “It happened to be music, but if I was just on a boat, paddling the boat, I would’ve told the water, ‘I’m this sexy.’”
Here, he shares a few of his favorite things so that you, too, can get dressed like you’re famous.
Like the rest of us, SAINt JHN adopted a comfier uniform during quarantine that he’s having a tough time giving up. “I’m never not going to be cozy,” he says. “I’m cozy forever. I don’t want to live a version of life that doesn’t allow me to wear sweats. If you got a job, you gotta protest your job until they allow you come to work in sweats.”
Unlike the rest of us, however, JHN’s go-to comfy uniform comes direct from two of the hottest designer labels on the planet. “The Pyer Moss nylon sweats, those are my favorites. They got a whole windbreaker feeling, and I love the length—Kerby hit them right, because they cut off right before the ankle. It’s perfect, because I want my socks to be seen. Full display. It’s TV time for my socks. I’m in Bottega cashmere socks all day. Don’t tuck ‘em away or nothing.”
“These days, I’m really heavy in my Lanvin skater shoes—the ones with the chunky tongue and the chunky laces. I’m living in those right now. And whenever I’m not in those, I’m in my Bottega mules. They’re like Crocs, only sexier.”
When I ask JHN about the most useful thing he keeps in his car, he immediately holds one of these tiny bottles of moisturizer up to the camera. “This is an endorsement. Get this on the record. Love yourself. Rub that on your elbows, your hands, whatever. Never be ashy. Don’t play yourself. Do not disrespect you or the mother you came from.”
On the road, JHN keeps two specific skincare products with him at all times. “I always have to have a moisturizer with SPF 30 on me, and these days I like Neostrata,” he says. “And then no matter where I am, no matter where I’m living, I always keep a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s there—specifically the rose scent. Everything else is crazy to me. I don’t want the peppermint. I don’t want the lavender. Rose.”
JHN’s last online purchase? “I bought some belly button rings on Amazon. I don’t have a belly button piercing—I just put them in my ears.”
As anyone who follows JHN on Instagram can attest, the man is a verified gym rat. Lately, he’s been leaning on a couple things to stay looking fresh during his toughest sessions. “I abuse these Supreme gloves,” he says. “They’re motocross gloves, but they’re perfect for working out. I like shadowboxing in ’em, too, because you see the red and the yellow flashing. It makes me look a little cooler than I should.”
Down below, JHN stays in the Swoosh. “I’m usually in some Nike Tech shorts, because Nike’s colorways are exceptional—lately I’ve been into pinks, salmons. And I need them to hit mid-thigh. Nothing beyond my knees these days. It’s not 1992.”
“I love a pair of black shades with a chrome finish. I like when there’s a curvature, when they’re cut right, as opposed to being oversized. I don’t like shades feeling like a visor. I ain’t trying to hide.”
“I travel with a Tumi—the big, black, shiny joint. I put all the tags from the places I’ve been on the side of it. Every time I go to a new country, I buy a tag, so it’s like my passport stamps down the side of my bag. Maybe I shouldn’t have told people that—now they’re gonna be looking for my shit at the airport.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue with the title “Blowing Up Big.”
Photographs by Martin Brown
Styled by Jon Tietz
Grooming by Barry White for barrywhitemensgrooming.com
Tailoring by Ksenia Golub