With regard to the rumors, they’re true: I dressed like Pete Davidson for a week. After admiring his visionary fashion formulas from a safe distance for too long, my patience wore thin. Tempted by the neon waters, I dipped my toe and quickly found that his tutelage takes shape as a full immersion program.
In studying Pete’s singular sense of style, its profundity compels me at every turn: He plays expertly with proportion and color, dressing within an avant-garde palette of soft wisteria purples, Denver Nuggets blues, and hot flamingo pinks. His pant-leg-to-sock ratio is always right, though rarely the same. In his sartorial approach, he’s a little like a raven, collecting and combining shiny objects in ways they were not originally intended but instead coalesce into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. He radiates a yearlong feeling of summer, which is counterintuitive considering it’s the only season that his primary cultural touchstone doesn’t air, but has anyone ever seen him in a puffer coat?
As two New Yorkers born in the same calendar year who are deft navigators of Midtown’s most middling streets and have logged a similar amount of time living with our moms, Peter “Pete” Davidson and I already have a lot in common, though it would be naive to assume a full grasp of my subject without walking the length of the Staten Island Ferry in his shoes. As a disciple of his style, I took my reverence to the logical next step: a week of method dressing as Pete Davidson.
As far as I can cobble it together, Pete’s ascension to Saturday Night Live and beyond hinged on his involvement with the Amy Schumer romcom Trainwreck, the only movie anyone talked about during the summer of 2015 and also the weirdest basketball movie ever. In the briefest of cameos, Pete is onscreen for about 30 seconds: he lies idly on a sports medicine treatment table as his doctor, played by Bill Hader, absentmindedly rubs his lame knee. Pete delivers about two lines of dialogue in the final cut and consequently left an impression on Hader, who recommended him for SNL. For someone only introduced to the public eye in 2014, Pete’s been photographed wearing a panoply of mind-bendingly good outfits in a relatively short span of time. His prolificacy made my undertaking a challenge—there were too many exceptional options to choose from, a bonafide embarrassment of riches. I could have kept this up for a month, at least.
Not to stir the pot, but I find Pete Davidson side-splittingly funny, whether he’s wearing a bald cap as Michael Avenatti, “playing himself” on Weekend Update, or planted as an Easter egg in SNL sketches (think: the face on an anthropomorphic, intergalactic ear of purple corn). In a 2011 New Yorker story, Tina Fey wrote that “the staff of Saturday Night Live has always been a blend of hyper-intelligent Harvard boys (Jim Downey, Al Franken, Conan O’Brien) and gifted, visceral, fun performers (John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Jan Hooks, Horatio Sanz, Bill Murray, Maya Rudolph). Lorne [Michaels] somehow knew that too many of one or the other would knock the show out of balance.” Pete is the 21st century model of the latter with a deep-seated charisma and an earnestness in his delivery—it’s what makes him so mesmerizing and so polarizing.
soho, spring 2019 pic.twitter.com/uKFWh8VdN9
— Noah Johnson (@noahvjohnson) May 6, 2019
Those who deem Pete a flash in the pan might consider that our most prevalent verbal memes from the last 365 days are the branded slogans of his personal saga. Ingrained in the lexicon, “thank u next” is now the world’s laziest Instagram caption; “Big [your modification here] Energy” tends to come in as a close second. I’d argue that these should be eclipsed by the following lyrics from the most moving song penned in 2019: “Grace & Frankie/They’re different but they’re friends/It’s a nice show/DJ Khaled.”
As kismet would have it, Pete Davidson has also been spending this week dressing as Pete Davidson: he and director Judd Apatow recently kicked off principal photography in Staten Island for their new movie, a semi-autobiographical comedy based on Pete’s upbringing. On set, the line between costume design and personal style blurs.
Throughout the week, my project raised a number of unanswered questions: What’s Pete’s favorite Grateful Dead song? Has he ever been on the Roosevelt Island Tram? (I haven’t.) What does he wear in the rain? Does he work out (and if so, wearing what)? How many pairs of shoes does he have? When is the theatrical release of his latest movie, Big Time Adolescence? Would he consider himself a maximalist? Which cast member is most likely to make him break on-air? Does he think, as a general rule, that the SNL season always starts off strong after summer break and slowly tapers as the talent burns out from the frenetic schedule, or that every episode is entirely host-dependent, or that the quality of each show hinges on other factors? If he catches a cold the week of a show, what does he do?
By the closing bell on Friday, I had lost all semblance of my own identity as expressed through clothing. In the noble pursuit of trying to inhabit a complete stranger’s thought process, it became apparent that I had overcorrected and forfeited all mastery that I had once presided over my own wardrobe. My metamorphosis into Pete was complete, and likely irreversible.
Photos via Getty Images and the author.