By Lauren Bans, GQ
He was dubbed "The Hipster Cop" a little over a week ago, a few days after pictures trickled online of a plainclothes detective-dressed more like an actor from Dead Poet's Society than NYPD Blue-patrolling the Occupy Wall Street protest. Then the Hipster Cop Twitter jokes started: "He only uses pepper spray ironically." "Sure I have a nightstick...I bought it on svpply.com." And in October, The New York Times ran the first interview with Rick Lee, a 45-year-old community affairs detective with an addiction to Ralph Lauren, a.k.a. The Hipster Cop. Or rather, a.k.a. The Country Gentleman. (You'll understand after you read this interview.)
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GQ: Tell me about what you're wearing today.
Rick Lee: This is pretty average for me. For work anyway. The jacket and cardigan are Ralph Lauren. The tie is Burberry. The shirt is Ralph Lauren, too. These are J.Crew pants. And Ralph Lauren shoes. Lot of Ralph Lauren. My best friend works for Ralph Lauren.
GQ: Since you've become meme-ified, has there been pressure each morning to step up your game?
Rick Lee: Nah, not really. I'm just me. I am who I am. This is how I always dress. I've always been into fashion. Since high school. Since I got my first job and was able to buy my own clothes. Though maybe I'll wear a top hat to work tomorrow. [laughs]
GQ: How would you describe your style?
Rick Lee: I describe it as "traditional English country." I love traditional English country clothes.
GQ: It's funny because you've been anointed "Hipster Cop" now, but looking at all your pictures-I'm not sure that's the right descriptor.
Rick Lee: I agree! I don't have a beard. I don't live in Williamsburg. Though off-duty I may look a little bit more hipster. I'm thin, so when I'm off-duty I like skinny jeans. And, well, I have about five pairs of Converse sneakers, but I've been wearing Converse sneakers since I was in junior high school. I've always worn Converse sneakers, they're not just a fashion trend with me. I've always liked them. So off duty, I throw on skinny jeans, a T-shirt, and a cardigan. I guess you could say I look more hipster on the weekend. Or in the summer, I'll wear my jeans cuffed, with wingtip shoes and a t-shirt and a vest. Unfortunately, I can't wear jeans to work.
GQ: So there's a detective dress code? That is not what cop shows would have me believe.
Rick Lee: Yes, unfortunately. The police commissioner might get mad if I wear jeans.
GQ: If "Hipster Cop" is inaccurate, what new fun cop moniker should we use?
Rick Lee: Uh..."Country Gentleman." Or the "Gentleman Police Officer."
GQ: Who are your favorite designers?
Rick Lee: I like Burberry. I like Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers. A lot of Theory's stuff. What else do I usually wear? I wear Levi's jeans. I wear a lot of J.Crew stuff as far as casual dress goes. A lot of English designers.
GQ: So it sounds like you're into nice clothes that even the 99% can afford...
Rick Lee: Yeah, yeah. Well I think it's all how you wear it, too. You can take some very conservative traditional clothing and kind of put a little of your own edge on it.
GQ: Like a badge?
Rick Lee: Sure. But that's an accessory I really couldn't wear to a club, you know?
GQ: What are your duties down at Occupy Wall Street?
Rick Lee: Just to give you some background: I do Community Affairs down at the First Precinct. There's basically one of me-not as smashingly dressed, in every precinct. It's my job in general to be the liaison between the precinct and the community we serve. We serve, oddly enough, SoHo-big fashion area, TriBeCa, and Battery Park City. Basically from Houston St. down to the Battery. My specific job being down here watching the guys who bang on the drums is to keep the peace. Between not only the police and the protesters, but also the protesters and the community.
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GQ: Do you think the way you're dressed helps with that?
Rick Lee: Yes. Absolutely. I've been doing my job for 12 years and I learned early on that the way I'm dress, or the way anyone dresses affects things. You have to know your audience. The people that I serve in this community are a lot like me. I don't necessarily fit the stereotype of the word "cop." So when they see that I dress kinda cool, wear thin ties, look trendy, it breaks a lot of walls down initially to get the bridge building started. It actually works. People go, "Wow! You wear Burberry. You wear Ralph Lauren. That's cool."
GQ: So you've been getting a lot of compliments?
Rick Lee: Yes. Not only from my colleagues but from people in the community, too.
GQ: Are you sympathetic to the movement?
Rick Lee : It's hard to say that because everyone in the Park has their own agenda of why they're here. Like I could talk to a guy and he could be upset that he gets taxed, and I can understand that because I get taxed every two weeks when I get paid. But somebody else might be into, like, Communism or something. Which I'm not really into. I can't relate politically that way. But people have their right to voice their opinion in America. They have a right to demonstrate. It's a good thing. But there's probably 200 people in the park right now and 400 different opinions of why they're here. Though, generally, a lot of well-read, very smart, very articulate people are here. I've become friends with a few people. It's kinda cool.
GQ: Do you ever get lightly teased about your fashion back at headquarters?
Rick Lee: I get ribbed a bit.
GQ: What do they say?
Rick Lee: This is confidential territory. I'm sure people bust your chops at your office for something.
GQ: Yes, that is true. Have you seen interesting fashion at the protest?
Rick Lee: No! I was talking to a photographer, he was looking for fashionistas here, and I said, "Dude, you're in the wrong place." I guess if I had to pigeonhole the look here I'd say it's kind of grunge. You remember the grunge phase. That's kind of it. Very grunge-y. There aren't a lot of men walking around in bow ties and Ralph Lauren. I know some protesters brought some used suits, which was kind of funny. None of them were tailored though, so...[laughs]
GQ: What fall trends do you like?
Rick Lee: Tweeds! I like traditional English style. I'm glad to see straight ties are coming back into fashion. I like a clean cut preppy look, as opposed to, you know, baggy T-shirts and cargo pants. I'm happy to see a more fitted look coming back into style. It drives me nuts when people wear baggy clothes.
GQ: What TV shows do you watch?
Rick Lee: As in cop shows? I'll tell you, and this dates me, but the only show I've seen that accurately portrays the NYPD is a show called Barney Miller. From the '70s. I don't know if you've ever watched it, but that's as close as it comes. Otherwise I watch Mad Men, I watch Boardwalk Empire. I watch the History Channel a lot. That's more my thing.
GQ: You're aware that you've become sort of a meme. Did you know that one blog posted instructions on how to be "Hipster Cop" for Halloween?
Rick Lee: No way! [laughing] Oh man, the parade's going to be interesting this year! Do I get royalties for that? It's funny because I'm online a lot, but mostly shopping, my social life doesn't revolve around blogs and Facebook. It's not my generation. People have been telling me you have to go on! You're everywhere!
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