Jeremy Allen White is the new face (and arms, and abs etc.) of Calvin Klein and he can’t quite believe it. “I grew up in the city walking down Houston seeing the famous Calvin billboard,” the actor tells me over the phone from Manhattan. “I've always found the campaigns really timeless and elegant but I didn't ever see myself in one.”
His CK campaign dropped today, and, as expected, it sees White wearing little more than the American marque's Spring 24 underwear offerings. Styles fashioned to flatter the body and ego, christened with names like 'Intense Power'. (As it goes, intense power is precisely what our current underwear rotation is low on.)
White arrives at Calvin Klein campaign level status after 18 years in the industry. He's appeared in plenty of celebrated film and television projects in that time, but most will recognise the native New Yorker from his three milestone projects: Shameless, The Bear and The Iron Claw.
The first—a decade-long American adaption of the British black comedy series—put him on the map. The second—FX's currently running kitchen-set comedy drama streaming on Disney+—proved he's a brilliantly capable leading man. And the third—a critically acclaimed biographical sports drama cements his place in Hollywood's upper echelons.
We spoke to the actor turned underwear model about his CK gig, as well as his favourite menswear outposts and much more.
ESQUIRE: Is there a Calvin Klein campaign that sticks in your memory?
JEREMY ALLEN WHITE: The Mark Wahlberg/Kate Moss campaign was so cool. I was very young when it first came out but I remember seeing it in my teenage years and thinking it was really cool and I think it still stands up today.
After The Bear, discerning dressers became obsessed with finding the perfect white tee. What do you think makes the perfect white T-shirt?
It’s got to feel good, and then it’s all in the structure.
The T-shirt I wear on The Bear, we had that tailored. I don’t think I was even aware that you could tailor a T-shirt before The Bear, but now I know it’s possible, I think fit is so important.
I think the sleeves should hit you just in the right place: right below the shoulder. And then it should hit you right above the belt line. That Marlon Brando A Streetcar Named Desire fit of a tee is my favourite.
Do you now get all of your T-shirts tailored?
[Laughs] I don’t. But I do find my favourite T-shirts are usually older.
There’s this really great stand at the Melrose Flea Market where these guys sell a bunch of old tees from the nineties and the early two-thousands that have been worn and worn and worn and worn. Like, maybe at one point they were smalls but they've been worn so much that they've stretched.
They always fit me best if they’ve had some wear.
What’s one style cue you’ve taken from a character you’ve played?
Carmy [White's character in The Bear] knows what works and he doesn’t stray very far away from that. I can respect that; I bring that same approach to my wardrobe.
I know what feels good and looks okay and I know to stay in my lane. Carmy is similar in that way.
Carmy is a denim enthusiast. Did you gain a newfound appreciation for denim during the course of filming?
I don’t know... I learnt a lot, like how expensive denim can be but I wasn’t aware of people’s fascination with denim. That is, until I started The Bear and I spoke to guys who are crazy about it, like Chris Storer, the creator [of The Bear], and Matty Matheson [who plays Neil in the show]. But I don’t know if I’ve become any more of an enthusiast—I think I just realised how expensive it can be.
But, yeah, I guess I like to keep things simple. I wore a very specific pair of older jeans [whilst filming The Bear]—I think they were from the twenties in the second season. What I did like about those is that I was told by our costume designers that they didn’t think they were tailored, but they fit me perfectly.
Usually, I need to take the legs up because I’m a short person and my legs are short. No jeans ever fit me—they’re always too long. But these twenties jeans fit me right away, and I started to wonder if people were just smaller back then, and if I should be buying all of my denim, vintage, from the twenties.
The Iron Claw is set in the eighties. What clothing item would you most like to bring back from the decade?
I love a tracksuit but I don’t think I can pull them off. I don’t think I can pull of lot of things off but I still admire them, I get to wear some in The Iron Claw.
And my favourite shoe, which I’ve talked about ad nauseam at this point, is the Nike Cortez. I think they really came to prominence in the eighties, so, of course, I have to speak about those shoes.
I do, yeah. Although I only really wear the white on white, and they're very hard to find. I’ve got one pair that's incredibly beat, I’ve got another pair that’s mid-beat and I’ve got a pair that's pretty clean.
Who’s the director you’re determined to work with?
Ah, man... there’s so many. I think Paul Thomas Anderson would have to be way up on the list. Andrea Arnold, I really love. I love Paolo Sorrentino—I’ve been watching a lot of Sorrentino.
Which Sorrentino films stand out to you?
The Great Beauty is one of my all-time favourites. When I saw that movie in the theatre. I stepped out and bought another ticket for the next showing and that’s the only time I’ve ever done that. So I rewatched that, and I also rewatched Youth recently.
And The Hand of God which feels like a Christmas film to me but I don’t know why. I think it’s because it came on [Netflix] around the holidays two Christmases ago. Or at least, I found it the day after Christmas or something like that which might be why I associate it with Christmas.
But, man, all of his films are just so stunning and romantic. And I don’t speak or understand Italian but those are films that I can watch without subtitles. Even watch on mute and still understand the story, still understand the characters. There’s something so universal and understandable about his filmmaking.
Favourite menswear shop in New York?
I think Front General Store in Dumbo. They have some staples they make which are really great. They do a simple black crew neck sweatshirt which I like and they also have a bunch of great vintage pieces.
Favourite menswear shop in London?
I mean, I haven’t been to many but Ayo [Edebiri] who plays Sydney in The Bear sent me a list [of shops] since she’s spent a lot of time in London. I was there for just 24 hours but I went to this store called Clutch Cafe. It is not a Cafe as far as I know. Maybe they have coffee and they had some really beautiful pieces old and new. I really liked it there and I’d like to go back next time I’m in London.
Finally, who’s the best-dressed person you know?
Chris Storer dresses in a way that I couldn’t ever. He’s so clean and put together and detail-oriented. And when I think of best-dressed, my brain goes to sharp tailoring and suits. I think he’s the sharpest guy.
Calvin Klein Spring 2024 Underwear Collection is now available in-store and online.