When it comes to fashion, Steven Yeun embraces clean lines and subtlety — unlike his perennially sweaty and ragged character on The Walking Dead. Currently in his third season on AMC’s apocalyptic series, the 29-year-old actor actually wishes he didn’t look quite so stylish while slaying zombies.
By Brandon Voss
Essential Homme: You’ve expressed a great appreciation for fashion on your Twitter and Tumblr.
Steven Yeun: Yeah, but I don’t consider myself a fashion connoisseur. It’s more about my OCD design standpoint: I really like order and clean lines. I read fashion blogs, but I especially love The Sartorialist because it captures more than just a person’s clothes. Clothes say a lot about people and how they want to present themselves. When you take the time to put yourself together, for example, it shows respect for the other people you’re going to see that day.
You were born in South Korea but raised in Troy, Michigan. How did your upbringing influence your personal style?
We come from a farming family that wasn’t super-wealthy, so it’s all about humility. Some people say you have to own it, but I just can’t do flashy stuff. I’m attracted to muted colors — blacks, browns, blues. I want to look put-together, but I don’t want to draw too much attention to myself.
What else is important to you when putting together an outfit?
Comfort is key, and I also need to feel confident. For me, that often comes down to Clarks, rolled-up jeans, and a great T-shirt. It’s also about consistency. If I knew people wouldn’t judge me, I might wear the same thing every single day.
You film The Walking Dead in the Atlanta area. Has any Southern style rubbed off on you?
I’ve definitely gravitated toward places where the Southern urban gentleman shops. There’s an amazing men’s store down there called Sid Mashburn. Sid works at the store and always dresses for the occasion without being too much. It’s effortless and classic. I appreciate looking appropriate for the moment.
What’s the last item of clothing you splurged on?
I went nuts this season on suits, because there were so many red carpet events. I bought some really nice Sid Mashburn suits. I probably didn’t need to go as crazy as I did on the shoes; I bought a pair of suede monk-straps that were not cheap. I don’t really go on shopping binges. In high school I’d save my money to get that one cool piece that I really wanted, and it’s still true to this day. I used to buy trendy things that didn’t last more than a year, but I learned that it’s more important to buy staples, timeless pieces, and things you can maybe pass on to your kids one day.
Your Walking Dead characters are grungy because they don’t get many showers or fresh outfits, but everyone still manages to look pretty attractive.
The dirt might actually help define our cheekbones and jawlines. Our quest as actors is to look as terrible as possible, but it’s also television, so I guess there’s this sheen over it. Going into next season, our goal is look so grotesque that no one can say that we’re attractive.
That could be a challenge. Even during the show’s goriest scenes, you have terrific hair.
Aww, man, I really want my hair to look shitty. But I have this Asian hair that looks like a really slick hairstyle when I push it back out of my face, and then it falls forward in these little waves. I don’t notice while I’m shooting, but when I see it later, I’m like, “What the hell?”
Essential Homme, January/February 2013 issue.