Jack Guinness is a Model, Writer, Founder of The Queer Bible and Contributing Editor of GQ.
I met Jack Guinness at Harry’s Bar behind Harrods, with the model having just done a talk for the Harrods staff about issues surrounding, and facing the LGBTQIA+ community in 2020. “I left a couple of them misty eyed, which is a plus!” he laughs. Not a typical day at the office for your average model. But Jack is not your run of the mill clothes horse. “I went to Cambridge University, to study English literature, which is not something I often tell people, because no one wants a model who can read!” Jack is funny, very funny. “When I got scouted as a model, I had long hair and a beard, and there were only 2 models in the world with long hair and a beard, so if you wanted one, we had kind of cornered the market! It was also when the worldwide beard craze exploded....I feel kind of responsible for that! Really it was me and Jesus who popularised it.”
Jack’s graduation from New Faces, to mainboard, to special bookings happened with unprecedented speed. The key? “I was lucky to be there at that moment when it wasn't just traditional models being booked for jobs, it was an opening up of fashion, a kind of democratization of the industry. Before, there were gatekeepers of brands who said, ‘you get to be the face of this brand’, ‘we want these type of people to be the people who represent our brand’.” But as we all know, representation in fashion is evolving. Has Social Media played a part in this democratization of fashion? “Yes, What is really exciting about social media is that it gives the audience, the consumer a voice. So they can say, No, I want people who look like me. I want more diverse casting, I want to have different body shapes, I want to have different genders, I want to have gay people.”
Jack Guinness quickly became synonymous with the UK men’s fashion scene, building a reputation as a menswear expert with a classic look. “I really wanted to carve a niche for myself as someone who was really interested in tailoring, and heritage brands. I would stick to a blueprint”. It worked, and soon he was working regularly with GQ and the British Fashion Council (The BFC). “For me, becoming aligned with the BFC was great.. I love encouraging new designers, I love nurturing young talent, but I also love our heritage brands. When it comes to menswear (and Basic Rights), he knows what he is talking about. What’s really interesting about Basic Rights, and how I think men shop, and the way they dress, is that they want that Perfect Piece, it is about having a refined wardrobe. It is not about Fashion, which is constantly changing. It is about having that perfect Cuban Shirt, that perfect knit, that perfect pair of trousers. Find that perfect leather jacket, find that perfect t shirt, find that perfect pair of jeans, refine down your wardrobe, until you have just got those basic pieces that are perfect.”
Jack’s relationship with GQ allowed him to further explore writing and presenting, skills he has since capitalized on through his latest endeavor, The Queer Bible. At its heart, The Queer Bible is a collection of true stories, which aim to rewrite Queer people back into history. It is a curation of moving essays curated by Jack with the goal of connecting people within the LGBTQIA+ community, not only to the past, but also to honor each other in the present. How did the Queer Bible come about? “ I remember watching the Oscars, and Sam Smith said that they were the first gay person to win an Oscar, and actually they weren’t and the vitriol on twitter was horrific. Everyone was saying Sam should know their history. And I was like, wait a minute, I don’t know my history. So I went online and I tried to find a resource that could teach me about LGBTQIA+ history and all the websites looked like they were made in the 90’s. And I just thought, this is shit. The gay community is fabulous, and beautiuful and amazing and innovative, and there should be a space that reflects that. These stories should be told, and packaged together in a really exciting way that engages young people.”
Guinness decided then and there that there was something he and his friends could do about it. By asking them to write about their Queer Heroes, The Queer bible became an homage to people like Alan Turing, Anne Lister and E. M Forster, historically important queer people whose ‘queerness’ was often downplayed, or eradicated entirely. “Gay people have always been part of the story, it is just that those stories haven’t been told, either they have been hidden for peoples safety, or hidden because the authorities didn’t want people to know that they [these heroes] were gay or trans. Or those histories had been erased completely. For example, people (the authorities) didn't want everyone to know that Alan Turing was a gay man. They tried to silence and erase stories that have always been there.”
"So you relate to the emotion of the stories, and without realising it you are learning your gay history.” Can we have an example? “I managed to track down Robert Mapplethorpe’s ex, one of his ex’s I think he had many, called David Crowland, and he wrote me a beautiful essay about getting really wasted, going to The Chelsea Hotel, and meeting a young photographer called Robert Mapplethorpe and his then girlfriend Patti Smith. David promptly steals Robert from Patti, leading Robert to create some of the most seminal works of queer art from the last century. So here’s this bit of untold history, that if you know who Robert Mapplethorpe is, you’re like oh fuck, I didn’t know that story. And if you don't know who he is you've got this brilliant narrative that leads you into the history surrounding that story.”
The Queer Bible also puts on events, showcases and workshops. Readers can connect with The Queer Bible in many different ways, including “through our Instagram, where we display works by queer artists, and we do a lot with photographic archives.” Jack is creating a much-needed space where queer people can feel a sense of belonging.
We also talked about the monetisation of Pride, an annual celebration of the queer community whose festivities have picked up both sponsorships and branded marketing materials from huge corporations like Starbucks, Barclays and Levis. “Recently at Pride when I saw massive brands slapping rainbows on things I stopped and thought, what have they got to do with the LGBTQIA+ community? Then I actually realised that ...well alot of their employees are gay, or trans and you could look at it as people cashing in or you could say actually its really important that those people feel heard, and recognised [by the companies they work for].
So does Guinness approve of brands jumping on the Pride bandwagon, or floats? “As long as brands aren't just there for Pride, you know Gays aren’t just for Pride, just like dogs aren’t just for Christmas. As long as I feel like those interactions are meaningful and ongoing, then I don't have a problem with it. I was in New York for World Pride this last summer, and as capitalist and maybe commercial as it was to see every single bank, or food store having rainbow flags in it, as a gay kid who grew up in the 80’s or 90’s, where there was hardly any representation, to see all these mainstream corporations proudly asserting that, whether its lip service or not, they are associated in any way with the gay community, I found that incredibly moving. There is something to be said for visibility. Mainstreaming the marginalised is very important”.
With the Queer Bible, and modelling, you would expect Jack to have his hands full, but he is about to take on more. “I have just been made a contributing editor at GQ, so i'm just working out what that relationship is going to look like, and we are working on some very exciting projects. So definitely more writing, definitely more on camera stuff. It’s really great having been in front of the camera for so long but not being allowed to talk, actually now being able to show my personality. I finally get to show the English Literature degree off!! Now just try and shut me up!”
Follow Jack Guinness here
Follow The Queer Bible here
Learn more about Queer History by following this link to The Queer Bible.
Jack is wearing pieces from The Rubbish Collection