You know Isaiah Mustafa from those wildly popular Old Spice television commercials — a bare-chested, fresh-from-the-shower Adonis who extols the virtues of body wash in stentorian tones. The man has charm, the man has six-pack abs and, ladies, he even has "two tickets to that thing you like." He's "the man your man could smell like."
But on a sweltering autumn day in the San Fernando Valley, Isaiah Mustafa is wheeling two garbage cans the length of his driveway, a task that's complicated by the energetic pair of Rhodesian ridgebacks careening across his path.
Mustafa greets the reporter parking in front of his Van Nuys abode with a nod and the words "Hey, man" in a voice that does not boom like a thunderclap. His handshake does not feel chiseled from granite. The former pro football player turned actor is not, at any point in the conversation, "on a horse."
Instead of a towel around the waist, the 36-year-old is wearing straight-leg AG Adriano Goldschmied jeans, John Varvatos distressed leather shoes and a plaid Caulfield Preparatory button-front shirt with sleeves rolled up to the crooks of his elbows. On his left wrist is a silver Omega Seamaster watch. On the inside of his right forearm is a tattoo of a spider the size of a computer mouse.
These things are worth noting because that stint in the steamy showers of our collective conscience has proven so popular that Mustafa's career is taking off, and we're likely to see a lot more of him than we are of his towel-clad, sail-boating, horseback-riding, smooth-talking alter ego. Since the commercial debuted at the beginning of this year, he's signed a talent deal with NBC and is slated to appear in two films scheduled for 2011 release —the Jennifer Aniston comedy "Horrible Bosses" and the next installment of Tyler Perry's "Madea" franchise.
Another pro footballer turned actor, Terry Crews, has followed him as an Old Spice pitchman. But the Emmy-winning commercial made Mustafa the embodiment of men's grooming, and we wanted his take on style.
When it comes to fashion and style, the world sees you as a blank slate, so what do you wear when you trade in your towel?
I like to keep things really, really simple. Most of the time, I'm a jeans and T-shirt guy. Today I'm dressed pretty much the way I always do — except this shirt is a lot more pattern than usual for me. I like AG jeans and Hudson Jeans.
Where do you buy your clothes?
Honestly, I do most of my shopping online because it's so much easier. I used to go to J Ransom when it was a store but it's only a website now. I check out stuff at Revolve.com, and every once in awhile I'll go into American Rag.
What about when you have to dress up?
I like my suits slim-fitting — I'm very particular about that. I wear a Hugo Boss suit, I have a Tom Ford suit that's pretty bold, and I've got this really cool Vivienne Westwood suit hanging in my closet. I really like her high collars, but there's not really many places you can wear that. And I've got a bunch of Zegna dress shirts that are perfectly comfortable and crisp.
Do you have a style signature like French cuffs or pocket squares or something you never leave the house without?
I'll definitely put a pocket square in if I'm wearing a suit.
Do you have a style icon?
I look to James Bond; 007 always wore those very form-fitting, almost metallic gray-looking suits. His look was always so clean and simple. I usually don't wear a watch, but James Bond wears an Omega and I've had this on my dream board [Mustafa points to his wristwatch], so I recently bought one. It doesn't have any diamonds; it's not gold. It's simple and silver.
You recently got back from doing a personal appearance in Canada — what do you wear in those in-between situations?
They are these kind of 3 1/2 -hour-long meet-and-greet events where I shake a lot of hands and pose for pictures. I'll usually wear dark jeans, brown shoes and a casual shirt with a collar — you know those seaman's shirts, the ones that have the scoop necks and the [horizontal] white and blue stripes? I wear shirts with those stripes but in dark colors.
What kind of reactions do people have when they meet you?
People are stunned that I'm not constantly in character. If they want me to say a line from the commercial I have no problem with that. It's when they ask things like: "Can I jump on your back?" or "Can I ride you like a horse?" where I have to say: "How about a handshake or a hug?" That's a bit much.
People actually ask that?
Girls do that a lot.
Do they give you the sniff test too?
I don't wear the Old Spice aftershave, but I use the body wash and people seem to really be disappointed that they can't smell it on me. It does go away after awhile, but they want me to smell like I've just showered.
Since we're on the topic, has the ad campaign changed your personal grooming regimen?
Before, I was pretty much a soap and water guy. I'm not saying I'm frugal, but it's nice not to have to go shopping and buy deodorant and body wash and all that. I've got an entire closet full of Old Spice products.
What about male grooming and skin care outside of that?
The only other thing I use is a moisturizer for my arms. It's made by Lush, and it's this stuff called Dream Cream. I got it as a gift and it lasts forever. And I only get my hair cut when I go to New York by this guy at Astor Place Hair named Marcello. If I could ever afford to bring him places with me, I would. He's an awesome dude. In between, I mimic what he's done with my own clippers.
"The Old Spice Guy" was among the pop culture Halloween costume choices this year. Was there any temptation to grab a towel and just go trick-or-treating as yourself?
Ah, that would be too easy. Alison Haislip — from "Attack of the Show!" — told me I should dress up as the Terry Crews version of the Old Spice Guy. … but I'm not sure I could [have] run around all night in a Speedo.