Paul Lukas is a journalist, storyteller, and media artist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Fortune, Gourmet, Saveur, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN The Magazine, Spin, Glamour, The New Republic, and The Financial Times, among many other publications and websites. He currently works as a columnist for ESPN.com, where he writes “Uni Watch,” the sports world’s foremost (okay, only) column devoted to uniform design. He also maintains a daily Uni Watch blog and has had a wide range of other projects, including the following:
• Naming Wrongs is a line of T-shirts that pushes back against the selling of stadium and arena naming rights to corporate interests. It began in 2009 as a collaboration with the clothing brand No Mas and the musician Rev. Vince Anderson, and ran through 2013. The project was then reactivated in 2017 under the auspices of Uni Watch.
• Permanent Record began as an inquiry into the stories behind a batch of 1920s and ’30s report cards that were found in a discarded file cabinet, and has now expanded to become a broader examination of found objects and the stories they have to tell.
• Key Ring Chronicles is a crowd-sourced project that explores the stories behind objects that people keep on their key rings.
• Beer Frame: The Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption, a zine published from 1993 through 2000, looked at consumer culture in excruciatingly close detail. Its first six issues were compiled into the book Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted, From the Everyday to the Obscure (Crown, 1997).
• My Pet Troll documents the relationship between a writer/webmaster and his most persistent and bellicose troll.
• Gromm•It is an art project that explores the juxtapositions resulting from the installation of metal grommets in unlikely surfaces, especially foodstuffs.
• The Candela Structures, a collaboration with the architect Kirsten Hively, documents the surprisingly complicated history of a set of super-cool fiberglass structures in Queens, New York.
• One-Man Focus Group, a weekly column that ran on The New Republic’s website in 2013, took a close look at the worlds of consumer culture, design, and branding.
• The Forewords, a collaboration with the writer Liz Clayton, are a lecture/slideshow “band” that has opened for the Magnetic Fields and performed while sitting in very high chairs, among other career highlights.
• Show & Tell was a live storytelling series in which participants were encouraged to bring an object of personal significance and talk about it for up to three minutes.
• Fire Wayne Hagin Already! chronicled the on-air foibles of a particularly incompetent baseball radio broadcaster and advocated for his dismissal.
• Lost in America, a monthly travel column focusing on road-tripping, Americana, regional subcultures, and the like, appeared in Money magazine from 1998 through 2004. Unfortunately, most of the entries are no longer available on the internet.
• While not a distinct project per se, these articles written for the now-dormant design website re:Form all explore slightly eccentric topics, such as the design of membership cards, things that make a “click!” when they snap shut, and giant fiberglass animals.
Lukas has been described as “a minutiae fetishist” and “an obsessive esotericist,” descriptions that refer to his penchant for finding unlikely topics, deconstructing them in extremely close detail, and sussing out surprisingly engaging storylines along the way. Whereas most people see the Wizard of Oz, Lukas is much more interested in the man behind the curtain. Over the past 20-plus years, Lukas has used this sensibility to create media projects covering a wide variety of subject areas. He’s also appeared extensively on TV and radio (including two appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien).
Lukas lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is left-handed, does not have a middle name, and is near-pathologically averse to the color purple.
(Photo by the wonderful Lori Baker.)