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The strange and very niche world of Blackbird Spyplane

3. Blackbird
Jonah Weiner (left) and Erin Wylie, the creators of the newsletter Blackbird Spyplane, in California, November 2022. (Photo: NYTimes)
Blackbird Spyplane is a newsletter written for enthusiasts: rabbit-hole shoppers who stockpile extremely specific saved searches on eBay as if it is a competitive sport. There is nothing chill or low-key about it, other than a core appreciation for the kind of crunchy outdoor apparel once associated with chill and low-key people.اضافة اعلان

This is largely on account of the newsletter’s intense voice, which may read like a parody of a neurotically online men’s style writer — things he likes are “dope”, “fire”, “tasty”, “vibey”, and “mad cool”, sometimes in all-caps — but is closer to a hyperbolic version of the inner monologue of Jonah Weiner, a journalist who started Blackbird Spyplane in May 2020 with Erin Wylie, a talent scout in industrial design for Apple.

Beneath that overstimulated voice, though, is sincerity. A newsletter that began as an outlet for “unbeatable recon” — fashion, culture, and décor recommendations — and interviews with creative types about personal style has increasingly become a space for Weiner, who typically writes the newsletter, and Wylie, who edits it, to indulge their obsessions.

Blackbird Spyplane is hosted on Substack, which does not release specific subscriber numbers, other than to say that the newsletter has “tens of thousands” of people who subscribe to the free version, while “thousands” pay at least $5 monthly for additional content.

In the first year, the pair hunted for novelty merch and vintage ceramics and asked famous people about their niche shopping interests. They still do that, but they also publish longer essays on male hair loss and car paint jobs; advice on how to make friends and “cop” responsibly (or not at all). Everything is still illustrated with deliberately chaotic Netstalgic graphics.

“When it comes to style and fashion coverage, so much of it these days feels like marketing,” Weiner said. “There’s a lot of people who like the internet best when it feels handcrafted and misshapen and idiosyncratic.”

Yet while the newsletter has attracted female readers and Q&A subjects, its content has long come across as “dude-leaning”, as Wylie said, or “male-coded”, as Vox once put it. Absorbing the voice can feel, at times, like watching Dr Jekyll (if he were a socialist) overcome Mr Hyde (if he were a hypebeast), with one dressed in vintage L.L. Bean and the other in Homme Plissé Issey Miyake.

Last week, Blackbird Spyplane became a little less dude-leaning, with the introduction of a new vertical by Wylie, focused more on women’s fashion. It is called Concorde, in keeping with the supersonic jet theme, and is written in her voice: casual, loose, because anything else “would feel really put on”, Wylie said a few days before the first edition was sent to all subscribers.

But the Blackbird Spyplane voice is not everything to them. They believe their readers respond more to the energy behind it, “the notion of: This thing is going to show up in my inbox, and it’s going to just be fun”, Weiner said.


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