Life

Style Is Substance

Someone reminded me of this old chestnut, I thought it was worth reviving (with updates here and there) for all my pals who might have missed it the first time. As I’ll always maintain: life is better when you look like you give a damn.

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What is your fashion view?

I always say “style over fashion.” What’s fashionable is temporary, while what’s stylish is eternal. Member’s Only jackets were fashionable and now laughable, but a basic, well cut suit is stylish, and always works. Fads have never been interesting to me, I try to gravitate towards things that I won’t look back on in ten years and say “What was I thinking?” or even worse, “Well, I was just dressing like everyone else, so it’s OK.” The old saying is “Trend is the death of the individual.” Those are words that I live by.

How do you describe your style?

I’m into a sort of perpetual business casual look with a creative slant. A few years ago, I stopped wearing jeans and T-shirts pretty much entirely. Now, there’s nothing wrong with jeans and T-shirts if that’s you. If I decided to fight that battle, I would be facing down a huge percentage of the human race. But for me, closing in on forty, I want to communicate that I’m a different person now than I was in my teens and twenties. Back then, I was heavily into Rockabilly and working a 50’s juvenile delinquent angle. A lot of denim, a lot of leather. Fun for that age, but best left behind at this point in my life, I think.

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I always go for the basics first and build personal flourishes around them, and don’t mind faithful stand-bys. Best example: Years ago, I found a style of pants that Wrangler makes that are everything I ever wanted in a pair of pants. They’re very fitted, they have a crease you could shave your face with that doesn’t bang out in the wash, you wouldn’t know that they’re Wranglers if I didn’t tell you, they’re extremely durable and comfortable, and they come in black. I always wear black. So I have accumulated around eight pairs in slightly different dimensions, and they’re all I wear.

I try to always look sharp and wish everyone would, because I think the world deserves to see you at your best. I always hear people say “I just want to be comfortable,” but I’m not comfortable leaving the house without being presentable. I think the sweat suit industry has done an incredible job of convincing people that if they aren’t basically wearing their pajamas perpetually, they’re being tortured. I’m only comfortable if I’ve done the best I could with what I have to work with to put the best version of me out in the world on any given day. I think not making that simple consideration verges on being disrespectful.

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Who is your fashion icon?

At the risk of revealing myself as a huge geek, Harrison Ford as Han Solo from the Star Wars movies was a big sartorial influence from childhood all the way to now. If you ask the common person what he wore throughout the movies, they will probably say he always had the same thing on. That’s not the case! As every dork worthy of their DVD (or BluRay, whatever) collection will tell you, there were big differences in his outfits through each movie- the key was that the character always wore things that were characteristic of him. He’s got the parameters set, and he stays inside of them. Nothing wrong with a personal uniform…so long as it’s truly personal.

What are your favorite pieces?

There’s so many little bits and pieces, things that I wore before and wouldn’t again but recall fondly. I currently have four or five pairs of black boots in different styles, in my life I’ve probably had a dozen. One of those are a pair of harness boots that I’ve had for over 20 years that came from a trip to Mexico. They’ve been everywhere that I’ve been. If they could talk, I would be in trouble.

From the waist down, I tend to keep what I put on very simple. Shirts are where I have more fun. I like button up shirts in different prints, I’m always looking for something that conveys an Op Art effect. I recently figured out that you can buy buttons with Op Art patterns on them, the kind of Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely trippy stuff I’ve always been mystified by.  I have different ones on all my suit jackets. You can find suit jackets that were probably worn very rarely second hand at extremely low prices, it’s great. Men these days buy a suit, wear it once or twice, put it in a closet, forget about it until it doesn’t fit them anymore or they die. I get them for a few bucks and wear the hell out of them. There’s people who have sworn to me they can’t afford to dress sharp. There’s nothing to that, you just have to shop. No one with ten dollars cash in their pocket can get away with telling me that they can’t afford to dress right. Go to Goodwill. You’ll be OK.

I have a couple of peacoats that I love to wear during the winter. One is an actual Naval issue that came from a military surplus store. I used to tease and give people a hard time about having knockoffs instead, until one day when I was wearing it, an elderly fella in a RETIRED NAVY cap asked me when I served. I felt about 5 inches tall. The coat might have been authentic, but I sure wasn’t! I got a more angular one from Macy’s after that, and only wear the real one when it’s very cold out.

I’m into turtlenecks when it’s chilly and, although it’s risky and a major faux pas if you get it wrong, I like Aloha Shirts during the summer months. I’ll stick my neck out for that one. I just won’t wear anything with words on it or pictures of beer bottles or hot rods or any of that jive.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my huge Ray Ban glasses. I’ve been called a hipster because of them, but I ask you: Is Michael Caine a hipster?

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They were recently destroyed in a car crash, and a dear friend bought me another, identical pair. It’s been said that I’m afraid of change. I would say that I don’t mind it, so long as it was my idea and I considered it very carefully.

Where is your favorite place to shop?

You know, I go all over. I’m not above getting shirts from Target or even Wal-Mart. The way I wear them, what I’ll match them with, you would never know. It’s all about weaving a tapestry. Nothing I have was very expensive; I actually really enjoy getting things cheap. I like to hit Unique Thrift every now and then, never leave empty handed. Nitty Gritty is a fantastic store. I treat myself to a trip there a couple times a year. Always get, at the very least, a pocket square for around a buck and a Playboy magazine from somewhere in the sixties. A lot of my inspiration comes from the ads for clothes in those. Again, style is timeless.

What do you like to do with your free time?

I try to keep busy enough that I essentially have none. I write for fun and profit, and since that’s so isolating for a social creature like myself, I work full time engaging with the public for the Voice-Tribune and Modern Louisville. Any day I’m not doing something, I’ll line up some time catching up with friends, getting into something or other. My pals are a very disparate group of people, no two of them dress alike. All together, it’s a band of misfits. I think one of the nicest things I could say for anyone is that they dress like themselves. Personal style is sacrosanct, no matter what you’re doing.

 

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