Urbane Inquiry presents…
Chase Akers, blogger & musicianPhotography by Camille Blinn
Nashville native Chase Akers is redefining what it means to dress like a teenager. The 17-year-old opts for ties instead of T-shirts and tailored trousers instead of torn jeans. Behind a love for all things old and classic, Akers talks to Urbane about American work wear and why caring about how you dress is important.
How has living in Nashville influenced your style?
Living in Nashville all my life, I absorb many different ideals of style every day. Nashville is full of culture – it’s not the horses, cows, and country dives that the media has made it out to be. It has a strong emphasis on work wear and the hunt for vintage gems. I have grown to love what has been pre-loved: those beat up jeans or that pair of perfectly destroyed wingtips. Though my style has changed over the years, I will always learn and interpret what Nashville has to offer: timeless, yet ever-changing, style and culture
What are some difficulties you’ve encountered with finding clothes since you said you have a smaller frame? How do you overcome those difficulties?
To begin, I love thrifting - I usually never buy my clothes new unless I absolutely have to. In the event that I don’t find anything my size at a thrift store, I move to the kid’s section. You would be surprised what kind of great finds there are in the kid’s section. I do, indeed, have a very small frame. So, if I need basics that fit me well, I will go buy new pieces. My basics include white V-neck tees, white oxfords and gray or black suit pants. I feel as if these basics are always worth the money, so I will always go digging for my perfect size. Or if I must, I will have them tailored. Honestly, the biggest difficulty is finding pieces (shirts and pants) that fit out the door of the store. I’ve learned to focus on what will not shrink and on the other hand, what I can grow into if need be.
How do you stand out with the way you dress, especially for your age?
I have found that many kids my age have simply stopped caring about how they dress. I go to the movies, a concert or a club and see guys dressed in cargo shorts, tennis shoes, and ribbed tanks tops that are too tight. I’ve been taught to pay attention to detail, to keep myself clean and put-together. So, my two pence is that instead of slapping on whatever band T-shirt is lying on the floor the next morning, put on a button-up instead. Maybe next time, try warm ironing your jeans or wearing a pair of lace up brogues instead of New Balance. I stand out by focusing on detail and making sure everything fits. It’s that easy.
What draws you to military-inspired clothing & décor?
Military-inspired clothing, culture, and décor remind me that the American man was born with an innate work ethic – a drive to succeed and prosper. Military-inspired clothing, for me, offers a sense of pride, a sense of a hard day’s work as it is finished. Military décor, on the other hand, reminds of a time when things were made with love, with extreme attention to detail. I love how the 1940s era military décor is simple and streamlined – designed to do what it is made for. Nothing else. Anything inspired by the men who worked with their hands and wiped sweat off their brows is good in my book.
What is your most cherished piece of clothing or accessory?
Oh. That’s quite a tough question. If something is to be my favorite piece or accessory, it must be durable, it must fit well, and it must last a long time. First, I have 4 or 5 button up oxfords from my favorite clothing boutique in Nashville called Tidwell and Perryman . I love absolutely everything that T&P produces – from homemade tank tops, to classic Ivy ties and oxfords shirts. Second, I have a favorite pair of jeans. Now, jeans must fit perfectly for me to purchase them. And I believe I have found my winner – my Barton rigids from Nashville’s own Imogene and Willie. These jeans can withstand anything, and I mean anything. My favorite accessories would have to be my gold Timex from ca. 1955, my black Zippo, and my classic Ivy striped ties.
What do you think you’ll dress like in 10 years?
10 years from now. 27 years old. Classic style has and always will influence me. So, I see myself focusing on classic menswear, while still adding my own subtleties and details to give the looks individual character. Classic meets modern. The rules can be broken once you learn them.
What did you wear today?
I dressed down today, to be honest. I wore a vintage gym t-shirt from school in Nashville, my favorite pair of jeans from Imogene + Willie, Polo canvas lace-ups boots – along with my favorite Timex I got from the Nashville flea market with my girlfriend.
Urbane Inquiry presents…
Tiffany Rogers, knot by TIFFA
(In photograph: Tiffany Rogers & partner in know, Cory Thompson)
After a futile hunt for a unique bow tie, Tiffany Rogers decided to bring a fresh new female perspective to menswear accessories. Based out of Baltimore and New York City, Rogers and her friend and business partner Cory Thompson created knot by TIFFA to revive the menswear staple in a wearable way. Rogers talks about her creative process, drawing inspiration from songs playing on her iPod and how men can tell their story with a simple bow tie.
How did knot by TIFFA begin?
It all started with a Christmas present.
My best friend and partner in know, Cory Thompson, lives in NYC. I was there with him until I made the move to Baltimore. This past Christmas I decided to get him a bow tie—we both share a love for men’s fashion, and he is brave enough to try new things. I was so disappointed in the selection of bow ties. I searched and searched until I found this vintage clip-on thin bow tie, maroon with polka dots.
After I gave it to him, we started talking about how hard it was to find cute bow ties. It wasn’t long until I figured I would try making one myself. Three weeks later, I had my first pattern cut and bow tie sewn. Cory promptly stole it for his own wardrobe. Throughout the next couple of weeks, figuring out how to make a bow tie grew into knot by TIFFA.
How does music influence the aesthetic of knot by TIFFA?
Music does more than influence our aesthetic. It inspires it. Each knot is named for a song—a piece of music that has made me dance or laugh, calms me down, makes me sing, reminds me of friends, exes, school, travel, etc.
I think it all began with figure skating. I was a competitive figure skater and synchronized skater growing up. Cory still makes me do tricks when we go ice-skating in Central Park, and I’m still competing on Team Delaware Adult Synchronized Skating Team.
As knot started developing, Cory suggested we use that connection. After all, the two things we spend most of our time talking about are our love for clothes and our love for music. It turns out we weren’t the first people to think of this. When we began researching how men’s fashion developed into an industry, it turns out it came from the development of the music industry—the Mod Movement, Carnaby Street and the Peacock Revolution. We thought, why continue to think of these things as separate? For us, it’s a chicken and egg thing. Which came first? It’s not important, but what is important is that they came from the same place.
How do you bring your female perspective to the creative side of the company?
I am not the typical girly girl. I tried to cry during Terms of Endearment, but instead I ended up finding tissues for Cory while silently judging him. And while I don’t put much stock in gender roles, I do think there are things I bring to the table as a woman.
I call myself a multitasker. Cory diagnosed me with ADD. Either way, I have at least a dozen or so tasks going simultaneously, and I haven’t met many men who can work this way. This has always translated into my work and school life as well, and knot is no exception.
I want knot by TIFFA to be fresh take on men’s accessories. I want it to be brazenly music-inspired. In the future, I want it to be painstakingly socially responsible. I want to draw from hip hop culture, hipster culture, urban culture, and gay culture. I want to knot to be charitable. I want the highest level of craftsmanship. And I want all of these things to contribute to a consistent brand image. I know knot by TIFFA can be all these things because I can balance all these needs. Can a man manage that? I don’t know. Perhaps.
Your bowties aren’t the traditional black or plaid ties. Why do you want to encourage men to wear more color & pattern?
When I put on my clothes for the day, I want there to be a message. I don’t want anyone else’s message to be the same as mine. If a man wants to wear a bow tie, his choices are severely limited, and therefore the message he can communicate is severely confined.
The Peacock Revolution, the men’s fashion movement of the 60’s and 70’s born from the Mod Movement in London, was about individuality and self-expression and came from a greater cultural revolution. Individuality is again reigning as the only way to get noticed. Generally, knot by TIFFA supports this. We’d even like to help everyone on their quest. That’s why we call ourselves the next strut in the Peacock Revolution.
What music is currently inspiring you?
Bruce Springsteen’s “The River,” Patrick Wolf’s “Lupercalia,” Big Sean’s “Finally Famous,” Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast,” Beyonce’s “4,” Big Boi’s “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty,” Fang Island’s self-titled album, The Wheeler Brothers’ “Portraits,” and Battles’ “Gloss Drop”
Who are your favorite best dressed musicians?
Janelle Monae, Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq, Zooey Deschanel, Mark Ronson,
What did you wear today?
It was so hot today. I just wore a Plenty by Tracy Reese cotton jersey tribal stripe frock with nude Seychelle pumps
Urbane Inquiry presents…
Kyle Moshrefi, stylist & blogger
(Photography by Amanda Smith at www.another-smith.com)
Kyle Moshrefi, a J.Crew stylist and Everlane freelancer, takes menswear-inspired clothing to another level. She prefers plaid bow ties around her neck over lace ribbon bows in her hair. With a classic pair of leather oxfords ready to go, this San Francisco blogger shares her style inspirations and how women can make menswear their own.
Why do you prefer men’s clothing over women’s?
For me it’s just been how I’ve always dressed. I grew up with two older brothers and got all of their hand-me-downs right from the beginning. I mean, that’s not why I dress the way I do. It’s just what feels normal and natural for me now. I would feel silly in heels and a dress. Trousers and oxfords just seem to suit me better. Also, none of the clothes I wear are actual men’s clothes. Everything I own is women’s clothing—just menswear inspired. I am way too petite to fit into anything made for a man.
What are some new designers on your radar right now?
I wouldn’t say there is anyone new on my radar per se. It’s more like I am paying closer attention to some already well-known designers. I’m really into the whole Thom Browne style of wearing my pants right now, you know, the no socks and high-water look. Sid Mashburn does it, too. These guys are big on having no break in their trousers and I’m really digging that. It just looks crisp and clean. I think Michael Bastian is also doing some great things and will continue to get better as the seasons go by. It bums me out that I can’t fit into any of their clothes.
What are your summer must-have items?
Definitely a pair of boat shoes, lightweight button shirts, and V-neck tees.
As a stylist, what is the most common mistake you see men making?
A lot of men wear their clothes too big. I think for most of them it isn’t intentional—they just don’t know what the fit is supposed to be like on certain items because no one has ever told them before. I think a lot of them also have an issue of not dressing age appropriately. Again, it is probably not on purpose. I think men have a hard time asking for help when they are shopping for clothes, so they just wing it. That’s why having online forums, like Tumblr and Urbane, are great. It gives guys a way to see what other guys are doing, and it allows them to ask questions.
Who inspires the way you dress?
That is a hard question. I don’t think there is any one person out there that inspires the way I dress. I think I take little bit from a lot of different people. There are the big boys, like Thom Browne, Sid Mashburn, and Ralph Lauren who definitely have an appeal to me, but then there are people I see on The Sartorialist or various other street wear blogs who I gather inspiration from as well. I think I lean towards the classic Americana look just because it feels so effortless, but still crisp and dressed up. I like to gather ideas from the different outfits I see people wearing (whether in real life or online) and then give it my own spin so as to personalize it and make it work for me.
Which do you prefer - ties or bow ties? Why?
I have no preference honestly. I usually decide at the last minute based on what I am already wearing. Sometimes ties can be annoying underneath a sweater because of the little pooch it gives towards your waist, so on those days I will probably opt for a bow tie. Bow ties are fun, and I definitely like to play around with them as much as I can. It’s funny. I think people aren’t used to seeing women wearing a tie or a bow tie, so I get a lot of compliments when I do wear one. I’m not doing it for the compliments, but it is always nice to see people embracing women who wear menswear-inspired clothes.
What did you wear today?
Today I am wearing my brown Italian leather oxfords that I purchased in Paris last summer, J.Crew charcoal grey slim fitting wool trousers, a navy ribbon belt with a red and white fleur de lis crest pattern from Sid Mashburn, a blue and white striped button shirt from Lacoste, a charcoal grey button vest from Theory that matches my trousers perfectly, and a vintage red striped tie. I felt like getting a little fancy today.
Urbane Inquiry presents…
Marlon Gobel , designer
After positions with designers, such as Thom Browne and Michael Bastian, designer Marlon Gobel is lifting up menswear rules that force men to the look the same everyday. His latest fall/2011 show featured elegant suits, mother of pearl buttons and eye-catching patterns. As one of the most elegant and unique designers of today, Gobel talks about messy bow ties, wearable art and how keep your tie from falling in your soup.
How would you describe the Marlon Gobel man?
Guys either dress metrosexual, or they don’t care about dressing. I’d like to make that over. I think it’s horrible that straight guys, gay guys, any guys have to sit there and look at the clothes on the rack and think ‘What will people think of me?’ unlike girls who change their clothes every day and take on the spirit of their clothes. Guys don’t. Guys are encouraged to dress as mundanely as possible and be as safe as possible. I think the only reason that happens now is because every major designer has decided to pull back and give guys either a khaki, gray or navy option.
I think that my guy wants something unique and cool, and he wants to feel special but doesn’t want to be the center of attention. He’s rebelliously athletic. He has a man glamorousness to him. He has a bit of flair, but you still see him through the clothes. He’s wearing Marlon Gobel, but he doesn’t look like Marlon Gobel. He’s still Scott, Tom or Chris. When he’s buying my clothes, he’s not buying it because he needs another blazer or another pair of pants. You go to Old Navy or Banana Republic for that stuff. He’s buying something he thinks is unique, special and cool.
What are your wardrobe staples?
I think every guy should own a beautiful set of ties - a bow tie and a regular tie. A bow tie for more formal occasions. There’s something really cool, even if you mess it up, about a bow tie. If you look at some of my models, the bow ties are a little skewed and tied together like a mess. It’s very cool. It’s like ‘I care, but I don’t care so much.’ It’s very masculine in that way. Every guy needs a beautifully tailored jacket. When a guy is in a suit that’s too big for him, he looks like he’s wearing his grandpa’s clothes. There’s a transformation when a guy wears his size, not the size he thinks he is.
What are some of the valuable lessons you learned working with other designers?
First of all, any great artist or designer should work as an apprentice with other masters. The great thing about being an apprentice is that you really learn how to do it in the best way from the person who is best at what they do. It was like taking a master class.
Thom Browne’s clothing was beautifully made. I would sit with the tailors and learned how to make clothes in a way you don’t normally take the time to learn. It was all about quality. But it was all gray. It was all very strict.
I wanted to smash the things I learned together to create a line where the clothes told a story and had a meaning but were totally understandable. They could be an electric purple pair of trousers, but they’re corduroys. You wear them with a polo. You have a look without trying too hard. Everyone tells you that guys don’t like color. I’m going to tell you that is so not the case. Guys love color. They just need someone to say it’s OK.
Your last collection’s pieces were so identifiable and unique. What was your inspiration and thought process behind it?
It started off with guys being strangely secretive. Guys like to keep weird secrets, secret handshakes, secret codes. The show started off with letting go of your secrets because they’re not as embarrassing as you think they are. That got me into the idea of a secret society. It’s a place to go hang out with other guys, but also a place to have a secret order, but it’s mostly about camaraderie. I wanted to make a show like that. Guys love getting compliments on what they’re wearing. They want to wear the same thing as the dude next to him because he looks cool.
How did your runway show come to feature those bold Christian Louboutin shoes?
I would go to the Christian Louboutin stores and see these spectacular pieces of art in the windows. They are so iconic. We all know what they look like. When women wear Louboutins, she’s so proud of her shoes. No one cares about her dress, just her shoes. So I thought to myself ‘Hey, I would want a pair of shoes that make me feel that cool.’ Dress shoes don’t have to be your dad’s dress shoes. So Christian put bells on the shoes. As men walked in their beautiful blazers, they got the attention they wanted without having to ask for it. It was beautiful to see those red soles on guys.
As you mentioned, you have some hand painted pieces in your collection. How did you come to intertwine menswear with that medium of art?
My job as a designer is to create silhouettes guys feel good in. But when you walk through Bloomingdales, you see every company makes a velvet blazer. I have this 1970s velvet painting in storage, and the paint gives the velvet this incredible beauty. It gives guys a way to wear art, but it’s not avant garde. They’re not pushing the envelope. Guys wear Ed Hardy. They’re not afraid of rhinestones and color. We wanted to give them these great story moments on these clothes.
What were your favorite pieces in your last collection?
I would have to say the hand painted blazers were my favorite, especially with the Louboutins to go with those blazers. One of my favorite looks was the opening look, which was a velvet plaid, but worn out in areas. It looked like a really preppy camouflage. There’s something really beautiful about it because it was really unique, but really not over the top.
What do you dislike about modern menswear?
I dislike the rules in modern menswear, like if you wear color, you’re gay. When you wear the same dirty T-shirt, unfortunately people are going to judge you. They’re going to think you probably live in a dirty house and don’t take a shower. Dressing beautifully doesn’t have to be a luxury. You don’t have to have 30 shirts, just maybe three great shirts you know you’re going to look good in every time. But what’s wrong with menswear is that it caters too much to what is going to sell the best or the fastest.
What did you wear today?
I wore my own trousers. I wore a tie tucked in because I’m an athletic dude running around. It’s always flopping around flying over my shoulder. If you tuck it in your shirt, it doesn’t fall in your soup, and it doesn’t get caught in the sewing machine or paper shredder. It’s been also rainy so I also wore a rain-proof blazer. It’s a very practical jacket. I also wore my Louboutin sneakers in the rain. Why not, right?
Urbane Inquiry presents…
After about a year and a half of blogging, Chicago blogger & engineer Tommy Valentino is showing his readers that men who are a size 30 waist aren’t the only ones who can have fun with style. With a classic style and uniform of Levi’s 501 jeans, Valentino is serving up inspiration for men of all sizes.
What are your frustrations about menswear?
My frustrations stem from the difficulty of finding cool pieces that fit me without alteration. My thighs are pretty big (hence the blog title and theme), and chest is large relative to my waist, so a lot of nice stuff designed for thinner men simply will not work for me. My feet also measure to be a U.S. 12.5, shoes, which are not widely made (most brands will make half sizes up to 12 but then skip straight to 13).
How do you overcome them?
I try to find what works for me. I size up then alter to take in extra fabric. I’ve had stuff made-to-measure with moderate success (but it can get to be expensive). For footwear, it’s knowing the brands, taking gambles and returning if it doesn’t work out, etc.
Whose style do you admire?
Almost every actor during the Golden Age of Hollywood, that one substitute professor I had in college, Alain Delon, bloggers, old men on the street, pretty much every woman who isn’t wearing yoga pants.
What has influenced your style?
Primarily, the Internet has been a huge influencer in the way I present myself. While I love Chicago, I don’t consider it a fashion center of the world, so the Internet is my window into what’s being done and what’s possible. There’s really a burgeoning crowd of young men interested in dressing more mindfully right now, and social media resources like Twitter, Tumblr, and traditional blogs are bringing like-minds together to join in the conversation.
Offline, film and print have influenced me in the past. I think a lot of men who are into clothes (myself included) will tell you that GQ magazine played a big role in at least priming their interest and sending them down the path of dressing mindfully and developing a sense of style. The ABCs of Mens Fashion by Sir Hardy Aimes is fantastic and funny, albiet somewhat dated, glossary of menswear that I can say gave me a bit of influence.
What are some ways you think men could dress age appropriate?
Age appropriateness in styles of dress is interesting because I’ve seen young men dress older, and older men dress more youthfully to widely-varying degrees of success. I think it depends on the particular man. In general, I think men dress too youthfully. At least where I’m at in the country/world, I think most men could benefit by looking at one’s peers’ style of dress and upping the formality one or two notches while being conscious of the way clothes fit.
What is your favorite clothing item you own & why?
My Levi’s 501 shrink-to-fit jeans. When worn in, they’re as comfortable as sweatpants, and the wear is completely personal. Also, my first pair of 501s more-or-less marked the beginning of my interest in clothes and presenting myself in a conscious way.
What did you wear today?
White oxford cloth button down shirt, floral silk tie, khaki chino sport coat, light blue oxford cloth pocket square (straight fold), beat-up jeans, dark brown suede double monk strap shoes.
When we met Ariel and Shimon Ovadia at the Ace Hotel lobby in New York City, both were wearing new items from Ovadia & Sons’ fall line. The Brooklyn twin brothers are taking menswear back to a time of classic tailoring and timeless pieces, especially with the recent opening of their online shop.
So, we took off our coats, sipped cocktails and chatted with the menswear world’s most promising designers.
We wanted to bring other perspectives about personal style & menswear to our readers. So we’re starting a new series of interviews with designers, shop owners, stylists and people with overall great style - men & women, all with different views on menswear. We already have people lined up for future interviews, & we cannot wait to get started on them!
The first one will be posted tomorrow morning, & it’s a terrific one to get us started! We’re so excited for this new feature on Urbane, so we hope all of our amazing followers will be excited, too.
Thank you all for following Urbane, & we hope it is keeping you inspired.
The Urbane Menswear family