In Portland, Every Day is Casual

Anywhere else in the country, this man is labeled a hippie. In Portland, he could be labeled a certified public accountant.

I was trading messages on Facebook a few weeks back with my friend and former colleague Drew Lyon, who I first met writing for my college’s newspaper. Drew wanted to let me know he was coming to Portland to visit family and see some of his old stomping grounds from the five months he lived here a few years back.

Drew had rightfully assumed I hadn’t become a hipster from my many denouncements of the culture on this here blog. He wrote,

“OK, so you’re not a hipster. I figured. They love their tight jeans, huh? Question is: have you grown the requisite beard yet? I like to call Portland the facial hair capital of America, one of the few places where you can grow a beard and not be labeled a hippie. Plenty of hippies there too, of course.”

It dawned on me I haven’t shaved my face down to the flesh in a good eight months. Not since my last job interview, at least. And what a good eight months it’s been. I’m good for a weekly trim, but it’s true that Portland pays no mind to a little scruff. In a city that’s usually cloudy, no one gives a damn about a 5 o’clock shadow.

This is a city without a dress code. I work on the eighth floor of One World Trade Center downtown, yet I get to wear jeans to work every day. We still honor casual Friday, but it’s hard to get more casual than the status quo. I guess I know Friday as the day I get to wear running shoes to work.

I talk a lot of smack about Portland — which is sometimes deserving — but this city’s attitude regarding appearance is flat-out awesome. And mature, I might add.

When I was 14, I started bagging groceries. Back then, the dress code required I wear a white button-up shirt, a tie, dress pants and dress shoes. Earrings were unacceptable and facial hair needed to be approved by a manager. No visible tattoos were allowed. So, as a 14-year-old, I had to dress like a lawyer just to ask paper or plastic.

Now, I’m a working professional and I’m dressing the same way I did in college.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — look good, feel good, play good. OK, at times, I’m sure I look a little haggard strolling into work wearing an old pair of jeans, a flannel button-up and a pair of Patagonia slip-ons. But I look comfortable, I feel comfortable and I produce results on the job.

Take that, establishment!

So, what’s your dress code at work? What do you do to bend the rules?

Shear Ignorance

This is the scene of my recent haircut, where I fulfilled the lifelong dream of getting my hair cut somewhere where Miller High Life posters were hung.

For the first time in more than a year or so, I went and got a haircut on Saturday. I had been buzzing my own head, but I recently decided to grow my hair out because I was sicking of looking like I was 9. Not to mention, I’m a working professional now, which means overpriced hair products fit in my budget.

Yeah, that’s right — I use $12 pomade. Get jealous.

Actually, being a cheapskate, I much enjoyed cutting my own hair the past few years. There’s been a direct correlation between my personal financial standing and the length of my hair; when money’s been tight, I’ve been more than happy to lop of luxuries like haircuts, shampoo, conditioner, hair product. And while I only know how to execute one style of haircut, I’ve been OK with sporting a buzz if only because it keeps me in control of the process. I’ve had too many haircuts go awry in my life to trust just anyone.

But that’s what I did on Saturday.

I sauntered over to this trendy little barbershop nearby with its punk-rock posters splayed on the walls, vintage barbershop chairs and stacks of obscure art magazines I’d never heard of. Sometimes, I like to throw myself in environments completely opposite my personality, probably for the same reason people get tattoos in other languages they don’t speak or necessarily care to. Sometimes, I pose really hard.

It was a 40-minute wait before I could sit down, but that gave me ample time to conjure a way of describing what I wanted.

I was too embarrassed to say, “Make me look like Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser.

I settled on, “Don’t make me look like a tool.”

My barber was nice enough. She wore a multi-layered, multi-colored haircut which said I’m not afraid of society’s judgment, so I’ll shave my head in whichever areas I please. I wasn’t entirely surprised to learn she was hopelessly devoted to World of Warcraft, her kittens and a vintage yellow couch she got for $150 because she knows the best places in Portland to buy vintage furniture. She was moving to a new studio apartment now in Northeast and she wasn’t going to have a roommate so she was hoping to pick up more shifts at the barbershop (which wasn’t to say I should tip her well because she needed the money) and she had recently rented Hannah Montana: The Movie on Netflix because she was too embarrassed to get it in a store but she liked it and thought it was cute and didn’t think it was fair Miley Cyrus should be held to such a high standard because she’s 16 and sometimes 16-year-old girls take provocative pictures, they just don’t always end up in Vanity Fair.

I learned a lot about her, unwillingly. She’d put down two cups of coffee prior to my haircut, and puked conversation all over me. (Luckily, I was wearing one of those stupid capes.)

I didn’t really say much — for lack of opportunity — and I felt a bit cheated. I won’t claim to be interesting by any means. I mean, I blog. But isn’t the barbershop a place where you get to speak openly about the most intimate details of your life to absolute strangers without fear of judgment or persecution?

Once you’ve let a perfect stranger touch your head and your ears and systematically remove things from your body for aesthetic improvement, there’s an unsaid bond that’s formed. And what do you do with people you trust? You confide. You opine. You tell stories. Not with this one. I just listened.

Little thing with the edgy haircut did a nice job, to be fair. I got a lot of compliments at work yesterday and my girlfriend seems to like it. When all was said and done, I was pleased. I paid the $21 for the haircut and left a $9 tip. I didn’t have the heart to tell this stylist I wouldn’t be coming back.

Frankly, she didn’t give me a chance.

Nostalgia in Niketown

As we speak, I’m prowling eBayhoping to find a pair of the most obnoxious shoes I’ve ever owned. They are the Nike Presto Fazes, made popular in the early 2000s as part of Nike’s foray into flamboyant running shoes that looked like aquasocks made of Nerf. I cannot find a pair with the same monochromatic Leopard print mine had, but even more disheartening, they’ve become something of a collector’s items for sneakerphiles. (That’s a real term. I didn’t invent it.)

At $180, I could order a pair of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned. What baffles me is back in 2001, I bought’em from the bargain bin for about $40. I was a junior in high school with a horrible taste in athletic shoes. I never intended to wear them for sport or style. They were my to-and-from-football-practice shoes. With no shoe laces and ultrasoft cushioning, I wore them like slippers. Needless to say, they smelled like 16-year-old boy in no time. They would not sell for $180 on eBay if I still owned them.

Oh, did I mention the ad campaign for the Prestos was positively awesome and ridiculous?

For sneakerphiles – sorry – shoe fanatics, Portland is a tough place to live. It’s the birthplace of Nike, after all. With Nike headquarters in nearby Beaverton, this is the first place you’ll see the latest Nike shoes, but also where you’re most likely to see re-releases and limited editions.There’s also hipsters in the mix who will juxtapose their otherwise dingy, aged wardrobe with a pair of fluorescent Nike running shoes whenever possible.

This is a shoe town. I’m a shoe person. And unfortunately, all I can think about is the awesome shoes I owned a decade ago, because apparently I was really fashion forward and never understood that at 25, I would yearn for my old shoes again.

Am I alone on this one? Am I the only who misses a pair of shoes you’d pay top dollar to own again? Let’s hear your story.

Greatest. Sweater. Ever.

I was walking home from 24 Hour Fitness tonight when I ended up behind this guy at a crosswalk. I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and find if he considered himself a bit of a loner or if he tends to think of himself as a one-man wolfpack.

Instead, I went stealth mode with my iPhone and snapped off a photo, because I believe my readers appreciate sophisticated sweaters which feature wolves howling at the moon.

At the very least, you appreciate Alan.

Episodes in Slowly Growing Older, Part 1

“I mean, what if you had a job interview?” I asked.

Suddenly, a panic fell over me. A penetrating melancholy consumed me, and I could feel even more of my black hairs turning gray.

The question was posed to a co-worker who had just bought new eyeglasses. I complimented his choice of frame — something stylish, but practical.

“I’m glad you didn’t get those big, outlandish eyeglasses all the hipsters wear,”  I said. My co-worker is not a hipster. He’s a well-dressed man in his late 20s with all the grace of someone who’s lived and traveled around the world, all the while allowing the experience to affect him. He’s a hoot.

The Portland hipster scene has been big on over-the-top ’80s couture, stopping just short of big hair and ripped jeans. Among the more ridiculous articles to gain popularity are the oversized eyeglasses. Certain items from the ’80s are acceptable and have their place. Oversized eyeglasses are not among them. They’re bulky, gaudy, and have the undesirable effect of making one’s head look considerably disproportioned.

It should be noted I found this image by using "hipster glasses" in a Google image search.

I was grateful my co-worker hadn’t gone that route – for his benefit and mine. But what left me dead in my tracks was this entirely practical question, the same question elders had asked me when I chose to pierce my ears and get two visible tattoos. (I’m happy to report the earrings are gone. My two tattoos – regrettably – are not.)

Living in Portland has given me a new-found appreciation for moderation, be it politically, socially or even aesthetically. I’ve taken to wearing really understated, safe, and boring brands like J. Crew, Gap and Banana Republic. (Nearly everything I purchase comes from the clearance racks or outlets, so don’t confuse me for someone who spends good money on clothes.) I like to dress nice, but I don’t put much thought into it. My wardrobe is mostly based on interchangeability. Every shirt must match all of my pants and vice versa. This allows for me to maintain a passive approach to getting dressed.

I believe that simplification is no part of the hipster’s agenda.

Still, it saddens me that my first concern regarding someone’s choice of eyeglasses is how it affects their career prospects. When you’re younger, you’re able to separate personal and professional choices as simple as which eyeglasses to wear. You get a little older, understand how judgmental the world can be, and you see those two parts of one’s being aren’t mutually exclusive in the least. We can always change costumes outside of the office, but I, myself, have found the most tolerable way of living is to ruffle as few feathers  as possible without completely selling out.

I’m glad my co-worker will have proper eyewear should he interview for a different job any time soon. And even while it pains me sometimes, I’m glad maturity has bent my logic toward practicality over being whimsical for vanity’s sake.

The Most Sought After Shoe in the World

3106_7d4dca17b34abf8cfb11326310642809I can’t say I get it, but the Nike Air Yeezy — inspired and designed by Kanye West — is the most hyped shoe in the world right now. According to some sources, eager sneakerphiles waited in line for up to three nights awaiting its limited release. The shoe retailed at $215, but it’s going on eBay for $500-$600 (and getting plenty of bids).

It’s hard to say why this shoe is so highly anticipated. West isn’t the first hip-hop artist to release a shoe. Reebok released the S. Carter Collection in honor of Jay-Z and designed G-Unit sneakers for 50 Cent & Crew. In other words, the crossover has been done.

Maybe it’s those irresistible sherbet swatches!

Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good: Twins Edition

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As part of an irregularly updated series, I’ll be blogging about trends in sports fashion from the big leagues. As the old mantra goes, “Look good, feel good, play good.” This series will highlight the best of the best when it comes to cutting edge sports uniforms and all-time classics.

As a way of biding farewell to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, my beloved Minnesota Twins will be sporting an alternate throwback uniform this season that harkens back to the Twins of the 1980s. It’s a great move for the Twins, who are lucky to work with the best colors in baseball anyway. It’s also a big improvement from the tired sleeveless alternates they’ve tried the past few years.

This isn’t my favorite old school Twins jersey, though. For that, I’m going back to 1965, with the tasteful pin stripes and inverted Twins logo (blue inside, red piping). That’s followed close by the 1984 road alternate in powder blue — a look the Twins should strongly consider using at some point this season.

Looking ahead to next season, the Twins should try to inject even more hype into the team by revamping the current uniforms (while trying to keep the old “TC” logo). There’s nothing I would love to see more than red alternates on that first day at Target Field. I’m sure Target would support the move, too.