Somewhere on a school bus in Portland in 1988, Paul Hearn pressed play on a Walkman that held La traviata, and, as he remembers it, his world went from black and white to color. After vocal training with a Juilliard professor, he landed a post in the executive offices at the Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York, a gig selling polka-dot pocket squares at Nordstrom, and a brand new party-planning appointment with Seattle Symphony. Such jobs require a suit and tie, but, thanks to those first magnetic and eye-opening notes (and all the ones that followed), Hearn elegantly and gracefully tips the classic form of menswear just so. Verdi would approve.
I wear a suit every day. I’m somewhere between the Thom Browne look and the Brooks Brothers thing—actually, Banana Republic seems to fit me best. I love how I feel in a suit. It’s like a shell—a uniform that gives you an identity, and I don’t find the formula limiting; I think the possibilities are exciting. I’m always looking in my closet trying to figure out what new thing I can do with a blue gingham shirt.
Before middle school, I lived in Alaska with my father, and I’d spend the summers on a salmon fishing boat with him. The crew was obsessed with watching videotapes of MTV and Dynasty so there was this wonderful mix of natural beauty, tough guys all rough around the edges, and diamonds. I just absorbed it all.
What Not to Wear
I was at Benaroya the other night, I think it was for Bluebeard’s Castle, and I saw some of the most exquisitely dressed people—fabulous Louboutins! We talk a lot about proper dress for the symphony, but I’d rather people just come as they are and be comfortable. Maybe they’ll absorb it the way I did with Dynasty, and they’ll feel inspired to try new things.
Catholics don’t dress up. At St. James they’re in shorts, but I’m a cantor so I’m often in a white cassock. When I wear a suit to work my identity is clear: I support the symphony. But a cassock is the purest uniform: I’m serving my community.