Style Counsel

Exile on Main Street

A conversation with Jack Straw co-owner John Richards.

By Laura Cassidy December 18, 2008 Published in the October 2008 issue of Seattle Met

You and Paola Medina just opened a men’s shop on First Avenue called Jack Straw, which is a reference to a Grateful Dead song—and a bit unexpected since your direction is -classic tailoring with a modern perspective. The name is an homage to a great American folk band. The store is earthy and simple; there isn’t a bit of shine or slick in it.

Does music influence your style? With the exception of friendship, music is the most important thing to me; guys like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon. And cinema as well. I’m an early-’70s cinema freak.

Like McCabe and Mrs. Miller, with the Leonard Cohen soundtrack? Yes, exactly. That’s one of my favorites. The look of that film was super influential on my taste.

Warren Beatty was so rugged and dapper in his rumpled three-piece suits and that giant bearskin. I like to live in my favorite clothing. When I buy something, I don’t treat it as if it’s precious. I live in it, enjoy it, and wear it out. The pieces I buy for my store are meant to be worn until they fall off.

So, classic pieces that weather trends? Twisted classics. When I say “classic” I mean it in a twentieth-century way. I mean it in a Vincent van Gogh way.

Name three men, without regard to time or place, that you’d like to dress at your store. Abraham Lincoln, because of his graceful soul; Muhammad Ali, the poetic warrior; and Charlie Watts, because anyone who put up with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger for that long has to be okay.

You have a bit of that Watts thing today; you could be mistaken for the drummer of a groundbreaking rock band. The jacket is Comme des Garçons, the pants are corduroy by Number (N)ine, which is a Japanese line. I don’t dress to stand out. I think of myself like an ant in an ant farm. I’m 54, and I dress the way I want to dress—just like I did when I was 23.

As a salesman at Butch Blum and Mario’s, you spent 25 years helping men find their personal style. Who’s your client at Jack Straw? I shoot for people who are into the architectural design of clothing, and the fabrication and the fit—people who can relate to the pieces and understand them in a personal way. Some of my best clients, the guys that buy the coolest stuff, are in their late 60s and early 70s, and my favorite person to dress is 74 years old. I buy for people like him, no matter how old they may be.

How do you want to see Seattle men dressing? More than anything they should dress for their person. What’s important is that they’re showing the side of themselves that they wish to be, but I love the idea of soft gray Comme des Garçons or Dries van Noten suiting with a checked shirt and a rep tie—the archetypal, diagonally striped business tie—that’s been washed so it’s worn in. Those are the new classics.

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