(Phil (guy above) is a friend I met in college and was recently featured in Crains Chicago)
F. Philip Barash,34, is creative director at Chicago-based Forum Studio, a design firm. Here, he tells Crain’s Jackie Bender about his sartorial style.
Signature work uniform: (Winter) daring escape from prep school, a-la Holden Caulfield. Jeans, checked shirt and navy or tweed blazer. Usually a sweater; often a scarf and fingerless gloves. (Summer) regatta rail meat. White oxford shirt, cotton blazer and pants in as toxic a color as possible (lime green, electric blue). Usually a pair of sunglasses dangling off a Croakie; often a ribbon belt. (Year-round) canvas sneakers, bookish glasses, shoulder bags, cotton or chambray hankies and antiquated neckwear.
Getting-dressed philosophy: When I started working professionally, I faced moments of existential crisis in the morning. Some days, I would stare into the depths of a closet for what seemed like a short eternity, paralyzed by choice. Where was the elusive shirt that coordinated with olive slacks? Would I go preppy? Euro? Casual? American Psycho? Were there meetings on the calendar? Was there a happy hour hatching? Then, in a rare moment of clarity, I gave my sleek, all-black outfits to a clubby friend, donated a kaleidoscope of sweaters to Salvation Army and committed to a ceremonial pyre all novelty shirts with paisley detailing. Today, my closet is a tiny autonomous dictatorship, all in shades of blue, gray and beige (except in summer). And I have my mornings back.
What’s unique about your style? It’s so conservative that it borders on the perverse. Before I leave the house every day, I check the mirror, in vigilance. I ask myself: Can a person looking at a black-and-white photograph of me tell when, in the last century or so, the photo was taken? Unlike Marty McFly, my appearance in 1955 wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Nor, for that matter, would my appearance in 1985, the year “Back to the Future” was released.
How is fashion important in a professional context? Clothes are one of the most accessible and universal ways of signification. As a symbolic system, they help us reveal — or conceal — information about ourselves. All this is to reframe the old adage about dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have. Happily, in my case, the job I have — the life I have, really — happens to be the one I want.
How does your style complement your career? I communicate for a living. Through ideas, words, images, environments and interactions, I help companies and organizations tell their stories in ways that matter to them and their stakeholders. My style of dress reflects my style of communication: consistent, clear, approachable, unfussy and, at times, mildly amusing.
Always on-hand at the office: Striped ties to distract my colleagues, a sturdy bag to carry an arsenal of iProducts, a Moleskine notebook to doodle in, a Timex or Swatch to track time (not to flash bling) and glasses to help me see. In warm months, light-soled sneakers signal my readiness to sail at a moment’s notice.
Favorite places to shop: I’m a bargain shopper, for reasons of necessity and temperament. I also have an immigrant’sfascination with stuff (he moved here from the Soviet Union as a child) coupled with guilt about being so easily seduced. So my basic palette is supplied entirely by the middlebrow American Apparel and J. Crew. The rest comes from lucky finds at stores whose show windows look like recruitment posters for lawn sports: J Press, Brooks Bros. and their ilk. In Chicago, I’ve enjoyed occasional visits to Haberdash and found many a preppy blazer at Macy’s on State Street. Recently, I’ve become a big fan of Chicago-based online retailer the Tie Bar.
Style icons:Roland Barthes, Miles Davis and my grandfather, who every day of his life dutifully shaved twice and tied a perfect double-Windsor knot.