Joe Jarvis Talks Style

By Amanda Harth

I met Joe at a Chicago Denim Hang at Dearborn Denim organized by my Indigo Nation Denim team in December. He was very polite and curious about what this denim meetup was at the time. The more we all talked, the more I became distracted by his outfit-in a good way. He was wearing navy head to ankle and he had these multi-colored moccasins. I enjoy his perspective on style and how it relates to life. He has it down to a science and in our previous post on The Language of Style he has a hell of a way of explaining it. We end this month’s discussion on style with Joe Jarvis, cofounder of the fashion blog Someone Else. They explore the lives and processes of designers and brands, which got them into a little bit of trouble after we did this interview.

**Next week Joe writes a special piece for Runwayaddicts on a recent happening between his blog Someone Else and a fashion corporation that’s attempting to stop the circulation of a brilliant story on their creative director.**

Where did you get the concept of Someone Else?

So it was a reaction to Instagram and what I perceived to be the narcissism on it. It’s someone else, it’s not you (laughs). So that is part of a reaction to what I think of the whatness of Instagram and Hypebeast and most blogs, where it’s all about things. Hypebeast is this endless stream of things. On Instagram I see these #heritagestyle bros and they have their well-lit studio apartments with the same shots of them over and over with coffee mugs, turquoise rings on every finger, and the same shots of turned-up selvedge and work boots. And I get it. I like all this stuff too, but why do we like it? I started talking to designers I respected, and what Someone Else has become, it focuses a lot on people’s struggles. That’s not a point of view of mine, it’s just something that keeps coming up. People tend to talk to me about what they’ve gone through to be able to design clothing. One of the guys at Maine Mountain Moccasin got to a point where his marriage was in jeopardy, working two jobs just to finance this thing and having no time for his wives or kids. A lot of our story on Stephanie Ibbitson of Sonya Lee is about her road trip from Toronto to Vancouver. She had food poisoning and she was throwing up into plastic bags inside a 20 foot U-Haul truck. “And to make things worse, she didn’t realize it, but she was moving into the epicenter of Vancouver’s opioid epidemic. The story talks about how she got out of that and how she was able to focus again on making bags. So that’s what seems to come up a lot, the struggle. That wasn’t something I planned on or went after. It just seems to come up a lot when I talk to people.

Were you originally in design?
No, I started writing when I was seven years old because we went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Friday night. Wednesday night was Bible study and it was unbearably boring. I mean, at least on Sunday night people were speaking in tongues. My mom took notes. She was a really diligent notetaker during sermons. I’d get a page or two of notebook paper from her and I’d lie down under the pew on the scratchy red carpet and I’d just write, so that’s how I started writing. The fashion part came in pretty early too, although I never wrote about fashion until six years ago. When I was in middle school, a classmate mocked me for wearing the same clothes two days in a row, so I became aware that what I wear is important. Ever since then I’ve been very much aware of what I have on. There’s this idea that clothing is the most immediate form of communication, even before speaking to each other. The first interaction you have with people, unless you’re on the phone, is what they’re wearing. So I got a job a Trunk Club, I was their first copywriter and I wrote a lot about clothing. At that time they had a decent point of view that was informed by the VP of Merchandising and the VP of Sales. I was interviewing Billy Reid, Jason Schott, Paige from Paige Denim. I liked that, but Trunk Club didn’t work out and I wanted to do something new, so I ended teaming with two photographers from Trunk Club and a designer I met through Trunk Club, and we started Someone Else.

What is your perspective of the current state of fashion?

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Diagram by Joe Jarvis and his take on the current state of fashion.

Diagram by Joe Jarvis and his take on the current state of fashion.

Well first of all I’m pretty ignorant of runway fashion. Haute couture, I don’t really know what’s happening. I’m more aware of brands that came up closer to 2010 during the made-in-America movement, and the brands that came out of that.

At this point in the conversation Joe pulls out his notebook and begins drawing this diagram and continued speaking.

You have workwear, streetwear, and tailored wear. I would say when streetwear and workwear stand on their own it’s a costume, and the three areas where all three overlap are outfits. But where tailored wear does not overlap with anything it’s its own beast. In that regard, tailored wear is different, it can stand on its own. When someone is just wearing workwear they look like an extra from Gangs of New York or like they should be working on a 1920 locomotive. Then there’s streetwear, and when you only wear that you look like a hypebeast. But when you put all these things together, there are all of these tension points. There’s contrasts, juxtapositions. Combinations make all of this fun. The other day I saw a dude with the camel overcoat, the rolled jeans, the Stan Smiths, the Yankees hat, and transparent frames on his eye glasses. Don’t get me wrong, I probably like Mark McNairy more than the next person, but I don’t want to look like him. This guy looked like he was dressed like Mark McNairy for Halloween. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Mark Mcnairy—of course we’re always borrowing from people—but you always want to do things different with it. That’s how things evolve.

What about Chicago’s style?

Well, Stephanie from Sonya Lee said that men in Chicago tend to have an appreciation for well-made things. I think you can see style here for sure, but I will say when I’m in LA I feel completely at home and inconspicuous. In LA you can walk down the street with your hair on fire and people are gonna assume that’s just where you’re at today. I don’t have that feeling here in Chicago.

What about New York? I feel like that’s everyone’s go to for freedom in self expression in regards to style?

With New York if you’re in Jackson Heights, Queens, that neighborhood is really diverse, but I would feel much more conspicuous in Bayside, Queens than I would in Chicago. In LA I feel really comfortable and I don’t feel that way in Chicago.

Do you feel like you’re more overdressed here?

No, I just feel more conspicuous. I’ve had people openly mock me on the CTA. I love Chicago, but I still feel like there are a lot of basic motherfuckers here, and I say that having lived here for 18 years.

What’s one of your favorite places to visit regarding style?

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The thing with cosmopolitan places like London is there are so many different styles. One day I went to watch a soccer team called Millwall, and on my way I saw a lot of normcore. It was almost painful how much these kids looked like Jerry Seinfeld in 1996-except they didn’t have his haircut. Then making my way to into the stadium, you’ve got older guys in Barbour jackets and dungarees with flat caps. And there were the lads in Stone Island and training shoes. Anywhere I go, if there’s something going on with the way people are dressing, I tend to notice it and appreciate it. I don’t know about a favorite place. It’s not that I like LA’s style per se, but the environment is conducive to any type of expression. Whereas Salzburg, Austria is not like that at all. Salzburg is super conservative. Everyone is in dark tones and there is nothing too crazy going on. There’s more of an air of formality. There’s more restraint, not as much expressiveness, but even with restraint there is some form of expression.

Do you have a uniform?

I guess I have a template. I tend to wear all blue. Blue jeans, blue tops, socks. My shoes, my hat, and jackets I change up and I just got some black jeans from Shockoe Atelier.

Favorite denim brands.

Shockoe Atelier is my favorite, because they make it all there. When you go to the shop there’s a glass wall, and you see the jeans being made and the patterns being cut. Hartford Denim Company, similar situation. The one thing about Hartford is the designs of their jeans are very classic. There are other brands I like, but there’s something about a company that makes their own stuff. It goes back to my story I did with Shockoe Atelier. We were talking about Neapolitan suiting and Pierre Lupesco said, “I don’t know how you would define soul in a suit. I don’t know if the words have been invented yet, but you can see it and you can feel it.” So this idea of presence in clothing is very interesting to me, and I think garments that are made in-house by people who work there, who believe in what they are doing, will tend to have more presence. I know those jeans passed through Yolanda’s hands at Shockoe Atelier, and I know those jeans passed through Marshall’s hands at Hartford, and I like that. I think that people who go that deep into things and want to control production, that’s commendable and I think they should be talked about.

Are you a big thrifter?

I don’t anymore, in college I use to be a big thrifter. My wife is the thrifter in our family. I don’t really shop that much. I like getting pieces and more specific things.

What’s Next?

There are two big stories we’re working on. We did a story on Katerina Helebrantova, who works for a Chicago manufacturer that creates uniforms for hotels. Really interesting stuff and I’m excited about that. I recently went to Colorado and stayed at the Stanley Hotel in the Stephen King suite. I spent the night in Room 217. That piece won’t be about clothing. It’ll be about the movie, friendship and how the movie sustained a childhood friendship over time. In 2019, I want to write more about Chicago designers, and work more with local people and get more in touch with what’s happening here.