It’s the dog days of August, and the pandemic lingers on. We’ll state the obvious: COVID-19 has changed the way we shop, the way we dress, and the way we collaborate. Meanwhile, Boulder was once named by National Geographic as the worst-dressed city that looks the best naked. And who could blame them for calling us out?
“a t t a c k e d,” as the kids say.
We’re just as likely to find a look reminiscent of Kitson in LA as we are to find someone out of the Patagonia catalogue. Perhaps our reputation is due to our easy attitude, or the fact that so many of us spend so much time in the mountains.
Yet behind these kitschy stereotypes lies a fashion sense that is underrated and rarely explored. We poked around at the shops to see what’s out there, keeping COVID in mind. We wanted to ensure that the advice we found squared with Boulder’s casual attitude. We spoke with Gorley, model Shay Burton, actor Travis Signus, as well as two notable stylists, Anne Liebman and Kyle Albrecht. In doing this, we kept these questions in mind: What do we wear, and when? How has COVID changed the way we shop? Where are the places to go, and what are the looks to find? The result of our research? Boulder is a dark horse for great fashion: you simply need to know what to look for, and where to find it.
We started out by speaking to Anne Liebman, founder and stylist at SheStyles Colorado. Based out of Denver, Anne helps men and women find their own signature look for any scenario. Liebman took time to clue us in on her style goals: a healthy respect for on-point trends with a practicality reminiscent of the quintessential Colorado outdoor lifestyle.
“Balance, pop, and purpose,” she said, when questioned about her style philosophy. “These are the three key elements to incorporate into each outfit.” We asked Liebman to suggest looks for date nights, casual get-togethers, and workwear. Liebman recommends a collection of high-quality, timeless pieces. Dark denim is a must. Flattering and classic, a high-quality denim can be worn to chuck tennis balls with your pups at the Valmont dog park or be dressed up with a silk or chiffon camisole and a piece or two of statement jewelry for a dinner out on Pearl Street. Burton, our model, showcases the type of statement jewelry about which we’re speaking with a pair of beaded lemon-themed earrings. When working with a wardrobe of high-quality basics, accessories like these can make a normal outfit into a stunning look.
When it comes to date nights, combining statement pieces like Burton’s earrings or headband with classic elements is the “pop” that Liebman promotes. It might be a pair of leopard-print stilettos, an ethereal dress with a classic leather jacket, or a kaleidoscopic necklace: date nights are your chance to shine. If it’s a more relaxed atmosphere? Liebman suggests wedges in place of stilettos, but the convenient thing about Liebman’s style philosophy is that she aims for comfort: people should always feel like themselves, rather than aspiring to a style that isn’t their own. With a collection of staples – Liebman suggests brands like Madewell, Paige, and Mother Denim, all of which can be found in Boulder on Pearl or Twenty-Ninth – anyone can feel free to build upon that solid foundation with accessories and pieces that accent their own personality. With Boulder’s plethora of art shops and small boutiques, there’s something to find for everyone.
We couldn’t resist asking Liebman about trends – after all, with that scathing review of Boulder style, we wanted to know how to look fresh and fun. Liebman’s suggestions? Scrunchies are still in, a bit of nostalgia for us 80s and 90s kids. And when she mentioned tie-dye, we were thrilled; it’s a look that meshes perfectly with Boulder’s DIY aesthetic.
And what about the menswear side of things? We spoke to stylist Kyle Albrecht of Social Garb, a fashion startup currently based out of San Francisco. Besides being a stylist ranked in the top-five nationwide, Albrecht’s company specializes in creating fashionable varieties of the clear plastic bags required at music venues like Red Rocks. Albrecht’s easy candor was a perfect match for a conversation about Boulder menswear. “I wish I could come shopping with you,” he said. And frankly, we did, too. Like Liebman, Albrecht’s style philosophy is based on a core wardrobe of classic pieces.
“K.I.S.S.,” he said, when asked about his style philosophy. But Albrecht brings something else to the table, and that’s a healthy respect for streetwear. He also favors dark denim, because it can be casual for an afternoon lunch meetup or dressed up with a great button-down for a sushi date night. For a more refined atmosphere, he suggests chinos with a tucked-in but layered look: yet, in keeping with the casual Boulder atmosphere, his footwear suggestions are a pair of clean and classic Vans or flip-flops, a look that our model, actor Travis Signus, wears well. Pair it with a nice watch and a set of high-quality shades, and you have an outfit that transitions from day to night with ease.
If you’re looking for something a little extra, Albrecht suggests a salvaged look with your denim, and offers brands like Paige for a great fit and an edgy detail. When we asked him how to incorporate streetwear into an outfit, he suggested a statement piece. Gorley’s style incorporates this beautifully: classic black jeans with a short-sleeved hoodie you won’t find anywhere else, or a head-turning burgundy hat that invites conversation. If you’re not the adventurous type, don’t worry. Albrecht’s most sage advice was that with menswear, “it’s the way things fit that makes the difference.”
We also asked Albrecht how COVID has changed his professional life. If we’re honest, this article has been a bit of a challenge. Without the opportunity to try on looks at local shops, we had to put together outfits largely from our own wardrobes. Albrecht welcomed the opportunity to advise us, and welcomes the changes that the pandemic has brought to his business. He’s transitioned to styling almost completely online. With a clientele that is composed largely of former military personnel, doctors, and people otherwise normally in uniform, suggesting online shopping makes it easy for the fashion-reticent to dip their toes into a more unique style. All of the brands suggested offer easy-to-browse Web sites and generous return policies, which are important in an environment that is financially uncertain for so many of us.
We know that in many respects, though, we want to see the things we purchase: we want to try them on, see the fit, and maybe get our friends’ opinions. Fashion is tactile by nature, making the new era a nuisance. Our models for the shoot are three whose style we trust, so we asked them where they shop, and what looks they’re favoring for the end of summer and going into fall.
Signus owns his classic look: a casual California type, he pairs relaxed tops with staple jeans and shorts, but he can turn up the volume with a well-fitted suit or a relaxed button-down with chinos. He suggests Banana Republic for a polished look, but his statement streetwear piece is a set of clean Nike slides or a great band tee. Gorley is what we consider a bit of a streetwear icon. He describes his fashion as “eclectic,” and favors “bright colors and matching flows.” He’s got a focused, yet mellow personality, a talent for bringing people together, and a knack for those statement pieces. His curiosity for the world around him leads him to venture beyond staple brands like ASOS (a favorite) and into stores like Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack, affordable options that are found right here in Boulder.
It’s the luck of the draw when shopping at those stores, something that Burton appreciates as well. When we chatted with her between looks during our photo shoot, I kept Albrecht’s experience with online shopping in mind. I asked her about online brands that we see tagged on social media, like Shein or Fashion Nova. She said she shops them frequently. Warning that “the higher the price, the better the quality,” she was quick to assure us that she buys most of her clothes at thrift stores.
We agree with this. Boulder is an absolute gold mine for thrift store shopping. Whether it’s CU Boulder students lightening their load following the end of the semester, or community residents cleaning their closets with the extra time at home that COVID has granted, stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army are loaded with quality pieces from Hudson jeans to vintage dresses to boots from Sorel and sandals from Sam Edelman. And don’t forget the consignment shops: Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, and Rags are stocked with unique pieces that are affordable no matter your budget.
The bottom line? For the fall, we’re cultivating a capsule-style wardrobe of timeless pieces that we can find at thrift or consignment stores almost as easily as from the brands themselves. Accessorizing is part of the outfit: a statement necklace or a great pair of shoes speaks as loudly as a printed camisole or a pair of patterned chino shorts. Ultimately, the fashion is where you find it: we may need to dig a little deeper in Boulder, but our style is already here.