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First Person


Cyle Talley

Evan Smith, on style when it comes to business, classic looks, and pulling your pants up

Evan Smith, on style when it comes to business, classic looks, and pulling your pants up
Ar 170809640
Evan Smith
Ar 170809640
Evan Smith

Photographer Evan Smith is a soft-spoken man who chuckles easily. When you do get him talking, he’s as able to talk about free-market economics as he is about how boring the new Fleet Foxes record is. He’s also usually wearing something interesting, and so I decided to ask him about fashion. He laughed at me when I did, but he discussed it anyway. I tell his story here in his own words.

I grew up in the Dallas, Texas, area and I guess my mom has always been pretty well-dressed – or she likes to look nice. My first interest in fashion was when I thought that the kids in my elementary school were wearing Abercrombie and Fitch while I was in my Looney Toons baggy T. That was when I knew that I had to step up my game. You just get a sense for, you know, exclusivity. You want to be a part of a small crowd. Then I wanted to be a skater and was always looking at what the cool skaters I admired were wearing. I was aware of popularity, of who was who and what kind of people there were. Just knowing that there are different kinds of people and cliques and stuff, you know?

I remember when I moved here – August 2001 – and started 6th grade. I remember walking into my classroom and thinking, “Whoa, this place is a year or two behind.” I feel like I’ve been here for so long now that I’m probably also a few years behind. So when I go to the big cities, no matter where you look, there’s someone wearing something interesting. I like that. I like seeing the difference between Durango and everywhere else. I don’t hate Durango’s fashion sense. I kinda like to imagine what was going on in someone’s head when they got dressed in the morning, what sort of a message they were trying to send, or what they were feeling like. I think the stuff you wear communicates something about who you are or what you want to be or how you see yourself: Mindsets, lifestyles. The things we wear designate us as members of particular communities, you know? Like, when people wear stuff branded with a sports team’s logo. You’re saying, “Hey, I’m a part of this group.” You’re telling people your life goals. When I was in college, I tried really hard to dress professionally because that’s where I saw myself going. I wanted a job as a CPA or something like that. Now, I still try to look professional and sharp, you know? I like to buy things that are classic, that don’t really age. I don’t want to have to buy clothes every year because the things that I was wearing last year have aged and are corny now, you know? I don’t like toilet paper fashion. I want to wear clothes that look as good today as they did 30 years ago. Dressing is an art, and you’re expressing a moment, but it’s also sort of a kindness, too. You’re making other people look at you all day, so you might as well give ’em something nice or interesting to rest their eyes on, you know?

The first time I really recall thinking about what messages I was sending with my clothes was being on the baseball team in the high school, which is kind of a weird place to think about those things, I guess. Our coaches really encouraged us to pull up our pants [laughs] He’d say, [adopts deeper, authoritative voice] “not be dressin’ like a gangster and actin’ like a gangster. Be a respectable member of the community.” [laughs] But I respected them a lot, and I wanted to be a good teammate, and so I took that message to heart and I tried to stop being a skater and I pulled my pants up a little bit. He was a pretty intense guy. We were a little intimidated by him. But it’s come in handy. I network all the time now at business functions and after-hours parties where I meet all sorts of people with whom I want to make an impression and make sure that they know that I’m good at what I do and that I’m serious about it.

I can’t believe you’re asking me about fashion. I mean, I like looking at clothes on the internet, and I wish that I could afford some of the things that I look at and like, and somehow that turns me into a fashion guy [laughs]. I guess I’ve thought about it slightly more than the average person, but I’m pretty much just a complex person like anyone else. I’m multi-faceted. Yeah. [laughs] I can’t even imagine what you’re going to turn this into.

Cyle Talley loves the phrase “toilet paper fashion”. Email him at: cyle@cyletalley.com