Parked on a brushed-aluminum chair outside Capitol Hill's Bauhaus Books and Coffee (301 E Pine St, 625-1600) before dashing off for an evening shift as a waiter at the Dahlia Lounge (2001 Fourth Ave, 682-4142), Jimmy Cao is the very picture of laid-back urban suave--he's even literally sipping a latte (mug by Cash & Carry, $10, 1760 Fourth Ave S, 343-7156). We might use the word "metrosexual" if it weren't, you know, kind of annoying and over. A genial transplant from Houston, Texas, Jimmy is the owner of a look that makes put-together look like an afterthought--two qualities that mark Seattle as a stylistic dark horse waiting to be mounted. Working from the bottom up:
Vintage handmade loafers by Petridis, $60 at Vu (313 E Pine St, 621-0388). Like many of our subjects, Jimmy prefers a mix of new and vintage. These shoes were handmade by a Greek shoe company linked to an upscale retail chain. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, and father to Prince Charles, is Greek. Born Prince of Greece (and Denmark) in Corfu, Philip had to renounce his family, his religion, and his country before he could marry Elizabeth. Prince Phillip also wears shoes.
Socks, $11 at Ped (1115 First Ave, 292-1767). They cost a bit more than your average socks, but the aqua-purple pattern more than justifies the expense. They offer a bit of vibrancy in an otherwise muted palette, while announcing to prospective attractees that the man who wears them pays attention to the little things.
Jeans by Helmut Lang, $22 at Red Light (312 Broadway Ave E, 329-2200). Jimmy's Helmut Langs are an ideal combination of dressed-up and dressed-down--their slate tone sets them apart from your typical denim, as does the appearance of having been pressed. And at 20 bucks, you can't beat the price. If you can't wait for a pair of used Helmut Lang jeans to turn up in a resale shop, you can pay full price at Butch Blum (1408 Fifth Ave, 622-5760) or Mario's (1513 Sixth Ave, 223-1461).
British Cut Shirt by Ben Sherman, $50 at Soho (6592 Woodway Dr, Houston, TX , 713-467-9233). Jimmy describes Soho in Houston as "kind of like Zebra Club, but maybe a little bigger." Reached for comment, an employee of Soho estimated the store's area as "like 2500 square feet." An employee of Seattle's Zebra Club (1901 First Ave, 448-7452) estimated that her store, which specializes in "urban street fashion," is "big, around 1000" square feet, which would seem to confirm Jimmy's assessment: Soho is the larger store. Neither carries Ben Sherman anymore.
Cardigan sweater by St. Michael, $7 at Value Village (1525 11th Ave, 322-7789). This handsome tan wool zip-up with corduroy shoulders comes from St. Michael, which for more than 70 years was the in-house label for all clothes manufactured by Marks & Spencer, the UK's largest chain retailer. Beginning shortly after the First World War, and stretching through the Second, through the selective prosperity that further bifurcated the British upper and lower classes in the '50s and '60s, which led to riots, labor strikes, and widespread malaise in the '70s and '80s, and in turn to a renewed enfranchisement of the working classes in the '90s (which resulted, ironically, in heightened cynicism when the Blair government turned out to be essentially conservative at heart, betraying the promise of "New Labour")--the St. Michael's label was a staple of British life that crossed class lines. Rich and poor alike wore socks, trousers, shirts, dresses, and yes, cardigans from "Marks and Sparks." The St. Michael label was an equalizing force in British culture, providing quality and style at a price point affordable to families from all strata of society. The Marks & Spencer's brand was used not only for clothing like Jimmy's sweater, but for food and cleaning products as well. Long before anyone had heard the name Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer played the same role in the UK as the mega-retailer does now in the U.S. --without the unfair labor practices and business strategies detrimental not only to their competition, but to their country's well-being. Unlike Wal-Mart, however, M&S has undergone difficulty keeping up with modern tastes. Sales were "disastrous" in 1998, and in 2000 the company announced the St. Michael label would be dropped. "Our customers were not clear on what was the main brand," a company spokesman told the BBC. "The main brand is Marks & Spencer."
Sunglasses made in China, $7 at a gas station on I-5. Jimmy couldn't remember the name of the gas station, but he is very fond of the shades.
Hair by Trista at Studio 229 Salon (229 Broadway Ave E, 322-6325). Trista's handiwork couldn't be better suited to Jimmy's overall vibe. And like any hairstyle, it's a two-way street. "We collaborate a lot," Trista explains. "He has better fashion sense than I do, actually." *