So there I was, with my fashionably unwashed hair, sitting at the bar at Nami, right before last call on a Friday. I was minding my own business--which was to mind the business of all the smartly dressed people in the lounge, mingling around the DJ booth, huddled around the tables, smoking cigarettes on the overstuffed couches. Girls in tight rugby shirts with tooled-leather belts, dudes in retro candy-striped button-downs with spread collars and black Beatles boots. Everybody in designer jeans. In a place like this, around people like this, I've always felt on the outside ogling in.
But I was trying my best: rocking my "Kiss Me I'm Irish" T-shirt under an olive corduroy sport coat and pinstriped trousers, trying to hide my staring problem behind a Makers soda. In walked a beautiful flowered shirt, with a blonde on each arm, making his way up to the bar. After placing drink orders for the girls, he looked me over and handed me a card. Rather than trumpeting the latest hot DJ on Tuesday nights, it simply read: TERRY TERWEDO: FASHION CONSULTANT.
"Come down and see me sometime," he said.
Was this pity for a fashion casualty in pinstripes and a T-shirt? My whole fashion life flashed before my eyes: that Batman T-shirt in seventh grade. The short hair and J.Crew golf shirts in high school. Before I could get to the frayed sweatshirt and ugly chinos of my college years, Terry interrupted my reverie, "Yeah, man, I like your style. Come check out my store in the Galleria--Len Druskin."
I was in! Finally admitted to the fraternity of pretty young dudes fluttering around Uptown and downtown places like Nami, Bar Lurcat, the Speakeasy, Martini Blu, Mell's Beauty Bar, and Cosmos. Maybe you think this is silly. Maybe you're not as self-conscious as I am. But looking around, I think maybe you are. Young men in their 20s and 30s seem to be dressing better than ever these days. So rather than worrying about how long I had before the fraternity figured out I was a fraud (and the clock is ticking--for as Coco Chanel said, "Fashion is made to become unfashionable"), I started wondering if men really are dressing better. Are we spending more money on clothes? What are we buying? Where are we buying it? Who are we dressing better for?
So I went to see Terry Terwedo. Located in Edina's upper-crust Galleria mall for 26 years, Len Druskin was a women's couture dressmaker catering to what Terwedo identifies as a "mostly Jewish," ladies-that-lunch clientele. Four years ago, Len's son Michael transformed it into a chic boutique for both men and women. Since the expansion, in the midst of a recession, the store reports that their men's-apparel sales have tripled--largely in the dressing-sharp market the industry calls "sportswear." Most men still buy their clothing at department stores, but Len Druskin belongs to a small group of boutiques that have either added or expanded their men's sections, such as InToto or the Lava Lounge, or are solely for men, like Exile on Harmon. All these stores feature similar minimalist design--stark white walls and dark lacquered shelves. The look is reminiscent of a gallery space where something more abstract than $40 T-shirts and $150 designer jeans should be on display.
House music plays unobtrusively from hidden speakers as Terwedo, in a blue and white striped short-sleeved shirt with a pair of blue jeans, walks across the floor to greet me. As a fashion consultant, it's Terwedo's job to teach us men the difference between what looks sexy and what makes our butts look big--though it goes against our nature to seek such advice. "About five years ago, the suit industry went to business-casual and a lot of clothes were transition clothes that you could wear during the day or at night," Terwedo explains.
"Now it's completely separate. Classic example: I've got a guy, Jack, who wears $5,000 Brioni suits during the day. To the nines. When he goes out at night, he wants to put on his Seven jeans, his Puma jacket, and a T-shirt and go out and be cool. He's in his mid-30s. He makes about a half mil a year. He'll come in here and spend 800 to a g."
While not everybody is coming in to spend $1,000, Terry explains that some men spread out their expenses by coming in once a week. "My friend Nick is a classic Friday night, 6:30, coming off work, coming here to get his outfit for the night. We'll press it up for him and he's ready to go. Anybody can afford a $60 shirt a week," Terwedo says. Splurging here is to be saved for in other areas: "You just have to hit a two-for-Tuesdays earlier in the week or something," he laughs.
Terwedo clearly loves his job--he's been in retail for nine years--but sometimes he can be frustrated by the awkward relationship between men and the racks. You think some of the pickup lines out at the clubs are embarrassing? According to Terwedo, guys can be just as ham-handed trying to get into a new shirt. "The first thing guys go for, every single guy on the planet, is blue. I push guys to a cool salmon color. It brings out the life in their face, but they don't know that until they try it on."