Taking Care of Business

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The straight world I live in from nine to five requires that I wear an unusual uniform. No, what I actually mean is that it doesn't really matter what I wear, it's where I buy it that counts. T-shirts, jeans, running shoes – those items are all on the yes list, providing they're from J-Crew or any other major American Ivy League outfitter. Casual is just another dress code.

At first I resisted dressing like the drones in the office. Then I started running into them in coffee shops and night clubs dressed in gear I thought belonged strictly to the street style set. They were all caught in the pitch of fashion. That's when I realized that sporting a hip style no longer symbolizes some close connection to the street or secret knowledge of its uniforms. These days everyone can have hip. And it's not necessary to go downtown to get it. Hip can be bought at the strip mall. Hip style used to be a strategic art and the practitioners had to be in the right place at the right time. Then marketers and the media broke it open like a wardrobe Watergate. The private craft that was once learned through the study of British music magazines, a marathon number of hours spent watching music videos, and intense investigation of subculture, was made public. Street style is on sale and available to all. Everybody knows where to buy each other's clothes but there's a silent agreement that we will all continue to wear costumes and use the language of fabrics to describe who we are and where we are in life.

I decided I had to button down and get me a button-down. But there was no way I could settle for mail-order style. After all, I wasn't 30 yet, I couldn't just surrender. So I crossed the street into Yorkville.

Anti M is a shop that looks too young and too hip for the Yorkville area. But the wealthy do reproduce and their children have to shop somewhere.

The store sells a surf label from the States call Stussy. I had a steady supply of it throughout college. I'd buy it in bulk on vacation in Florida. Down there it was as common as palm trees. The warm colours, laid back cuts, and retro cool clothing reflected the tropical climate. When I came back, soaked in surf style, I'd look like a tourist in my own town. Anti M have their hands on an exclusive distribution deal so they doubled the price automatically making Stussy®high fashion for the superficial suckers that patronize the place. To them I must have looked like a million bucks – literally.

Anti M was started, owned, and operated by a horn player who made his money hijacking Coltrane and calling it Acid Jazz. He wrote and produced some singles featuring heavily sampled Impulse! standards. They sold well then he stopped. He left his label, and Japan, and set up shop in Yorkville. When I heard the store was named after an actual person I pictured a fiery, middle-aged, Vivienne Westwood type with an Irish accent, draped in street style. When I met M HE was a porcelain pale, clean cut Japanese, wearing square, beat era, half-glasses, a blue vintage Ben Sherman button-down, tapered white Levi's STA-pressed jeans book-ended with black Doc Marten's loafers. I'd seen him wear an ascot once. When I commented on one of the more flamboyant pieces from his collection of neckwear, he corrected me and explained that it wasn't an ascot, it was called a cravat.

There is a chilling cool and exclusive air about the place. The walls are painted but I've never noticed a colour. There are shelves in place but their materials are so neutral or common that they go unnoticed and the clothes seem as though they're floating in place. The sign spells out Anti M in a plain modern European typeface. Some consumers have no clue what's for sale beyond the shops glass door. At every moment, no matter how style swings, M's store wears a permanent poker face in the high-risk game of fashion retail.

Anti M was where I went the day I decided to reconsider my costume. I didn't plan to buy anything, I couldn't afford to at the time. I was casing the joint, checking my options. If there was an item I really wanted I'd put it on my list and pick it up when I made my next trip stateside. My plans changed the moment I stepped inside. I discovered that Stussy had forsaken surf wear for a season and created a conservative line of semi-casual clothing. They had succumbed to the ivy league invasion. Tommy Hilfiger was a hit with the hip hop crowd who were making conservative cool. So Stussy followed suit, tightening their collar and releasing a variety of clean cut shirts reminiscent of the Brooks Brothers button-downs desired by Mods and jazz freaks in the fifties. It was cool from another time, classic even. Once again Stussy had stolen from what worked before and slapped their label on it. It was exactly what I was looking for. I was in a bind.

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