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The Pro-Files: Frank Muytjens of J.Crew

Jeff, with Frank Muytjens (head of men’s design for J.Crew.)

Clothing is a narrative. A collection of well-placed hints about who you are, where you come from, where you’re going. And you? You’re someone with places to be. People should be able to know you when you get there.
At least that’s how Frank Muytjens sees it. Frank is the head of men’s design at J.Crew, where he went after working with Polo. Yet, the Amsterdam native is surprisingly down to earth for being an increasingly recognizable international gentleman in the industry. One of the kindest and most thoughtful heavy-hitters you’ll meet.

Muytjens and la presidente, Jenna Lyons, were in the Second City recently to promote both a new men’s shop and their fall line. It’s a tall order to fly into Chicago to spend less than half a day on Michigan Avenue for a meet-and-greet the many admirers of your work, but no: Frank is as good a listener as he is a thinker.
And it’s that kind of careful thought that has allowed the company to reinvent itself into a game-changer. See, the thing about J.Crew is, not so long ago you wouldn’t have put it and “classic” next to each other in a sentence. But with Frank and Jenna at the tiller, that’s exactly where the company has risen: to a look that’s The Great Escape, not Dawson’s Creek.

We caught up with Muytjens in the 900 Shops a couple of weeks ago before he and Lyons had to jet back to New York City where, if their current record is any indicator, they’ll keep shaking things up.
Midwestyle: You’ve said before that story is a big motivator for you. How does it influence your creative process? (“It’s important that the brands we surround ourselves with tell a story,” Muytjens told Esquire last fall.)

Frank Muytjens: Well, you start with an idea.
You craft a story.

You pick a fabric. It’s a very organic process. It’s the creative struggle. It’s always like a fight, but in the best way possible.

MWS: And it’s that creative struggle that keeps your attention and enthusiasm.
FM: We’re such a well-oiled machine compared to a couple of years ago. We know what fabrics work for us. We still get excited about touching fabrics. It’s important to be childlike—to be excited about coming to work every day.
MWS: What about your move toward classic Americana? What are the stories and influences behind that?

FM: It’s really all about history. I’m fascinated by what I see in the old movies. Tuxedos from the ’30s. Army and Navy uniforms. Workers. The Gold Rush. Those things find their way into our design.
Oh, and here’s a quick tip from Frank:

FM: Try denim under a sport coat. It’s two basic items, but maybe you didn’t think about them together. It’s that combination of rugged and formal, vintage and clean. If you mix and match, you get a more modern look, by pairing unexpected things together.
To Frank, Jenna and the rest of the Crew: Thanks for stopping by and incorporating the Midwest into your orbit. Hope to see you here again soon.
Case in point: There goes Cam, being all unexpected again.

J.Crew photos and text by Seth Putnam. Photo editing by Carolina Rodriguez. Triptych by Bethany Jones.

BOW TIE GIVEAWAY from AnnaRuna

We’ve been rocking bow ties lately to add some personality and character to our looks. (Hell, we’ve been doing that with accessories, bags, tie bars and other quirky pieces, too.) Something subtle or something with a statement—that’s the key to finishing off an outfit. A bow tie is one such touch. Our Midwestern lady friend understands this and wants to help fellow gents (or ladies).

Shirting by Apolis Activism, cardigan by J.Crew and madras bow tie by AnnaRuna.

Her name is Anna, and she’s going to be a senior at Mizzou this coming fall. She and Cam and I grew up cannon-balling at the Willow Farms swimming pool, eating copious amounts of salsa deckside at the Hastings house and shooting off fireworks in the suburbs in front of the Flemings curbside detonation zone each Fourth of July. She’s talented, sweet, tall/Icelandic and Midwestern. (Did we mention beautiful? If not, beautiful.) She makes bow ties and neck ties. She’s not an East Campus dweller (yet) but she’s a frequent dance party fiend at the 516 boys’ house.

So here’s the situation: We want to give you one of Anna’s bow ties from her Etsy shop: AnnaRuna. Here’s how you can snag something fancy for your neck…

Simply:
  1. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumblr if haven’t already. Don’t forget to tell us which one(s) you chose.
  2. Tell us who in your life needs a bow tie and why. If it’s you, that’s cool. If it’s your brother, great. If you’re a lady and want to rock some camo steeze with your chambray button down and floral skirt, that’s cool too, Cary.
We’ll pick randomly, (but really whichever one is the wittiest and makes us laugh the most). The giveaway will close on FRIDAY at 5 p.m. We’ll announce the winner on Saturday via Twitter and a small blog post. Sounds simple, I know.
Pick one, any one. We’ll send it to you.

Thrifty Thursday: Camel suede chukka boots

If you’re from Missouri, you’re aware that there’s this quasi-rivalry between St. Louis and Kansas City. It’s natural, after all, seeing as they’re the two biggest cities in the state and they’re both furnished with competing major league sports teams. When you go to Mizzou, though, you’re kind of forced become frenemies friends with residents of the other city. While it’s unfortunate, it is necessary.
At any rate, some of my own St. Louis friends tricked me into actually going there under the guise of watching them run half of the St. Louis Marathon. I eventually took the bait, and in an attempt to make me think more of their hometown, they took me to The Loop. It was here that they fed me the delicacies of Pam’s Chicago-Style Dogs, walked me past one of the Midwest’s best music venues, The Pageant, and finally took me to some of the city’s finest boutiques and vintage resale shops. It was inside of one of these shops—Avalon Exchange, to be exact—that I stumbled upon these mid top boat shoes for $15, in almost new condition.
$15? Sold. Plus, nothing quite says spring/summer like a light-weight, light-colored pair of shoes. Canvas sneakers, white suede bucks, or in this case, tan mid top deck shoes.
St. Louis, you’re alright in my book.
(Seth’s note: The “Loop”? Chicago-style dogs? Sounds like St. Louis is just a Chi-wannabe. The thing is, I bet they like ketchup on their hot dogs, and that right there says it all.)
Also, while the Corter ‘For Japan’ bracelet is no longer available for purchase, you can definitely still support the one-man, Boston based leather goods operation. The single wrap leather bracelet is a favorite. Also, where else can you find a handmade in the USA, natural leather utility belt for under $50? Nowhere. Definitely check it out here.
Camel suede chukka boots (thrifted from Avalon Exchange, $15) by Anchor, size 10; red and blue plaid button-front (thrifted, $3) by L.L. Bean, medium; “The 77″ straight leg dry selvedge denim (Standard Style, $198) by Baldwin Denim, size 31; natural leather “Corter for Japan” bracelet (retail, $20) by Corter.

Photography by Jarred Donalson.

STREET midweSTYLE: Drew on Oak Street

What’s cool these days?
Zubaz, right?
So is street style photography, I guess.
Wait, I thought you only photographed yourselves, you narcissists?
We didn’t get tired of photographing ourselves (or Cameron at least). We just wanted to mix things up. Other guys around town are keeping it fresh and doing their own style, so we’d like to shrine some light on those dudes: friends, classmates, coworkers, neighbors, roommates, drinking buddies, acquaintances and whoever else might be strolling down the road. Don’t worry, we’re not going to become “one of those street-style blogs” all of a sudden; we just thought we’d spice things up to keep it interesting.
Meet Drew. He’s a sound sculptor and jack of all trades. I’ve run into this guy a handful of times since moving to Chicago and he’s a rad guy to know. Good looks and great style.

Badass? Check.
Functional? Check.
Obnoxious color? Check.
Killer watch by Uniform Wares from Need Supply.

Why we like this look? Monochromatic palette with touches of color and print. We like that.

Polka dot short-sleeve shirt by Marc by Marc Jacobs; “100 series” yellow watch (from Need Supply) by Uniform Wares; grey suede desert boots by Common Projects; “Detroit” straight-leg grey pant by All Saints.

Photos by Jeff Kieslich.

Things Organized Neatly: The Bruiser

“You can’t do that.”
“Do what?”
“Wear black and navy.”

“Says who?”
“You just can’t.”

Gentlemen, who gave us this no-black-and-navy rule?
Hell, who said you can’t wear brown and black together? I’m sure they had every good intention of steering you away from being gawked at or accused of being color-blind (because hey, I know a few guys who are color blind.) But let’s step back and reassess of our views on mixing black and navy.

For us Midwestern boys, we were told not to wear black and navy together because…

  • It’s too dark.
  • It doesn’t match.
  • It doesn’t look “good.”


Disagree. You can do it, and you can do it well.

  • It’s too dark: Try breaking up the navy and black with some white, grey or another neutral—even olive or khaki. (Yes, those are considered neutrals.)
  • It doesn’t match: That’s the point. You don’t have to match your belt to your shoes to your watch strap color. Although you can, you don’t have to. You’ve heard the expression “matchy-matchy?” Yeah, let’s avoid that in this scenario and roll with the bruised-looking palette, that’s often how I look walking out the door. (A little black and blue, with a dash of purple or mustard.)
  • It doesn’t look “good.” Well, that’s in the eye of the beholder. And I’m beholding you and telling you it looks sharp. You were probably told that you can’t wear dress shoes without socks and that you can’t wear white after Labor Day. Bullshit.

Feeling ballsy? Add a touch of yellow or an obnoxious pattern.

Grey straight-leg chino by Nonnie Threads, small; black trim fit waxed stretch cotton “Brayden” jacket (Nordstrom) by Comune, small; black-and-white-striped tee by American Apparel, small; navy cotton button-down by J.Crew, extra-small; Weekly-Planner Notebook by Moleskine; thrifted black leather belt with brass detailing; white “Authentics,” courtesy of Vans.