A friend once joked that a girl who doesn’t own any cute shoes must be boring. I laughed it off, but it is true that clothes can reveal personality. Consider the whole process — how we shop, where we buy and what we bring home — and there’s a reason and a story behind every garment. Even the tacky Christmas sweater your grandma gave you or the crumpled T-shirt you just grabbed off the floor. So I decided to check out what’s hanging in Anchorage wardrobes and hear what locals have to say about what’s behind their closet doors.
Here’s a little-known fact about Jared Woods: He can pick out an outfit just as good as he can pick out a tune.
The Anchorage singer-songwriter and open-mike maestro is known for being easy on the ears with his acoustic rock and easy on the eyes with his charismatic grin and rosy cheeks. But here’s what you might not know: Woods is an avid thrift-store shopper, practically addicted to Levi’s, and spends more on shoes than any other part of his wardrobe.
“I can put together some outfits,” Woods said to me as he excitedly surveyed his living room with wide eyes late last week.
Woods took a break from doing his taxes and gearing up for weekend gigs on the Kenai Peninsula to talk shop with me. He’d spent the afternoon covering his furniture with the contents of his closet, and now he was moving quickly around a couch and futon grabbing vintage Western shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons, a black velvet suit, broken-in T-shirts, a greaser-style black leather jacket, a charcoal wool coat and lots and lots of jeans.
Woods’ fashions are comfortable and classic, but he’s also got a silly side and loves a T-shirt as a conversation starter or an outfit as a comedic interlude.
“I like to wear stuff that’s unique, stuff that gets a laugh,” he said.
Case in point: a worn blue T-shirt that reads, “Impeach Clinton and her husband too!”
“I wear this one sometimes because without even talking I can find out where people stand.”
His wardrobe is also a travel diary, and he’s quick to recall that he bought a certain pair of Levi’s at the Red Light Clothing Exchange in Portland, the Seafarer Dungaree jeans that fit perfectly over his cowboy boots from a vintage store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and the kitschy sunglasses at a dollar store in North Carolina.
Jeans are a staple — the count is around 25 — and, of course, most are Levi’s. The only other clothing compulsion Woods might concede to is a plain black T-shirt. Or 20 plain black T-shirts.
While Woods picked outfits, I provided scenarios: one of his local gigs, dinner with his girlfriend, a wedding and a high school reunion. He responded with button-up shirts, the velvet suit, a powder blue tuxedo shirt (as long as he doesn’t know who’s getting married) and a few different denim options.
You might call Woods’ style classic American — or maybe just classic rock.
“I’m into stuff that you’d see Bruce Spring-steen wear,” he said. “I guess I just look for stuff that looks like what I would wear,” Woods said. “The funny thing is my style hasn’t changed for a really long time. Since the third grade I’ve been into rock ’n’ roll. I never got into hip-hop and wore baggy jeans. I’ve always loved leather jackets. I’ve always loved Levi’s.”
He’s not lying. The picture of him in third grade proves it; he is in a Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” T-shirt and jeans that his mom helped him fade and splatter with bleach.
Woods says about half his wardrobe comes from thrift-store shopping.
“If I could spend more, I would,” he said with a chuckle. “Once one of these songs hits ...”
Keeping the clothing cost down might be one reason, but when Woods talks about scouring Anchorage’s secondhand outlets, the skills shine.
“You gotta practice this!” he said as he speedily pawed sideways in the air with both hands as if he’s flipping through clothes hanging on a rack. “I like hunting. My favorite spot right now is the Bishop’s Attic.
“I give away a lot of clothes,” he said. “I’m really good at guessing other people’s sizes.”
Finding his own size isn’t really an obstacle either because he’s the master of his own alternations.
“My mom has a supersonic sewing machine that I’ve got down.”