A Pure Detroit Fashion Experience

I grew up at a time when if you could buy a T-shirt promoting Detroit it would say something like, “Welcome to Detroit, Now Go Home.” Now when I travel back to Michigan I’m continually inspired by the shops and style I see in the city and surrounding areas. Few places say Detroit fashion like Pure Detroit, a home-grown fashion brand that takes the best of Detroit and infuses that inspiration into stylish things to wear.

Pure Detroit

If you walk through the Pure Detroit store in the Fisher Building one of the most iconic accessories to pick up is the seat-belt buckle belt. It’s genius in so many ways. The buckles are taken from, or at least sourced from seat belt buckles that used to protect passengers in Ford, General Motors, or Chrysler cars. I still have vivid memories of buckling myself into the family van (a Ford) and I just couldn’t say no to buying one. It’s sort of industrial and unique in a way I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Another staple of Pure Detroit is the fitted T-shirt. Detroit Rock, Detroit Funk, they’re displayed in 70’s-80’s colored script and result in a non-kitsch image of the city. Of all the cities I’ve visited in the world, Detroit has the coolest T-shirts. Prague is a close second, nearly tied with Berlin (and Berlin has the coolest sweater). This is actually not easy to do. I’ve seen the city T-shirts in Paris, New Orleans, Zurich, Prague, Tokyo, Boston, New Mexico, Las Vegas and a few other not so memorable locals. The Pure Detroit shirts are by far the most stylish and cutting-edge of any other place because they focus on the historical music style and well as the city. They’re cool without trying to spoon-feed anything to the person who looks at you walking down the street.


In the city, my favorite shop is Spectacles (230 E. Grand River Harmonie) . I was just walking around one day and heard some cool music pumping into the street. At first I thought it was coming from some apartment and pulled out my Zoom H4 to record the sounds. Then I realized it was coming from the shop I was standing in front of and decided to walk in and check it out. Spectacles is sort of beyond cool. You can buy homemade funk CD burned on a computer, new designers and T-shirts I wouldn’t know where to find anywhere else and the shop has an all around awesome feeling. I talked with the owner for a bit and walked way with two shirts and a couple of CDs. Whenever I’m in Downtown Detroit I head to Spectacles. The shop isn’t huge, but the ambiance inside is unique, and they sell real clothes there. If you stop into an H&M, you always have the feeling that you’re buying something fleeting, that will look cool for half a season and then it’s over with. The stuff at Spectacles has a sort of timeless cool funk feeling. They stock small designers, so if you’re looking for something unique, it’ll be there. On my last trip I found a fantastic hat that sits upon my brain with an authentic style the hats in Zurich just don’t have.


Outside of downtown and near Wayne State University is Showtime (5708 Woodward Avenue). What’s Showtime? More or less it’s hands down the coolest Rock-oriented fashion spot in the world. Sounds like an exaggeration, but I’ve shopped in San Diego, Tokyo, Zurich, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and a few others, and it’s just a fact that Showtime is the coolest of them all. Well, to be honest it’s borderline between Spectacles and Showtime for my favorite establishment, one is hip hop and the other rock. If you want to dress like a rockstar then head to Showtime, don’t ask about the prices and let the clothes find you, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

The Burbs

Outside of Detroit is Royal Oak, once the trendy alternative area of the metro area, now an upscale nesting place for young professionals and those who want to look trendy, the city still has a lot of cool shops, like Indigo. I stopped in just to be different (from my boring perspective) and left with a T-shirt and sweater, the likes of which I wouldn’t be able to find in Zurich and probably neither in Paris. This is kind of the point, because I’m not likely to run into someone sporting the same look while strolling down BahnhofStrasse in Zurich.

Shoes are the make-or-break addition to any wardrobe. Onitsuka Tigers are the most fantastic shoes I didn’t know existed until I started paying attention. These shoes are coveted items in Zurich, and generally can’t be had for less than 120-160 CHF per pair. The situation is blissfully different in Michigan (and the US in general), and I picked up a nice pair of white Tigers at the Summerset Collection in Novi for like $60. I also got a pair of Levis 507 jeans, another item which carries an obscene markup in Europe. Shopping at the Summerset Collection (located in Troy) in the hardcore white-collar suburbs of Detroit lacks the feel of the actual city, but the selection and prices (compared to Zurich) are nice.

Detroit is my new fashion shopping Mecca in the world. The stores aren’t all in the same place and you might have to search around for the things you want – but when you find them you can rest assured that the merchandise will be fresh and unique. My sister says I look European now, even though many of my clothes are from Michigan (or from We in Zurich), and in Europe people might think I look American, but I say the style is pure me.

If you’re heading to Detroit and don’t know where to start, head to the Downtown Welcome Center (1253 Woodward) and check out an Inside Detroit tour, highly recommended.

More Fool

On a cool Thursday night after German class and before a Greek dinner party I had a deep desire to do some fashion consious shopping in Zurich. I walked into one of the bright storefronts on Bahnhofstrasse to find a jacket, and perhaps some pants to match.

"We" is a cool clothing store for guys, more realistic style than H&M, more cutting edge than Fossil, way cheaper than Hugo Boss, and they have decent quality stuff. There was a cool olive blazer, but I wasn’t ready for the shoulder inserts, plus it seemed to fan out too much around the sides. I can’t do black velvet yet and the purple relaxed velvet is just so beyond realistic contemplation for me I didn’t even try it on.

Distraught and subdued I took one more look around the ground floor before leaving and my eyes settled on a non-fitted (only small, medium, and large) urban relaxed styled offering. It was made to look like linen; a rustic brown with faded white vertical stripes. I wasn’t expecting much but I tried on the medium and it seemed to fit like a glove. It was only two button, but it was also only 99 CHF, I took it to the counter without a second thought.

Heading back along Bahnhofstrasse I stopped in at H&M. It’s not my favorite store since they like to sell too many trendy trinkets (sparkling belts and leather wrist bands) that kids buy like bubble gum cause Brittany wore it on MTV. But the guy section actually has some cool suits and pants. I only had one goal; and found a cool blue-stripped button down shirt to go with the blazer.

The Pose

I fell in love with the H&M dress shirts earlier this year when I picked one up on a whim. Seeing as I used to be quite the chubby Star Wars/G.I. Joe geek, there’s some sort of quiet contentment in buying shirts with the words "size medium – slim fit" on the tag. They hug my body like no other non-sport shirt I’ve ever worn. Up until the age of 18 I’d say that over 80% of my clothes came from my mom via various second=hand stores. Now the idea of spending $80 on a pair of non-waterproof, non-tear resistant, just-cause-they-fit-well-and-look-cool pants is almost digestible. The next night I wore the blazer, new shirt and light blue Levis. The red tie made an appearence, as did the Saks 5th Ave. scarf.

More ShadowShadow

As I was heading out the door I grabbed the Purple Dr. Martin 10 eye combat boots (not pictured), they just seemed like the perfect addition. The aviator sunglasses were just for the photographs. I don’t really wear sunglasses during the night, unless I happened to have lost my normal glasses – which has happened before (Oktoberfest is a dangerous place). I wasn’t really drinking during the shoot, mainly because the beer had been sittng out for two or three days.


The Look

Fashion Fool

I had a will to be weird on one Friday night, which for me entails not wearing sandals and trading in the climbing jacket for a blazer. The decision process took about a half hour. First, I was thinking of the black DKNY jacket, but it didn’t go with the dark blue (2% Kevlar Polo Sport) jeans that I wanted to wear (plus it felt a bit too stiff and dressy). The green corduroy Levi safari jacket was promising, but I wanted something lighter, and although I kinda liked looking like a Beetle wanabe-reject, it was too dark to wear the sunglasses which would have been necessary to complete the ensemble. I finally settled on the Alagash olive green travel jacket with leather elbows and no shoulder inserts. At this point my sister is probably asking the same question she asked me when I was showing her my Purple Doc Marten combat boots, “are you sure you’re not gay?” Underneath I wore a dark-stripped white H&M button-down shirt. There was gel in my hair and high-gloss Dr. Martins on the feet. Around my neck I wrapped a Sakes 5th Ave. scarf my mom probably paid less than 1$ for 10 years ago at some second hand store in Michigan – but something was missing.

Grid spot on face, back light FujiGA

To complete the look I tied on a bright red tie (also H&M). The scarf covered up the top of the tie so as not too look to pretentious (who wears a tie outside of work?), and the bright redness of it peaked out nicely over the top of my stomach when I pulled the jacket back and put my hands in the jeans pockets. After all, how else is one supposed to casually walk through Zurich on a fine fall evening? I call this my laid-back but dressed up. Cutting but comfortable. After all, clothes are unnatural if you’re not comfortable in them – costumes are only for Mardis Gras and Halloween. Otherwise you just seem like a trend-jailed fool trying to look cool but all the while projecting a feeling of uneasy make-believe. Ineffective and sad to look at.

Better tie lighting large

I’m sometimes shy and it takes some motivation for me to get up the courage to be comfortable and wear a blazer-type jacket in public – but I also sleep on glaciers, and I had a Will to be Weird. Sometimes you have to face the fear of looking foolish when going out in a fashion nebulus of the world (like Zurich). But really, if you do it with fearless confidence it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. Besides, life gets boring if you don’t take a few reasonable risks here and there every once in a while, and since I had no plans to galavant across mountain ridges this past weekend, the fashion risk would have to suffice to keep my senses peaked and primed to effectively handle whatever life would reveal.