The Utilitarian

Joe Bar's Wylie Bush dresses for fun and functionality.

Joe Bar is a coffee shop-cum-nightspot, with fantastic coffee, a great beer selection, tasty crepes, and art-covered walls. It's also got a charming, fashionable owner: Wylie Bush, who's worked there since 1997. Bush purchased the cafe in 2000, and since then he has expanded the shop to twice its original capacity, extending the hours and turning it into a late-night destination. You'll find him there pulling espresso, which may be why he's most comfortable in jeans, T-shirts, and work boots.


You are the face of your business. What does that mean in terms of how you put yourself together? Because of the type of work [I do], it's usually pretty utilitarian. [I wear] boots because the milk and egg batter gets everywhere. And jeans typically. It's very rare that I wear shorts to work in the summer, because it just gets nasty being covered in coffee. I don't mind that my hands smell like coffee, but getting it in between your toes is disgusting. I have an "I heart foie gras" shirt; I wear that a lot. I'm annoyed at the current movement against foie gras. I'd rather be a foie gras goose than a cow in a massive U.S. slaughterhouse.

Do you get into debates about your t-shirt? No. A lot of restaurant workers come in, so I get a lot of high fives.

How would you describe Seattle's style? It's casual. Tacoma has more of a working-class population than Seattle, but we still harbor those logger sentiments from back in the day. You go to the opera and people wear jeans, which I would not do.

What would you wear to the opera? I'd wear a nice pair of dress pants and a button-down shirt with some embroidery, which I really like.

Where do you shop? I'll go anywhere from Sears and the Army Navy Surplus Store to that place on First Avenue in Belltown, Kuhlman. That's where I'll buy really nice slacks, nice dress shirts. There's a place right around the corner from Joe Bar, Presence—they've got some killer stuff. [The store's] been there maybe six months or more. [Owner Donna Rambo] turned me onto a company called English Laundry. I really like their stuff.

How do you feel about the $200 jean trend? [Bush gestures, pushing his hand away from his body, as if pushing this idea away.]

What about shoes? I wear Blundstones [an Australian boot].

Do you have any fashion choices you regret? In seventh grade I was wearing sweatpants, a T-shirt, and a black leather motorcycle jacket. I painted the Black Flag logo on the back of the jacket.

Is there something you bought on a whim that languishes in your closet? Christmas sweaters with cable stitching.

Do you have a style icon? A construction worker. Anyone who looks like they are fit for what they are doing.

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