The Vintage Modern

Saif Romani doesn't do fleece.

Saif Romaniwas born and raised in Seattle, but he doesn't own fleece. Or a parka. You're unlikely to run into him at REI. The stylish Romani is more likely to be seen at his neighborhood coffee shop, Caffe Fiori on Queen Anne Hill, reading a tome by Saramago or García Márquez. He might also be spotted driving his vintage BMW to indie shops or restaurants with friends. The 28-year-old works as a senior systems analyst for Washington Mutual, but he doesn't give off the corporate vibe. He'd rather talk about his passions: coffee (he gets his Lighthouse espresso lattes from Roland at Ancient Grounds), film (anything from Almodóvar to Bollywood to flicks starring Keira Knightley), design, midcentury modern furniture, and his family (his sister is getting her master's at UW; she also studied in India). We caught up with Romani over lunch at Turkish Delight in Pike Place Market.


Where do you shop for clothing? Moksha in the University District, Kuhlman, Blackbird, Tiger Tiger, Moda Xpress, and Nuvo Moda—[the last two] cater to more thin-framed guys; their clothes tend to have slimmer, more European cuts, and they carry stuff you won't see in other stores.

Where do you shop for shoes? Re-Soul, Edie's, Frankie [now in Fremont's Burnt Sugar], and Five Doors Up.

What's your favorite non-Seattle shopping city? Vancouver. They have Mexx and Zara [stores]. I buy suits from Zara—they aren't the highest quality, but they fit well.

How would you define your style? I don't like to define a style because that should always change. Ideas change, people change. I do like the contrast between old and new and vintage and modern. I appreciate old product design—old typewriters, turntables, etc.—but I like to pair it with the really modern.

Is there a piece of clothing you bought on a whim that languishes in your closet? I bought this cream sport coat that has cream embroidery and frayed edges. It's way too flashy for me. It's for someone going out a lot. I'd get stared at if I wore it to my coffee shop.

What are your must-buy items? Accessories are very important to me, especially argyle socks and belts. I'm an Anglophile, so I'm a sucker for anything British. I like ties, but I don't get to wear them enough. If I show up for work in one, people think I'm out interviewing. Jack Spade bags are great, or I can do vintage; I like the look of a worn-out bag against crisp clothing. I also like a good haircut. My new favorite salon is Zero Zero on Capitol Hill.

Advice for the stylishly hopeless? People-watch or ask boutique owners what to wear. Look around for people who seem stylish in different neighborhoods. On Capitol Hill, there's a younger crowd that is forced to be more creative—they typically have less money. People there are more willing to take risks. There are tons of used-clothing stores around there. In Belltown, the look is more flashy.

What do you hate about Seattle fashion? The sloppiness—it's too casual. Sometimes you have to put thought into what you're wearing and pay attention to details. I dislike trainers [running shoes] worn with everyday clothing.

Celebrity you'd like to date? Maggie Gyllenhaal. I think she looks good in anything.

What's the last book you read? The Death and Life of Malcolm X. You can't define Malcolm. He was too intelligent and too lively to be categorized. Malcolm was very careful and conscious about how he looked. In his last speech given in Detroit, the day after his house was burned, he apologized to the audience and asked them to excuse his appearance.

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