Get 'Randalized' at unique men's boutique

Donna Terek
The Detroit News

There are two things you can always be assured of when you visit Randal Jacobs at Savvy Gents, the new haberdashery he and partner Miles Brown opened in Eastern Market. One, he will not be wearing what you saw him in last. Two, what he is wearing — maybe a conservative schoolgirl kilt or a suit coat worn as a sarong over pants — will be uniquely Randal.

Jacobs, 34, pulls from many clothing styles and his outfits are usually a mashup of more than one of them. Hunt club garb cavorts with nuns' veils, priests' cassocks and Yooper plaids. This week his favorite tailor added the red-yellow-green-striped edge of a Hudson Bay blanket to the hem of his black overcoat.

"When I see a theme I go for it," he said. "If I wake up in the morning and I feel 'safari' I have the riding boots on, I have the vest, and I might get a whip.

"To explain my style in one phrase, I'm a dandy grandmother," he said. "Did you ever see a groovy grandmother? She's always in some type of groovy print, something functional, but there's always something chic about her. And when you see a dandy he's always a little fluffy and over the top … so it's that bridge, you know.

"There's always something fluffy and airy in what I wear but always something straightforward and basic at the bottom."

Chic cred

All this may sound a bit mad, and Jacobs is the first to giggle at his own inventiveness. But when he talks about fashion he can be deadly serious and he has the background to support his unique perspective.

After studying business management at Morehouse College in Atlanta and getting a fashion marketing degree from American University in London, England, the Alabama native interned at British GQ and wrote for while based in Milan, Italy. Then it was on to New York and nine years working at Ralph Lauren in the advertising department, eventually styling photo shoots.

Just this year Jacobs was tapped for a seat on the board of the Michigan Garment Industry Council, which promotes the state's textile industry.

After three years shuttling between New York and Detroit, Jacobs took the plunge a year and a half ago and took up residence in Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood. "I wanted to really be a part of the community, not just another transplant ... but actually bring something, a feeling, an attitude, a happening to the city," he said.

Like many locals looking for an interesting shopping and social scene, Jacobs began hanging out at Karen Brown's Savvy Chic, a Paris-inflected boutique in Eastern Market. Before long Brown asked Jacobs to team with her son Miles Brown to open a men's shop within her little marketplace of housewares and women's fashions.

Alabama native Randal Jacobs is co-owner of the new men's shop Savvy Gents in Detroit's Eastern Market.

"It's always been a dream of mine to open a men's shop," said Miles, 21, who grew up in Detroit. "But I'm still a work in progress." Jacobs, on the other hand, sprang on the scene fully, outrageously, formed, the perfect front man for the practical, business-minded Brown who designed the shop's logo and handles the books.

Styling by Randal

Danielle Pettway, a fashion design instructor at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Troy, calls Jacob's style and his styling of other men's clothes "Randalism."

"He's created a movement of men that are strong enough to be men but wise enough to understand what true fashion is."

She said you can always recognize "Randal's touch" on someone he's styled. "Probably no one else in this world can do exactly what he does. For a man to pair a skirt with a pair of pants and a blazer with a woman's blouse and it still looks masculine, you can only describe that as Randalism."

The opening night party for Savvy Gents was awash with Randalism. The friends Jacobs pressed into service as models looked like a collection of jodhpurred swells on safari having cocktails with a corps of urban nightcrawlers.

Jacobs knows his personal style is, well, personal, and that not many men will want to wear the combinations of garments he favors.

"Anyone can wear exactly what I'm wearing, but you have to break it down," he said. "You have to understand that 'Wow, I could wear that cardigan, I could wear that skirt, I could wear that shirt.' But maybe not all together."

So Jacobs and Brown provide all the pieces and the accessories to go with them. How to wear them is up to the customer.

"Savvy Gents is not just a shop," Jacobs said. "It is a brave space where people can … find their own style."

"If someone wants to be styled by me, it's quite simple. Just come to the shop and spend a day with me," Jacobs said, "and we'll discover who you are through the clothes."

Right now Jacobs and Brown are satisfied curating a shop within a shop, "but we see ourselves growing into our own shop, you know, in a cute little butcher shop down the street or somewhere, selling very expensive cuts of meat in the front," said Jacobs. "And you go behind the back wall and there's this amazing menswear store, a little haberdashery in the back of a butcher shop."

If you go: Savvy Gents is located inside Savvy Chic, 2712 Riopelle, Detroit and is open Tues. through Sat., 10 to 6.