Laura Ker and Bob Ker own Find, a vintage clothing store that has a location in downtown Portland and one in Scarborough near the South Portland line. Laura maintains a blog on Tumblr called Maine Streets, which documents the street style that caches her eye in Portland, Maine. I talked with her about the blog, style, and the moment that Maine found its hipness.
How long has Find been in business?
Almost four years.
That seems like that time has flown by. I mean this in the most complimentary way, but it still feels new and very fresh.
Thank you. Yeah, it still feels jarring to say.
And the blog started this year?
Yes, in January. Bob and I had been thinking about incorporating street style into what we do in some way for a couple of years. He had been using Tumblr for a couple of years and suggested that it would be a great format for doing that. I finally decided to just start using it. It has been going really well.
You seem to have a great vantage point for it in that it would seem that those who come into your shop would have a particular eye for style.
We are really lucky for that. A lot of fashionable people come right to us.
Have you noticed any shifts in style in the past 4 years, or changes in the way that the people you are seeing are presenting themselves?
Not particularly. When I was visiting here from Rockland before we opened the shop, I was struck by the street style here. When I was a kid in Waterville, I don’t remember that being the case.
I remember when I started coming here as a teenager in the late-90s, the style was sort of asexual thrift, I guess, where the fashion was ultimately anti-fashion. And sub-groups like punks, for example, dressed in a fairly archetypal way. That is clearly no longer the case.
Yeah, I definitely feel like things have changed in the past 10 years.
What in particular about Portland street style sticks out to you? What typically finds itself on your blog?
There are a lot of different styles that grab my eye. Sometimes it is someone who is really well put together. [Portland Trading Co. owner] Kazeem is always really well put together. He is really well coordinated in an interesting way every day. Sometimes it is somebody like that. There are a few other dapper gentlemanly types. I will go for that if I see it, which is not that often.
The other thing that really catches my eye is someone who pulls off something completely absurd. One of my other favorite subjects is Christopher, who will be wearing something like an over-sized Hawaiian shirt or one of those 80s silk jackets that has pictures of coiled ropes and other nautical stuff. Like cheesy grandmother type clothes, but he just owns it.
Not being afraid to look ridiculous is the key to having a great outfit. Go to what you’re drawn to and don’t be afraid to look like a fool. If there is something daring about the outfit, that draws my eye.
I also like minimalism. If someone is playing with proportion and just going really minimal in an interesting way, that draws my eye too.
Does Portland have a distinct style?
I was just in L.A. for my sister’s birthday, and we also go to New York as often as I can… I lived in Brooklyn for 9 years so I have a lot of connections and fondness for that city. So it was interesting to see the differences between L.A., New York and Portland. There are some distinct qualities, I would say. There is a bigger difference between the East and West Coasts. Portland is pretty similar to Brooklyn style in a lot of ways, but on a smaller scale.
Do you remember that HillyTown poster for a Brooklyn vs. Portland rock show from a handful of years ago which illustrated both styles pitted against each other? Both guys looked almost exactly the same, and they shared plaid in common.
That was interesting when a couple of years ago a couple big cities co-opted the lumberjack Maine look so flannel had become really hip. It has kind of been meshing for a while. That little extra boost of hipness, like Bean boots becoming hip, elevated the Maine fashion scene a little bit.
Right, like the people who had been swearing since ’82 that Bean would become fashionable again were vindicated.
I look at a lot of magazines and catalogs and I am an obsessive Pinterest pinner and a lot of cool companies are having photo shoots in Maine, like J. Crew and Pendleton… It is kind of phasing out a little, but it has been a really hip place to be.
Another reason I wanted to start the blog is to show Maine to people from out of state. I would love for it to become of interest to fashionable people from outside of the state and all over the world, really. I look at this blog about style from Helsinki all the time and now I want to go there. Hopefully Maine Streets will similarly bring people’s interest here.
I talked with Unseen Portland’s Andrew Kessler about how his desire is less about showing Portland as a tourist destination and more from a street perspective. That is what appeals to both him and me, as there is more of an honesty, and that is the kind of content that would attract me to a city. You are doing something similar in that way.
I just think Portland is a great city and I want to attract more creative-minded people here, both for the economy and to make it a more fun place to be.