Model - Matt Ehlinger
Photographer - Zachary Roland
Stylist - Zachary Roland
Matt Ehlinger is a professional rock and jazz guitarist in Omaha. He plays in several bands, and teaches guitar lessons for the 402 Arts Collective. I met Matt at his home in Little Bohemia on a sunny Monday morning, and we talked over coffee. Afterwards Matt introduced me to his closet, and we chose some outfits that were representative of his overall style.
Tell me about yourself. What do you do? What’s important to you?
I’m a freelance guitarist. I do lots of things but I try and keep it fresh and new because I need a constant challenge. I love playing and I’m all about making music for music’s sake. I’d love to do more jazz and improv oriented things but that’s hard to make a living on here in Omaha so I do other things too.
I’m also really into coffee. I’d love to get into roasting and sourcing but that would be down the road. For now, I just nerd out about it all the time. I try as much as I can and ask a lot of questions along the way.
Other things I’m interested in. Swimming, running, biking and rock climbing. All the sports without hand eye coordination. Again, I love the challenge.
How would you describe your style?
Utilitarian. Most of the things I wear are very practical. I also keep it simple with only a few things that I usually wear on rotation. I always buy the same pair of jeans and wear them to oblivion and I stick to one of probably 10 shirts. Currently my shoes alternate between a pair of black roper boots, black Chelsea boots or a pair of Sambas. I often, but not always, try and add a small element of cowboy into my style.
I will add that I have a thing for jackets. I probably have a disproportional amount to the rest of my clothing. My favorites are an old denim jacket that has a wide color and some really cool fades, a short brown suede jacket and a black woven cotton jacket.
When did you realize fashion was important to you? Why? What was that like?
I started to become conscious of my fashion around 13. I grew up homeschooled and most of my friends didn’t think about it at all. I started skateboarding and also hanging out with a new group of friends because of it. There was definitely a look that helped you to fit in a look more credible so I adopted it. This is where utilitarian meets style came in. I wanted to have a certain look but needed clothes that were conducive to skateboarding.
I enjoyed cultivating a look but often was made fun of from some of my longer standing friends. I guess they didn’t understand the desire. Now, people take it a lot better. No one seems to think it's odd that I think about what I wear or just fashion in general. That’s nice. Not because I care that others may not like what I do, but I got tired of having conversations where I might be asked to justify my fashion choices or was told why they were weird or not alright. We’re talking skinny jeans and skateboarding apparel here, nothing crazy.
"I have a thing for jackets. I probably have a disproportional amount to the rest of my clothing."
Photo by Zachary Roland
Do you use fashion as an outer expression of yourself?
Definitely. Sometimes a certain shirt or pair of shoes won’t feel right for the day and I’ll change into something that does. It helps me to feel ready for the day.
Do you have a go to outfit? What is it?
Yes! Two actually. The first is: Unbranded 14.5oz selvedge denim jeans (sometimes my ripped/faded pair and sometimes my newer non faded pair), white t shirt, black roper boots, and a denim jacket. The second is the same jeans as above, a thin blue and white striped shirt, sambas, and my suede jacket.
How has your style evolved over time? Where do you see it going in the future?
I’ve definitely tried to keep my clothes to certain colors that look sleeker. I wish I was someone that could wear all black but it just doesn’t really work for me. Instead, I try and stick to a little black plus darker colors or white. I hardly wear brown. I didn’t realized this when I was younger and wore a lot of colors that didn’t really work for me. I know what those are and avoid them now. I would love to collect a small but mighty wardrobe of really high quality pieces. I like the idea of adapting and changing what I wear. I need the changeup. But there are still things (like pants, shoes and jackets) that you can get a lot of mileage out of.
What are some fashion mistakes you’ve made?
I used to wear these leather dress shoes in high-school. They were alright, I guess, but I had these flat brown tennis shoe laces in them. It was kind of weird.
What are your favorite pieces in your wardrobe?
My unbranded jeans, roper boots, the aforementioned denim jacket, a striped shirt, and a great patterned short sleeve button down shirt that was once my older brothers.
"Most of the things I wear are very practical. I also keep it simple with only a few things that I usually wear on rotation. I always buy the same pair of jeans and wear them to oblivion."
Photo by Zachary Roland
What is your favorite thing about Omaha?
Two things. First, the people. They’re just great and a lot of my really good friends are either here, visit here or will likely end up here. Second, it’s small but thriving. I think it has a lot in store for it.
How has living in Omaha influenced your sense of style?
It’s a relatively small city and people often play it safe - I know some people don’t and holla at them. I don’t think I would wear crazier shit if I lived in New York, but I do enjoy wearing semi-weird things here. Sometimes it messes with people which I think is fun. Growing up going camping all the time or taking trips to the Sandhills in western Nebraska gave me an appreciation for cowboy apparel. I think that’s where I picked that up.