Model - Paul Jensen
Stylist - Zachary Roland
Photographer - Zachary Roland
Paul Jensen is a local guitarist and denim enthusiast here in Omaha. He plays guitar for Field Club, and you can listen to their music here. We got together at Roast in Aksarben Village to chat about about art, fashion, and our mutual denim obsession.
So, first question - What do you do? What’s important to you?
My name’s Paul. I’m a musician, and I love anything art related. I used to be more into visual art than I am now, but I’m trying to get back into it.
Drawing. I did get into painting for a little bit but it’s very messy. I’m mainly into anything music related, anything that sounds like something I haven’t heard before. So I get really into sound experiments. There are times where I’ll spend hours creating droning sounds with my guitars.
I work in retail, which is where I’ve more recently had my interest sparked in clothes. Paying attention to what stuff is made of and where it comes from, thinking about that stuff more. I’ve always been into fashion, but it’s really become a bit of an obsession the last few years of my life.
And you’re really into raw and selvedge denim, too?
I guess you could say that I really like things that look old. Whether they are new and made to look vintage or actually vintage. Stuff that’s from a different time, like classic American stuff.
Like heritage or Americana?
"There’s this movement towards clothing that is durable and can be worn so much that you almost seep into the article."
Photo by Zachary Roland
I don’t know if this is true for you, but when I worked at the Gap, they had such a focus on iconic American style that I really got interested in heritage or Americana type items. Even if I wasn’t necessarily buying Gap stuff, I was more interested in that whole aesthetic. Like California miners wearing-
-old tattered jean jackets. Or like the arm is totally ripped off. Yeah that stuff is great. You can never go wrong with wearing a jean jacket with anything. I wear one everyday!
I wear mine everyday!
People at work make fun of me for it but I don’t give a shit.
So we mentioned Americana, heritage, stuff that looks like it’s old, or is old. How else would you describe your style?
I guess I like to dress in a way I can tell a story. I wear a lot of jeans. I don’t like to wear anything that’s crisp and new, I like old stuff that’s ripped or faded. I have this velvet blazer that I’ve had for years now. I love it so much. There’s even fading on the arms now. If something looks lived in, in a way it’s telling a story of where you’ve been as a person. It’s like you’re wearing your history on your sleeves.
I think that’s what gets people into raw denim, and then from there heritage-wear in general. It’s so durable and lasts so long that you’ll have these articles of clothing for years and they’re faded and worn down to you and your body. It really tells a story about who you are, where you’ve been, and what you do.
Exactly. There was a period of time where I would wear a pre-distressed pair of jeans from the mall, but that kind of feels like a lie. That’s the interesting thing about clothing now. There’s this movement towards clothing that is durable and can be worn so much that you almost seep into the article.
I love that, “you seep into the article.”
It’s literally true. A lot of the fading happens from you sweating in them.
And those pre-distressed jeans are made to look worn. But if you just do the fading yourself by wearing them, they’re going to compliment your body. If you’re getting a laser or a sand blaster to do that before you buy them, then it’ll throw off the proportions of your body.
It doesn’t look the same at all. If I were to set my favorite pair of jeans next to a pre-distressed pair, you could tell the difference. There’s the time you slipped and fell and ripped the knee, or the time you snagged them on something.
Yeah, there are always those little imperfections. You can look at a scratch, or a tear, or a fade, and remember how that happened.
My favorite pair of jeans is this pair of skinny selvedge that I got from the Gap when I first started. I wore those things every day for years. I’ve kind of had to put them down recently because they got a hole in the back pocket area. They’re like the best jeans I’ve ever owned just because of how they look now. They’re super faded. There’s an outline where I kept my phone, the legs are crazy, there’s a bunch of whiskering around the knees. There are a bunch of holes. I even painted in them once, so there’s paint on them. That looks like me. I don’t see anyone else’s idea of what a jean is supposed to look like. So they tell the story of all those places that I was. I feel like that makes them worth so much more than a pair of jeans you bought at the store two months ago and wore six times before throwing them out.
"If something looks lived in, in a way it’s telling a story of where you’ve been. It’s like you’re wearing your history on your sleeves."
Photo by Zachary Roland
So you mentioned how working in retail the past few years got you more into fashion. Is that when you realized fashion was something that’s important to you?
I’ve always really liked clothes. Even when I was a little kid I had these little plaid blazers and bowties and kid suits. There’s a picture of me wearing these khakis with an orange plaid blazer, a white shirt, and a red bow tie. The color scheme was horrible, but I was a little kid so it didn’t matter.
Like a little Pee-wee Herman?
Yeah, just a little kid. Pretty fly, if you ask me. But even in high school I was really into clothes. Thinking about them and how I fit into things. I was never like, “just give me a pair of baggy jeans.” No, I’ve always been very particular about it. In high school, I was kind of obsessed with wearing blazers. I would try to make stuff into an art project, too. So I had a bunch of nice white dress shirts that I had tie dyed.
So I guess I’ve always been into fashion, I’ve just gone through different phases of what I like to wear. The last few years for me have been denim all day, before that I was wearing chinos and blazers a lot. It’s always been a part of how I present myself to the world.
Would you say you use fashion as an outer expression of yourself?
I think that’s the only way you can. I mean, yeah there are gonna be people that have the same style as you. But, you’re the person who decided to get this article and wear it that way, especially when we’re talking about selvedge jeans. That makes you stand out a little bit more in my mind because you own it, you wear it the way you wear it. You can’t go get that in a store or reproduce that somewhere. I think that that’s the way you show the world who you are and what you’re about.
Another big part of my style is that every t-shirt that I have has to be either a band t-shirt, probably 99% of them are band t-shirts, or something that I legitimately think is cool or funny. Not those joke t-shirts that say bullshit memes on them. Or a picture of a cat.
We already talked about how your style has evolved over time, through high school, etc. Do you have any ideas of where you might see it going in the future?
I’d like to wear more blazers and ties again, but take a deeper dive. Maybe that’s my goal for 2018.
I just thrifted this really great corduroy blazer. So nice, so warm. I got it for three dollars, and it looks like it was tailored perfectly to my body. That never happens.
That’s so cool when you find stuff like that. It’s hard to do that, especially with older stuff. The cuts were so different.
"I’d rather pay a little more for something that’s good quality, because that way it will last more than a season. It feels like no one does that anymore."
Photo by Zachary Roland
So what do you think are some fashion mistakes or faux-pas you’ve made over the course of your journey?
When I was younger there was a period of time where I purposefully wore patterns that shouldn’t ever go together.
Like power clashing?
Yeah. I’d wear a plaid shirt and a camo jacket on the outside. Stuff like that. Now I try to keep things, not plain, but simple. So I’m not trying to mash all these things together, which is something I think I did a lot.
Do you have any favorite designers or brands that influence your style?
Gucci. No, I’m just kidding. I think Naked & Famous is the coolest. The guy who started it, Brandon Svarc, is so innovative! Look at some of the crazy shit they’ve done. They do scratch and sniff jeans, like what?
I think they did thermochromic jeans, too.
Yeah, I have a pair that are black thread on the inside, but they’re coated in this white, almost paint-like substance.
Oh, the reverse fading jeans? You showed me those, those are cool.
I wish so badly that I could fit in them, but my booty’s just too big man. So yeah the things they do are really cool. They do a bunch of weird stuff. Just the fact that they think ahead, “what will these jeans look like after two years of wear?”
They really are the mad scientists of denim right now. And they know it, too. They’ve done some of my favorite stuff. I think they did a copper weft denim, where the thread they use as the weft is a copper thread. They had those jeans that were coated in a special Japanese ink. So instead of fading from indigo to white, they faded from black to indigo to white.
That’s cool. They also have a pair with a kevlar weft, so you’re wearing like bulletproof jeans.
"You’re the person who decided to get this article and wear it that way. You can’t get that in a store or reproduce that somewhere."
Photo by Zachary Roland
So what are some of your favorite pieces in your wardrobe right now?
My gap jeans that I mentioned earlier. They’re the jeans I’ve worn the most. I’m in a committed relationship with my Civilianaire denim jacket. I’ve been trying to wear it more often. It just feels right. Buying it was a super gamble, because I just bought it off some guy on eBay. I also have this red plaid shirt. It’s a red and blue plaid, like a buffalo check pattern. I just love the way it looks.
And then I have a leather biker jacket. I’d wear it more but it’s too goddamn cold in Nebraska. It’s a little slim in the arms, so I can’t really layer it, but I love it. Ever since I was a kid and started getting into guitar and listening to punk rock and The Ramones, I’ve always wanted one. It’s the coolest thing you can wear. It looks good, and it’s a similar thing to denim because maybe you buy an old one, or you get a new one and you have to break it in. You get one of those and you’ll have it the rest of your life.
I have my dad’s from when he was my age. It doesn’t fit me very well because I’m a size smaller than him. But just the history of it is cool.
It’s definitely an item that is almost cliche, because so many people wear them. And some people look good in them, but some people look ridiculous.
It is kind of a ridiculous piece of clothing. It’s the epitome of function dictating form. Just everything about it was designed for riding a motorcycle and yet it’s a beautiful piece of art.
It’s true. The last piece of clothing I have that is a favorite of mine is this old wool fedora that belonged to my dad’s dad. And that was back when that was what you wore to work. After he died I took it. It’s cool because it’s almost like a story being handed down. And it was made right over in Council Bluffs. It’s probably the oldest thing that I have.
I feel like, in addition to telling a story and really having meaning to you as a wearer, it also just helps cut down on waste. The fashion industry just pollutes so much every year, and by recycling those older items, or buying used, or repairing instead of replacing, we can cut down on waste and help the environment.
That’s exactly one of the reasons I’d rather pay a little more for something that’s good quality, because that way it will last more than a season. It feels like no one does that anymore. We should, there’s an island of trash in the middle of the ocean that a turtle is probably stuck in right now because you’re an asshole who decided to buy a pair of jeans for six bucks. You’re not an asshole for doing that, but those companies are assholes for making things super cheap. That planned obsolescence is in everything now.
That’s what happens when you manufacture in countries that have loose labor laws, so you don’t have to pay your employees a living wage.
You have to be mindful of where certain things come from and how they’re made. That’s a thing that I think people need to be a lot more mindful of now in 2018. That’s another way you vote, how you spend your dollar. Something I’d like to do this year is support a lot more of those smaller companies that produce clothing more ethically.
"There’s this loneliness that’s inherent in the culture. There’s just a sense of sadness and isolation because of how spread out everything is."
Photo by Zachary Roland
So to finish things up, let's talk about Omaha. This blog is about highlighting Omahans with style. Do you think living in Omaha has influenced your style at all?
Knowing that we have this history in farming, that could be where my interest in classic americana comes from. Just looking at pictures of old buildings and men working.
The railroad came right through Omaha.
My grandpa worked on the railroad, and he had all these books about it. Growing up I saw all these images of guys wearing jeans or overalls, sitting down, eating lunch, maybe wearing a newsboy cap or whatever. That was always there in my mind, so I think that’s where that comes from. But also just our winters. You have to have stuff that’s not gonna fall apart and actually keeps you warm.
What are some of your favorite things about living in Omaha?
The fact that the art scene here, whether you’re talking about visual art, photography, music, fashion, everything to me seems pretty sincere. I think the music scene especially is very cool, and everybody is friendly and open. There’s this line in a Bright Eyes song about the “sorrowful midwest.” I think that’s really true because there’s just something in Omaha, and the Midwest in general, that there’s just a sense of sadness and isolation because of how spread out everything is. I think maybe that creates a bit of distance between people, so it forces communities to be tight knit and welcoming. But, there’s also this loneliness that’s inherent in the culture. I think the reaction to that in making art is very sincere and passionate. I think that’s evident in Omaha especially.