by Whitley Adkins | photographs by Amy Kolo
Chicago native Kent Youngstrom has lived in Charlotte for 13 years. “I’m an artist. I used to say not the tortured kind, but I absolutely am tortured,” he says. “I love what I do, and I’m not going to apologize for doing it a lot, because I enjoy it. I want to create something for people that means something to them.”
Kent also creates art for Crate & Barrel and just finished a collaboration with Hudson Jeans. We visited Kent at his local studio to learn more about his one-of-a-kind personal style. “This is my live-work environment. It’s my studio. It’s where everything I have is,” Kent says. Follow him on Instagram @KentYoungstrom or visit kentyoungstrom.com to view his latest works.
Comments have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
When did you first start liking fashion?
I had to wear a uniform for high school, which developed my hatred for logos. I couldn’t afford any of them, so I had to figure out other ways to wear cool stuff. Where I grew up, I was taught things had to match, so I think what I do now is a little bit of a rebellion [toward] that. I’ve learned that truthfully, as an artist, I probably get a little more leeway. The only reason I get away with it is because I do it. I guess the lesson is it’s OK to be the trend instead of following the trend.
I feel like you have been breaking out even more
with fashion lately.
Oh, I have … If I’m going to say I’m an artist, I can’t just be an artist from 9-to-5, I have to be an artist in everything I do, whether it’s the way I dress, the way I coach soccer, the way I communicate with people, the way I paint, the way I talk to you and present myself. If I go to Harris Teeter in cargo shorts, an SEC T-shirt and a visor, I hope you don’t buy my work! So yes, I’m experimenting more. Each time I see something work I get a little braver to try something new.
Describe your personal style.
I am messy with a nice frame. I’m a walking contradiction. I love black and white. It’s how I paint — it’s totally a mess, but in the end, I want to clean it up and make it look presentable. I dress like I live. I don’t know what’s coming next. Everything is planned out. You either choose to let the mess take control over your life, or you frame it up and make it look good. I think different is a much better story than put together. What’s the store that only hired good-looking white people? Abercrombie. … I’m proud to say I have never bought anything from that store, the whale store, the crocodile store or the horse store.
What is your approach to fashion and style?
Fit is first. The second part is, whatever the trend is, run the other way. If everyone has it, it’s not for me.
How do you get dressed?
I’m usually in paint clothes. Most of my clothes that I buy, I say I am going to buy for an art show. I wish it was always 72 degrees outside, so I could wear jeans and a T-shirt every single day, and I’d be happy.
I see you’re painting your nails these days.
Yes, and I actually go and get them done. I got tired of my fingernails being black from all the black paint for the paintings I was doing for CB2, so I decided to cover them up with nail polish. Then I learned you could only get a matte finish if you get the gel coating, so I get the gel, and I may enjoy it a little too much.
Do you have any style icons? Who impresses you with their personal style?
Barone (at Revolution Clothiers). That dude’s awesome. This chick named Whitley — you can take something from a garage sale and put it with something that is $4,000 and make it look good. That is a talent.
Where do you like to shop?
Revolution, Luna’s Lifestyle up at Lake Norman, Todd Snyder, Hudson Jeans and Goodwill.
Do you have an approach to closet organization?
Hmm, have you seen my studio? People think because I am an artist I am late, unorganized — all the typical artist traits. I am on time, organized — even my closet is organized by short sleeves, long sleeves, pants, suits. I do not own many long-sleeved shirts. I run from warm to hot, so I just don’t do long sleeves — they’re constantly being rolled up.
Do you have any favorite items in your wardrobe?
All of my sneakers. My baseball glove sneakers were made in Asheville by a custom shoemaker (Opie Way) that bought a lot of vintage baseball gloves. They were given to me as a gift. My children bought me my pink shoes. SP
THIS OR THAT
Neutral or color: Neutral
Pattern or solid: 50-50. You need a good solid to balance the pattern.
Stripe or plaid: Gentleman’s plaid
Ironed or wrinkled: Ironed
Socks or no socks: No-show socks
Boxers or briefs: Boxer briefs
Boots or sneakers: I don’t wear boots very often — they take too long to get off. Men should stop owning sandals. You will always see me in shoes. I do not like to walk around in bare feet, except on the beach.
Food truck or restaurant? Food truck. I’d rather be dressed up to go to a food truck instead of a restaurant, and if I’m at a restaurant, I want to sit at a bar over a table every time.
Summer or winter: Winter
Short shorts or long shorts: I’ll take short shorts. Men, please stop shopping at Marshalls.
Sunglasses or hat: Hat
V-neck or crewneck: V-neck