Closet Culture: Jacob Z.

Name: Jacob Z.

Hometown: Redding, California

Whether in fashionable, black overalls, a bright floral print shirt or a blue turtleneck, Jacob stands out in laid back, sporty Eugene. The California native came to the Pacific Northwest to attend Oregon State University, where he developed his passion for thrifting. After going to rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, Jacob is using clothes to start anew. Here, he tells Dressed Up Ducks his story, from using clothes to make friends and impress people to developing his own style.


Jacob wears a Harry and David’s Northwest Expressway sweater, Haggar wool trousers and Urban Outfitters Chelsea boots outside of his apartment.

What role has fashion played in your life?

 I really got into it when I was a senior in high school. And it was very ego-driven. I wish I could tell some fun-loving story about how clothes have been a fun escape or something. But when I was a senior in high school, I was the MC for the pep rallies at this school in Redding, California where I grew up. I think that’s when I started taking myself super seriously. I have also been very perfectionist. So I think it was an outlet for being very detail oriented.  I would wake up in the morning and spend some time figuring out what literally the best thing I could wear would be.  At that point in time, I think a big part of it is that I’m one of three sons. My mom was desperate for a daughter for a while. We’ve always had female dogs for that reason. I think in a lot of ways,  I’m her most effeminate as far as clothing stuff goes, so my mom always ate that up. I sort of had a blank check as far as if I wanted to go clothes shopping. She was always really happy to do that. That’s kind of how it worked back then. And I don’t think I knew anything about actual fashion awareness or how to buy clothes. My thrifting hadn’t started back then.

How has your relationship to clothes changed over time?

So I think that it affects the way I perceive myself, sort of like drugs and a lot of other things. It’s powerful because it affects how I perceive myself, and I imagine it affects how other people perceive me. I think there’s always an appeal to try to control that. It kind of relates to my disease of alcoholism. I’m very obsessive about wanting everyone to like me. iIt’s an exhausting thing. I think it just had a lot to do with settings and the people I was around. When I went to Oregon State for college, I was in a fraternity, which is  not something I’m proud to mention about myself. I think my reputation there was a really basic thing. Not that my experience in the fraternity plays into the negative stereotypes, but I would say that there was a very traditional “machismo” definition of cool.


How did you become interested in thrifting?

So I was still refining my style, and there’s not a great thrift shop game in Corvallis, but the Goodwill there is really good. It’s a strong Goodwill. I would bike there a lot. I would run there or bike there. I quit smoking cigarettes, which unfortunately, I’ve picked back up since, but I quit smoking cigarettes while I was there. And the way I did that was by running. So I would run to Goodwill. There was definitely a lot of preppy styles, but one thing I’ll say is that I don’t like trendiness.  I guess I just really believe in thrift shopping because I have no control over what I see there as opposed to I think when people are on the internet, they’re being fed stuff that other people have control over, which is all the same thing basically.



What were you studying in college?

Athlete training, which I would have done differently. I knew back then, and I think the same thing still holds true: What I really would’ve enjoyed studying is writing. Everyone in my family is a doctor. I was told to study something with a career in mind, and I thought, “I could definitely be a personal trainer and make a decent living.” So I studied athletic training. I didn’t take any athletic training classes really. It was pretty much all chemistry and anatomy and stuff. Some of those classes I liked, but the only As I got – and this is part of how I became a college dropout – were in my writing classes that I took for fun. I took two poetry classes. Those were by far the best. Those were the only classes that I was really doing anything for.


Did clothing help you with the process of becoming sober?

Yeah I’ll tell you a fun story. So when I was in treatment, I was wearing capri, cut-off pants. It was summertime. It was in August that I got here. I wore it with a tank top and a short-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I was rocking that kind of shit. And people hated me, like fellow patients. And we were all in very vulnerable states. Basically I had counselors that were like, “You’ve got to give this pretty boy shit up,” which I think came from low self-esteem. I think it was such a crucial part of my livelihood for a long time. I felt like I had to look good because really without that, I didn’t see why anyone would trust me. Why would anyone be attracted to me?

So I was in treatment and I had counselors who took us all to Goodwill. They had this idea. They had the fellow patients pick out clothes for me to wear, and then I had to wear them for two weeks. And what they found was these black pants that were really wide and had chains. They were the worst pants I’ve ever seen. They found those pants and a green and purple tie-dye shirt.  And the idea was for me to take a chance. I’m always judging people by how they dress, and it’s not something I try to do because I’m a bad person.  But I think my counselor’s intention was for me to have a chance to feel liked. Because I had to go to meetings while I was still in treatment. And so I was wearing those to this meeting, and there’s girls and all this stuff. And I think it was a chance for me to feel that judgement and have a chance to sort of know that something doesn’t feel good when it’s done to you. dsc_4298



He pairs a Luciano Visconti floral button-down with Adriano Goldschmied pants.



Jacob admires the Lebron Soldier 10 LMTD (Olympic Edition), which he has only worn outside once because he is worried about damaging the shoes. 

What sort of things have you been looking for recently?

I’d say most of my obsession is going into Adidas pureBOOST and NMD shoes.  It’s sickening because part of why I do a lot of thrift shopping is because I really at heart am super anti-capitalist and now very much anti-corporation. You know, I can appreciate a jacket with leather sleeves, but I would never want to send a statement to any brand saying, “Yeah I’m consuming this product.”


Jacob enjoys discovering “diamonds in the rough,” like this  Christian Dior sweater he found at the Value Village in Springfield.


He shows off a vintage Old Best jacket he found at a thrift shop in San Diego.

How does being anti-consumerist mix with your love of clothes?

The way I would say is that I do a really good job of being minimalist in a handful of areas aside from this glaring exception. I’ll go through periods. I’ll give you an example; I got sober a couple weeks after my 21st birthday. So when I turned 22, I was within a few weeks of getting my year sober, which is a big deal. And I told myself that 22 is a pretty awesome age to be. Being young is a big deal. So I have my year sober coming up, and I was telling myself this narrative of it’s going to be a big year. It’s time to really get out there on social media, which I’ve never done before. I had this idea that I was going to wear one outfit for a year. I bought these chains for it. I also bought a long-sleeved black and white striped shirt. I wanted to wear them with black overalls and a black and white chain because it’s loud. I have worn it.


He tries on a T-shirt from Entree and a Ralph Lauren floral shirt he found at Goodwill. 


Why did you stop wearing the one outfit?

I have to be gentle with myself, which I’m not good at by nature. I’m very cynical of myself. But that’s been part of being sober. I guess a quick side note, my life was really defined by guilt and shame and lying to my parents and myself. I think getting sober made my life way easier, and I’m a way easier person to live with. I can look in the mirror now. But I still do stuff. I still will treat somebody in a way that I wish I hadn’t and need to be with myself that night. I keep a journal every night and I try to own up. In AA it’s called doing a 10-step inventory. But I try to admit at least on paper, if not to somebody else, when I’ve been selfish, resentful. So with the clothes thing, I had this idea. But the only way for me to deal with my neediness to pull that off was to never go to thrift shops.

Why do you thrift alone?

I don’t think it would be fun for other people to go with me. I’m serious about it. I’m a fucking nerd. But I think the main thing is I find pieces that I think are genuinely amazing.



Words and photos by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, @HSteinkopfFrank



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