Rake Appeal { Show & Tell

With his wide-set, almond-shaped eyes and dark-coffee complexion, the statuesque Ini Iyamba possesses a sort of chiseled, architectural beauty, which is only enhanced by a devout commitment to fitness. The other day, he wore an outfit that complemented both God-given and hard-won features: closefitting jeans and a snug vintage tee, tight around the shoulders, with rainbow letters spelling “Fascination.” A daring pair of white, faux snakeskin loafers finished the jaunty look.

Iyamba owns Ivy, the Calhoun Square boutique that, in the year since it opened, has become known for its exotic, funky selection of denim and other casual clothing for women. But even while admiring gold-threaded hoodies and tiered cotton skirts, it’s hard not to notice how great Iyamba looks, whether he’s in an old track jacket or custom-tailored cuffs.

Finding out where he shops for his own clothes involved a tasteful display of his wardrobe staples in Ivy’s backroom: Jockey V-neck T-shirt from Target; knit pageboy cap; monogrammed, cashmere sweater from J.Crew; glow-in-the-dark, seventies-era Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey tee, a thrift-store find; reconstructed vintage Levi’s—a limited edition from Barney’s New York; custom-made black dress shirt; Puma trainers; and pinstriped trousers of uncertain origin.

“Dress pants are huge,” he said, holding this favorite pair to his legs. “I come from a culture in which everybody gets dressed up in their Sunday best.” Iyamba was born in Nigeria, and although he moved to the Midwest when he was ten (he attended St. Thomas Academy in St. Paul and the University of Wisconsin at Madison), in terms of fashion, it is the styles worn by his African compatriots that left a lasting impression. “In the summer, they’d have on their dress pants with sandals and a singlet,” he said. Later, he would cite their influence on his own penchant for fedoras and pageboy caps.

“Every man should have a custom-tailored suit,” he said. “But they’re not cheap, so a lot of men can get a custom shirt instead.” He showed how his black dress shirt had been darted at the waist. “If they’re working out, they probably have broad shoulders, so there’s going to be some excess fabric,” he said, gesturing with his palm toward his slender mid-section. “I have about twenty black dress shirts—the majority of them, maybe fifteen, with French cuffs. And I wear them like the French do: un-cuffed.

“Vintage, for me, is really big,” he continued. “It personalizes your wardrobe. All my vintage shopping is done at Tatter’s. My friends and I call it ‘The Dusty.’” Iyamba held up a classic Tatter’s find: a seventies-era polo sweater done up in bright orange and ivory stripes. “I was once offered $300 for this,” he said, in all seriousness.

With the first birthday of Ivy last month, Iyamba began stocking menswear. So far the offerings are light, but they impressively straddle the expanse between pantywaist and Navy Seal. They include dress shirts in contrasting floral and camouflage prints—sometimes in a single garment; a line of sandal-loafer hybrids by Lacoste that are made with Louis Vuitton leather; ball caps with skull and sergeant-stripe appliqués; and lots of high-buck designer denim—most notably, Evisu, a top-dollar line with cult status (thanks to various pro athletes and rap stars). Even at more than $300 a pair, Iyamba says customers have been gobbling these up. “But I actually like ‘em. They fit really well,” he said. So he’s keeping a pair for himself, too. —Christy DeSmith