POSTED ON DECEMBER 21, 2011:
Eyewear style magnifies a signature appearance
Gary Black strikes a sharp figure from where he sits across from me in his Tulsa Black Optical store, upright in a brown leather Poltrona Frau chair. I sit opposing him perched on the edge of a piece of Eames plywood. He compliments me on my outfit. I am wearing a gray skit suit with a black turtleneck.
I compliment him on his, he is wearing slim black slacks and a charcoal sweater with just a hint of a lavender collar and sleeve cuffs peeking out from his dark sweater. I notice he has a light gray blazer flung casually over one of the chairs. It could go without saying that he is wearing distinct eyewear. His personal frame choices alternate between his current favorites -- Dita, Barton Perreira and Oliver Peoples.
It was his love of style that compelled Black to walk into a sunglass store at the mall and established the course of his future. Essentially his first job, he made his career choice like any teenager would,
"I've always really loved sunwear and I was buying glasses from them anyway. I was lured by the discount. I could get my sunglass fix." A decade went by and Gary was still working there. "There was a sense of consistency. I don't like change. Plus, there was a sense of security in knowing that I was good at what I did. I worked up to as high of employee rank that I could achieve in the company without having to move states. At that point, I started thinking of leaving and maybe doing something else. I thought of going back to school. But then I met Henry Aberson."
Aberson, the owner of Aberson's clothing store and the visionary developer behind the Center1 section of Brookside, is representative of a refined and paired down chic. He appreciated Gary's vision and encouraged him to take the leap and go out on his own. It would be a year and a half of contemplation and then meticulous and fastidious planning before Gary actually leapt. But leap he did.
For a man who gravitates towards consistency and stability, it's surprising that Gary took the plunge before there was even a store to house him.
"I signed the lease with Center1 when this spot was still a Wendy's. I had to design the store from a blueprint And then everything kind of fell into place. I had to work hard for it but it never felt overwhelming. My previous job really prepared me to do this because of my eleven years at the other store, I didn't have to learn the hard way with my own money," he chuckled.
Since opening his store at Center1 in 2007, Gary has expanded to a second Black Optical location in Oklahoma City. "Coming across the perfect space over on Classen Curve really pushed me to expand. Plus, with Ryan Bowlen, I knew that I'd found the perfect person to partner with to run the store."
OKC store aside, Gary isn't going anywhere. "Tulsa is a great place to have a business. Elsewhere you might be more apt to compromise or dilute your vision because it's so competitive and you've got to appeal to the masses to do any sort of volume. In Tulsa, you have the opportunity to be original and still survive. We just need original people to want to stay here."
Original, he is. As a professional taste maker and connoisseur of style, Gary offers up some tips on not just eyewear, but on fashion as a whole:
"I can go into my closet and pull out anything and it will go with anything else. Everything goes together in my closet. It makes it very easy to get dressed."
Don't over think it.
"You can always tell when someone is trying too hard. It isn't necessary to try too hard. Trying too hard actually detracts from personal style."
Find a signature look.
"A signature look is different for everyone. Personally, I like my pants a bit slim. I like the length to be a bit shorter. I don't like a break in my pants. I like small collars on shirts. I like my clothes lean without a lot of excess fabric. I like a very tailored look that is a modernized classic look. I like current but not trendy."
Be consistent with said signature look.
"When you have those signature details, you don't need the logos. It becomes more about your personal brand. When you're consistent, people identify you with your look. It becomes your look. I guess that means I'm the guy with the short pants and the big glasses."
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