Retro flair behind the bar
Don't be surprised if the barista preparing a latte or bartender crafting cocktails is dressed better than you - and more creatively. Employees of some of the city's hippest bars and coffee shops are embracing signature vintage style.
"Casual Fridays" have given way to "Fancy Fridays" among the Houndstooth Coffee gang. Each Friday, baristas don their best fashions - bow ties, neckties and dresses - to greet their customers in style. Bartenders at area watering holes also are embracing an effortless vintage vibe.
We chatted with five mixologists and coffee creators at three local restaurants and coffeehouses, all of which have adopted a retro reincarnation: North Lamar Boulevard's Houndstooth Coffee; East Side Show Room, which serves as East Austin's ode to the 1920s and '30s; and Paggi House, an 1840s historic building turned hip bar and restaurant.
These Austin tastemakers are taking artistry once reserved for the leaves in the latte foam or the clever garnish and translating it into their own sense of style.
(4200 N. Lamar Blvd., 531-9417)
Sean Henry, barista and owner
Backstory: Henry learned a lot from his dad, also a business owner. "I began to understand cash flow, dealing with the public and the value of service and good quality product."
Downtime: Henry and his wife, along with their 21/2-year-old and 6-month-old, enjoy going to places that are kid-friendly like 24 Diner and The Steeping Room (Houndstooth sells their teas as well). "I love to support local restaurants. We all support each other in some way."
His style: Henry appreciates a good sale and admires well-made clothing. He loves wearing his Levi boot-cut jeans and owns a lot of neckties and "crazy" socks. He still owns a pair of shoes he bought at By George when he was a student at the University of Texas. "The shoes I found were half-off, cost more money than I had to spend at the time, but I still wear them to this day. The quality is so amazing."
His style icon?: Henry appreciates filmmaker (and fellow UT alum) Wes Anderson's style and is drawn to a little embellishment and flair. "He looks like he has fun putting clothes together." Henry's style emulates that of his grandfather. His favorite hat is his grandfather's fedora.
Anatomy of an outfit: Cardigan from Banana Republic (off the sale rack), necktie from Macy's, Levi 527 jeans from Macy's and hat from Dillards. "I've always thought, you don't pick out a hat; a hat picks you."
Rudi Miller, barista
Claim to Houndstooth Coffee fame: This Fort Worth native is the originator of "Fancy Fridays," which he coined after experimenting with tying his bow ties.
Downtime: Hanging out at food trailers like Izzoz Tacos and Paul Qui's East Side King, or at Once Over Coffee.
His style: "Idiosyncratic." Miller loves the fussiness of a bow tie but nothing too showy. He likes the "old-timey" feel.
Favorite shopping haunts: Thrift stores like Buffalo Exchange.
Anatomy of an outfit: Shirt from Buffalo Exchange, bow tie was a Christmas gift from his brother, pants from San Francisco-based clothing line Betabrand and family hand-me-down hat.
Samantha Jensen, barista
Downtime: Jensen loves checking out the newest restaurants or bars in Austin.
Favorite 'hood: Tie between Rosedale and Hyde Park.
Style inspiration?: She gets lots of great ideas from Pinterest.
Favorite shopping haunts?: Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Madewell.
Favorite items of clothing: You'll see this native Austinite in skinny jeans and boots. She loves her denim shirt.
Anatomy of an outfit: Dress from Urban Outfitters, shirt and boots from Buffalo Exchange.
(200 Lee Barton Drive, 473-3700)
Jose Luis Sapien, bar manager
His specialty: Sapien is in charge of creating new, inventive cocktails for the bar and restaurant.
His style: "I'm a fan of a throwback style and a huge fan of three-piece suits." Sapien mixes and matches his suit pieces. He likes wearing vintage skinny ties and lots of light jackets. Someone once described his style as "steampunk" - remixing styles of the Industrial and Victorian age with a modern twist.
Favorite piece of clothing: He has five pair of black boots.
Favorite shopping haunts: Sapien is big into online shopping but also hits spots such as Nordstrom Rack and Edge Boutique.
Style icon: Sapien appreciates how James Dean pulled off the effortlessly cool vibe with a plain T-shirt, jacket, cardigan or jeans.
His hair: Sapien says his faux hawk is easy to style, although he had a full mohawk back in the day.
Anatomy of an outfit: Shirt and tie from Nordstrom Rack, vest from discount store.
East Side Show Room
(1100 E. Sixth St., 467-4280)
Nicole Rossi, bartender
Backstory: Rossi packed up her belongings 1½ years ago, left the San Francisco Bay Area and started driving east. "I ended up in Austin after hearing it was a good place to visit."
Favorite 'hood: East Austin
Her style: Rossi's friend, sitting next to her at the bar, chimed in: exotic, sophisticated, ethnic.
Favorite piece of clothing: Her black and white Manolo Blahnik pumps. "They were the last ones on sale and I can't remember the last time I've spent that kind of money on shoes." Rossi always wears high heels while serving up drinks.
Style icons: She credits her mother and grandmother with inspiring her sense of style. "I'm drawn to people in fashion who dress themselves according to body type and accentuate their assets."
Anatomy of an outfit: Necklace taken from an old dance costume, skirt from Buffalo Exchange, top from a San Francisco store, fishnets from a dance store, shoes from Clarks, hand-me-down flower pin from her mother ("I only buy fishnets and tights from dance stores because they are durable and built to last.").
CORRECTION: This story originally reported that Houndstooth Coffee roasts its own beans. They do not.