By Andrew McClure, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 26, 2014
I walk into this minimalist space of eggshell-white walls, custom-made light fixtures, local poured-concrete display tables and dyed rugs. It’s a cozy home for craftsmanship and creativity without the hyper-detail and try-hardness of many curators. This is not a museum. It’s better because you can touch and buy the art fresh off the shelves.
This is Today Clothing — Ann Arbor’s premier post for hand-selected, contemporary menswear.
“It’s more of an attitude than an age,” said co-founder of Today and University alum Eric Hardin, regarding my question about the store’s target demographic. Within that answer Eric conveniently captured my entire perception of the store aesthetic: one that invites with a smile yet humbles each customer with its crispy sophistication.
Hardin is wearing all black, from his rubber-canvas sneakers to his blazer blanketing a plain tee. His tall, wiry stature gives his pinpoint getup a dominant presence.
The unique retail space is located at 215 S. Fourth Ave. Today opened last summer and business has been booming since. The store’s distinctive aura extends beyond their interior design and curated product offerings and into a cordial workshop which prides itself on quality, kinship and good times.
“When you’re working with your friends, vendors and designers alike, it makes work pretty easy,” said Kevin Pearson, the store's other co-founder. “We have always been interested in meeting likeminded people, building relationships and staying connected through whatever — clothing, skateboarding, snowboarding.”
Pearson dresses differently, showing a bit more risk-taking. His salmon chambray shirt has two top buttons undone, the space of which is populated by his hanging grayish beard. Vans sneakers and some naturally faded 1966 Vintage Levi’s selvedge denim polish his look.
The elephant in the room is that both of these dudes, for the sake of accuracy, look fucking cool.
Hardin and Pearson’s friendship started 15 years ago. Both grew up around skateboarding and all of the culture that come with it.
“Skateboard culture really taught the do-it-yourself, figure things out, carve your own path,” Hardin said.
Hardin had been working in a skate shop while Pearson had been expanding his network on the wholesale side when the two first met. After Hardin graduated from the University with a chemical engineering degree in 2003, the pair reconnected and stayed closely in touch until 2011 when the idea was born.
“There was an opportunity in Ann Arbor and it was time to build something that nobody can take away from you,” Pearson said, a retail veteran who has had previous professional stays at adidas Originals, WeSC and Kangol.
Their refined taste has been a product of not only years in both design and wholesale, but also of their well-stamped passports. From New York and Paris to Stockholm and Tokyo, the duo gleaned nuggets of insight and wisdom from all across the globe.
“In Japan, the customer is God,” Hardin said, “So, similarly, we strive for an educated customer experience that assures quality, fit and comfort.”
Hardin went on to say, “most of these brands we curate, domestic and otherwise, mill their own fabric. So we want to pass on that story, that level of care, back to the consumer.”
“One of the Japanese lines we carry, Monitaly, has a motto of ‘Every stitch has a soul,’ and we emulate others that will not settle for anything but top quality,” Hardin said.
The two voice casual praise of select Ann Arbor haunts, like Comet Coffee, The Espresso Bar and Literati Bookstore, which they say they frequent on a regular basis.
“Ann Arbor has a great flow of creativity,” Pearson said. Added Hardin, “It’s great to be surrounded by young, business-driven people putting quality and experience to the forefront of what they do.”
Looking forward, what’s next?
“We need to finalize touches on the web-store. We can talk brick-and-mortar expansion later — when and if the time is right,” Hardin said.
Web presence or not, both Hardin and Pearson firmly believe in the retail experience.
“There’s something about instant gratification. It’s better to come in, touch it, feel it, try it on and walk out with it the same day,” Pearson said.
The smiley co-founders will admit the “Today” name clicked haphazardly, but there is nothing haphazard about the immaculate 2,000 square-foot retail space in which they showcase product you’ll own and use for a lifetime.
Today is not just a store but also a sartorial spa to revitalize one’s closet. Hardin and Pearson have done all of the heavy lifting by sourcing these timeless threads, footwear and accessories.
Swing through the shop, learn a thing or two, make a friend and cop some gear. Guaranteed it’ll be cooler than anything on your body right now.