Chris Gibbs was a fan of Union well before he became the owner of the store. As a student at Baruch University in the mid 1990s, he would shop at the boutique in New York City’s Soho neighborhood frequently. “It was like everything in the store was personally made for me. I considered myself a bit of an outsider, so you can imagine what it must have been like to see a store that [embodied] everything that I was about,” says Gibbs.
Through his girlfriend at the time (now his wife), Gibbs began working in the store and eventually moved out to L.A. to manage the city’s Union outpost. When his boss was thinking about closing the location during the recession of 2008 (the New York store also closed), Gibbs negotiated a deal to purchase it, thus completing his evolution from store shopper to store employee to store owner.
“I had a crazy idea that I could turn shit around,” he says. That idea proved to be not so crazy after all and, under Gibbs’s leadership, Union grew into one of the most respected men’s boutiques in the country. Today, everyone and their mother likes to talk about combining street fashion with high fashion. Well, Union was one of the stores that did it first—and still does it better than just about anyone else. The shop’s carefully curated offerings are more about discovery than the hype du jour. “We try and find brands that are a bit off-the-beaten-path, which has largely represented itself in Japanese fashion. Our goal is to buy high concept, directional fashion that is still wearable for your average guy.”
In an age where pieces are teased and re-teased months before they drop, removing any sense of mystery, you can still walk into Union’s store on La Brea Avenue and be pleasantly surprised by a brand you’ve never heard of before (and will closely follow going forward).
Gibbs, who is half black and half white, recognizes that his diverse background impacts every facet of his life, including his style. “I grew up influenced by two very different worlds, worlds that I could never totally fit into singularly,” he says. Because of that, “I am always mixing things together. Things that don’t belong, [except] in a very nuanced way. Nothing that makes you stand out too much, but at the same time allows you to be different.”
That is why Gibbs’s advice to guys who are still figuring out their own personal style is relatively simple: Do you. “Whatever you’re into, if you do it your way organically, it will be very natural for you and others will see that. I turned a T-shirt and sneaker store into a high fashion store all because I just was honestly into that,” he says.
It’s good advice, and that approach is a big reason why we asked Gibbs to assemble an outfit grid of the pieces at Union that he is really feeling right now.
VISVIM IRIS LINER
Visvim is one of Gibbs’s favorite brands because the Japanese brand produces classic American garments with a counter-culture twist, as evidenced by this liner jacket. “At first look, it might look like something you would get at a military surplus store, but the fabric this is made of is more like something from Hermés,” says Gibbs. “Not to mention, the peach color isn’t exactly camouflage for anything other than a San Bernadino rave.”
COMME DES GARCONS HOMME PLUS PLEATED TROUSER
Pants tend to be pretty static, not really varying much. These wool ones from Comme des Garcons Homme Plus are an exception. “It’s a nice new silhouette for someone who wants something different,” Gibbs says of the cropped wide-legged pants.
SOME WARE LATEX LONG SLEEVE T-SHIRT
Union specializes in finding brands that aren’t on everyone’s radar, like Some Ware. “This is a new t-shirt brand at our store by two dope Los Angeles artists, Brendan Fowler and Cali DeWitt,” says Gibbs. DeWitt might be familiar to some for collaborating with Kanye West on his The Life Of Pablo merch.
JACQUES MARIE MAGE ZEPHIRIN SUNGLASSES
“When I think of the Playboy lifestyle, I think of the ultimate cool and this brand of sunglasses comes from one of the coolest dudes in LA,” says Gibbs. The shades are named after Pope Zephyrinus and feature sterling silver hardware.
RAF SIMONS OVERSIZED DISTRESSED SWEATER
Oversized clothes are coming back after years of slimmed down silhouettes, and this sweater from the revered Raf Simons is a terrific example of that. “Raf took the oversize thing to a whole new level with these bad boys and in the making, definitely gave some homage to his mentor Margiela.”
GOSHA RUBCHINSKIY X REEBOK WORKOUT PLUS
Back in the day, as Gibbs recalls, the Reebok Aerobic shoe was everywhere and earned the nickname “54-11’s” because they always cost $54.11 with tax. The collaboration with Gosha Rubchinskiy is more pricy, but also has, as Gibbs puts it, “More flavor.”
NOAH WOOL HAT
Even something as common as a baseball cap can be elevated. “This is a good example of what we do well, a classic ‘streetwear’ baseball hat, but made in a fine Italian wool,” says Gibbs.