Style Transformation: from Metro to Mountain Man

The first time I met Thomas at one of my Mad Men events, he was wearing a perfectly tailored suit with slicked hair and enough swagger to give Don Draper a run for his money. Naturally, he took home the prize for “Best Dressed” that night.

Since then, we’ve worked together on a Focus on the Coast fashion shoot and as my very first male model at the most recent Fall Fashion Preview event. He’s apparently not only style-conscious but brave, too!

As someone who obviously likes to dress to impress, I have to admit I was more than a little surprised and impressed to find out that Thomas spends every summer as the captain of his own fishing boat in Alaska. Having spent his first day on his dad’s fishing boat when he was only eight months old and becoming a full crew member by age 13, Thomas now puts in 20-hour days and on occasion, has spent close to “25 days without a shower.”

Say whatttt?!

With currently six boats in his family’s business Lopez Fisheries, Thomas trades in his leather brogues for rubber boots and grows his beard to blend in with “the savages” as “Captain Thomas” in conditions that are “a little bit better than camping, but not much.”

Thomas’s grandfather aka “Iron Mike,” got the family started in the fishing business in the late 1960’s with his salvaged boat called The Harvester. Grandpa Mike whom Thomas says is the “very definition of a mountain man” was the guy everyone in Valdez(their idyllic town surrounded by water and mountains, nicknamed the “snow capital of the world”) called when any celebrities came to town for a hunting excursion or more frequently, when there was a bear on the loose.

Before heading out on his boat, Thomas spends some time in Valdez, located on the Prince William Sound, where the majority of residents either fish or work on the pipeline (which Grandpa Mike, Thomas’s dad and uncles help build).

“Everywhere you look is a postcard. I have been spending every summer there my entire life and its beauty still blows my mind.”

Thomas’s father and uncle expanded their fleet when they were only 15 and 16 purchasing a fishing boat in Washington state (where they were more accessible and less expensive). In the 90’s, Thomas’s dad, who spent a number of years living in Wilmington before settling in Hawaii three years ago, was the only one in his family that continued fishing in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Although most of his family no longer resides in Alaska full-time, they all reconnect on the water each summer planning travel, weddings and even births around the fishing season.

Thomas says with certainty, “My dad will die fishing.”


From Wilmington…


To Alaska



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ff: Besides teaching you to fish,
did your dad share with you any style advice?

“He wore what he thought looked good. I would never not wear something because I’m afraid to. My dad and uncle Michael were really peacock-y back in the day. Tom Senior (dad) used to wear a sportscoat and everyone would freak out in Alaska.

He absolutely hates baggy pants. He used to grill us about wearing them in the 90’s. Dad always said we had to wear a belt. He wouldn’t let us work on the boat without a belt if our pants were too saggy. Recently, my cousins and I started dressing like my dad and uncle dressed in the 70’s and 80’s. It was the heyday of fishing so they had more money than they knew what to do with.”

ff: What’s the underlying contrast of living in Wilmington
in the fall and Alaska in the summer?

“It’s competitive there. You can’t give an inch. People are working for their year’s livelihoods. Things get real pretty quickly. Old guys take advantage of the young all the time. And, there’s a lot more cursing going on in the summer than the winter. It’s a whole different world.”




ff: What’s your outfit of the day like in Alaska?

“Two pairs of work pants like Carhartts, three of the same Under Armor shirts and work boots.”

ff: Do you ever get to go out while you are fishing in Alaska?

“Rarely. (If you are not in Anchorage) and you go out and are not wearing your fishing gear and have on good jeans and combed your hair, people look at you like you’re either right out of a fashion magazine or just left a wedding.”

“Patagonia is fancy. REI is high-end.”

ff: So I hear Alaska is a hotbed of single guys.
Are there five guys to every girl?

“A lot of times girls come for the summer to work and end up staying. Women live in Alaska because they are a rare commodity here and are truly in high demand. My friends here like to say, ‘Once you leave here, you’re not quite as good looking.”

“A 10 in Alaska is like a six in the States.”




ff: What do you think of the style scene in Wilmington?

“Style-wise, Wilmington is significantly better than a lot of other cities in the state. It would be nice to see even more guys get away from the broke student look and lean towards a more sophisticated look.”

ff: Where do you shop?

“Whenever I can make it up to NYC, I usually go a little crazy. Last time I was there, I bought nine pairs of shoes! Johnston & Murphy and WeSC are my favorites. Locally, I shop at Bloke.

ff: How would you describe your personal style?

“I have to convince myself to throw in some color and stray away from just black, white, gray. I find myself wearing a mix of classic business attire with an edge incorporating an element of ‘street’ style. I might wear a fitted suit with combat boots and sometimes a hooded sweater underneath. Business by day and street by night.”




ff: Greatest fashion limitation?

“I hate that you can’t wear a real winter jacket in North Carolina for longer than 15 minutes.”

ff: Favorite Outfit?

“Black bespoke suit that was cut for me in NYC.”

ff: Style Icons:

Past: Marvin Gaye, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Al Capone, James Bond
Present: David Gandy, George Clooney, David Beckham, Glenn O’Brien, Don Draper

ff: Style Mantra?

“For me, iconic style is just as much about how clothing is worn as what it is. Confidence can pull off far more than a new outfit.”

ff: Quote to Live By:

“Upon awakening, a man should prepare himself for greatness and hold that pose until retiring. Destiny is sneaky.”



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2 Comments Posted on: January 10, 2014
  1. What a fantastic newsletter; interesting story on a local, beautiful photography all around. NICE JOB!

  2. Jess, this story was wonderful! Your Friday newsletter is a highlight of my week. Thanks for all that you do to keep Wilmington classy!

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