Part 2 in our ongoing coverage of young Yids doing something fresh in St. Louis
The Vines twins know a thing about or two about St. Louis, in fact, you could say they are obsessed with the city.
Most people see St. Louis as a generic Midwestern city. Jeff and Randy Vines feel just the opposite.
We like St. Louis because of its authenticity and its no-frills attitude. It is gritty, yet charming. It is old, yet still maintains a progressive edge. A high-quality urban lifestyle is very possible to achieve in St. Louis, and its under-the-radar image only adds to its mystique. We are the type of people who are usually rooting for the underdog.
Judging from the fact that they have been written up in the New York Times as well as a number of local St. Louis newspapers, these guys must be doing something right.
So...what exactly is it that Randy and Jeff do?
The duo are founders of STL-Style, a clothing company that puts St. Louis urban themes and inside jokes on display.
Below are a few personal favorites:
It was just after work when I caught the pair in their studio deep in Soulard (from which they are currently in the process of moving).
It is apparent the the two have a deep love and respect for the City of St. Louis by the maps and references to all of the little neighborhoods that adorn the walls of their studio.
I'm interested how they came to have a level of knowledge and passion for the city that borders on obsession.
Jeff explains that he and Randy have a long history of becoming fascinated with something. . . and subsequently learning as much as they can about it.
"In a city as old and storied as this, it would be impossible to know everything," says Randy.
"It started when we were little kids with VW Beetles," he explained, and then it moved to other cars, then helicopters and airplanes, to the extent that they could look up and identify pretty much anything flying overhead or passing you by in the street instantaneously.
The fascination with St. Louis came when our father took us to his old neighborhood on St. Louis's North Side, which at one time was a thriving, harmonious neighborhood with a sizeable Jewish community. He would point out where all the shops and restaurants were, and how he and his cousins played in the streets and took streetcars all over the city.
They fell in love with the heritage the second their eyes were opened to it, and learned all they could about the history of the city.
As we got older, we found that the entire city was built to have these amazing, self-sufficient neighborhoods, full of vibrancy and density and diversity. These are the qualities that make up an interesting urban place, and it was all here in St. Louis. The more we explored the city, the more we discovered that though it isn't the same place it was in the 1940s and '50s, there are still certain neighborhoods that embody these characteristics, and we are really lucky to have so many vestiges of this history left.
"The old Jewish neighborhood was called the Tel Aviv of the West, there were 30 synagogues in Mid-town."
"Every corner is like a museum," I'm told. And the boys really believe that this history is worth preserving and celebrating.
"Our rich history is our greatest competitive edge. Old cities can always build new to keep up with emerging trends, but younger cities can never replicate the authentic urban fabric that abounds all over STL."
Preservation and celebration of St. Louis are themes that come through loud and clear in their designs. Combining images of St. Louis architecture and themes with more contemporary urban style, Jeff and Randy have created some really interesting visuals that say loud and clear, "I'm from the 'Lou and I'm proud."
And pride is a big part of the equation, according to the Vines bros. When posing the question, how can St. Louis attract and keep creative and intelligent young people, a big part of the answer is creating a vibrant urban community that people want to be a part of and see as a destination.
We of course are not naive enough to think that there is any way that St. Louis-- or any city for that matter-- will ever return to its former glory. It's just a completely different world now. What we would like to see is St. Louis become the kind of city we know it can be. There is a lot of work to be done. What we seek to accomplish with our clothing line is rather simple-- we just want to bolster hometown pride. We want to take the elements that we think make the city cool and print them on wearables so other St. Louisans near and far can extoll the coolness of the city in a hip and affectionate way. We think the city is worth much more than just the cliche t-shirts you find at Union Station or the airport. We are doing our part to show St. Louis off in a different light.
The fuel for such a community already exists in the heritage, the infrastructure, and the people who want to see St. Louis return to its former vitality.
Randy and Jeff Vines are definitely two living Jews providing a spark.
So buy a shirt, or a thong, and wear your pride on your sleave, or your chest.