Surveying Pre-Super Bowl Fashion in Detroit

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Ed Gordon finds out why so many men in the Motor City like to wear loud, bright suits and fancy alligator shoes — especially when big events like the Super Bowl come to town.

ED GORDON, host:

Super Bowl XL won't be the only flashy game in Detroit this weekend. After the big event comes the glitzy parties. Folks are sure to show off their best duds, including many of the men, some of whom take their fashion as seriously as their football. The first rule rule of style in Motown, dress to impress, or at least to be noticed.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDON: Detroit may be the only city where a lime green suit and pink alligator shoes make perfect fashion sense. Most folks seem to say alright, but try it. All bright colors go together. Rogers(ph) is in his mid-thirties. He frequents City Slicker, a popular shoe store in downtown Detroit. It's that bright-colored, head-to-toe style he's looking for, a look that many call the Detroit Uniform.

ROGERS: My mustard yellow suit, the women, they love it. Your main obviously is to get that woman to notice you. If you come in brighter than everybody else, I don't care where you go in a club or any place, you're gonna be the guy that they notice.

(Soundbite of music clip "Lulu's Back in Town")

GORDON: That kind of special attention brings men from all over the country into the store Wallace Bell manages, especially when a big events come to town, like the Super Bowl. Wallace works at the Broadway, just a quick job from City Slickers.

(Soundbite of music clip "Lulu's Back in Town")

Mr. WALLACE BELL (Employee, The Broadway): Here, Detroit is very proud of that in the sense of the colors, that we can exploit the colors, that we can put the colors out, and people are very receptive to wearing, and they're not scared. We have guys that'll put on pink, orange, yellow, and they'll feel comfortable about it.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDON: During the heyday of the zoot suit in the 1930s, donning a loud, flashy suit was in vogue for a man. In that respect, times really haven't changed all that much in the Motor City.

WAYNE PITTMAN (General Manager, City Slickers): It's just about how you do it and how you carry yourself when you do it.

GORDON: Wayne Pittman, general manager of City Slickers.

Mr. PITTMAN: You find a guy in a pink suit, a really soft pink suit, or you'll find a guy in a cream suit with pink accessories, meaning pink shoes, pink tie, pink shirt, pink puff, cream hat, with maybe a pink bag. But no, not shying away from the colors, but stepping right into them.

GORDON: Speaking of stepping, no flashy suit would be complete without alligator shoes to boot. It's what Detroit is known for. Wayne Pittman shows off his most popular pair, priced at around $1,000.

Mr. PITTMAN: The toe of it is pink. The vamp, which is the middle part of the shoe, is orange or tangerine color. Then it comes back into like a lipsticky red, then back to a pink, back to an orange. So what they do is they kind of, before they actually make the shoe, they sort of incorporate all of these colors, sort of like finger painting.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PITTMAN: When you see a brother, you know, you're in the club, top to bottom, orange, from the orange dobon(ph) to the 'gators, what's your thought there?

STEVEN WILLIAMS (Customer, City Slickers): My first thought is I would probably not be dressing like that.

GORDON: Customer Steven Williams is a little more conservative when it comes to his taste in shoes and suits. At around 6 feet tall and hovering about 250 pounds, he'd rather wear dark colors. Steven says throughout his 10 years of shopping at the Broadway, he's noticed that fashion in the Motor City seems to mirror a sign of the times.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WILLIAMS: I think that Detroit has a variety of dress codes, a variety of attitudes, but each dress code tends to reflect the Detroit mentality, which is an up-and-coming mentality. We're building here. And we're growing here. And our dress codes are starting to reflect that.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDON: Full disclosure. I do have 'gators on today. You'll have to guess the color.

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