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In My Closet: Tommy Dant

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About the series: In My Closet is a regular Sky Blue Window feature, taking readers inside the wardrobes of some of the city's most fashionable women and men.

Name: Thomas “Tommy” James Dant.

His work: Owner of James Dant, a men’s clothing store in Indianapolis. The store opened in February 2013.

His play: “I love going to bars and restaurants on Mass Ave. I like finding new restaurants in the city,” says Dant. “I love being outside camping, working on my Jeep, and I love motorcycles.”

Closet Cliff Notes: Selvedge denim; hoodies; boots; jackets; accessories, including rings, bandanas and bracelets.

Favorite pieces: Billiam jeans; a Filson jacket, a pair of 2-year-old H&M leather gloves; brown Oliberte pull-up boots; bandanas.

Something he’ll never have in his closet: Leggings and harem pants.

His style philosophy: “I buy what I like, and I wear what I like. I do a lot of simple colors (earth tones, blacks, grays) and then use accessories on top of that to kind of make things pop. It’s a mixing of old and new.”

Dant shows off his favorite layered pieces, including distressed Billiam jeans. - PHOTO BY JENN KRISCUNAS
  • Photo by Jenn Kriscunas
  • Dant shows off his favorite layered pieces, including distressed Billiam jeans.

When you’re heavily into the Maker Movement, labels from the biggest names in fashion don’t mean much.

Just ask Tommy Dant.

“I never really jumped into the designer game, and I still don’t at this point,” says the owner of James Dant, a men’s clothing store in the Irvington neighborhood. “In the Makers world that I’m in, you have so many people who have figured out how to do their own private labels and the names filter through. Brands come and go and the ones that stick around are usually really cool. But at a certain point, they all move to China. It’s like this filter-through process, so I’ve got so much to pick from.”

Walking inside Dant’s store is like walking into his at-home closet.

There’s selvedge denim from Billiam and Too Strong; handmade shoes from Oliberte, an Ethiopia-based company; leather goods from Indiana artisans; soaps, hair pomades and beard elixirs; as well as sunglasses, hats, ties, rings and watches by designers who didn’t walk the runways at New York’s Fashion Week.

A personal expert on all things beard-geared, Dant's store offers a thoughtful selection of oils and elixirs for finely coiffed facial hair. - PHOTO BY JENN KRISCUNAS
  • Photo by Jenn Kriscunas
  • A personal expert on all things beard-geared, Dant's store offers a thoughtful selection of oils and elixirs for finely coiffed facial hair.

Dant says he brings in labels that he personally loves and wears, as well as items he finds during his many fashion trips.

“I always thought of it like a curator for a museum,” says Dant, about the process he uses to add brands into his store. “Curators pull the best pieces and that’s what I wanted to do from the very beginning, because I know how hard it is to get a private label off of the ground; how expensive it is.”

Dant, who will debut his own private label jeans in August, considers himself a buyer for the people. “Almost everybody who comes in here, I have a conversation with. I look at what people are wearing,” he says.

Dant also takes cues from his own taste. Usually if he loves it, others will, too.

Trying to describe Dant’s personal style fluctuates from day to day.

“I can dress like a stylish nerd one day or a ratted-out biker the next, but I try to look good in each situation,” says the 24-year-old who has loved fashion since he was 13. “When I look in the mirror and I feel like it looks good, that’s what I wear.”

Tommy Dant rocks his Artisan Bandana by Crawford Denim and Vintage Co. Inspired by Cali vintners, its fabric was dyed with wine.  - PHOTO BY JENN KRISCUNAS
  • Photo by Jenn Kriscunas
  • Tommy Dant rocks his Artisan Bandana by Crawford Denim and Vintage Co. Inspired by Cali vintners, its fabric was dyed with wine.

It takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes for Dant to get dressed each morning. There’s time spent applying his beard oils and hair pomade, and then choosing his clothes.

“I wake up and love to go through my closet and find those pieces and put something together,” says Dant. He usually adds accessories like bracelets, rings and bandanas to accentuate his look. “It’s almost like a game trying to put together something different.”

While he has his favorites pieces, he also admits to wearing fashions that make him uncomfortable. “Wearing pieces that make me uncomfortable pushes forward my style,” says Dant.

Here’s a look at some Dant’s favorite pieces:

Bandanas

Dant has a few items that he wears religiously, including rings made of spoons and actual buffalo nickels, watches and leather bracelets ... and especially bandanas.

He has a chambray bandana from Indigofera Jeans, and a silk one from American Rag. His current favorite, the one he wears almost every day, is the Artisan Bandana by Crawford Denim and Vintage Co.

Inspired by California wine-makers, the bandana was dyed using red wine and includes a Robert Mondavi Private Selection bottle and grape vines in the design.

“I usually wear this one, because it goes with everything,” says Dant. “I like that it’s not a bright red, but a muted red. It’s really awesome, and I thought the concept of wine dying them was really cool.”

His preferred way to wear his bandanas (he’s tried his head, wrist and even his ankle, thanks to “The Breakfast Club”) is around his neck (sometimes with another one hanging from his back pocket).

“I try to wear a bandana in some form every single day,” he says. “I see it becoming like my calling card, if it hasn’t already.”

Among the various accessories Dant carries in his store, bandanas (left), and gloves (right) are two pieces he often incorporates into his personal style. - PHOTO BY JENN KRISCUNAS
  • Photo by Jenn Kriscunas
  • Among the various accessories Dant carries in his store, bandanas (left), and gloves (right) are two pieces he often incorporates into his personal style.

H&M Leather Gloves

“These gloves are one of my best finds ... kind of ever,” says Dant, who loves wearing things on his hands -- from rings to gloves.

For the past two years, Dant says he’s worn these gloves almost every day.

“They’ve got some of the darkness in them (on the fingers), so they probably need to be saddle-soaped, but it just surprised the hell out of me that I found something this well built out of H&M,” he says. “But that happens sometimes.”

Outside of feeling like he hit the glove jackpot with this $35 find, Dant also loves the buttery leather and the durability of the gloves. “I’ve done everything in these gloves, including pump gas.”

These Billiam jeans rate top honors with Dant. - PHOTO BY JENN KRISCUNAS
  • Photo by Jenn Kriscunas
  • These Billiam jeans rate top honors with Dant.

Billiam Jeans

Not washing your jeans might sound gross, but it’s THE way to break in a pair of selvedge denim. For the past several months or so, Dant has been breaking in a pair of Billiam jeans.

Dant loves the details that go into selvedge denim, like his Billiam’s western-style pockets, the brown seersucker lining the pockets, and the canvas on the inside of the jeans.

“These are my favorite pair of jeans,” says Dant. “I barely even have the fading on them that I want but these custom lines (the creases in the front of the jeans and the back where the fabric bunches or folds) are like gold to me.”

Dant says denim-makers are working hard to put their own spin on denim and that denim heads, like himself, are falling in love with them.

“It’s the detail and the way the denim is made. They’re just made so much better because they’re using heavier fabrics and old looms,” says Dant. “Each fade is different depending how you wear them, if you work in them, if you’re in a different climate, or if you jump in the ocean in them to get that salt wash. Each person has their unique imprint on their pants, it’s almost like pant DNA.”

He also loves how the jeans are forming to his body.

A Filson and an Army jacket

Dant is always dressed in layers. On a recent visit to his store, he was wearing a sleeveless blue jean vest over a black hoodie over a T-shirt. To receive the desired layered look, Dant usually pulls from a few of his favorites, including an all-wool button-down shirt from Johnson Woolen Mills, and these jackets:

The Filson Jacket: When Dant saw a guy walk into his store with this jacket on, he knew he wanted one just like it. Dant bought his in December and wore it for a month straight. “(The guy) had all of the honeycombs in the arms (a desired wearing-in effect), but mine is still a baby,” says Dant. “It’s fun to try to find different ways to style it.”

Dant is trying to fade the jacket over time by breaking it in. “It will eventually fade down to a Khaki, and you’re supposed to rewax it, but I’m just going to let it go. I’m going to try to form some natural holes in it, and eventually I will do some cross-stitching and add some pins.”

Dant's Vietnam-era army jacket worn by his uncle symbolizes sentimentality and style. - PHOTO BY JENN KRISCUNAS
  • Photo by Jenn Kriscunas
  • Dant's Vietnam-era army jacket worn by his uncle symbolizes sentimentality and style.

Vietnam War Army Jacket: For years, Dant had his eyes on this jacket, which belonged to his uncle and has the Dant family name on the front. “It was in a closet in my parents’house for seven years before I could fit into it,” says Dant. “It’s a little beat up and the inside liner is missing, but I think that adds character.”

He says it’s a piece that he’ll probably have forever, and one he will want to pass down. “It’s a big thing because it has the family name, and that means a lot. Family is a huge part of who I am,” says Dant. “It reminds me of my uncle and it makes me think about where he wore it, and where it’s been.”

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