Born and bred in Charleston, Ervin Gourdine, 53, has an effervescent personality that bubbles into his fashion choices. He earned a business degree from Johnson C. Smith University, was a banker in Washington, D.C., then earned a master’s degree in human resources from the University of Maryland. He’s worked in Human Resources at Discovery Place for 17 years. As vice president of talent management, he is involved in strategic planning and cultural competency.
Q. When did you know you had your own style?
A. Back in high school. My sister went through the ’60s with cat-eye glasses. In high school my dream was to be a model. My mom always said she’d rather feed me than clothe me.
Q. Where do you shop?
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A. All over. I go to Ralph Lauren, to the Levi’s shop for jeans, to J.C. Penney; I think they are really good for summer clothes. Silverfly, and Jos. A. Bank. David Washington made these pants. I like the Ralph Lauren store. Belk is great for shoes. In Charleston, M. Dumas & Sons. You decide the look and then you shop around.
Q. What is style?
A. It’s a reflection of personality and mood. It’s my inner self coming out. It’s not the clothes but how you wear them.
Q. Describe your style.
A. Conservative with a punch of funk. Most guys will think this looks pretty conservative, but what guy will wear a necklace like this?
Q. Tell me about your looks.
A. Sometimes I want a more equestrian or English gentleman look. Other times I want to have that old Hollywood throwback, and other times I want to look more like an investigator or spy.
Q. What would surprise people about your style choices?
A. I’m not afraid to feel glamorous as a man. You think old Hollywood, the double-breasted suit and the fedora hat. I’m not afraid to embrace that side of myself.
Q. What’s a fashion mistake many make?
A. They don’t find what style works for them, not really finding their niche. It’s fine for others, but I wouldn’t look good in dreads or earrings. I don’t do a lot of hip-hop stuff.
Q. How do you put together an outfit?
A. It all starts in my head. What do I want to give today when I walk out of here? Sometimes I want to look throwback. Sometimes I want a statement piece to stand out. How many guys would walk down Tryon Street with a pair of red glasses? I know how to put it together.
Q. Where do you get your glasses?
A. Eyewear changes your look. Sally’s Optical Secrets is the place – because she is going to give you stuff you can’t see anywhere. She is the queen for eyewear, and they treat me like royalty.
Q. That can get pricey.
A. You’ve got to slave for fashion. Even if it hurts, you got to do it. I don’t have the kids; I don’t have the picket fence, so ...
Q. How do you feel about colors?
A. They are my best friend, as you can see. I am a real colorful person and I am happy and joyous. Real men wear pink.
Q. Tell me about a prized possession.
A. My fur coat. It is The Great Harvard Bear. You remember those old movies with the Harvard guys with the big fur coats? It came from one of my fraternity brothers whose dad worked in the garment industry. I always get a reaction, even from guys.
Q. Who is your muse?
A. I don’t think there is anyone like me. I’m just so different. My mom said “Go out in life and try, and you can always come home.” God has blessed me with my personality. I love having fun and meeting people. I believe in a higher being. I don’t get lost in all the trappings and titles. I don’t take myself too seriously.
Q. Have you taken a trip that inspired you?
A. The Dutch have got to be the most beautiful people. When I turned 50, I went to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Paris. Everybody looks like they stepped out of the cover of a magazine. And they ride bikes wearing that!
Q. Tell me about your jewelry.
A. I like a collection of stuff. Sometimes I have the conservative ring. Don’t be afraid to dress the neck, from beads to gold jewelry to crosses. No detail is too small. I like lapel pins. I like to dress my sleeves with cuff links. I learned: Never lend your cufflinks to your friends.
Q. Where do you find inspiration?
A. I come from a family of dressers. Or you go to some of those good stores like Taylor Richards & Conger. A lot of my inspiration comes from within. I know what I like, I know what I want, and I know how it works for me.
Q. How do you stay in shape?
A. I go to the YMCA, but honey, I thank Mom I got good genes, and I don’t mean Calvin. I think one of the great things about fashion is I can buy things that I can wear for a long time. My body has not fluctuated much.
Q. Tell me something good about getting older.
A. I am who I am, take it or leave it. I’m not for everybody, and everybody is not for me. I don’t sweat the small stuff. You think about your contribution and what matters. When I was young I wasn’t able to travel or go to my favorite restaurants. I am enjoying where I am now. I’ll take a couple wrinkles, and I’ll take a couple more dollars too.
Q. What do you regret wearing?
A. I’ve enjoyed every phase of life ... Every step of the way, I had a fabulous time for that moment. I have no regrets.