Jack Tar 207’s LK Weiss on offering alternatives to “straight and skinny” style

LK Weiss was born and raised in Portland, Maine. Weiss graduated from Maine College of Art and is the owner at The Portland Designer. Frustrated with saturation of “straight, skinny, perfect ‘beautiful’, plain people bogging down style blogs, Pinterest boards and magazine ads,” Weiss started Jack Tar 207. The endeavor is a mix of style blog and a business that focuses on and celebrates models and fashion outside of what is often considered mainstream. Accompanying Weiss at Jack Tar 207 are Stylist LuzMarina Serrano, Main Photographer Tee Tappan, and Location Scout and Lighting Assistant Shana Natelson.

When poking around online, one can get the impression that Jack Tar 207 is a style blog, but also a brand. You also offer services for hire. What, exactly, is it?

Jack Tar is only 8 months old, and started as a hobby. It’s grown to be something bigger and better, and is still finding its place in the industry. At this juncture, Jack Tar is curated design and photography that capture the edgy Maine authenticity in functional fashion and products. This means we find the people, get a sense of their style, match that to a location and create a cohesive shoot that shows not only the intrigue of the person and their style, but also the environment around them. We don’t shoot people downtown against a brick wall on a whim or in a white studio. We curate the shoots so they actually make sense and have a lot more meaning.

For example, a business could hire us for product photography, design, branding—we can create the business from the ground up by providing all the components needed to market what they sell. So if you’re a local business here that sells, say, men’s clothing and accessories, why not shoot the boat shoes being worn by a person who’s actually manning the sails of a boat, rather than arranged awkwardly on a table in a studio?

What is the inspiration for the aesthetic you gravitate toward?

Maine. The weather, the lifestyle, the terrain. All of this inspires and dictates what we wear, in addition to influences from New York, LA, and all the other big fashion capitols. What sets us apart—and what LLBean understands—is how we have no choice but to be functional with our clothing, and we want it to also be stylish. Not all ‘functional’ clothing can be made stylish and we’re not trying to fool anyone into that kind of thinking. [Laughs] But the weather in Maine fluctuates quicker than the tides, so you have to be equipped with your shorts and tees but also your flannels and sweaters at the same time. Having the ability to put things together in a way that shows that you wear your clothing with intention rather than strictly out of necessity is what we capture.

I really love that the models are a mix of ages, identities and body types. How did you decide upon who to feature?

The first few months we shot people we knew and who were willing to help get the blog started. We’ve since started reaching out to people we pass on the street who we think have amazing style. We hand them a card and say get in touch. Some we never hear from again, but others are jazzed to be complimented on their style and want to participate. By doing this we’ve met some amazing people whose style pales in comparison to their personalities and passions. The process of getting to know people through the camera lens and by conversations and laughter is really quite amazing. We’ve seen people go from shaky, nervous, shy wrecks to feeling like a completely confident new person after 2 hours with our crew.

Something I find particularly interesting is that while it seems cutting edge in a way to put a queer look, fashion, and aesthetic at the fore, mainstream fashion has been ripping it off and reselling it in a sanitized way for decades. Is this something that has been on your consciousness at all, and is this something you’re trying to speak to with what you’re doing?

It’s funny, I recently read an article online from CNN that was an interview with a woman who owns a tomboy clothing company. She was a straight woman whose husband did the accounting for her company, and the clothing was modeled after her husband’s wardrobe but made to fit women. It was a spotlight on the “tomboy” style, but focused on straight women while completely ignoring the fact that there is an entire subculture of female bodied people wearing men’s clothing every day, even to their professional jobs, like myself. There are companies out there that cater to this exact population such as Saint Harridan, Tomboy Tailors, and so many others who were not interviewed or even mentioned.

So yes, mainstream fashion has totally been borrowing from queer and trans style for decades and putting it on straight models and not only “straight” with regard to sexuality, but to size, ethnicity, socially promoted aesthetic and physical appeal. It’s in my consciousness as I create this work. I don’t expect to change it, but I can work to reinforce the confidence in the community around us by providing a space where people who dress dapper—there is so much dapper in this small city—can connect and reflect with others who look and dress like them.

LK Weiss Portrait Credit: Masina Wright.
Jack Tar 207 Team Photo Credit: Patryce Bak
All Other Photo Credit: Jack Tar 207

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.