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The Midwestyle

June 7, 2011

Jeff & Seth from The Midwestyle. Photography by Anthony Barlich.

There are certain rules by which the universe must abide. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Your American accent will always be audible in Paris. Call it “East Williamsburg” all you want, it’s still Bushwick. And, you can always spot a Midwestern guy. The Midwestyle is a fashion blog that takes the latter Great Truth to the bank. Good Midwestern boys Seth Putnam (left), Jeff Kieslich (right), and Cam Niederhauser mix beautifully shot DIY fashion spreads with advice on finding that bag at a thriftstore or those shoes on e-Bay.

It’s a fashion blog, yes, but it speaks to the working-class roots of its masterminds – to the values of thrift and economy, of hard work and earned comfort. There’s a sense that the clothes, shoes and accessories that capture these gentlemen’s imaginations aren’t so much about fickle, fleeting  fashion as they are about style – that indelible, individual, intangible something that Carl Sandburg – himself a stylish Midwesterner – equated to Ty Cobb’s batting eye, declaring: “don’t take my style away. It’s my face.”

This sense of style as something deeply personal and timeless comes through in Jeff’s and Seth’s responses to the Questionnaire. Keep an eye on these boys and their blog. They’re worth the watching.

1. What is your hometown?

Joplin, Mo.
Kansas City, Mo.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

Mole, from “The Wind in the Willows.”
Harry Potter, like the rest of my generation.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Unfortunate that he’s not blonde.
I would cast Michael Cera to play me, we have the same mannerisms and posture. Awkward but warm.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

The hymn “Come Thou Fount.” I’d argue that’s art. But if you’re thinking something visual, “Entre les Trous de la Mèmoire” by Dominique Appia.
I have this painting of a sailing ship that I purchased right before I left for college, since then it’s been brought with me to each and every college, city and apartment I’ve lived in. It’s not even a “well-done” painting, it’s just ordinary but has a special meaning. Kind of like us.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

I just finished “Boss” by Mike Royko, and it was terrific, although it probably affected more than most because I recently moved to Chicago, and it was about the city’s longtime mayor Richard J. Daley. It’s one of the best city-books I’ve ever read though. I’m planning to start Alan Ehrenhalt’s “The Lost City,” another Chicago book, which is about “the forgotten virtues of community in America.”
I finished reading “Manhood for Amateurs” by Michael Chabon and it was one of those pieces of non-fiction that really captured the human experience of growing up and figuring out this thing called “life” from the perspective of being a father, husband, son and brother.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

“Angles” (The Strokes), “Brothers” (The Black Keys), “Nocturnes” (Frédéric Chopin).
Fleet Foxes’s latest album, “Helplessness Blues.”

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

“Everybody’s Fine,” starring Robert DeNiro.
 “Buck.” It was a documentary I saw at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO this past spring. It was inspiring and brought a entirely new perspective of training horses and just how the horses’ attitudes and behavior are a reflection of the owner’s issues and dilemmas. I’m not a jockey, nor a lover of a horses; I just love great stories being told.

8.  Cat person or dog person?

Dog person, without question. But I don’t mind cats.
Dog person. No questions asked. I hate cats, catsup and pullover sweaters. That’s about all I hate in life.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

As a journalist, I gotta say truth. Even when it’s hard or ugly, people deserve to know our world.
Kindness doesn’t always tell the truth, but you can tell the truth with kindness.

10. How do you define sin?

An act of immorality, typically one that hinders humanity rather than advances it.
I define sin as an affect of the human condition that has far greater consequences than we can comprehend, along with the effects and ways in which it harms others.

11. How do you define virtue?

Overcoming sin and displaying good, noble and selfless characteristics.
A virtue is an ideal that one strives to attain in attempts to promote the overall quality and health of humanity.

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

Marble from Carthage, Mo. An elegant but simple serif font. Maybe Baskerville. And “storyteller” beneath the name and dates. As for epitaphs, I’ve always admired my uncle’s: “Kindness was his virtue.” I might add, “A seeker of truth” to it. Ha, see question 9.
It’s black and brown hombre-dyed headstone with white and gold lettering. It says my full name and my date of birth alongside my death date. But I’ll be cremated, so this is just a really cool looking headstone for kicks.
Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Max Wastler (of, Walker Lamond (“Rules for My Unborn Son”) and Joe Gannon.
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