Here's what you need to know: Barring Elvis Presley, Justin Timberlake, and Isaac Hayes, Memphis is not famous for its sense of style.
Despite that, or maybe because of it, photographer Justin Fox Burks and I began a style blog on memphisflyer.com in 2009. The idea was simple: see what fashionable Memphians were wearing in their everyday lives.
Justin grabbed his camera, I grabbed my notebook, and we took to the streets and started snapping. (We also found our way into a party or two. Ahem.)
We launched the blog by printing our fashionistas in the Memphis Flyer's Summer Issue. Below is a letter we received from Memphian Karen Exler the following week:
"I enjoyed the Flyer's article on local 'street style' [June 18, 2009, issue]. Judging from the pictures, Memphis has a lot of people who are fashion-savvy (and good-looking). One question: Where did you find these people? All I ever see when I'm out on the town are overweight schlubs in shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, and baseball caps."
First, let me assure you: We see plenty of schlubs in shorts, T-shirts, and baseball caps. We just don't take any pictures of them. (We don't take "don't" photos, only "dos.")
But we also saw a lot of cute outfits, worn in interesting ways, that have shattered my notion that Memphis doesn't have a strong sense of style.
As to where we find our fashionistas, we go wherever we think stylish people may be. Once we get there, we look around and ask several questions: Are they wearing something cute or trendy? Do they have a distinct personal style or what might be called a "look"? Are they someone so gorgeous that they can make a flour sack look good?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then we go in for the kill.
So if you're ever out and you see a woman in high heels chasing after you, followed by a photographer, just smile pretty for the camera. And be prepared to tell us what you're wearing.
Take, for instance, Meredy Carnahan, whom we spotted walking on South Main ... before we lost her.
Then we saw her again, only this time she was joined by her four-legged friend, Idgie.
Carnahan, an interior designer with Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, was wearing an American Eagle vest, a Free People hoodie, a tank, a skirt from H&M, and Camper boots.
Or Jasmin Saville. She was wearing a Chelsea and Violet dress when we ran into her on South Main. We loved the pouf sleeves and the bibbed neckline, as well as the pattern.
Saville bought it at Dillard's (2700 N. Germantown Pkwy., 383-1029) and said she wore it because "it's art night and it's a lot of fun."
Or Nicole Childers — spottted at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park — making her own capris by cutting off a pair of pink camo pants. (I know this is all about Memphis style, but if you have a chance, go listen to the free concerts at the shell. You can thank me later.)
"Everything I'm wearing is ancient and put together at the last minute," Emily Halpern told me. "I wore black because I wanted to be understated."
The top came from Sachi (in Laurelwood, 685-8464), while the jean jacket is from the Gap. Those were paired with Uniqlo jeans and red Calvin Klein heels.
"It was fairly monochromatic until I added the shoes," she says.
It was retro chic for Ronni Covington in her white, sleeveless, belted number. The dress, from Macy's (4545 Poplar, 766-4199), has what she called an "old-school feel" with a modern neckline and crisp belt.
We found cute, pregnant bartender Brooke Brewer at Bardog Tavern downtown. She was wearing a pair of jeans from local retailer CrazyBeautiful (3536 Walker, 452-6905), a belly band — because her stomach was getting bigger, but the rest of her wasn't — and a "peace-full" tanktop from Target.
"I like peace signs," she told us. "I'm trying to bring them back."
Folami Uimana started with a simple, well-cut, empire-waisted, denim maxi dress and added accessories in her favorite color.
"I thought it would be breezy and comfortable," she said. "And it's flowy, so the humidity won't kill me."
Craig Cardwell bought this seersucker suit for his daughter's wedding several years ago.
"I always wanted one," he says of the suit. "This is Memphis. You wear cotton."
His wife, Margaret, is also in cotton, with this cute shirtdress.
"I love plaid," she says. "Some people might say it's a throwback to preppy, but I was wearing it before it was preppy."
We've found that a lot of Memphis summer style comes down to one simple fact: It's hot and it's humid. While a slight glow may be a good accessory, sweating isn't.
Joyce Douglas wanted something cool for a day in Overton Park, but she didn't want something too revealing. She opted for a beige summer sweater with an interesting weave and cute denim capris.
A wise man once said: "Good clothes open all doors." We're not sure that's true, but when it comes to Memphis style, good clothes have certainly opened our eyes.