The only way to look like Steve McQueen, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or one of the Run DMC boys is to mix current culture with the fashion trends that captivated the 1980s and ’90s. To be a collector of an era that defines fashion.
Some call many of these collectors hipsters: a subculture of men and women who value independent thinking, counter-culture and appreciation for the arts. Above all they crave a platform for freedom of creative expression. This expression is noticed in the way they walk, the witty ways they talk and the cool clothes they wear.
“Life is too short to wear boring [stuff],” laughs Joseph Abramoff, co-owner of Allergic to Cubicles, 335 Chandler St., which debuted as a retail location earlier this year.
The vintage retail store is home to a diverse level of fashion wants and needs. If you’re looking for the soft texture of 50/50 T-shirts that reigned in the ’70s or the iconic Pat the Patriot satin throwback Starter jacket that dominated the high school hallways of the early ‘90s, then Allergic to Cubicles is the place to spend countless hours rummaging through classic fashion gems.
Imagine Ben Epstein and Cam Calderon of HBO’s “How to Make it in America” – the perfect depiction of two entrepreneurs hustling in the fashion industry in an attempt to achieve the American Dream – and just maybe you will get a glimpse into the mindset that thrives behind the scenes of Allergic to Cubicles.
“I used to work in the corporate world. I graduated from Lehigh University in 2003 with a finance degree and worked for an insurance-based company in Philly and in New York City, but I hated it.
“I sucked it up for four years simply because I thought to myself: It must get better, everyone here is always smiling,” Abramoff said. “Everyone I worked with seemed like people I would get along with and the pay was good, but I really hated it.”
The concept of Allergic to Cubicles is simple: Be You!
“We’ve been thrifting for years,” co-owner Jon Evans said. “I was interested in old-school vintage sports clothing and when I partnered with Joe, he showed me a whole other side to thrifting and fashion labels. We’ve been partnered since 2009 and he guided me toward the industry.”
Before jumping the corporate ship, Evans, with a political science degree from UMass Amherst, worked as a job coach for adults with disabilities.
“My heart was in it. I enjoyed helping people, especially with disabilities, but the job burned me out. It became a priority to help myself in the process. I realized that although my heart was dedicated, it just wasn’t the right path for me.”
While Evans searched for a career avenue that would embrace his passions, Abramoff was already on the verge of creating his collection for an online eBay sales store.
“For me,” Abramoff said, “it all started with soft T-shirts. I hate how they make the current T-shirts. It all started with me stealing a couple from my dad’s drawers. [Editor’s note: Dad is Larry Abramoff, former owner of Tatnuck Booksellers, a Chandler Street staple for some 25 years.] His old T-shirts made in the late ’70s and early ’80s were just better. They were softer, and they fit better.
“So, I was always hunting those down in thrift stores. When I was looking for shirts, I started to find a lot of great vintage sports items that weren’t the right fit for me, so the idea sparked. I bought them and started to sell them online part-time, whenever I came across something great.”
But an establishment like Allergic to Cubicles takes time. In fact, it has taken more than eight years to generate the kind of demand needed to leap into a full online and storefront venture.
“In the beginning, we were filling a few online offers a week. We were working part-time jobs to give us time to work on the business. By 2012, we were filling an average of 30 orders a day, and decided to start the retail store only six months ago,” Evans said.
Bootstrapping the business and launching it through the use of social media, Allergic to Cubicles has found its place in Worcester’s vintage market.
“We’re not running a museum,” Abramoff said. “We have a huge base of Worcester State students that come here to shop. They come in and say: ‘I saw that great cap you posted yesterday on Instagram. Do you still have it?’ And that’s the exact response we want. Our items are priced between $6 and $100.
“I mean, where can you get a T-shirt for 6 bucks?”
With a fanbase of 5,000 on Instagram, a hot selection of classic sports gear, super laid-back branded tees for the ladies and more than a handful of vinyls, Allergic to Cubicles stands to achieve the American dream, the best way they know how – by dressing the hipsters of Worcester while suppressing their allergies to the corporate world.
Allergic to Cubicles
335 Chandler St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday
(and by appointment)
This article was originally published in the Dec. 13, 2015 edition of the Sun.
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