Initially, from as far back as I can remember, the business on the southeast corner of East 12th and University Place was a stately antiques shop, specializing in the sort of baroque baubles and rococo rinkydinks that Liberace might have adorned his piano with. In the early-to-mid 90's, I remember they had to put out some spiky metal strips on their front exterior to dissuade a local homeless lady from routinely sitting down (they were unsuccessful in this campaign). I never set in foot in the place during this incarnation.
At some point in the early 2000's, the antique store closed, and the landmark building's ground floor was rented out to Ralph Lauren's then-newfangled line, Rugby. My wife and I stopped in soon after they opened and were somewhat unceremoniously informed that the clothes were really meant for a younger demographic than us. Lovely.
That all said, I didn't really mind Rugby. As much as I think Ralph Lauren is a strenuously lamentable jerk, I must admit to liking Rugby's odd pairing of prepster posh with jolly pirate swashbuckle. They also worked very hard on their ornate window displays. I was not a regular customer by any stretch, but I didn't shake my fist at the place as I walked by it. To this day, I must admit to owning the odd bit of Rugby gear.
Then, in late 2012, word came down that Ralph Lauren was dissolving the Rugby brand and closing all the shops. That didn't make a lot of sense to me, as the spot on East 12th always seemed to be doing a swift business. Regardless, close it he did, only to re-open the space a couple of months later as Ralph Lauren's Denim & Supply.
Here's where I get confused. Rugby sold clothes that exuded an air of, for lack of a better description, rakish foppery -- maybe a little flashy for a job interview, but still quite presentable. Paired with some other duds, Rugby gear was pretty versatile. Denim & Supply, in contrast, seems to concentrate on the aesthetic of weathered, deliberately distressed blue jeans (think Axl Rose circa 1989). It's a very specific look, and unless you play in an ironic 80's metal cover band, you probably have no need to ever darken Denim & Supply's doors. If you pine for the days of sartorial cliche of bygone rockers of yesteryear, Denim & Supply has you covered.
Were that not dispiriting enough, a month or two back, Denim & Supply decided to up the ante and let the neighborhood experience their presence by garishly covering the entire exterior of their building (again, a lavish, pre-war landmark), with a jarring collage of color and patterns. Basically, it looks like a giant East Bunny vomited all over it.
They didn't paint the exterior, mind you. Instead, they spent a few days coating the edifice with a white, sticky plaster, and then applied the designs on top. I remember hearing some murmurs of them breaking the law by doing this, but who knows? In any case, if you walk down University Place now, there's absolutely no way in Hell you're going to miss Denim & Supply if all of your five senses are functioning. Personally speaking, I think it's an eyesore. My kids, conversely, think it's fab. I'll let you decide for yourselves.
In recent days, though, I couldn't help noticing that the neighborhood seems to be biting back. A chickenscratch grafitti artist recently tagged up the front (it doesn't look like hey had a plan for that, as they've since tried to scrub it off), and the plastering is starting to strip. It's as if the business is a giant Christmas present that some eager child is anxious to open and furtively ripping the wrapping paper for a quick peak.
If it continues like this, it ought to look like shit (or shit of an entirely different variety) it pretty short order.