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Every Saturday night, U Street NW’s Bar Nun hosts one of the District’s most fashion-conscious meat markets. Entre Nous—described on its Web site as “the Hottest Lifestyle party in the Washington, DC, Virginia & Maryland area!”—expects its guests to “dress to impress & express !!!” That means no “sport clothing of ANY kind.” No “Dew rags.” No “Camouflage styled outfits.” And, last: “No workboots! Even timberlands.”
D.C. nightspots prohibit all sorts of things. Downtown lounge Eyebar, for example, restricts flip-flops, tank tops, and “ripped, worn out or baggy jeans.” But only one item, it seems, is offensive enough to be banned specifically by its brand name: Timberland boots are widely despised by dress-code sticklers citywide.
When brand-spankin’ new Northeast club Mirrors Lounge opened on June 24, for instance, grand-opening-goers were greeted with a sign instructing them on proper attire for the club. First on the list? “No Timbs.”
Mirrors co-owner Sherril Schwartz explains that the 10,000-square-foot pool– hall– turned– “mature, sophisticated, sexy space” has no personal vendetta against Timberland. “We kinda followed suit as far as what other people have done,” she says.
Those others include such sophisticated Tims-restricting spots as 1223, Dream, Fur, Home, and H2O. Dream promoter Masoud Aboughaddareh tells S&T that the boots are simply “too casual” for D.C.’s upscale nightlife scene.
In a velvet-rope atmosphere that generally celebrates designer labels, the ban on such an industry-leading moniker is somewhat striking—especially to the dedicated folks making quality products at the Stratham, N.H.– based Timberland Co.
“From our perspective, it’s disappointing to see,” says Timberland spokesperson Leslie Grundy. “In terms of why these establishments would ban us by brand, I honestly don’t know.”
Mirrors publicist De Barrons suggests that the boots suffer from a longstanding negative stereotype. “Back in the day, Tims represented drug dealers and hustlers,” she explains. “They were considered the best boots to wear in cold weather whilst standing outside for long periods of time—as most hustlers or anyone in the realm of street life had to do. So Tims, like goose-down jackets, gold chains, and almost any type of truck, became a symbol of street life.”
It’s an image embraced by many trendsetting pop stars, from dearly departed thug-life victim Notorious B.I.G., whose “Hypnotize” offered “Tims for my hooligans in Brooklyn,” to assault-indicted thug-love advocate KeKe Wyatt, who lusted after “a bad boy in a beater and Tims” on her 2001 album, Soul Sista.
Timberland, naturally, downplays its boots’ bad-boy connotations. “The reasons consumers appreciate and wear our brand,” Grundy says, “is because it’s authentic, because it’s rugged, and because it’s got a great heritage behind it.”
Is the D.C. club scene really so heartless and vain as to thumb its nose at the great American rags-to-riches story of apprentice-stitcher-turned-boot-making-mogul Nathan Swartz? You betcha.
“I just don’t think people should wear Tims when they go out,” says local trendista Mariam Zerehi, who regularly provides fashion advice to D.C.-area clubbers on the wee-hour WBDC-TV program Late Nite With Erik Haase. Zerehi, a former employee of the “NO WORK/TIMBERLAND BOOTS” environment at downtown D.C.’s Ozio Restaurant & Lounge, recommends that area clubbers instead opt for cowboy boots, which, she says, are sooo hot right now.
Should you decide to ignore Zerehi’s advice, be forewarned: Upon slipping on some Tims, she says, you’re on a slippery slope toward fashion suicide. “Usually with Timberlands, you get the wife-beater, which goes along with the pants, which goes along with the baseball cap,” she says. “I’ve never seen anyone wear Timberlands with, you know, slacks and a button-up shirt.”
Ah, but what if? Would the boots alone be enough to sink one’s night-life agenda?
To find out, S&T recently enlisted the help of Waldorf, Md.– based poet and boot aficionado Keith Barbee, who, dress codes or not, thinks Tims are pretty choice pieces of footwear. “It’s not that I think they’re hot,” Barbee says. “They are hot.”
So hot, in fact, that they inspired Barbee to compose an ode to his beloved boots. Simply titled “Timberland,” it’s included in his Exposed: A Poetry Collection, which was issued earlier this year by Pittsburgh-based print-on-demand publisher RoseDog Books. “I work, play, and fuck in these boots,” the poet declares. “Fuck what you heard; it’s what I know/Rock them joints so the tree can show.”
And indeed we did. Matching more traditional club duds to various pairs of Tims, Barbee and S&T set out to test out dress-code-enforcement practices at eight anti-Timberland venues in the District—despite our style conscience’s strong urgings to the contrary. (“I wouldn’t suggest that anyone do that,” Zerehi says. “It wouldn’t look good.”)
Apparently, some cover-charge-hungry club personnel disagree: After slipping our boots past a doorman at Ozio, then turning around and confronting him about his lax dress-code enforcement, we were told, “You look fine to me.”
And when S&T, dressed in jeans and an untucked shirt, showed off his shit-brown Timberland Trail Seekers to a doorman at “D.C.’s Most Exclusive Lounge,” 1223, on June 30, the tall, imposing figure was most accommodating: He simply asked for ID and $15. “You’re gonna let me in even though I’m wearing Timberlands?” S&T responded. “Why not?” he said. “It’s happy hour.”
Other places, though, weren’t so Timberland-friendly. For those venues, S&T offers the following advice:
649 New York Ave. NW
“No Tims,” says the doorman.
Blame the frantic Friday-night happy-hour rush.
While S&T breezed through security, poet Barbee’s black Timberland Euro Hikers met with some resistance around 7:30 p.m. on June 24. Avenue’s doorman “immediately looked down at my shoes,” Barbee says. “‘I see you’ve got on boots,’” he recalls the club’s gatekeeper saying. “‘We don’t really allow boots.’” Barbee pleaded for entry, telling the doorman he had been “in a hurry” to get to the club from work and hadn’t had time to change into dressier shoes. The doorman backed down. “Go ahead,” he said. “Enjoy your night.”
1350 Okie St. NE
“No…Tims or boots of any kind,” according to the club’s Web site.
Don’t inquire about dress code. Plead ignorance.
Before donning her knee-high Timberland boots for a night at the megaclub, patron Cynthia Brown tells S&T, she first dialed up club management to make sure her footwear was OK. It wasn’t. And she shouldn’t have asked: S&T twice infiltrated the swanky Northeast nightspot sporting his Tims—tongues protruding from his pants legs quite prominently.
Barbee had a bit more difficulty. A parking attendant riding a Segway was the first to spot the poet’s Premium Wheat Nubuck “butters,” at around 10 p.m. on June 24. But Barbee later got all the way through the line, paid the $20 cover charge, and passed through the metal detectors before hearing security personnel behind him take notice of his boots: “He’s wearin’ Tims.” Confronted, Barbee expressed no knowledge of the club’s policy. The bouncers then allowed him to proceed. “‘Ah, he cool,’” Barbee recalls one saying.
33 Patterson St. NE
“No Timbs,” according to a sign at
Don’t come back too soon.
Just before 11 p.m. on July 2, a black-clad ID checker handing out wristbands noticed S&T’s footwear. The club, he said, doesn’t allow boots. “But these are Timberlands,” S&T replied. He told me to check out the dress-code sign, which clearly states: “No Timbs.” Of course, that sign is posted by the door—which is out of sight until you get past the metal detectors and physical pat-downs. “Next time, you gotta wear something dressier,” he said. “I’m giving you a warning.” He then gave S&T a wristband.
911 F St. NW
“We will frequently turn away…Construction type boots (Tims),” according to the club’s Web site.
Pimp out the rest of your outfit.
Barbee was yanked out of line just after midnight on June 24—not because of his boots, but because of his suit: A promoter at the club was also sporting a seersucker and liked Barbee’s look. He moved the Tims-clad poet up to the front of the line. As Barbee strutted confidently into the club, he overheard someone behind him remark,“Did you see his shoes?” But no one stopped him. S&T waited patiently to get in and also experienced no boot-related complications.
800 Water St. SW
“Can’t do the Tims,” insists a doorman.
Bring some extra cash.
Barbee was stopped immediately upon passing through the metal detectors. A doorman cited his boots. Barbee protested. But the doorman wouldn’t back down: “That’s just the dress code,” he explained. S&T asked whether a change in footwear would allow us entry. The doorman responded in the affirmative. Barbee and S&T then walked back to their car, where the poet switched his butters for a pair of red Waterproof Field Boot Tims. The doorman wasn’t fooled: “I told him no Timberlands, and he changed one pair of Tims for another.” A manager told us we could still enter—but only if we each coughed up $50 instead of the regular $20 cover charge. We declined. “Would you do that?” Barbee asked as we exited. “Turn down money over a stupid shoe? Hell no.”—Chris Shott
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Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photograph by Charles Steck.