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25 Most Stylish Bostonians of 2009 -- João Ribas

Joao Ribas (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Meaghan Agnew
Globe Correspondent / November 5, 2009

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Name: João Ribas

Age: 30

Occupation: Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center; art critic

You emigrated from Portugal when you were 10. How did your Portuguese upbringing affect your fashion sense? I think there is a certain formality and a certain idea of decorum living in a place that is largely defined by scholasticism and a certain medievalism or a certain baroqueness.

When you moved to the States, did you adjust your style at all? In a way. . . . I’ve been wearing a tie since I was a child.

Really? Why is that? I don’t know - that’s just what I did. I was a proper child. And then I discovered that all of my intellectual heroes also wore ties, so that was convenient.

Where do you shop? I don’t. I detest the entire experience. I find it to be the most tedious activity. So most of my things are bespoke. I have a fantastic and brilliant couturier who I work with, Craig Robinson in New York. Either that or it’s been inherited from my father and grandfather. ... I have an abhorrence of both consumer culture and infantilism, which is why I don’t own a pair of jeans.

What about shoes? You know how I think about shoes? There’s an Iris Murdoch quote: “Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out.’’ I have to constantly replace shoes to compensate for the anarchic distance between saying and doing.

What is your daily uniform? Uniform is a great way to describe it. I don’t own anything but suits and shirts. So that’s pretty much all I wear. It’s out of habit more that anything - and that’s ironic, because my academic career has taken place almost entirely in the Catholic Church, so it really is my “habit.’’

Who is your style inspiration? The people that I tend to value for their contribution to the history of ideas happen to be the same people I happen to admire for their style. There’s a certain seriousness and formality and propriety that goes along with the ideas and ostensibly the style. I remember being very young and reading an art book and seeing pictures of all of the Impressionists. . . . I thought of the Impressionists as these incredible progressives, and then you see these photos of them working and they’re all intensely bourgeois. I suppose in a sense I like that subterfuge - dismantling everything that’s sacred in society while looking like a respectable member thereof. I love that idea. I suppose that’s where it comes from for me.

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