When people think style on Martha’s Vineyard, a certain vision sweeps over the minds of the unknowing. Salmon-colored shorts with tiny smiling whales. Pastel-pink dresses with teal embroidered flowers. He wears, but is not limited to, Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger. Martha’s Vineyard — home of the king and queens of prep.
But anyone who’s spent more than an afternoon on this Island knows that’s a far-off presumption. Martha’s Vineyard can be a pretty casual place. So what is Island style?
Meet Rizwan Malik. He’s the assistant director and youth services librarian at the Chilmark library. He works with Islanders of all ages, and dresses in a way that makes him feel professional, yet approachable and comfortable. He started working in the library in late 2016.
How would you describe your style?
I would call it business casual, and by Vineyard standards, maybe a little too formal. I usually wear jeans or chinos and collared shirts — sometimes ties. I really like ties. I used to wear them all the time, but it just takes one person from Menemsha to ask you why you’re all dressed up to get you to wear them less often.
What’s your role at the library?
I’m the assistant director. I work with the public a lot, especially patrons in Chilmark. The demographics are older, and I try to present myself professionally and competently. I’m also a youth services librarian, so I want to be approachable. I’m talking to grandparents, parents, toddlers, and teens, reading stories and acting out scenes. I try to wear clothes that are practical and comfortable, but also fun.
Is there a dress code at the library?
I guess there is, but it’s fairly allowing. We don’t normally wear T shirts or anything with holes or rips. We work with the public a lot, so we want to present ourselves professionally, but approachably. Nobody’s ever said, You have to wear a tie. That’s just me — a holdover from previous jobs.
Where are you from?
I’ve spent most of my life in Maryland, but I was born in Virginia. I moved here five years ago.
Has your style evolved since moving here?
My style is a bit more relaxed, which I like. It’s fun changing things up. I wear brighter stuff now than I used to — I dressed on the monochromatic side before. I wear lighter, breezy clothes, I’d say.
Where do you like to shop?
J.Crew, Old Navy, H&M sometimes. I scour the clearance sections. I like to wear nice clothes, but I don’t like to spend a lot of money. I dress professionally, but I also dress affordably.
Where do you shop on-Island?
I go to Chicken Alley a fair bit. When I’m not at work, I wear a lot of graphic T shirts and jeans I’ve gotten from there.
Do you have an outfit staple?
I have this affinity for interesting socks, which really only started when I began working here. When I do storytime with the kids, I sit down on stools to be more on their level. I’m a taller guy, so my pant cuffs rise a few inches. Instead of having brown, blue, or black socks, I try to wear some that are fun to look at — especially for the smaller kids, who aren’t really keeping track of what I’m reading anyway. It’s something fun for them. So I started collecting colorful socks, and now I’ve been getting them as gifts. It’s become a bit of a thing.
And I can’t call myself a librarian if I didn’t say I’m a fan of cardigans. Sweaters in general, really. V-necks. Collared shirts underneath a V-neck sweater. I like layering, especially in the winter.
How does your style change from season to season?
Sweater vests and sweaters in the winter. I have pea coats I wear when it’s snowing, and this fun tweed jacket with elbow pads from when I was a teacher — I break that out on occasion. In summer, it’s short sleeves and collared shirts. Sometimes I wear patterns, checkered or plaid. I’m also starting to get into animal prints on shirts. Not zebra stripes, but those little tiny animals you see spotted on collared shirts.
How about shoes?
I used to only wear dress shoes to work. Now I wear brown chukkas, which are boots but not as high on the ankle. I recently also started wearing sneakers. I have this one pair of grey Adidas with white stripes. I especially like wearing those in the summer when I’m doing more programs with kids. Sometimes I’ll hear a “Hey, nice kicks.”
Is there someone at work you often shower with style compliments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll give ’em some love in the next issue of The Local.