Sole'Frito Talks Style. Interview.
The day was brisk, the coffee was hot, and Sole’Frito and I looked grown as hell. The way we met-up downtown, walking and seeing each other from a distance would’ve looked rehearsed if you saw us from afar. This is what being 30 looks like and if you ask me it looks pretty damn good. It’s been a decade since Sole’Frito and I both been in downtown Fredericksburg; a time that looked nothing like the present. This was a time when a café didn’t exist 20 seconds apart from the next, and the smell of mothballs and mildew escaped the basements of the antic shops that lined the strip. Downtown Fredericksburg was an art lover’s dream, but it was a scene that blatantly lacked diversity and creativity. However, ten years later, I’m happy to say all of that is beginning to change.
I met Sole’Frito over ten years ago at a shop called “Spaghetti Project” owned by Edgar and Arlene Munoz; it was a shop that didn’t make it long enough to see the downtown transformation that I mentioned earlier. Even though Spaghetti Project brick mortar is no longer present, you can’t escape their influence that captures the downtown scene that was way ahead of its time. It was a specialty shop that caught your eyes and spoke to your imagination from the walls of art to the vinyl toys that decorated the space. Not only was it an art lover’s dream but Spaghetti Project also carried underground brands at the time such as Kid Robot, Imaginary Foundation and their in-house brand ChiefRocka that brought a new sophisticated hip clientele to the downtown scene that wasn’t present before.
It was here where I spotted Sole’Frito in the shop sporting a NY Yankee fitted, crisp white tee, denim short and the Puerto Rican Air Force Ones that caught my attention and earned my respect.
We both migrated from Fredericksburg to cover the culture in our rights; me with blogging and establishing a monthly print column and Sole’Frito with his podcast and live events. We met back up this faithful Sunday to revisit our old stomping grounds to discuss style and what It means to us now. Anytime we have a conversation it’s a good time, but if you add coffee into the equation, it’s a great time. I’m glad after years of conversations we were able to document one to share with the universe. I hope you all enjoy it but first grab a coffee.
Tony Thrifts: We both haven’t been downtown like this in years. It’s funny how everything comes full-circle. I remember when we first met down the block at Spaghetti Project. That’s when you had the white tee, New York Yankee fitted, denim shorts, and the low-top Puerto Rican flag Air Force ones representing with flavor. That was one of the first times I saw a sneaker online worn in person. So, what or who influenced your style growing up? Because I know you traveled a lot when you were younger.
Sole’Frito: First things first, I went to a private school from first grade through 6th grade so I had to tuck in my shirt and couldn’t wear sneakers. My style was stifled in the very beginning. But when something is repressed it naturally creates a rebellion. So, the best way to describe fashion is really a rebellion. Monday through Friday I had to be the good kid and then Saturday and Sunday I could explore a little bit. My grandmother and mother are from the Bronx and Puerto Rico, so in the summer when school was over, and Jesus was no longer in the conversation I would go to NY. My grandmother lived in the projects, but it was there where I got to see fashion in the streets. The people that were in the hood were fly and looked good, and I loved how their colors coordinated while wearing the Puerto Rico flag somewhere. Growing up and reading history books, I didn’t really have too many people to model myself after, but when I started listening to hip-hop, and I started to see people like Tony Touch, Crazy Legs, The Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, and Juelz Santana all of them influenced my style. And my dad who is African-American who was fly and looked like Eric B and Rakim back in the day.
TT: You worked at CommonWealth in the early 2000s. A time where they sold streetwear and high-end brands. From the people who shopped there and from seeing the brands CommonWealth carried up close, how did that impact your style?
SF: When I first started working at CommonWealth, I dressed hood! The people who worked there liked my energy and saw the potential of me being fly, but I was a diamond in the rough that needed polishing. So, shout-out to Roland and Larry for teaching the importance of making my style universal. I used to wear oversized jeans, 3X t-shirts and coordinate it but I needed a more tailor fit, and that’s what I learned from working there. So, early on when I was wearing brands like APC, PRP’s, Crooks and Castles, 10 Deep, and CommonWealth I was slowly developing a new style. The CommonWealth brand was so infamous and influential at that time I would go to sneaker shows wearing a hat with that “C” stamp, and people would know I must be from VA. All in all, I believe creating a universal aesthetic is what I can credit CommonWealth for the most at the time. It gave me the ability to look good in the streets but still feel style appropriate in a café.
“Now we see everything on our phone, so when you see it in person it’s nothing special.”
TT: At the time you were at CommonWealth, you saw first-hand the collaborations from early Raf Simmons and Rick Owens in person. What was it like seeing the product in person compared to the Instagram wave we have now? Because now everything is totally accessible.
SF: Well, now you see everything on your phone, so when you see it in person it's nothing special. The problem is that now everything is too accessible, so it’s not valuable. Back in the day when you would go to a store and would see something new, it felt like a museum. You would think “I can’t believe these are here.” But now you can go on Instagram and see it all, and people think that’s “seeing it.”
TT: Now that we’re in our 30s, I’m sure your taste level and style preference have changed dramatically. What's your new style essentials in your wardrobe?
SF: My style has changed, and it’s to the point where I don’t need extra things. I just need a fly a** watch, four pairs of fly a** kicks (not 200 like before) and only simple pieces, and that’s it.
TT: You went from being a consumer of the culture to now documenting the culture. What’s your view on fashion and sneaker culture now?
SF: There was a magazine cover on Esquire titled, “An American Boy” with the kid putting on his sneakers as they talked about social media, and being a middle-class white male, that image really bothered me. The reason it bothered me because society is portraying this image that this is the biggest tragedy in America. The hype of everything right now is messing up the game, and I can only be responsible for me and what content I create. So, my partner Mike and I are documenting things to show people the simplicity of things. Simple things like walking through DC, and you want to know why? Because people completely miss the beauty of DC because they’re on their phones and they miss the beautiful artwork and the sky.
TT: Do you see how people can be caught up in the social media world though? With the sneaker and consumer hype?
SF: Absolutely, but we have to define what the sneaker culture is; because right now, it’s anything that you see on your phones. People now look on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all day (and I use to be guilty of that) and you’re seeing what companies are telling you to think and that’s supposed to be quote on quote the sneaker culture. So, yes, it's easy to get caught up in it, especially when you are seeing over a thousand images a day.
TT: Growing up, we would scroll on Nike Talk to see what Jordan Brand are potentially coming out with as far as releases, but now consumers know ahead of time.
SF: And where’s the fun in that? I just want to let people know you have the control to get away from the platform and bring it back to the original form. Sneakers to me will always be about identity and style, but now, I think the younger cats have an identity crisis.
TT: Being back in downtown Fredericksburg and seeing all these boutiques and coffee shops, it seems like everything has changed. You worked in boutiques early on, in fact, that’s how we met at Spaghetti Project. What’s the magic that mom and pop’s boutiques have that retail chains just can’t grasp?
SF: Community. If you have a mom and pop shop, you genuinely have to make connections, which is the fabric of the community. If you sh** on the community, who’s going to support you? Look at the sports store that stopped carrying Nikes because of Kaepernick and went out of business. The people behind Spaghetti Project made people from Fredericksburg feel proud! CommonWealth made people from VA and Philippines feel proud! You have to build relationships and be authentic because people sense a business that’s a culture vulture instead of really giving them a community platform.
TT: Style at the end of the day is about making a statement. At the end of the day, what statement does your style make?
SF: When you see my style, you should see me. To my Hector Lavoe style frames, my Viejo hat, and my watch. It should tell you I’m confident and honest and it should influence you to be yourself.