Two D.C. arts en­thu­si­asts daz­zle the crowds with their snazzy jack­ets and ac­ces­sories.

With a seem­ingly lim­it­less wardrobe, two D.C. arts en­thu­si­asts share a shoe size and a snazzy fash­ion sense

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY NEL­SON PRESSLEY nel­son.pressley@wash­

The black and gold jacket Tom Noll mod­els is not only daz­zling; it’s prac­ti­cally magic. Run your fin­gers over the sur­face, and like a touch screen, it changes color where you brush it, from black to gold or back again. You could write your name on the sleeve — and ad­mir­ers are en­cour­aged to play once they see how the three-way se­quin de­sign works.

“I was wait­ing to see what you’d be wear­ing” is some­thing Noll and his part­ner, José Al­berto Uclés, rou­tinely hear as they at­tend arts events across Wash­ing­ton. Their un­abashedly high-fash­ion jack­ets are eye­catch­ers, fre­quently sported with match­ing trousers, the tightly co­or­di­nated en­sem­bles al­ways ac­ces­sorized to the nines.

“We never fight,” Uclés says as the cou­ple dis­play a seem­ingly lim­it­less wardrobe in their Bloom­ing­dale town­house. Noll laughs and ob­jects.

“Usu­ally I let him have the showier one,” Noll says. “Nine times out of 10.”

The burn­ing ques­tion they get at the­aters, op­eras or art open­ings: How many of these splen­dif­er­ous jack­ets do you have?

One hun­dred ten, says Noll. Uclés has 160. They come from shops such as D.C.’s Why Not Bou­tiques, Ge­orge­town’s Mi­lano Col­lec­tion, and some­times from New York or on­line.

Ties? More than 300. Re­cently tal­lied: 386 hand­ker­chiefs, plus arm­loads of as­cots. “We mar­ried the cuff link col­lec­tion,” Uclés says, open­ing one dis­play box and reach­ing for another. They count them­selves lucky that they share a shoe size (13 wide).

Mod­el­ing in a bed­room up­stairs, Noll shows off a black and white jacket with a sort of pi­ano key­board pat­tern and black bro­cade pants.

“I have that in white,” Uclés notes, il­lus­trat­ing how they con­spire to mix and match.

Uclés, 59, han­dles the so­cial cal­en­dar and re­searches the evening’s show so their at­tire, typ­i­cally co­or­di­nated by Noll, 61, will be ap­pro­pri­ate. They met 11 years ago, and the Hon­duras-born Uclés hit it off at once with the Ohioan Noll. They mar­ried in 2013. Both had early ex­pe­ri­ence as fash­ion mod­els; tucked in a dis­creet cor­ner of their D.C. liv­ing room, you can see Uclés’s face on a cou­ple of magazine cov­ers. As the 1980s be­came the 1990s, he de­signed and ran his own Con­necti­cut Av­enue shop, the Al­berto Uclés Col­lec­tion. (The Wash­ing­ton Post once wrote that he “has found a fol­low­ing for his ex­pres­sive fash­ion”)

Noll used to de­sign win­dow dis­plays for depart­ment stores, and his cre­ative hand­i­work can be seen in the in­stal­la­tion of white bi­cy­cles in the small park at Rhode Is­land Av­enue and First Streets NW. He wrote the chil­dren’s books “The Bi­cy­cle Fence” and “Sell­ing Eggs” in the “Trash to Trea­sure” se­ries. His home of­fice is filled with the pup­pets he made and uses dur­ing in­struc­tional per­for­mances. His desk looks out over the de­tached garage be­hind an en­vi­able, gor­geously land­scaped and lighted (by Noll) pa­tio, with another painted bi­cy­cle and col­or­ful chick­ens on the garage’s tidy roof.

Even Noll’s truck is art­ful: It’s a 1950 Ford pickup painted with bright pri­mary col­ors and cheer­lead­ing slo­gans (“Re­duce,” “Re­use,” “Re­cy­cle”). The orig­i­nal en­gine is still un­der the hood.

“They told us not to re­place it,” Noll says. “It will last for­ever. Just don’t go over 50.”

Uclés is en­ter­ing his sec­ond three­year term as a vol­un­teer com­mis­sioner with the D.C. Com­mis­sion on the Arts and Hu­man­i­ties and has worked in com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the National High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion since 2001. Yes, there

are gov­ern­ment-friendly suits in his col­lec­tion. He sheds them, and the stress of a job that grap­ples with re­calls and fa­tal­i­ties, to go out.

“This mag­i­cal act of chang­ing from a navy suit changes my men­tal­ity,” Uclés says.

The col­ors and pat­terns are at­ten­tion-get­ters, but Noll says he’s re­ally in­ter­ested now in “the play of tex­tures.” Fab­ric was the orig­i­nal gate­way 10 years ago when the duo be­gan pur­su­ing more flam­boy­ant looks. El­e­gant but flat black be­came char­coal bro­cades, and the sky has been the vis­ual limit since then.

They try not to re­peat them­selves, and the col­lec­tion inspires end­less com­bi­na­tions. Jack­ets can be set off by dif­fer­ent vests or shirts, stocked in ev­ery color. Ac­ces­soriz­ing can be as mean­ing­ful to the over­all look as lights on a the­atri­cal set. Noll and Uclés il­lus­trate with pins (many by Mindy Lam) made of filmy fab­ric and/or bright jew­els. Es­pe­cially fas­ci­nat­ing: ropy, flex­i­ble items that can be wrapped as a bracelet, draped as a neck­lace or even twisted into a bow tie.

“Ev­ery­thing is or­ga­nized,” Uclés says with un­der­state­ment. Jack­ets have been neatly paired and pulled to­gether on rolling racks. Clos­ets are packed high with care­fully hung shirts and ties. Jew­elry boxes neatly pile up on a side ta­ble.

They are will­ing and able to im­prove on some items; Noll hand­painted tiny pink cherry blos­soms on two of their jack­ets. But they are also down­shift­ing the ac­qui­si­tions. The last jacket Noll bought was six months ago, the three-way se­quin num­ber.

The kicker: “It’s not that ex­pen­sive,” Uclés in­sists. “You see some­thing, you have to Google it.”

At a re­cent event, one ad­mirer re­cently in­quired what Noll paid for his ex­trav­a­gant look. Noll replied by ask­ing the man the price of his natty but stan­dard black jacket: $600. Noll, pea­cock­ing, was wear­ing a $58 jacket, $49 shoes and $19 pants.

The clothes don’t make these men; they re­veal them. Noll and Uclés come across as ex­u­ber­ant, with a phi­los­o­phy not of up­stag­ing the art they’re at­tend­ing, but of hon­or­ing it. They sub­scribe to old-world views of oc­ca­sion, charm and for­mal­ity, with an un­bri­dled, hope­fully in­fec­tious sense of fun. The out­look, like the out­fits, is sum­ma­rized by some­thing Uclés says al­most in pass­ing: “It’s up to you to make life hap­pen.”


ABOVE: José Al­berto Uclés, left, and Tom Noll, seen in their D.C. home, are known for the un­abashedly high­fash­ion jack­ets they wear to arts events across Wash­ing­ton.

BELOW: Their col­lec­tion al­lows them to ac­ces­sorize with aban­don, in­clud­ing with pins made of fab­ric or bright jew­els. With more than 300 ties and dozens of jack­ets, or­der is a must. “Ev­ery­thing is or­ga­nized,” Uclés says.

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