Flashback between 2000 and 2005, and you will remember a time where the world couldn’t get enough of throwback Mitchell & Ness jerseys and apparel. Just about every one from entertainment stars to your own classmates were adorning jerseys of sports stars from yesteryear. You probably never stopped to think about where this sudden obsession derived from or who was the man behind the curtain pulling the strings. Well meet Reuben “Big Rube” Harley, the man behind the marketing machine that had people’s closets looking like a sporting goods store.
I caught up with Reuben on a perfect sunny day in the area that people go to be seen, Rittenhouse Square. Here you can find high end boutiques sharing walls with world renowned eateries. As we sat to discuss Philly’s place in fashion, Big Rube vividly recounted his humble beginnings, “I started off as a customer shopping at the time and thought it was just a store. Little did I know they sold wholesale to different sporting goods stores around the country.” However, he quickly noticed an opportunity to take the throwback trend to the next level. “I came up with the marketing concept to take it to the hip-hop generation I’m from. Within three months I was the marketing director. I placed jerseys in videos, Jay-Z’s ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ and it all expanded from there.”
Eventually many others took notice of Big Rube’s knack for fashion and his marketing prowess, as major publications such as Vibe and Time published features about him. However, Reuben didn’t decide to just stop at throwbacks and be boxed into certain style of clothing. He saw the big picture and looked to develop his own platform for all things fashion.
If you are hip to the Philly fashion scene then you may already be aware of Big Rube’s Daily News feature, “Big Rube’s Street Shot” or his “Street Gazing” columns and blog. It seems like Reuben is always keeping his eye open for those fashion forward types that are pushing the envelope in a town overshadowed by larger metropolis’ such as our neighbors to the north, New York. Reueben is quick to point out that Philly always had its hand in the fashion pot, “They always said New York designed it, Philly made it. Most people don’t know factories in South Philly or North Broad Street produced some of the most quality brands such as Chanel.” However, it seems that after these factories left town so did a lot of fashion leaders, “Philly was always style conscious, it just lost it’s luster.” Now Reuben is looking to restore that luster by showcasing just how stylish Philadelphians can be.
In a town that has made both the worst dressed and least stylish list by popular publications such as GQ and Travel & Leisure, how can Big Rube’s vision for a Philly fashion renaissance come into fruition? He doesn’t hesitate with this dilemma. “I just think people are afraid to bring their personalities out. They want to wait until someone else does it , then they do it. It starts with you. One man can create a movement. One woman can create a movement.” His solution is for those looking to make noise in the fashion world right here in town, “Dare to be different, think outside the box, be and do you.” In other words don’t follow trends set them. This may seem like cliché advice but sometimes you have to keep things simple.
So where does Mr. Fashion Guru himself draw his inspiration from? When asked this question, Rube gave a smirk and quick chuckle as he stated, “Everyone I like is basically dead. I look at old shows and movies like ‘Turner Classic Movies,’ as well as the early influences of hip-hop and I just mesh things.” This is evident in Reuben’s choice clothing in everyday life. In publications he is often seen in classic smoke jacket attire but he also knows how to jazz up his street wear with mismatching shoes, hankies hanging from the side of his pants, while adorning custom made t-shirts. Sometimes it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. In the case of Big Rube his choice style matches the way he lives his life, by his own rules. “I am 40 years old, I see the sweetness in life. A lot of my friends are gone like the leaves but I’m here and I’m living my dreams. I get up every morning and do what I want to do, nobody moves me. This is all me.”
If You Would Like to Keep Up With Big Rube And Check Out His Work:
“Big Rube’s Street Shot”-The Daily News (Featured Daily)
“Street Gazing”-The Daily News (Featured Every Friday)
StreetGazing.com (Personal Blog)
@BigRubeHarley (Twitter & Instagram)