He wears only black or white, roams Minneapolis and considers himself a work of art
Published in Fashion Daily News
MINNEAPOLIS — There is a certain shock that accompanies your first Scott Seekins sighting. You're in downtown Minneapolis, or Uptown, or Northeast, when a man wearing either an all-black or all-white suit, with chunky specs, a thick headband and a shock of dark hair, comes into view. There he is, striding down Lyndale Avenue, as if he has just stepped out of another era instead of the No. 4 bus.
A commenter on Seekins' "People of Minneapolis" Reddit thread sums up the popular public reaction: "I was like, 'Who the F is this guy and what is his deal?' "
Minneapolitans have been noticing the McKnight-awarded artist — "a work of art who creates works of art," as a local frame shop described him — since he began dressing exclusively in monochrome as an MCAD student 50 years ago.
Over the decades, as he scuttled about the city on foot or transit (Seekins hasn't driven since failing his drivers' test as a teenager), he became a sort of aesthete's groundhog. Forget calendars. In Minneapolis, Seekins' transition from black suit to white determines the seasons' change.
Seekins has become such an icon that websites have sprung up to document sightings (SeekingSeekins.com). His face appears on bumper stickers ("Start Seeing Seekins") as often as in his signature self-portraits. The late Cafe Maude named a drink after him (gin, orange bitters, St. Germain). Local rock band Pink Mink immortalized him in song. ("Have you seen him?") There have been Scott Seekins flash mobs and lookalike contests.
At this point, Seekins' black and white suits have been inexorably woven into Minneapolis' fabric. Despite his eroding habitat, as commercial districts face emptying storefronts and increased crime, he remains the ultimate city creature. He's a piece of installation art. A visual metaphor for our communal embrace of the seasons. A shared cultural touchpoint who instills a sense of camaraderie.
"Having him walking around was a signal to the rest of us in Minneapolis that we didn't have to be so constrained and should be more inclusive," says former Mayor R.T. Rybak, of encountering Seekins in the 1980s. "Knowing he's still out there is super-comforting to me and people who came of age in Minneapolis in that time, because so many of the touchstones of that period when Minneapolis was becoming a much cooler city are gone."
Over the years, Seekins has been called a decider of seasons. A champion of the individual. A doo-wop Zorro all shook up with Prince. ("I looked like this a decade before Prince," Seekins counters.) People say he's an anachronism. A curio. A (somewhat odd) Everyman to an entire city. Everyone's favorite familiar stranger.
Despite being the subject of much public opinion — his look has attracted harassment; his art has attracted controversy — Seekins has remained something of an enigma.
"It's really hard to get to know people closer when you're kind of, like, this thing," Seekins admits.
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