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Creating a Revolution: Barone’s Revolution Clothiers & Co. on Main Street

Barone in front of his storefront in downtown Blowing Rock, carrying his “go to” walking stick, he’s named Charlie. Photo by Josh Floyd

By Kris Testori

On any given day, it’s not unusual to see Revolution Clothiers & Co. owner Barone strolling in
front of his store while engaging with tourists walking along Main Street in downtown Blowing
Rock. Dressed in a distinctive outfit and carrying one of his trademark walking sticks, his
fervent love for both people and eclectic fashion is evident.

The clothier, known by his mononym, Barone, is the director of operations and a partner at
Revolution, selling men’s and women’s fashion, eclectic gifts, and luxe accessories.

When I met with Barone, he was wearing one of his signature suits, a black and white custom made Saint Laurent cape, numerous statement rings, and he was carrying his “go to” walking
stick that he’s named Charlie. To top off the look, he wore a dark gray Homberg hat with a thick
black hat band ribbon.

“I never fell into the realm of conformity,” Barone said. “I just want to be me, do me, man. Some days, I favor wearing Victorian suiting, with the flocking and the ability to accessorize.

Sometimes I prefer early Scandinavian clothing, with skins and furs and drapings, and other times its Renaissance fashion with beautiful fabrics and posh luxe. I think there is something
inside of everybody that can relate to a fashion era and is attracted to it. If I want to look like the Prince of Norway and have the option in my closet, I can. If on another day I want to look like I am a Renaissance man or Victorian guy walking with his top hat and a walking stick, I have options where I can do all of that.”

“I’ve always said, within this concrete jungle, [clothing style] is my armor,” Barone continued. “People will either hate it and talk jazz about it or love it. But you need to know that none of
these people are on my radar when I get dressed. What is on my radar is what makes me feel the best version of me today. So I can then radiate it out to you. The best version of me that I can possibly be.”

Blowing Rock Chose Him

When asked how he chose Blowing Rock as his second location for Revolution, Barone
replied, “I feel like Blowing Rock chose me.” He explains how the most peculiar object—a
purple chaise longue—led him to open his boutique downtown.

“I’ve always loved this area, but it was the purple chaise lounge that brought me here,” Barone
said. “The gal who owned this place prior to me had a purple chaise lounge in her shop. And I
was just in love with it. I would always call her and ask about the purple chaise lounge. She
was not selling it. One day I went down to the wish tree at the block’s end, and I wrote out my
intentions to the universe that I wanted to be here in Blowing Rock, and I wanted our store to
be here.”

He said a few months later the former owner called him and asked, “do you want to get me out
of here?”

In November of 2020, Barone’s wish came true, and he opened the second Revolution location in Blowing Rock, in the former shop where the purple chaise lounge was. Barone travels
between this location and the original Revolution, located in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte.

The wish tree Barone was referring to was commonly called the Prayer Tree. It was known for its collection of thousands of prayer cards and encouraging messages tied to a tree just
outside the front door of Take Heart Boutique at the corner of Main Street and Maple Street.
Set up by Sherri Furman, owner of the boutique, the shop was devastated by a fire in 2019;
however, the fire didn’t burn one of the 14,000 prayers on the tree. Furman rebuilt the store in 2022.

The prayers, which had climbed to 40,000 after the fire, were mixed into the foundation
and walls of the store. Barone’s wish is inside the walls of the store.

Wearing a red tuxedo style velvet dinner jacket with a satin lapel, this gentleman is ready for a night on the town. He is accessorized with a fox fur collar, a silver linked chain, and a custom silk ascot by designer Ruth Graves. Photo by Josh Floyd

Barone says the local business community greeted him with open arms.

“That’s the best thing about this community – I can be a part of what other businesses before
me created,” he said. “I want to see Blowing Rock grow, and I want to wow the customers. I
am newer, obviously, and I am more eclectic. I feel like by opening our shop in this building, we
actually brought back the nostalgic feel to the interior of this building. When we came in, it was white tile floors, drop ceilings and pure amigo blue walls. I feel like the shop now has a much homier, a more Blowing Rock look and feel.”

Barone completely updated the interior of the building, restoring the hardwood floors the
previous owner had covered in tile. He installed a traditional ceiling with small spotlights
showcasing the product and painted the entire store warmly. A custom-made rack system
displays the merchandise and sits on top of animal print rugs.

The walls are adorned with ornate metal animal heads, including a sizable purple unicorn with
a gold horn. The quote next to it says, “Dude what’s your point?” Other wall quotes include, “I
see you, I get you, I love you,” and “I’m jealous of the fabric holding your clothes.”

As customers enter the store, Barone builds a rapport with them. He compliments many of
them on an item of clothing or accessory they are wearing. Armed with years of experience in
the fashion industry, Barone points out brands and styles as guests come and go.
When I interviewed him, a customer walked into the store wearing a babushka, a scarf tied
under the chin. He smiled at her and said, “I like your babushka; I like how you wear that with
the white – it’s super fun.”

Customers can find a large selection of super fun and sometimes naughty gifts.
“Sometimes I like the shock factor” – Barone. Photo by Josh Floyd

With other guests, particularly groups of women, he teases and flirts with them – often calling
them love or my love. “I am the Mad Hatter in the rabbit hole,” Barone said. “There are not a lot
of folks that will dedicate their life to what I have. I have dedicated myself to knowing where the
textile world leads. Knowing where the cotton comes from, how you source your leather, how
you make it, and who your vendor is.”

Barone credits his father’s mother, who he calls Nanny, and his mother for his introduction to
fashion and shopping. “They were all hippies coming out of a major fashion movement,” he
said. “I’ve always been attracted to clothing; I always say if you cut me, I bleed cotton.” Barone
grew up splitting his time between Charlotte with his mother and Miami with his Nanny.
“Fashion is my destiny,” he said. “I love the fashion world; it’s the only avenue I’ve ever found
that drops the wall that people so easily put up, and it creates a bridge for people to relate to,
and that’s what I love about clothing.”

The store sells upscale men’s and women’s clothing and jewelery representing a variety of periods and styles. You can also find fun gifts for everyone. Who doesn’t need a Dolly Parton quote on their desk? Photos by Josh Floyd

The products Revolution offers are unique and well-curated, with a range of things to interest
all ages and different types of people. The upscale men and women’s clothing offers an
assortment of contemporary designers and independent labels and represents a variety of
periods and styles.

The walls inside the store are adorned with ornate metal animal heads and other statement pieces, such as this golden bear head. Photo by Josh Floyd

The gift selection can only be described as eclectic, funky, bordering on ridiculous, and super
fun. “Sometimes I like the shock factor,” Barone explains. As you enter the store, you’re
greeted with a row of shiny ceramic balloon dogs in bright colors. Book offerings include
“Stoners Coffee Table Book”; “Zombie Catchers Handbook”; a nature coloring book, and “Taxi
Driver Wisdom.”

“I think people recognize they are at home when they enter the store,” Barone shared. “I give [the customers] an opportunity to just be themselves. I sell cocktail napkins that say, ‘I need a cocktail… hold the tail,’ and when I hear people laugh at that, to hear that laughter from that one napkin. I know I’ve done my thing.”

Skulls, furs, thumbs-up statues, crowns, and cats (including cat napkins) are common themes among the items for sale at Revolution. You can buy both a coffee cup and a candle with the quote, “you can’t polish a turd.”

Many of the gift items Barone carries may be considered super naughty or even risque. “What my partner and I buy–well, we buy things that amuse us,” he said. “I have a fun personality, so I feel like if it makes me laugh, it will make the people laugh. I always say the Revolution is for the people.”

During his first month in business, Christmas of 2020, Barone recalls a day when an elderly
customer came into the shop dressed very conservatively. The customer went over to the
Christmas tree, adorned with ornaments some might think were inappropriate. “I immediately
thought she would give me the come-to-Jesus speech,” Barone said. “She goes over to the
tree. It has penis ornaments on it, boobs on it, gingerbread people doing unmentionable things
on it, all of it. She takes all these penis ornaments off–she comes up to the counter, lays them
all out, and looks up at me. ‘I was like, so how did you do?’ She makes this magical sweeping
hand motion and says, ‘I feel like this is the most penises I’ve ever had in my hand at once.’”

Barone often refers to himself as the Mad Hatter in the rabbit hole. Photo by Josh Floyd

Barone, shocked, replied, “You get ten percent off, my love.”

Barone said he felt like he slipped in the universe when he judged her. “I realized I judged her. I
judged that book by the cover, and I am the one who hates that.” Ever since, anyone who
walks in that door– gets the same love from me across the board.”

Barone says he buys clothing and items for the store strategically. “You’re not buying what’s current; you are buying to create something that is going to be current. You need to know what you are trying to dress your guy or gal like– and what image you are trying to portray. There are a lot of worlds out there as far as fashion is concerned, and it’s very easy to end up with a hodgepodge collection. I stay very focused on my theme. If the clothing is from an era that really talks to me, culturally wise, I can redo it and bring the style back with a newer age look. Then I play my gal or guy towards that style, depending on whatever the store represents. When you buy, it’s about buying for a collection that you think will make a stand for your impression of fashion. I can put someone in an era where they feel self-expresses themselves without having to say anything to anybody and then give it to the masses. And that’s powerful.”

“When I buy clothing, I see the art within some designers,” he said. “Other people see
[clothing] and think, where would I wear this to? For me, the answer is out the door.”

The snow is just starting to fall as Audra Jones poses in front of Revolution Clothiers & Co. wearing a faux fur coat from Unreal Fur, a company specializing in plant-based furs. Photo by Josh Floyd

More Community Engagement

Barone’s main goal for the upcoming year is to engage more within the community. Playing off the store’s name, he shares, “Our whole point of having a revolution is to create a revolution. It’s not a solo project; it is for us to be among the masses and to get out there so much that people recognize you can still be who you are through your looks.” He’s planning to organize multi-faceted events with different levels of entertainment, including music, fashion, and art. “If it’s a fashion event, and I bring in ten models and exhibit a certain look, we have a great opportunity for people to meet up,” he shared.

The store sells candles with quotes from New York City poet and artist Zach Whitman. The author designed each label on a 1950’s typewriter, and each mark, scuff, and smear are intentionally placed. Photo by Josh Floyd

“My goal is to host more events in 2023,” Barone explained. “Planning more events allows people to understand that just because they have beautiful clothing, they don’t need to set
them aside for an event. I want to let people know it’s always okay to be gorgeous in your clothing. Can you just not wear [beautiful clothing] because it’s a Tuesday? “I create the events for you – once you go to enough events, you’re comfortable wearing your beautiful clothing.”

Barone describes himself as a very multi-layered person. “I have so many different styles and versions of me, and each version of me can find one that can relate to the customer,” he said. “It’s all about them, the customers, to walk out of here with that jacket or outfit on and just be happy. You didn’t buy clothing, you just bought something that just makes you feel good, and that’s the revolution.”

Clothier Barone wants to let people know it’s always okay to be gorgeous in your clothing. Photo by Josh Floyd

A Hat for Every Occasion

Whether you need a hat to wear to the opera, a gala, or just because it’s Tuesday, you can find it at Revolution Clothiers & Co. The store has an amazing hat collection, including homburgs, bowlers, newsies, drivers, and fedoras.

Barone knows hats and loves sharing his incredible wisdom about hats with shoppers. “I consider myself the Mad Hatter,” he said, referencing the character Hatter in Alice in
Wonderland. “I have always fancied that character; it’s a great reference.” The Hatter, a fictional character in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is often referred to as the Mad Hatter due to his outlandish and erratic behaviors, which mimic those of a person who
has gone mad.

The phrase “mad hatter” comes from the expression “as mad as a hatter,” referring to the often crazy and unpredictable behavior of hat makers in the 19th century. At the time, mercury was used in the manufacturing process of fine hats, causing a high rate of mercury poisoning among those working in the hat industry. “The hatters would put mercury in the rim of the hat brim,” Barone explained. “The men would wear the hats all day long in the heat, and [the mercury] poisoned the people, and they went mad.” Mercury poisoning can cause neurological damage, including slurred speech, memory loss, and tremors.

“I collect hats,” Barone shared. “No accessory can change up a look quite like a hat.
Throughout time, all cultures have found hats attractive because they allow people to add that
other accessory or addition to their image.”

Barone explains how all civilizations have worn hats. “A hat or a headdress has always been
within every culture you look at,” he said. “From Native Americans to Egyptians, Mayans, and
now to modern society.” The earliest depiction of a hat was in Thebes, Egypt, in 3200 BCE.
The pictorial description was found in a Theban tomb, in a painting showing a man wearing a
conical straw hat.

Throughout history, each social group had its own style of hat.

“Historically, the hat assigned people to their social grouping or echelon,” Barone explained. In the 1900s, immigrants would get off the boat wearing their newsies [newsboy cap]; at the same time, you saw people working in the financial institutions wearing toppers; you went to a symphony, and everybody was dressed in black tie and a top hat.

“The first top hat appeared at the end of the 18th century,” Barone explained. “At the time, they were wrapping these hats in gorgeous silk. The fur felt in the nap was so long in silk that it shone and glistened as they walked down the street. What does wearing a glistening silk top hat show you if not aristocracy? Amazing.”

“The hat changes itself through the different layers of what the hat is built on,” Barone said. “Each element makes the hat different, whether it be the brim, the crown, the bucket, the pinch, the brim, the rim, the ribbon.”

He explained various parts of the hat change the hat’s purpose.
According to Barone, the most popular hat at Revolutions is the fedora. “The second most
popular is probably a driver,” he said. A driver, also called a flat cap, is a soft, round wool or
tweed men’s cape with a small bill in front. “The driver hat is a great choice. It is sleek-looking
and the kind of hat you would see someone wearing while driving a sports car like a Maserati
or BMW M3,” he added. “Or even a vintage Bond car.”

Commonly-used hat terms:

Crown: The top portion of the hat; the area above the brim that sits on your head.
Brim: Think of this as the hat’s ledge, which protrudes from the base of the crown and is often
used to protect you from the sun and other elements.

Underbrim: The underside or bottom of a hat brim.

Liner: The lining in the hat’s interior is usually made from satin fabric.

Hat band: The decorative strip of material (often leather, cloth, cotton, or silk) circling a hat,
located above the brim.

Pinch: The indentations made along the crown’s front, back, and sides

Sweatband: Inside the hat’s interior, the sweatband ensures a good fit and keeps the hat’s
shape intact. It also prevents sweat from getting into the material of the hat itself.