Our buddy Ryan Cascarano is a man of many talents—an environmental consultant, an accomplished photographer, and a noted connoisseur of all things menswear. Born in Wisconsin and based in Chicago, Ryan balances his social media savvy with a healthy skepticism of what he calls the hivemind—maybe that accounts for some of the inventiveness he brings to the table, style-wise. We recently sat down to talk about daily routines in the COVID era, trends and inspirations, and which spots we need to add to the itinerary next time we're in Chicago. Enjoy!

Ryan rocking our merino base layers.

What is your background? Where are you from/based now? Do you have a day job?

I completed a master’s degree in hydrogeology at Western Michigan University a few years ago and I’ve been living in West Town in Chicago ever since. I’m originally from southeastern Wisconsin – so I have a strong midwestern upbringing overall. I love a lot about Chicago but I definitely miss Wisconsin and see myself winding up back there at some point. I’m currently working for an environmental engineering firm based downtown here.


What does your day-to-day look like? Tell us a little about a day in the life.

Fortunately, my company allows us a lot of flexibility, even before the pandemic, and I have been exclusively working from home since early March. I generally like to start my days early and end early when possible, so I’ll get up between 6 and 7 and as soon as I’ve made my coffee hop right on my laptop. Since I’m a consultant and my work is project based, my actual day to day can vary a lot depending on what I’m working on – but generally takes the form of data management and environmental site assessment for federal, state, and municipal clients (think EPA, etc.) – more or less concerning all facets of environmental contamination. Unlike a lot of folks my age in this field, I don’t do a lot of field work and work more on the technical side of things – which is great since it keeps me at home these days. That said, the flexibility I have in my day to day is the greatest perk. I can pop out for an errand or a walk or bike ride midday if I need a break. Under non-pandemic circumstances it’s great to be able to work for part of a day at a coffee shop or brewery, but I’ve been staying safe at home even if we’re *technically* allowed to be going some places in Chicago. Whenever I finish my work, on a good day, I like to get out for a bike ride and then enjoy some home-cooked food and a drink on my deck.

Ryan rocking our merino base layers.

How would you sum up your approach to style and menswear?

For a long time, I was interested in putting on as much clothing as possible to really highlight as many pieces as I could…but I’ve really steered away from that and am just focused on being comfortable. I definitely think the Instagram hivemind drove a lot of this for myself and others. I’ve been a lot less focused on dressing to please the community over the last few years and I’ve found that it’s opened up a lot for me style-wise. If that means just a breezy merino tee, some loose shorts, and sandals in the summer - or a regular-fitting pair of jeans and an overshirt on a cooler day - so be it. At least in a casual context, I think people always look better when they’re dressing comfortably since the whole look will come off as more natural.

You're a layering and texture master. How do you think about these elements when pulling together a fit?

I grew up exposed to the benefits of layering through my father, who has a monster wardrobe himself, so it’s not even something I put that much thought into. At the end of the day, it’s really just about knowing what the weather looks like for the duration of time you’ll be out, and being prepared for any circumstance, whether that’s a drastic change in temperature or some precipitation.

Ryan rocking our merino base layers.

Are there any specific trends or movements right now that you're particularly excited about?

I’ve been really thrilled that looser and more regular fitting clothes have become more popular over the past few years. Slim tapered raw denim and a well-fitted, crispy top are cool and all, but after wearing looser tops and pants in lighter fabrics, it’s really hard for me to toss on a lot of what I used to wear!

How do our folks find you to keep up with you?

Really just Instagram these days @ryancascarano where I spiral through varying degrees of activity … I’ve been dabbling in the idea of starting a Twitter for my rants and ramblings that maybe aren’t so appropriate for my Instagram stories … but do people really even read tweets these days?

Lastly, what are some of you favorite small businesses in Chicago? Any favorite spots for a bite, drink, record, etc?

The pandemic has negatively impacted a lot of the joints I typically visit. It’s unfortunate, but small businesses really are not doing well across the country right now. That said, I do have a few local spots that I’m still doing my best to support. Just a few blocks away from my place is All Together Now, a funky little beer and natural wine shop. Also in my neighborhood is Metric Coffee, which is my go-to for beans at home right now. Finally, based out of her home studio in West Town is Monsoon Pottery, making uniquely Asian-American ceramics and available for shipping.


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Words & Photos by: Kate Kavanaugh (@kate_kavanaugh) of Ground Work & Western Daughters Josh and I met eleven years ago....

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