People pour out of the ivy-laden gates of Harvard in more than just boat shoes, Brooks Brothers, cashmere and Lily Pulitzer. The stereotyped style of the university — although reflected by some — is only one of many looks frequenting the historic, brick-lined streets of Cambridge.
In hopes of reflecting that sentiment, Emily Xie and Colin Teo started Books&Liquor back in 2010. The street style blog features photos of students, professors, tourists and pedestrians whose “sartorial expressions color the area with a diverse flair.”
Curious to hear how the duo sees Harvard’s sense of style, we asked Xie a few questions about Books&Liquor, from why they got started to how the community’s reacted to being photographed over the last two years. For your viewing pleasure, we’ve also included some photos the team’s snapped, only proving the point Harvard’s more than historic architecture and Cape Cod chic.
What motivated you two to start Books&Liquor?
Colin and I started the blog in 2010 while we were sophomores in college, because we felt that there was something special and extremely unique about Harvard Square and the campus. The area’s character is so eclectic and so vibrant, and it absolutely abounds with this indescribable energy, that we felt that it just had to be documented. So, we started photographing interesting looking people in the area, hoping that their photographs would collectively illustrate a sense of identity and place.
How do you choose who to photograph? What catches your eye?
I typically don’t think too hard about who I’m going to photograph. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction. It can be a funky splash of color that catches my eye, or a crazy pattern that I’m drawn to. Usually, it’s when someone looks unusual or when they aesthetically manage to convey a strong sense of character that I decide to photograph them.
If you could describe your personal style in three words what would they be? And how about Colin’s?
Colin’s style is precise, dapper and coordinated. Mine is theatrical, yet classic.
What have you gotten out of Books&Liquor?
I’ve gotten to meet and talk to some very interesting individuals by photographing for Books&Liquor. It really runs the gamut — from a quirky, neon-attired artist, to Kanye West’s student style advisor, to designer Anna Sui, to a chatty bookworm neurobiology student, to a Japanese politician. I’m grateful to have the incredible privilege of meeting the many interesting strangers that frequent the area that I would have never met otherwise.
What’s one moment you’ve had while photographing people that’s resonated with you?
Well, a few days ago, I stopped a really stylish couple on the street, Christina and Jason. I introduced myself, spoke for a bit, and then snapped a few photos. After saying goodbye, I posted their photos on my blog. A while later, I saw that Christina left this comment on the post:
I’m so glad you spotted us that day! We were celebrating our anniversary as a couple and it turns out that later that afternoon, as we were touring the Charles River in a gondola, Jason proposed! It’s great to have these photos to document the day we became engaged. Thank you!
It was beyond incredible!
How has the Harvard community responded to Books&Liquor?
The Harvard community seems really receptive to Books&Liquor. When I reveal that I run the blog, students often respond, “Wow! You run the blog? That’s so cool — I’ve definitely looked at it before!” Or, “Oh yeah, my friend was featured on your blog!” I’m really happy to be producing content that people enjoy looking at.
What happens to Books&Liquor now that you’ve just graduated?
Though Colin has moved back to Singapore, the blog will still continue as I’m still around, living and working in the Cambridge area. I’m still mourning the loss of Colin’s incredible talent, but we’ve got another photographer joining us, named Grace, who will be a senior at Harvard at the start of the next term.
As promised, here are some photos and text, courtesy of Books&Liquor.