Style

This Photographer's Colorful Suit Game Is Out Of This World

Who said bow ties have to be tied?

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Ever since he was little, Chicago-based photographer Justin Barbin's attire has been kaleidoscopic.

Justin Barbin

"My mom always encouraged me to dress in color," he told BuzzFeed. "Dressing well for me is a way that I show respect for myself."

Barbin's work steadily stemmed from prolific local coverage at his alma mater Northwestern University to the florets of galas and Broadway openings.

Justin Barbin

He's also a watchful lens for the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post, and he recently wrapped up campaigns with Gillette and Nike.

While others in the field dress to the nines, Barbin bumps the notch up to the tens.

Justin Barbin

The head-to-toe black that photographers typically wear tends to alienate them from the event, he said, so he tries to make it special. "I dress for whatever the occasion I’m attending as a sign of respect to the people I’m photographing."

And not only does his ever-changing work uniform help him blend in to get crisp, comfortable candids, it's a pliable form of art and expression, too.

He first chronicled his playful collections a few years ago on Instagram.

Justin Barbin

The overwhelming support fueled Barbin to recently post more than a dozen looks — except this time he flexed his creativity even further with a little extra research, specifically to find bow ties that aren't made of cloth or silk.

Amid the hubbub of his grueling schedule, Barbin finds inventive accessories from all over the world.

Justin Barbin

He especially likes to support small businesses. A recent acquisition he has yet to debut, he said, is an Icelandic eco-friendly salmon leather that's been repurposed into bow ties and other accents.

"Formal wear, especially for men, doesn’t have to be just your standard suit and tie combo in dark colors," he said.

Justin Barbin

When asked about documenting fashion events, Barbin laughed. "Without the camera, I don’t think I could approach all these beautiful people,” he said. “It gives me so much freedom.”

And while it's an expensive art project, it’s been worth it for the positive response, he said.

Justin Barbin

Because of the overwhelming requests he's gotten for a coffee table book, Barbin will soon start a Kickstarter to fund it. Except he won't keep any of the profits: Those are only for the requested books, he said.

Barbin hopes his looks encourage others to feel more free and take more chances in what they want to wear.

Justin Barbin

And is already on the lookout for more bow ties to prepare for his next set. "It should be a sense of expression, it should be fun, it should be lighthearted and creative, and hopefully people can see that and be inspired."

See even more of Barbin's looks on his Instagram, or scope out his photography on his site.