Tops at 20

For 20 years, Showtime Clothing has been a kind of staple for Detroit's boho underground — a not-so-quiet treasure trove of original and idiosyncratic garb, a winning collection of new retro, ersatz couture, rock 'n' roll, slutty, vintage, killer footwear and more — for nearly every rank of artist and musician. Its walls and racks are crammed. Some of it resembles the psychedelic boutiques of Swinging London's '60's, with fabrics and clothes that would've hung on Hendrix or Funkadelic or the Stones' Brian Jones. Showtime's owner, Dan Tatarian, has been called a "visionary" among Detroit-area indie merchants.

See, this shop, which sits almost clandestinely on Woodward Avenue near Wayne State University, is becoming a kind of cultural fixture too; an indie shop on which to hang identities and, like a good record store, a place for self-definition.

Is that a lot to assign to a clothier? Maybe. But Tatarian says his place "has been a stomping ground for all manner of hippies, glam, and all manner of rock n' roller. Really, everybody."

For Detroit "everybody" is a mighty diverse bunch, from rap and rock stars to street urchins and stage hags. "We've had pimps buy business suits and rings," Tatarian says. "Businessmen from downtown who want an alternative lifestyle — all walks of life."

So Tatarian is commemorating 20 years of serving Detroit's alternative scenes. He must be feeling like a relic. "I don't feel old, if that's what you're saying. No, I feel strong. Strong as a slug."

In its 20 years, Showtime is one of the last indies amid the dismal glitter of large chainstores (um, Hot Topic anyone?) that long ago hijacked "rock 'n' roll appeal" for kids who didn't see its moneyed manipulation. Showtime's an indie and proud of it.

"Showtime and Noir Leather in Royal Oak are some of the only shops left in Michigan that cater to the truly alternative," Tatarian says.

Others beyond the 313 understand. In fact, gobs of out-of-state bands (many from the UK and Europe) shop Showtime each year. Vinnie Dombroski from Sponge and Crud has been donning Showtime apparel since the early '90s. "If I went out to a gig tonight and I walked out there without my Showtime clothes," the singer says, "I wouldn't have a thing to wear, you know? I mean, the clothes I buy from Tatarian are my wardrobe, man.

You know, it takes time to get somewhere," Tatarian says, talking about his 20-year run so far. "But when you do, you find something real. And hopefully Showtime is real.

Purchase an item for $50 or more to enter the Showtime (5708 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-875-9280) raffle. The winner will be picked on Friday, May 1. First prize is a Fender Stratocaster.

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