Sidewalk Style: Who is Dr. K?

Answer: A rough-and-tumble vintage impresario

By: Brooke Kao

Who: Somkiat Umkerd, 38
Owner, U Street’s Dr. K Vintage (1534 U St., NW; 240-888-6284)

Besides being one of the few places in Washington to focus on men’s vintage, what else is unique about the shopping experience at Dr. K?
“I try to make friends with every customer. I talk to them, find out what their style is, and the next time when I go ‘hunting,’ I find pieces that I think they’d like. Also, sometimes people come wanting something cheap, something on sale, like what you’d find at Buffalo Exchange. I don’t do that. I see my clothes as unique and something someone would want to keep for years, not wear it once and throw it away.”

How do you pick your inventory?
“[For men], I don’t buy based on what I think would sell but by what I like and who I imagine wearing it. I buy women’s clothing based on the women who walk in here.”

What’s your favorite city for vintage?
“Every city has its own style. Los Angeles has a lot of ’70s, ’60s, ’50s, and bohemian stuff. New York has a lot of ’30s, ’20s, and even things from the Victorian Era.”

You’ve been in the vintage business for 15 years. Any customers of note?
“In 1992, Ralph Lauren came to me and bought pieces.”

Brooke says: Upon hearing three people expounding the wonders of a man called “Dr. K,” I decided to pay a visit to his vintage store, known for its menswear selection. Turns out Dr. K is Somkiat Umkerd, an exceptionally sweet and accommodating gentleman. His outfit, while basic upon first glance, is elevated by personal touches, such as the metal jewelry covering his wrists and fingers, and the sweep of pomade through his hair.

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