John Stayton walks the talk. The director of Dominican University’s Sustainable Enterprise program—aka “Green MBA”—he lives on an organic farm about an hour north of Marin, commutes in a hybrid, and wears a cardigan made from alpaca wool (not as of yet available at Brooks Brothers). As a role model he inspires students who want to be part of the environmental solution; his personal style shows there is indeed a time and a place for Birkenstocks, if not necessarily in the boardroom.
What are you wearing? It’s been raining out and I just took off a waterproof dust man’s cap (from Mendocino Hat Company) and my L.L. Bean barn coat. An Indigenous Designs alpaca zip-up cardigan over a Tianello Tencel (made from wood pulp) and rayon long-sleeve shirt. Generic pleated chinos, Hi-Tec low-rise boot shoes.
Where would you wear this outfit? Going to work on a rainy day when I don’t have any dress-up meetings.
How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? Thirty minutes yoga; 30 minutes shower, shave, etc.; 30 minutes meditation; 30 minutes farm chores, cooking and eating breakfast while reading the local paper.
Describe your personal style. Work: appropriate, subdued, serious. Perhaps a little too earnest at times. I want “green” to be taken seriously in professional circles, so I don’t go for the frumpy hemp look. Better to be a little overdressed than underdressed. Home: farm comfy casual. Jeans, T-shirt, a soft plaid work shirt and a glass of wine.
Who are your fashion influences? My naturally fashionable son, Jeremy. I have received many more hand-me-ups than he has received hand-me-downs. My wife: when she looks at me in the morning I can tell instantly if my outfit is wrong. And finally, a very stylish Green MBA graduate (now a friend), Lance Funston. He has described my look as “TravelSmith.”
What would you never be caught dead in? Loafers. I have narrow heels, so any kind of slip-ons would leave my heels a bloody mess.
Where do you love to shop in Marin? Book Passage. I’m a bookaholic.
Favorite designers? Mother Nature. Bill McDonough. Buckminster Fuller. My friend Gary Barker of GreenHeart Global, who designed beautiful clothing hangers that just happen to be 100 precent recyclable.
Clothing designers? Not on my radar.
What is always in your bag/pockets? A large clump of keys with a metal guitar-shaped bottle opener (I do enjoy the occasional microbrewed ale). A comb. A tiny bottle of Del drops (kick-ass natural breath freshener). My wallet, with some business cards shoved in.
What is your best cheapo secret? Yard sales. The typical American now buys about 75 articles of clothing per year, up from 45 in the early ’90s. So they constantly empty their closests of perfectly fine, barely worn, clothing to make room for the new stuff.
What’s your fashion pet peeve? Many of the early “eco” clothing designs were awful—shapeless wrinkled shirts with sleeves of mismatched lengths and garish pants with drawstrings. They gave a bad name to what should have been (and is now) a superior product.
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought? Our home/organic fruit farm, of course. Second: my 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid from Marin Honda.
Did it make you happy? They both bring me pleasure. Is that the same thing as making me happy? I don’t think so.
If your life were a movie, what would be your theme song? “I Still Believe,” by Michael Been and the Call.