Dan Folino's first piece of wardrobe advice concerns the burgundy pantyhose smothering his lean, sinewy arms.
"These are just nylons," he says, running his fingers up and down his skintight sleeves. "You cut the crotch out and cut the feet off, and they stay on pretty nice."
With the high cheekbones of a Backstreet Boy and the gaudy wardrobe of a Spice Girl, Folino looks like a cross between Cher and Ziggy Stardust. He cuts an impressive figure as the frontman for theatrical Cleveland rockers Vanity Crash -- a glammed-out quintet layered in mascara and leopardskin print.
All of which makes him the perfect guy to give pointers on how to dress like a rock star. "You gotta find out what your alter ego is," he says. "Then, once you figure that out, you come in, and stuff will just jump out at you."
We're at Lakewood's Chain Link Addiction (13369 Madison Avenue), a gothy clothing shop festooned with bondage masks and profane T-shirts for kids ("Watch Your Mouth Around the Fucking Baby" one reads). The place is flush with purple and yellow wigs, see-through plastic overcoats, and animal-print loafers. Even the mannequins sport tattoos.
Rummaging through the resale stock, singer-guitarist Dennis Yurich eyes a pair of faux-snakeskin pants -- from the ladies rack, of course.
"As long as you find pants that fit, you don't care if they're men's or women's," explains guitarist Brian Hager, who's clad in shiny red vinyl trousers, matching tie, and a tight black T-shirt.
After drummer Jason Giaco purchases a striped turquoise blazer to complement a glittery, form-fitting top of the same color, we pile into Hager's silver Volkswagen and head to Pat Catan's Craft Center (12775 Berea Road) -- or, as Yurich calls the knickknack superstore, "the boa capital of the world." "There's just something flamboyant about boas," he says, adorned in a cheetah-print hat, matching shoes, and a multicolored suede overcoat.
As Vanity Crash walks into the store, the elderly customers turn their heads to stare. "It smells like a nursing home," Yurich jokes, wrinkling his nose as he struts past aisles of plastic pumpkins and Precious Moments figurines. Unfortunately, a leaky roof has caused management to drape half the store in clear plastic tarps, and the aisle of rainbow-colored boas remains tantalizingly off-limits. Still, the boys amuse themselves by trying on coconut bras and shiny Hawaiian leis.
Any disappointment over Pat Catan's evaporates as Vanity Crash pulls up to Flower Child (11508 Clifton Boulevard), a labyrinthine vintage clothing and furniture store, where the B-52's and Oingo Boingo have shopped in the past. A maze of '50s and '60s kitsch, it's crowded with cultural detritus ranging from Happy Days board games and old issues of Playboy to ceramic Elvis lamps and telephones shaped like beer cans.
"It's definitely a real search-type situation to find something here," Yurich says. "But then, when you do find something, it's really unique, nobody else has it."
As usual, the boys ignore the men's wares and head straight for the ladies section in the basement. "That's where you find the cool stuff," says bassist Tim Ratley, a towering blond who looks like Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander on steroids. "If you're afraid to go in the women's section, then go home."
Hager tries on a black hat adorned with silver trim, which makes him look like an Amish Jimi Hendrix. Ratley scores a button-down yellow silk shirt that looks like something Hugh Hefner would wear to his bowling league. Before leaving, each buys a pair of loud sunglasses worthy of Dame Edna.
The boys make quite an impression with their new shades at the Unique Thrift Store (3333 Lorain Avenue), where shoppers come up to ask where they got their garish eyewear. Unique is the Wal-Mart of resale, bursting with vintage Molly Hatchet concert tees, old softball jerseys with intimidating underarm stains, and some unfortunate-looking purple denim.
"It's a Goodwill type of place, where you can find good raw materials," Yurich says. "You can find some real gems."
The gang digs through bright green and brown suits and checks out the leather pants before eventually calling it a night. They sashay into the parking lot like models working an asphalt runway. "It's fun to dress up, you know?" Folino says. "Everybody's got a little rock star in them somewhere."
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