The Changed Man

How Scott McKeen went from reporter drab to city councillor fab.

Photography by Ashley Champagne. Styling by Jyllian Park. Makeup and grooming by Amber Prepchuk.

Scott McKeen was not always known for his style. Once a self-described $20 jeans guy, the city councillor shopped for most of his clothes at Costco. Now McKeen’s bold and colourful look – from matching pocket squares and bow ties to eye-catching spectator shoes – stands out in council chambers and when he’s out and about in his downtown ward.

Why the change? “I don’t paint, I’m not artistic, so this is just a way for me to express myself a little,” McKeen says.

His previous outlet was on the pages of the Edmonton Journal, a newspaper he joined when he was 26. During his 24 years at the newspaper, McKeen covered beats including crime, the environment and lifestyle. He also spent eight years as City Hall columnist.

He left the newspaper to run for a council seat in 2010, lost, and tried again in 2013, besting 15 other candidates for a spot in Ward 6. As city councillor, McKeen’s creativity carries past his clothes. The downtown ward he represents bustles with the construction of the new arena district, the Royal Alberta Museum, the LRT expansion and numerous condo and office towers. For McKeen, though, one of the biggest challenges facing the thriving core is bike lanes.

He wants to see the future 102nd Avenue LRT route become a bicycle boulevard, from 99th Street to 109th Street, where drivers, cyclists and pedestrians would share the road.

“This is happening in numerous places in Europe,” McKeen says. “I think we can be a little more creative here.”

How would you describe your style?

In an Edmonton context, I’m a bit weird. I push the boundaries, and I know I make all kinds of mistakes. I’ve got this merlot-coloured, double-breasted jacket on now that I bought because I just wanted some colour. I hate boring.

What prompted you to start caring about your style?

I was in an editorial board meeting (at the Edmonton Journal) and there was a complaint that I was not properly dressed. There was a uniform in journalism, and it wasn’t sharp-dressed men. I wore sport coats, cheap dress pants or khakis, maybe a t-shirt or a dress shirt. I bought a lot at Costco, sometimes at Sears.
What happened after that complaint?

That comment woke me up a bit and I started to dress a little better. I got more conscious about fashion. I bought my first really nice suit, a Prada navy blue suit bought at a Henry Singer sale. I loved that suit. I also did a stint in the lifestyle section and wrote some men’s fashion pieces. And, as a divorcee, when you’re single, you pay a little more attention to how you look. That had an effect too.

How has your style changed over the years?

I used to write a lot about men’s issues, and I think it’s true to say that in our silly culture, men always have to prove they’re men. This is changing, but one of the scary things for a long time was being considered too feminine or gay.

In high school, my uniform was Levi’s, a t-shirt, a lumberjack jacket. And at some point I grew up enough to stop caring. I’m not closeted, but I think the whole gender identity thing is so rife with bull.

What draws you to those items that stand out, say a merlot-coloured jacket or a yellow scooter?

They’re fun and playful. Dressing like this is one little outlet for me to play a bit, with a weird-coloured bow tie or shoes with contrasting colours. This is not foundationally or fundamentally important stuff, but to me, it’s about expression. Anyone can pick out a few accessories and express a little of their creativity inside.

What are your favourite pieces of clothing in your closet right now?

I have a tangerine suede bomber jacket. It’s really nice. I have a couple of jackets, a red velvet Ralph Lauren jacket, a blue with chalk stripes jacket, and two suits, made by Corneliani. They’re wonderful suits. The wool is so soft, I can’t stop touching myself. I bought them – on sale – from The Helm.

I also love these boots (Brawlers by Ryaton). They’re handmade in Edmonton. This guy makes them in his basement. Just look at the stitching. They’re gorgeous boots.
Lindberg glasses; Luigi Bianchi Mantova blazer; Threadsmiths of Australia t-shirt; Bailey of Hollywood straw fedora; Begg & Co scarf

Where do you shop?

If there’s a lesson I have learned over time, it’s that the pieces I love I’ve gotten from Henry Singer and The Helm. The service you get from those guys is incredible. And they’re both in Ward 6.

With The Helm, I’m so happy to see a local independent men’s store willing to take the risk of being outside a mall downtown. I feel like I have to support them, even though I really can’t afford to shop there.

I’ve bought stuff online, but I don’t think ever been really happy. There’s something about trying it on and getting some advice from someone who knows what they’re doing.

You also seem to have a lot of accessories. Any favourites? 

I have Vespa scooter cufflinks, typewriter key cufflinks my kids bought me, and Star Trek cufflinks, because I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd.

And as much as I love multi-coloured pocket squares, I think a white pocket square done right, with just a little bit of it showing, looks clean, crisp, elegant.

I have a lapel flower, but I haven’t worn it yet. I have not quite had the nerve.

And hats?

I wear hats, but in some ways that’s more for protection against sun and the cold. I’m getting bored of my newsboy hats. I have a couple of fedora-style hats, and the key to wearing them – or anything that pushes the envelope a little bit – is just rocking them, just walking with it. But when I’ve got those fedoras on, I still do feel a little self-conscious.
John Galliano glasses, Corneliani wool suit; Stenstroms dress shirt; Bailey of Hollywood cap; seersucker tie from The Tie Bar; socks from Good Luck Socks; AMI oxblood loafers

Would you say your moustache is also an accessory?  

People say I look like Colonel Sanders or the Monopoly guy, and that stings a little bit. But I don’t have hair I can change the style of once in a while or grow out. This is all I have.

And I have a tragically small mouth, so the moustache helps hide that.

I don’t wax it, it just happens to do this [curl slightly at the ends] quite nicely, which I’m happy about.

You also own a bright yellow scooter. How long have you had it?

I’ve had a scooter for about seven years and the Vespa for about four years, but I think that story may be coming to an end.

Why’s that?

I bought an electric bike. It looks like a mountain bike and rides like a mountain bike, but it gives you assist if you want it. I’m no longer as spry as I used to be, and I love riding through the river valley. With the e-bike, I can use assist going up the hills, but the rest of time I’m pedalling.

What about the scooter?

The scooter is going to be put on sale at some point, maybe this spring. There’s even plaid seat covers for it. It was fun, and had great utility. I like things that work really well. In the case of fashion, if it doesn’t feel good and I don’t feel comfortable in it, I’m not a happy camper. I like things that fit well and feel good. With clothes done well, you do feel better.
RayBan Wayfarers glasses; AMI wool blazer; Without Prejudice dress shirt; seersucker blue tie from The Tie Bar; 7 for all Mankind jeans; Brawler boots by Ryaton


Clothing shop The Helm

Suit label Corneliani

Meal out Omelette with a side of bacon from Commodore Restaurant

Coffee shop Credo

Activity in Ward 6 Being out on the street and seeing the downtown come to life, finally.

Hobby Playing guitar or riding my bike

Sci-Fi Book Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

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