Freeport, ME, December 3, 2021
Mister Mort on The Maine Uniform
WORDS BY JAY MOYE, PORTRAITS AND CAPTIONS BY MORDECHAI RUBINSTEIN, ILLUSTRATIONS BY FAMILY BROTHERS
Mordechai Rubinstein lives to get dressed.
And as much as he likes sharing his outfits with the world (often via pics from his local dry cleaner’s mirror), the self-proclaimed “garmentologist” and “reluctant anthropologist” is even more fervent about capturing and sharing how his fellow humans dress.
“I can't get enough of what people wear and how they wear what they wear,” he says via phone while proudly sporting a vintage L.L.Bean polo shirt and hat, thinking we’d be on Zoom. “I try to imagine where they might be going or what they might be doing.”
Known by many for his Instagram handle, Mister Mort, Rubinstein has become fashion’s foremost authority on identifying “beauty in the everyday uniform”. Calling to him as he walks the streets of his native New York and beyond, his sartorial eye for style-in-the-wild is all about honoring the genuine, no frills, idiosyncratic ensembles he encounters, whether on the subway, local markets or even the wilds of Maine.
Mordechai Rubinstein, aka Mister Mort, pictured here in a mirror selfie from his Maine escape.
Mister Mort: "This Royal Stewart Tartan flannel shirt is Aunt Shelly's and I really lived in this and one other flannel for the entire four months. A Norwegian was also my daily driver. No bad days. The cottage wallpaper really helped the moods too."
Dressing for Life
Rubinstein’s in-laws have vacationed for more than three decades in a small, salty fishing village on the state’s southern coast. When the pandemic hit, he and his wife, Sara, packed up their young daughter and cat—and a few clothes—and headed north for what they thought would be a quick, much-needed escape from their Brooklyn apartment. They ended up staying more than four months.
Lucky for Rubinstein, Sara’s aunt and uncle keep their cabin stocked with well-loved L.L.Bean gear for non-Mainers and other unprepared guests. “There’s a cabinet of ‘eating clothes’, right by the screened-in back porch that’s missing a bunch of screens, that’s filled with sweatshirts, hoodies and sweatpants to wear for lobster dinner,” he explains.
But the greatest addition to his quarantine wardrobe? A vintage L.L.Bean flannel shirt Sara’s uncle and aunt have worn for decades, ideal for afternoon sea glass and sand dollar hunting thanks to its plethora of pockets.
“It’s the perfect expression of what I love about ‘worn in, but not worn out’ clothes,” he describes. “Their dog had ripped off the shirt’s bottom tail. I wore it every single day.”
Over the years, his love for Maine’s signature, not-quite New England, style has swelled with each visit. Mainers dress for the day (and the weather), usually in layers that prioritize function, with little concern for fashion.
Mordechai’s Maine staples include Norwegian sweaters (“I love how oversized and jacket-like they are”); ragg wool socks (“When you come back in the house after a walk on the beach, you don’t even need a broom… they pick up the sand on their own”); cotton mockneck sweaters (“In New York, they’re nice in the fall, but not really a necessity, whereas in Maine, they’re a staple, even in the summer. Mainers taught me how to properly wear a summer sweater.”); front-pocketed shorts (“They’re like a fishing vest for your legs”); and the L.L.Bean Wool Crusher fedora-style hat (“It’s foldable, like an all-year yarmulke”).
"I ran into this dude just about every day we were in Maine. He'd walk the beach a few times daily to keep his heartbeat up after many heart surgeries. He smiled each time we saw each other. He loves life. He stays dripping in L.L.Bean as you can see."
"I'm sorry Aunt Shelly! I needed to keep the sand on my shoes, made for a better picture! These socks are my favorite, really - merino all year!"
Talking a mile a minute and barely containing his excitement, Mordechai rattles off countless anecdotes of his Maine fashion encounters. “When you’re waiting in line for a table at Becky’s Diner in Portland—and I don't care what time of year it is—all you see is Nantucket red. And a guy or two in a crewneck sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, like (New England Patriots Coach) Bill Belichick, to make it his own,” he says. “It's the coolest garment I've ever seen, but to a Mainer, it's just what it is. It’s his uniform.”
This no-frills fashion sense suits the laid-back, nature-centric Maine lifestyle, which resonates with the Rubinstein family. “I don’t eat lobster, and I don’t really fish,” he said. “But you feel the outdoors the minute you arrive in Maine, and it just pulls you in.”
He adds, “It’s paradise.”
"I had the privilege of going to the L.L.Bean Headquarters a few years ago and had to get a picture with the corporate van! Seeing this reminds me I've since sized up and this jacket isn't as big on me as I'd like it to fit. Reminder to search for a replacement."
"These two students skated by daily and I would see them through the window and RUN outside. I love a hand knit Cowichan sweater but I love their haircuts and smiles the most!"
Over the years, Mordechai has assembled his own Maine-inspired, L.L.Bean-heavy uniform—scouring eBay late at night and combing flea markets across the Northeast in search of hard-to-find rugby shirts, shoes and more. A full closet in their apartment is dedicated to his Bean bounty.
“I’m no expert, but I know what I like,” he says. “My specialty is sniffing things out that people don’t want to sell, like the time I convinced a lady in Connecticut to sell me three pairs of her husband’s L.L.Bean shorts that had all been repaired, with zig-zag hand stitching, probably 30 times.”
He also proudly serves as an unofficial Bean ambassador while traveling the world as a freelance stylist and writer: from London to Tokyo.
“It’s fun for me to wear L.L.Bean—which you can buy in a catalog—in Paris during fashion week,” he said. “I don’t do limited or rare… I want what’s for everybody.”
Mordechai Rubinstein is a recurring contributor to Inside L.L.Bean.