Mateo’s regal composure makes me want to go to church and wear a dashiki with a crisp white button-down shirt and elegant cufflinks of his design like he does. According to Mateo, his mother Carmel, whom he describes as his rock and muse, is actually the true inspiration behind his drive and taste. “Her style, beauty and humility is the reason why I try this hard to succeed and make something of myself… She calls me and we pray. ‘Always remember where you come from, always be true to yourself,’ she always says.’” Thus Mateo’s mantra: “God made man to work on earth, provide for the family.” In his designs, he takes things that are “very ironically masculine…like tools…as in nuts and bolts” to create jewelry. One of my favorites is a bolero tie made from a zipper, which he wears with his many white button-down shirts.
It’s ironic that Mateo is a gay man from Jamaica who escaped to boarding school in New Hampshire to get away from what he refers to as a homophobic culture, but is so comfortable in his masculinity. Consistently polished and confident, he might be ridiculed at home for being too feminine in a preppy yellow v-neck sweater, vintage Pierre Cardin pants, Fred Perry shirt from Raf Simons and turquoise necklace of his own design, yet butch straight men in his native country are bleaching their skin, wearing leggings and piercing their navels. Still, butch is something Mateo does with taste, like the “Oxford boy” he considers himself to be, in his denim vest and leather jacket that he studded himself, Yankees hat and a dangling crystal earring of his own design.
In the book “Think and Grow Rich,” there is a story about a man digging for gold in California during the Great Depression. He gives up, missing the pay dirt by only two feet ahead and the next person inherits the riches. Obsessed with the cautionary tale, Mateo is determined to never give up and accept the temporary defeats that are on the route to success. Distinguished and at peace in his bow ties with denim shirts, studded tuxedo shoes, blazers in every color plus leopard, and always a powerful cocktail ring, he’s already there.