ALBANY PARK — A rookie mail carrier is becoming a popular fixture along his Northwest Side route thanks to his distinctive attire.
Kalani Han started working for the U.S. Postal Service in November, and he has already garnered attention for his signature pressed and creased Postal Service shirt and tuxedo stripe pants, an Italian silk necktie, eight-point hat and mid-century A. Hirsch watch. He carries a crisp handkerchief for good measure.
To round it all out, the 31-year-old dons a pointed solo mustache and pompadour.
Han described his look as “quaint,” “Americana,” and “alluding a level of friendliness.” Axios’ Monica Eng first wrote about Han in early June.
“I love working for the Postal Service. It’s an interesting job; we’re not only stewards of the mail, but integral members of the community,’ Han said while walking his route in Albany Park. “Everyone loves the mailman.”
Han grew up in Hawaii riding around in his babysitter’s VW and “listening to oldies,” he said. He loved Elvis and was “friends with Boomers.”
After bouncing around sales jobs, Han looked into a job with “America’s favorite federal agency” during the pandemic shutdown, he said.
Han passed the letter carrier academy in Ravenswood with flying colors and was given an allowance for his uniform. Han, a sharp dresser who had once planned to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, shook the dust off books about the stylings of old-school mailmen.
“I just wanted to get dressed well for work,” Han said.
The first standard uniforms for city mail carriers were issued in the 1860s, Han said, referencing the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. The uniforms, with a “Cadet Grey” color not seen on other public servants, “reflects authority and trust,” according to the Smithsonian.
The Eisenhower jacket dominated American fashion in a period of optimism and national identity after World War II, and the Postal Service caught on to the trend, Han said. The clothes for mailmen of the era were “breathable but itchy” — and an inspiration for Han’s fashion flare.
Han remembers the first time he put on his dapper uniform and looked in the mirror, he said.
“I looked like my father,” a military veteran who wore a uniform every day, Han said. “It definitely made me realize I had grown up. Now we’re both serving our country in different ways.”
Han said he gets the most reaction from older folks about his look.
“It’s a happy memory of their childhood, which is a pretty powerful thing,” he said.
Homeowners call him dapper. Coworkers compare him to Mr. McFeely the mailman from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
“There’s this nostalgia around it that’s very charming. That feeling of the mailman coming around, and everybody knows your name and says hello,” Han said. “It’s taking that attitude and re-injecting it to what we do today. With the pandemic, the political and social atmosphere, kindness is always important.”
Han said he’s constantly tinkering with his uniform, but there is “a fine line between authenticity and cartoonishness.” He gets up before the sun rises to iron his shirt, crease his pants and tighten his tie.
“It’s the first job I feel proud to be a part of,” Han said. “It’s very rewarding. Something as simple as the way you dress can make somebody’s day.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: