Ari Seth Cohen spotted Bill and Eva Kobus-Webb at a Museum of the City of New York event back in 2013.
“She was wearing this gorgeous green hat,” says Cohen, “and Bill was wearing this incredible zebra or animal print belt with khaki pants. Just together, I mean they were so beautiful.”
Cohen took a photo of them that night that appeared on his blog, Advanced Style, and they’ve kept in touch ever since. In fact, Bill and Eva are heading to Berlin in June for the book signing of Cohen’s third publication, Advanced Love, in which they are prominently featured. Advanced Love is a photo book about stylish couples who’ve weathered the years (and wardrobes) together. Bill and Eva have been doing so for 42 years, having met at their jobs on Wall Street in 1969.
We caught up with the couple (and Cohen) at their Upper West Side apartment filled with style books, old magazines, saved Valentine’s Day and birthday cards to learn about their shared philosophies on travel—and how they pack their whimsical wardrobes into a carry-on.
How would you each describe your styles?
Eva: Sophisticated vintage.
Bill: Some years ago I called it “Super Black Dandy”—a term that refers to a dapper black gentleman.
When you guys first met, how cultivated was your aesthetic at that point?
Eva: I think we were always into clothes.
Bill: It’s one of the things we connected over. I’m originally from West Virginia, and even in a small town I was ordering my clothes from here in New York. I came here in 1966, supposedly for two weeks.
Eva: We have gotten more sophisticated over the years.
Did you know right away that you were right for each other?
Eva: It took a little time.
Bill: You don’t want to rush into things, you know. It was the early 1970s. The racial climate in America was somewhat different.
Eva: Well, is it any different?
Bill: But you know there were people, both white and black, who obviously didn’t approve of our relationship. We were the first interracial couple at our company.
What was the first trip you took together? How many have you taken?
Eva: Just Europe, or…? (laughs) We’ve been to Europe maybe 10 times and we average about one-and-a-half trips per year in the U.S.
Bill: Our first trip must have been the Carribbean…
Eva: 1974—it would have been our honeymoon in Puerto Rico. We stayed at El Convento in Old San Juan. It’s an old historic convent that’s still in operation.
Do you typically do all the same things when you travel?
Bill: We’re almost always attached at the hip.
Do you try to coordinate when you’re packing?
Eva: I always ask him to help me edit down.
Bill: You know, sometimes she’s got two of almost exactly the same thing.
What’s your trip packing philosophy?
Bill: You know, you get better with experience. The first time we went to Paris, our luggage was ridiculous! I must have taken everything but the kitchen sink. Then we bought stuff while we were there.
Eva: You could take four bags without being charged back then. You can’t do that anymore, so you try to pare it down as much as you can. You think you need everything but you don’t. Plus, I want to have room in my suitcase for any shopping I do on the trip.
What’s your favorite thing about traveling together?
Bill: Sharing new experiences. And we have old favorite places we go back to. We have one restaurant we now exchange holiday greetings with every year.
Eva: Yes, it’s right around the corner from where we always stay in Berlin.
What do you like to do when you travel?
Bill: We do major museums, etc.
Bill: Some places we go back to again and again. And we always do an Afro-centric thing, where I stand in front of some kind of African shop and I always send a picture to my black friends back in the States and say, “Oh, you know there is color in Berlin!” (laughs)
Has being an interracial couple ever impacted your travels?
Bill: No. Not in Europe—and then we used to go to the Caribbean quite a bit. Martinique being one of our favorite islands.
Eva: We get more of it in the U.S. Even when we went to East Berlin when my grandmother was still alive. I mean, we never got any stares or looks.
How have you kept track of all your travel memories over the years?
Bill: I keep a journal, almost daily, of what we’ve done, what restaurants we went to, who we perhaps visited.
Eva: We don’t really buy any souvenirs for ourselves. We’ll buy some for our daughter maybe.
Bill: I’m definitely the more organized person. I keep addresses of who we want to send postcards to back in the U.S. with addresses and check them off as we write the cards.
Eva: Yes, he’s more organized, but I’m the one who downloads all our pictures, sometimes three to four hundred pictures.
Bill: And then we use the notes from my journal to remember what the pictures are about, the dates and the sequence.
Eva: Then I pick out the best ones and put them in a photo book.
Bill: And you know, since we’ve been together a thousand years we’ve learned how to compliment each other—and compromise.
Do you ever fight on trips?
Eva: We’ve never had a fight on a trip.
Bill: Because usually we’re so busy or we’re too damn tired! And if you’re jet lagged, the best thing to do is keep your mouth shut.
What’s on the agenda in Berlin? Is Berlin the place you’ve been back to the most?
Bill: It is now, yes. We used to do jazz cruises out of ports in Florida and San Diego. There’d be music from maybe noon until 2:00 in the morning.
Eva: We’re hoping we can get our friend to take us to a techno club in Berlin this time.
A techno club!
Bill: Our son-in-law calls us “the kids.”
Eva: Because we’re always going off somewhere.
Bill: We’re not the typical grandparents. They have to check our schedules to see if we’re available (laughs).