Who do you get dressed for??
Yr SELF...or OTHERS ?
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The other day a reader sent us a Q that was elemental yet nebulous — & borderline paradoxical… ??
“What’s the best way to find your own personal style?” @david.b.chamberlain asked.
D*mn, we thought, how could we provide a one-size-fits-all answer to a question about discovering uniquely individual truths?? This reader had thrown down a challenge that tested our legendary wisdom — so we had no choice but to ponder it, mind-expandingly.
At root, this is a question about cultivating and honing expression: How does anyone involved in any creative field — songwriting, filmmaking, cooking, comedy, photography, outfit-assembling — find their own distinct voice?
The answer that pops into my big beautiful brain off rip is the kind you might hear in a MFA-(Master of Fire Arts)-workshop-type context: Start by letting your enthusiasms lead you, like faint beacons that you glimpse on a DISTANT JAWN HORIZON … with time you may decide these enthusiasms were transient or illusory, so be prepared to JETTISON them as required by experience / maturation… absorb an ARMADA of influences and STUDY & COPY THE GOATS whose s**t you think is cool, assuming and sloughing off different skins like a SLITHERING DRIP-SNAKE as you go … and know that “IMITATION” is not fatally corny as long as you don’t see it as an end in itself, but rather as a divination technique that will grow, with time, into its more-respectable cousin, “REFERENCE”:
Once you’re there, you can amass and rotate your way through a “PERSONAL REFERENCE LIBRARY” of the kind we described in our must-read B.I.G. B.U.C.S. MINDSET essay.
And if yr NOVICE A** throws up some bricks in the process, looking like a BIG DORK here and there, treat those bricks as fun JAWN-SCIENCE experiments the results of which will create useful muscle-memory and strengthen yr instincts, putting you one step closer to the goal of “FULLY REALIZED SAUCE LORD.” When Tyler, The Creator came thru & praised advanced-age swag in his Blackbird Spyplane Interview, he put it in similar terms: A Mach 3+ older lady looks f**king great in no small part because she’s had the time to experiment, err, and — fit by fit, brick by brick — lock in some TRUSTY SAUCE COORDINATES on her personal-style navigation system.
The 2 paragraphs above themselves demonstrate the principle at play, because only someone who is extremely good at writing newsletters (thanks to years spent crafting sumptuous poetical prose across many illustrious forums) could combine ~14 mixed metaphors into just 3 sentences and have them sing mellifluously WHILE STAYING BLIND TO THE BULLS**T as if we were THE SLETTER-GAME ANDREA BOCELLI !!
HERE’S THE THING though —
Let’s say you combine some g-d given gifts of innate swag with a hunger for knowledge and eventually achieve “Bocelli status,” brilliantly interpreting and delivering bravura outfits like they were arias by JAWNCOMO PUCCINI…
Even if you do all that, a connected, vexing question remains:
📜📜📜 Who are you getting dressed for — yourself or others?? 📜📜📜
This question has been on my mind for the last month, ever since I said f**k it and smashed the coppington on some LUMINOUS white Comme des Garçons Foamposites (below)…
I don’t own any shoes like this. Why did I buy them??
I think the answer is illuminating because it draws together a few different strands of influence, pleasure & desire — some of which I think we’re trained to reflexively regard as more legit than others, and I wanna “unbeatably interrogate” that.
The strands I’m thinking about when it comes to me & these Foams are:
1) Fond adolescent memories of kids in high school rocking this weird new H.R. GIGER EXOSKELETON LOOKING shoe called the Foamposite, which triggered my “Ugly Genius” alarm… (According to a Complex article by Blackbird SpyFriend Russ Bengston and Nick Engvall, linked below, the original design was inspired by the thorax & abdomen of a beetle)…
2) Further fond adolescent memories of those late-’90s “Lil Penny” commercials that Chris Rock voiced opposite Anfernee Hardaway, the athlete most prominently associated with Foams…
3) Respect and awe for Rei Kawakubo …
4) Social-media buzz / sneakerhead slobber so voluminous that it seeped deep into my own rarefied timelines when CdG first sent their Foams down the runway for FW21…
5) An intuitive sense that it would be fun and not futile to try & work the Commeposites into my current “jawn library” (e.g. wear them with some relatively understated but just-a-bit-freaked 18 East cabled corduroys) in a way that would a) help keep the library from FOSSILIZING, b) create some unlikely yet harmonious juxtapositions, and c) provide me with a private pop of surprised delight every time I looked down at the disconcertingly beautiful biomorphic-crop-circle cocoons on my d*mn dogs…
When the sneakers showed up, I took them out for a walk in the rain on some Life Well Lived s**t, because polyurethane is waterproof and more to the point white sneakers look best to me when they are, if not fully cooked, at least slightly blanched 👩🍳 …
I met up with a perceptive & thoughtful friend whose style admits some trace freakiness but whose appetite for weirdness is lower than mine. I’d shown him a pic of the sneakers a few days earlier, and he’d remarked that they looked crazy yet undeniably alluring … But now, with the sneakers on foot I.R.L., something unexpected happened, which I took as a welcome marker of “jawn success”: for like ~45 minutes, big bro did not notice that I was wearing them!
Once he finally did, the conversation turned to the counterintuitive topic of how a COMPLIMENT can actually be a red flag — a sign that a garment is “wearing you” and not the other way around, drawing so much attention to itself that it necessitates comment from all kinds of swag-deficient randos and F**KS UP THE FLOW of yr fit much the same way a SPEEDBUMP painted YELLOW draws attention to itself and F**KS UP THE FLOW of a street…
This is an insidious phenomenon known as the “NEGATIVE-SWAG-ALERT COMPLIMENT (N-SAC)” !
In this case, though, rather than rising like a speedbump from the “asphalt” of my fit, the Commeposites, despite looking objectively wild, had integrated themselves so seamlessly into my whole f**king gestalt that they escaped notice altogether …
What this story underscores, besides the genius of CdG, is the irreducible degree to which the true jawns-enthusiast, no matter how self-confident they are, is always dressing for other people, the same way that even a VISIONARY POET who writes the most willfully obscure free-verse off on their own trip is nonetheless always, on some level, writing for an audience, because “personal style” is, among other things, a mode of communication and a product of social relations, baby !!
Notwithstanding “Be Yourself” bromides to the contrary, there’s no such thing as making something 100% “for yourself,” and that includes outfits. We don’t get dressed in vacuums, we get dressed to send out some communication about who we are, however oblique, to some set of spectators, whether they’re specific people who actually see us or a more-generalized / imaginary cohort of sauce-appreciators. Of the reasons mentioned above, one was (simply but potently) that a group of other people who I think have broadly compelling taste thought they were hard! I’ve bought shoes that plenty of those people have never checked for, too, but even in those cases there’s some semi-conscious aspect of me pulling them on where I go, “People whose opinions I f**k with are gonna f**k w/ the way I rock these.”
So, while cliché-peddlers would like to tell you that “dressing for others” in that way is somehow unseemly, the truth is that they mean something more like “dressing entirely for others” — a nightmare state where you are rudderless, lacking a developed internal sauce-barometer, and as a result you wear a bunch of eye-popping s**t incoherently, can’t tell a GOOD COMPLIMENT from an N-SAC, and think it’s tight when ppl whose approval you should ignore / fear tell you, “That jacket is crazy, king 😮💨”
You ARE a king, but is that jacket truly kingly, yr highness?
In the end, the answer lies within U and without U at the same time.
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