I don’t know how it happened, but there was a period of time right after law school where I didn’t buy any new clothes. It’s strange because growing up I loved to go clothes shopping. Not that I had particularly good fashion sense or anything. I started out in middle school slavishly aping other people; awkwardly donning semi-baggy jeans and flannel shirts. Eventually I stopped trying to follow everyone else and developed a look that was “unique,” which is to say, “different and kind of weird.” Ill-fitting and awkwardly matched patterns became my calling card. Then it all came to a screeching halt.
After law school, there were no more wacky clothes. Everything I bought for work was boring. Boring shoes. Boring shirts. Boring ties. They were the clothes that an anonymous drone would wear in one of those futuristic post-apocalyptic movies. Dark colors with maybe a splash of blue here and there. As for my personal wardrobe, I stopped accumulating anything after 2008, simply relying on the clothes I had accumulated up to that point.
For whatever reason fashion no longer interested me. Looking good no longer interested me. I was happy to pass through life looking anonymous. I became an invisible man, deliberately trying not to draw attention to myself. When I went out with friends to bars or clubs, they’d go pick up ladies, and I’d melt away into the background.
Maybe I was depressed or something. Who knows. I’ll keep that Pandora’s box closed for the therapist’s couch, and let you know that I eventually came to my senses. In early 2013, I looked at my wardrobe and realized that it was in quite a state. After five years of neglect, colors were faded and fringes were frayed. Right then and there I decided to make a conscientious effort to improve my wardrobe. After all, don’t clothes make the man?
Not really knowing how to go about a total makeover, I went to the only place I knew–GQ. I didn’t know much about the magazine, but I knew that if a man landed on its cover, it was a great honor. I was convinced that GQ would fix me up in a jiffy. When my first issue came, I was blown away. The magazine was full of amazing life advice for men. Style, fashion, grooming, sex, dating, love, career. It was a veritable Bible of Man stuff. I began meticulously reading every page and adding to my wardrobe. Tie bars. Skinny ties. Slim cut suits. I must have it all!
That was fun for about a month. Then GQ became very overwhelming, very quickly. While I was still trying to master the previous month’s issue, a new one would arrive with more shit to buy to live the GQ lifestyle. It’s not enough that you have skinny ties and tie bars. Do you also have pocket squares? And it’s not just clothes. There were also colognes and bath soaps and other things that apparently make men into Men. It was a constant struggle to keep up, and eventually I fell way behind. My style became haphazard. An odd collage of GQ patches overlaid onto Me.
A couple months into the GQ experience, it hit me–I’m back in middle school. A whole two decades after that terrible cesspool of hormones and braced teeth, I was back to aping other people and trying to keep up in a race that couldn’t be won; a race to be someone else. That is a path to certain failure. I came to this conclusion while wearing cargo shorts and reading my latest issue of GQ, which forbade any decent man from wearing cargo shorts.
I’ve realized now that my style is my own. Awkwardly fitting and mismatched, but my own. I can clean myself up for a court appearance or a wedding, but as a day to day matter, hook me up with some jeans, a t-shirt with weird graphics on it, and checkered Vans. At the end of the day, fashion is merely a proxy for confidence. One that requires you to spend your days chasing an illusion. Looking good, though? That’s something completely different and much easier to achieve. There’s no chasing involved. Just the knowledge that you’re the shit, and you just gotta go out there and work it.
“And I do my little turn on the catwalk. Yeah on the catwalk on the catwalk, yeah.”