Sunday Reflections: Fashionable Me
As everyone who works at WORN knows, “I’m in fashion” rolls off the tongue much too easily. It starts out as a joke. When explaining why it took you so long to get ready, it’s fun to say “I was putting together an outfit. I am in fashion, after all!” It works well with a flamboyant Vreelandesque hand gesture. But it’s pretty easy to start taking it seriously.
“Max, did you need a second white Nehru-collared shirt?”
“Yes. I’m in fashion.”
“Oh God,” friends and family mumble.
I can’t remember exactly when I began dressing for fun. My personality made me stick out enough in elementary school, and God knows I wasn’t going to let my clothes make things worse. Then part way through high school, I don’t know if it was getting into high fashion (via Vogue and FT Fashion Television) or no longer caring what bullies thought, but I started to experiment. I remember distinctly seeing a man on the bus in a tweed suit jacket and thinking I would have to find one at the Goodwill (this being before they staged their huge comeback and were available all over the mall). The summer of 2002, after reading an article about him in the newspaper, I bought a traditional grey fedora from the old man at Rotman’s hat shop on Spadina. I also, for some reason, safety-pinned fun quotes on little pieces of paper onto my clothes: a sort of punk/wit aesthetic.
Then I went to university and a clotheshorse was born. The combination of a residence at which I was accepted, university-town second-hand shops (they’re the best), and the opportunity to change outfits three times a day convinced me I was the gay boy version of Carrie Bradshaw. I schlepped gi-normous bags of arcane t-shirts, argyle sweater vests and army jackets home on the Guelph city bus, sometimes, if memory serves correctly, through blizzards. There were triumphs and there were misfires (I know I want to use my Japanese biker shirt as an example, but I can’t decide of which one!) but I always experimented and have fun. I didn’t feel much socialist New Democratic guilt, as the clothing was all cheap and second-hand, and many would be ultimately returned to the Goodwill in garbage bags during my yearly purge.
Then, I don’t know if vintage (or vintage-inspired) clothing became too popular, or my break-up made me grow up a bit, but I stopped feeling my previous manner of dressing. And nothing replaced it for awhile. I wanted to buy new clothes, but they were too expensive and they seemed to look dated much quicker, like the long-sleeved t-shirts in red and blue I bought from American Apparel. I had lost my inner fashion voice, the siren who guides you as your fingers dance on the wire hangers: ‘Not that, not that, this one! Ahhh!’
And it only got worse during my Masters, when I got bogged down and depressed and gained weight and didn’t enjoy dressing at all.
“I used to be passionate about things?” I moaned. “What happened?”
When I took off to Ireland, I adopted the Euro neo-rave scenster look that many people have over there. It’s hard to explain, but they don’t dress as frumpily, ironically bad as we do in North America, particularly Toronto. While I loaded off a garbage bag of cast-offs to a Dublin charity shop before I came home, I cherish my Irish rain jacket and my Berlin t-shirts. I fully intended to keep a bit of my Euro style going in Toronto.
And then I got an internship at a fashion magazine.
One of the amazing things about WORN is that, while everyone involved makes an effort, there is no ‘WORN look’. This is in keeping with a fashion journal that doesn’t cover trends or inform readers of what’s ‘in’ and ‘out’. But being around people who put in effort encourages one to do the same. I decided polo shirts would be my thing: stylish, but casual; comfortable in the boiler-room hot WORN office; boyishly cute (as the only male, have to represent); and they come in all the colours of the rainbow. Just as I used to, I find I’m planning outfits a week ahead, especially for special events or if I think a camera will be present. We’re planning a group photo of the staff this summer, and I’m embarrassingly excited about it.
I am once again having fun with fashion, experimenting and creating an identity through picking out clothes. It feels like a home-coming. I hear the siren’s call, and it’s fabulous.