It might sound a little corny, but fashion has given me a sense of purpose beyond just trying to lift my ego or eclipse my peers.
I look back the past few years and realize I’ve actually made magnificent progression with who I am today. Apart from the obligatory personal growth, which I credit to going to college, traveling, dealing with heartbreak, and meeting a diverse range of people online and offline, my wardrobe has changed so much since I first discovered my enthusiasm for fashion.
What really sparked my quest to traverse for personal style was an article I saw on Complex known as “No New Trends: A Stylish Guy’s Struggle to Renounce Fads and Create a Personal Uniform” written by former fashion editor Corey Stokes. At that exact moment, the foundation of questioning my taste in clothing began.
Little did I know though, that I would not be able to understand the big picture for another few years. I had to go through numerous terrible—generally impulse—purchases, as well as break hive-mind, internet-based mentalities, in order to really progress my personal style.
None of this was done in days, weeks, or months. It took years to figure out what I truly liked and what had to be weeded out because it didn’t really fit my personality—shout outs to menswear and preppy clothing, both of which are pretty awful.
I went from dumping my wardrobe and starting a new one, to doing the same thing every 6 months.
Time and time again, I would tell myself:
Early 2014: “Okay, this is my year. I’m not going to buy into trends like I do every year. Focus on just getting basics and not too many hype pieces.”
Mid 2014: “Wait…who’s this fellow?”
Late 2014: *looks at closet* “….fuck.”
2015 = Repeat of 2014
…You get the idea. I kept having to reassure myself that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made the previous months and fail subsequently.
I’d keep wasting money on different styles; I’d go from minimalistic Scandinavian streetwear ensembles, to the Saint Laurent Paris-inspired looks, to a grunge-sort of aesthetic.
While I was getting into these things, I tried to feel like I was also “living the lifestyle” by trying to connect with types of music and attitudes these aesthetics paid homage to. While it did expand my musical knowledge and taste, none of it truly felt authentic to me. I knew good and well I couldn’t really get into all of these things without having a ton of disposable income.
I can kind of gauge what you must think of me at this point. It sounds like I’m holding myself back from truly being content with my style. Sure, that may be some part of it, but when I would abruptly change my wardrobe, I always doubted why I was dressing a certain way. Part of it was because I wanted to appeal to the internet hive-mind popularity, while the other half was wanting to fake confidence in myself.
“If I can’t be super popular in real life, at least the internet would have my back, right? At least I could seem cooler than I am…”, and I can assure you this line of thinking is super detrimental to stylistic growth.
It was pretty obvious I had issues to work out in order to progress. I was too indecisive. I had to have a label on things. I felt as if I was not being validated enough. I wasn’t muscular enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. I’m black. It’ll look weird if I attempt to pull off something that “black people don’t wear regularly”. It’s too much money. It looks bad. It looks too fancy for me. None of this is cohesive. So on and so forth.
Even if whatever I was wearing looked fantastic, it would only make me feel more and more insecure. When all was said and done, I would still go back to my old, self-pitying ways, feigning all of that assurance that I just had with the garments on. You can’t really blame me though, right? I mean, I’m in my 20s. I still have the excuse of not truly discovering who I am yet. It reassures me that I know I’m not the only person who goes through ordeals like this.
Moving past all of these phases, I guess I had to have a sort of mental breakthrough to be able to really understand what I was doing wrong and why I was picking styles left and right. When I started gaining actual confidence in myself, that’s when my tastes really started to show. I started looking towards unconventional influences and utilizing those within my wardrobe. I just started doing whatever made me happy. I didn’t want to have to appeal to the masses. I felt so good wearing whatever I wanted because I truly took interest in the way it looks, not for the appeasing/hype factor.
It was a sort of “free” feeling.
My thing is, if you want to achieve the same type of nirvana, you have to go about doing an entire purge of your mind before a purge of your wardrobe.
One of the main reasons people don’t get to the point where they differentiate themselves through their attire, is because individuality is now subjugated through internet validity.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re a special butterfly, and to be fair everyone is in their own right, but what does it truly mean to be different? I’m not saying I’m doing anything revolutionary style-wise from what’s already been done, nor am I an innovator of some sort, but I’m beginning to dress in a way where the spectrum is a little less broad.
Think about it: How often do you see someone who believes they are “fashion savvy, I fucks with your movement” type dudes, but look like everyone else in a mall. It’s the cookie cutter swag-less Tumblr/Instagram ensemble that the masses seem to adore. It’s incredibly frustrating to see that this paradigm is what’s being followed religiously, yet any form of innovation, as incomprehensible as it might look or not, is completely shut down and dismissed because it does not fit the uniformity of “proposed aesthetics”.
How do people plan to grow stylistically if they aren’t able to experiment? They aren’t able to branch out or be comfortable within their own skin. It’s exhausting to see everyone around me try to dress like a Bryson Tiller clone, or a thrift store Saint Laurent model, or Kanye West. People need to understand that you can’t grow without taking risks and feeling comfortable.
And this is not something you overcome all in one night. Sometimes it requires justification. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, some might say. However, if you want to be respected in the realm of fashion, you have to break out of this perception that hive-mind internet fashion is the way to go.
And how does one get past this toxic mindset? For me, one of the biggest influences to my growth was actually looking outside of my normal mediums.
Instead of finding inspiration on Tumblr and Instagram, I started reading magazines, visiting art shows, going out and taking photographs of landscapes, visiting museums, and other out-of-the-ordinary influences that helped shaped my imagination in new ways. Keep an open mind about who you come across and what you see. You can find inspiration in some of the wildest things.
I guess my entire point lies within the simple, timeless phrase: “Be yourself.” I want people to have a completely different outlook on what things impact their stylistic growth. You shouldn’t have to always look on Hypebeast or Highsnobiety to get your fix on what to wear. There are other mediums and outlets out there. You just have to go about doing some soul searching, as well as mind opening, to get to it.
It’s a journey, not a race.