I really loved Michael’s poetic post on seasonal considerations and our New England life, and I too have been having DEEP THOUGHTS about identity and how the way it interfaces with the realities of life is a potentially powerful crucible for style. She tackled the way re-entering capital-W Weather reminds her that the elements provide a profound comment on morality (DAMN) and I’ve been thinking, with all the fall style previews, about the way we externalize who we want to be, seeking (hopefully) to get ever closer to that delicate balance between our best self and our truest self until they are one and the same.
I’m always troubled by how people choose to adorn ourselves is often categorized as frivolous or unnecessary, creating a weird dynamic where popular salt-of-the-earth wisdom suggests that the best way to “be yourself” is to not care how you look. Sure, vapidity can result from following “trends” blindly:
According to GQ, “This is always a color that percolates to the top. It’s been red, it’s been cobalt blue, but now it’s orange. It’s one of those colors that looks really good with a fall palette. It looks really good with olive and chocolate and dark grey. This is an accent color, don’t go buy an orange suit, but as an accent color. I think guys are fine with color as long as it’s a sweater or a pair of pants or a sweater, in each one of these cases, it’s a neutral color it’s paired with.”
If you need GQ to tell you what color to wear, you are missing the point. Especially if you cannot tell that orange is a controversial color that looks like poop on most people. Yours truly clearly included.
But on a larger scale, it hurts me to see people move like cattle from handkerchiefs to work boots to varsity jackets to double breasted suits without any seeming interest in what it means to put on a piece of clothing and present themselves to the world. I’ll say it: style is a spiritual opportunity. As artists, transsexuals, bohemians, teenagers, dandies, Italian gentlemen, and Katharine Hepburn know, how we present ourselves to the world can run very deep, much deeper than a zombified series of societal expectations, then death.
Scott Schuman’s Satorialist blog addresses this concept beautifully. Schuman travels the world photographing people whose style catches his eye: not for its adherence to of-the-moment trends (though sometimes he finds the way people add flair to trendiness fascinating), but with transcendence in mind. He loves, as I do, the way details assert themselves like character traits in a novel to show you who a person really is beneath the uniform of pants/shirt/shoes.
He found us this guy:
And this one:
These men are not husks of clothing. They are inspirations–considered down to the detail.
And check out this lady!
Feeling that who you are and how you look are in tandem is an incredible thing. Three months into a lifelong journey, where my body is suddenly filling out and angling in the way I’d always imagined it could, I come back again and again to clothes. Even when I’ve felt aligned with “femininity” culturally and socially, I would feel a literal pain when my clothes fit my body in odd and awkward ways. It continues to be the only time I routinely and deeply experienced the much-discussed, likely over-simplified transgender “trapped in the wrong body” feeling. And, when I’d see myself in the world, a totally different manifestation of who I felt I was, it was as dissonant and disturbing as overlapping minor keys.
So, no, clothes aren’t frivolous and meaningless. Style can be so much more than fall fashion previews and recycled decades in hyperspeed. It’s me communicating with you, telling you who I am. It’s an expression, like words and art and love are, an imperfect prism in which to reflect yourself outward, vulnerable and powerful as you are. It’s me trying to get to know you, to really see you, and to be seen by you.
If you’d only let it be.