Recently, Facebook introduced a feature that allows you to move “forward” instead of back through someone’s tagged pictures. This means if they start on your most recently tagged photo and click on the left arrow, instead of the right arrow, they will see your first tagged photo since your beginnings on Facebook, and can continue through your life as you publicly lived it.
My roommate of 6 months first clued me into this, exclaiming that she couldn’t believe what I looked like without a beard, with long, dark hair, without glasses, with the skinniest of skinny jeans ever slathered on a skinny man’s legs. Intrigued, I took my own trip through the last 5 years of my existence on Facebook. There were nearly 1000 pictures of me on there, and let’s just say I was very liberal with the untagging option.
But why do I care?
Am I trying to 1984 my own past into the double-plus-good present of my current aesthetic?
I was not born unto the world with a huge beard and a well-tailored Pendleton. These are my current fashion choices and projection. In another 5 years when I’m zooming around with a jetpack on checking out Facebook from the iPhone in my contact lens, will I be deleting photos of me looking like the Gorton’s Fisherman, my current style icon?
All of these past Me’s have gotten this current Me asking questions. Why was I dressing that way? What or who was I trying to be? What was going on in my life, and was I trying to embrace it or escape it through my fashion choices? I oftentimes think of fashion as a vessel to the future; a personal ark you build and use to sail away from your old self. I use it to demarcate time periods: buying new boots when moving to new cities, cashing in old clothes at Buffalo Exchange after tough break-ups. Clothes hold energy and memories and smells.
Sometimes you keep them. Sometimes you cut your hair, move across the country, buy a whole new wardrobe and hope you can start again.
There have been many past Adam Boehmers. I shed my skin every year or two, and fashion allows me to do that more publicly. Think about the pilot episode of My So Called Life. Angela dyes her hair RED. Newness ensues. Old friends out, new friends in, suddenly Rayanne Graff is making you skip school, lie to your mom and declare your love for Jordan Catalano. Thank you Manic Panic, flannel, and black halter tops.
This blog post is supposed to be a roast of my past selves, but it’s getting rather long so let’s get on with it.
I call this stage, SKUNK ‘N JUNK (c. 2007-2008) A lot of elements were culminating here. I had just gotten out of a 2-year job managing the front desk at a hoity-toity salon, where I thought true beauty meant having shiny, processed high and lowlights. I had just returned from a poetry reading in NYC where I mentally profiled every gutterpunk faggot I could set my eyes on. I was also flat-ironing my hair for that sleek, dead-animal-on-your-head look, sporting red and black acrylic glasses and I had absolutely NO editing skills whatsoever when it came to leaving the house clothed. The more brightly-colored vintage items, the better. I was like a hipster rodeo clown trawling the streets of Ann Arbor, MI looking for someone to love. I found that man, and together, we filled a one-bedroom apartment with the tackiest shit you will ever see. We were incorigible.
That man eventually absorbed my identity, which is par for the course with most young gay relationships (see Hedwig and The Angry Inch), and dumped the body (me) over the pier.
Fast forward one year.
This look slowly grew from a desire to capture a new type of mate, the Michigan Hippie. I started wearing more flannels, and most of my jeans had holes in them. I grew a smallish beard, bought a lot of camouflage, and didn’t bathe very often. IT WORKED! I landed a new boyfriend (who wore crocs and those toe-shoes), and within a year, we had sold all of our possessions, quit our jobs, refurbished a vintage travel trailer, and were living a true hippie dream on the road for a year. I call this look: SECRETLY TIRED AND WANTING TO BUY THINGS (c. 2009-2010).
My partner at the time was extremely anti-consumerism, so we were limited to a small compartment for our clothing. A real point of contention was when early in the trip, I decided to buy a ’40s tux jacket from a vintage store in Virginia. It couldn’t be folded up in the compartment, so had to hang in our field of view, and be tended to for the rest of the trip. Whoops.
Alright, so that relationship crashed and burned, leaving me stranded in San Francisco. What was there to do but sell my vintage trailer to a bunch of Burning Man hippies and use the $3000 to buy a whole new wardrobe? I cut my hair off. I threw away most of my clothes, having worn them almost every day for the past year. I had relationships with many beautiful men and absorbed the styling tips of the Elegant Bearded Hipster. I entered the current phase of my identity, THE DANDY WOODSMAN (see also: HIPSTER SEA CAPTAIN, COWBOY FAGGOT, etc).
So what you are e-seeing before you is the current Me. I have a highly-edited wardrobe of old and new workwear-inspired pieces. I will spend hundreds of dollars on a single jacket or pair of jeans if I think it will change my life, and oftentimes it has. I still buy items from thrift stores, but steer clear of the brighter, polyester purchases of my past self.
I am looking for pieces that will tell a story on my body, a currently-authentic story, even if that story resonates into the future, forever cataloged by Facebook and eschewed by future Me’s.
Fashion is a vessel. We build a ship with what we have and set sail to what we want to be. We live there awhile and then we do it all again. A close friend of mine once called me a “relentlessly inventive spirit.” I was appreciative in the moment at such a shiny compliment, but what does that really mean? Will I ever settle into a true Me?
Thanks for reading, folks. Catch you next week for my new installment of Thrifting Like A Beast.